- Heb. zonah (Genesis 34:31; 38:15). In verses 21,22 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; 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; 9:14. See also Jeremiah 3:2; Ezekiel 16:24,25,31). 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 for to practice idolatry (Jeremiah 3:1; Ezekiel 16:15; Hos. throughout); hence Jerusalem is spoken of as a harlot (Isaiah 1:21).
- Heb. nokriyah, the "strange woman" (1 Kings 11:1; Proverbs 5:20; 7:5; 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 21:31,32, where they are classed with publicans; Luke 15:30; 1 Corinthians 6:15,16; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25. It is used symbolically in Revelation 17:1,5,15,16; 19:2.