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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Harlot

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A prostitute. The most famous harlot in the Bible is Rahab of Jericho, who saved the Israelite spies sent by Joshua to scout out the Promised Land (Joshua 2:1 ). Israel spared her and her family when they conquered and destroyed Jericho. She continued to dwell with the Israelites (Joshua 6:23-25 ). She is listed in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5 ). Her action on behalf of the Israelite spies won her a place in the roll call of the faithful (Hebrews 11:31; compare James 2:25 ).

The Bible gives few details of the ways in which harlots like Rahab practiced their trade. Evidently, harlots might solicit along the roadside (Genesis 38:14-15 ). Brothels, which often served as taverns and inns, were also known in the Ancient Near East. Rahab's house may have been one (Joshua 2:1 ). It is possible that the prostitute had a distinctive mark on her forehead (Jeremiah 3:3 ) and breasts (Hosea 2:2 ). She might attract attention by her clothing, jewelry and make-up (Jeremiah 4:30; Ezekiel 23:40; Revelation 17:4 ). Flattering with words (Proverbs 2:16 ) and making sweet music (Isaiah 23:16 ) might be used to lure or soothe a client. Her payment might be in money, or it could be in jewelry (Ezekiel 23:42 ) or other items of value (Genesis 38:15-18; compare Luke 15:30 ).

Although harlots were considered socially inferior, they did have legal rights, as is evident from the incident recorded in 1 Kings 3:16-22 . See Fornication; Prostitution .

Wilda W. Morris

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Harlot'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/h/harlot.html. 1991.

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