harlot

harlot

A prostitute, one who accepted money for the performance of sex. Several important characters in Israelite history were connected to harlots. The Jericho harlot Rahab sheltered Joshua’s spies (Josh 2), Jephthah was the son of a harlot (Judg 11:1), and Tamar pretended to be a harlot to induce Judah to have sex with her (Gen 38:14-18). None of these women were stigmatized, but prostitutes in general were considered an underclass. Priests could not marry harlots (Lev 21:7), Israelites should not make their daughters harlots (Lev 19:29), and a priest’s daughter who became a harlot should be burned (Lev 21:9). Like the death of children in battle, the turning of wives into harlots was considered a tragedy of destruction (Amos 7:17). The OT uses a different term to refer to temple prostitutes, who are therefore distinct from the mercenary harlot (Judg 8:33; Ezek 16). But the phrases “act like a harlot” and “treat as a harlot” are not always literal and, when employed metaphorically, tend to designate wanton rather than mercenary behavior (Hos 1:2). In the NT, Rome is described as a great harlot (Rev 17:1; Rev 17:15).

Josh 2

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Judg 11:1

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Gen 38:14-18

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Lev 21:7

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Lev 19:29

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Lev 21:9

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Amos 7:17

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Judg 8:33

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Ezek 16

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Hos 1:2

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Rev 17:1

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Rev 17:15

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