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Prostitution In The Bible

By James Donahue

Of all the places to find mixed signals about human behavior, we can simply look to the Bible. Books in both the Old and New Testaments contain warnings about the evils of lying with harlots, yet so-called "holy" men, and possibly even Jesus, associated with prostitutes.

In at least one case, God actually is recorded instructing the Prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute but it was explained to be a symbol of Israel's unfaithfulness.

The verse: "Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son."

Boy, that was teaching those evil Israeli's a lesson for sure.

The prostitutes seem to be everywhere among the Israeli people during those times. In Judges we read about the mighty warrior Jephthah whose father was Gilead, but his mother a prostitute.

Ezekiel 23 offers a descriptive story of the sexual exploits of sisters Oholah and Oholibah, prostitutes that took on entire armies before they were stoned to death in the street.

Then there was the prostitute Rahab, who hid the two spies for Joshua's army before the attack on the land. For this, Rahab and her family were spared, and she became a link in the lineage of Jesus.

Yet another prostitute that fell in the lineage of Jesus was Tamar, who became pregnant by her father-in-law Judah. The Book of Ruth tells us she bore him a son Perez.

In 1 Kings we read the famous story of the two unnamed women who approached King Solomon asking him to settle a debate over who was to raise a newborn baby. It turns out that both women were prostitutes.

Even Jesus encountered prostitutes and some believe he may even have married one. She would be Mary Magdalene who some theologians have dared to suggest was the wife of Jesus, or at least his lover. There is evidence that she traveled with Jesus as one of his disciples. Some believe she was the woman described in Luke 7 who anointed the feet of Jesus with her tears and ointment. She was described as "a woman of the city who was a sinner."

While it appears that Jesus was quick to forgive a repentant sinner, and a prostitute, he also is said to have taught against being involved with prostitution.

In Galatians 5 Jesus says: "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these, I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

It is because of the stern warnings in the scriptures that the very subject of sex with anyone other than married partners, males and females, is considered taboo. Women who sell their bodies for sex are especially targeted. Yet prostitution has always been with us. It is called the world's oldest profession for a very good reason.

The irony in this is that it appears that it has been the severe religious prohibitions against free sexual behavior and subsequent harsh Hebrew laws controlling the lives of women that made prostitution so popular. Women were expected to serve their husbands and raise children. They had little other social function. And when their husbands died in battle or threw them out of the home (which they were legally allowed to do) the brother of the husband was given the task of providing for the woman. When there was no brother, she had little other choice but to turn to prostitution for survival.

There is another reason why prostitution was popular in those times, and remains popular today.

Humans are spirits living in animal bodies, and we suffer from the basic animal instincts to reproduce. The males of all species have a natural call to sew their seed where ever possible. The women devote much of their time making themselves attractive to the men. Thus there is a constant game being played among the sexes, all vying for that grand union of the sexual organs, delivery of the male sperm into the female uturus, and creation of children.

The sexual call is so powerful that humans will sometimes go to great extremes to fulfill this need. And when natural outlets are denied, prostitution fills the void. The Creator made us this way so it should not be surprising that we behave in the way we do. Consequently we find it hard to believe that the Bible stories are really prophetic written messages from our Creator. They tend to create problems that lead to deviant and often violent behavior that should play no part in our natural lives.

The act of sexual union should be a desirable thing, one that should come naturally in any society and be a pure expression of love and devotion. It should never generate shame and disgrace under any circumstances.