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---excerpt from the Illustrated Bible Dictionary
Harlot - (1.) Heb. zonah (Genesis 34:31; Genesis 38:15). In Genesis 38:21, Genesis 38:22 the Hebrew word used in kedeshah, i.e., a woman consecrated or devoted to prostitution in connection with the abominable worship of Asherah or Astarte, the Syrian Venus. This word is also used in Deuteronomy 23:17; Hosea 4:14. Thus Tamar sat by the wayside as a consecrated kedeshah. It has been attempted to show that Rahab, usually called a "harlot" (Joshua 2:1; Joshua 6:17; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25), was only an innkeeper. This interpretation, however, cannot be maintained. Jephthah's mother is called a "strange woman" (Judges 11:2). This, however, merely denotes that she was of foreign extraction. In the time of Solomon harlots appeared openly in the streets, and he solemnly warns against association with them (Proverbs 7:12; Proverbs 9:14. See also Jeremiah 3:2; Ezekiel 16:24, Ezekiel 16:25, Ezekiel 16:31). The Revised Version, following the LXX., has "and the harlots washed," etc., instead of the rendering of the Authorized Version, "now they washed," of 1 Kings 22:38. To commit fornication is metaphorically used meaning to practice idolatry (Jeremiah 3:1; Ezekiel 16:15; Hos. throughout); hence Jerusalem is spoken of as a harlot (Isaiah 1:21).
(2.) Heb. nokriyah , the "strange woman" (1 Kings 11:1; Proverbs 5:20; Proverbs 7:5; Proverbs 23:27). Those so designated were Canaanites and other Gentiles (Joshua 23:13). To the same class belonged the "foolish", i.e., the sinful, "woman." In the New Testament the Greek pornai , plural, "harlots," occurs in Matthew 21:31, Matthew 21:32, where they are classed with publicans; Luke 15:30; 1 Corinthians 6:15, 1 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25. It is used symbolically in Revelation 17:1, Revelation 17:5, Revelation 17:15, Revelation 17:16; Revelation 19:2.
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