By Thomas C. Hickey
Bible students will recognize the question as a takeoff from the words of Proverbs 7:10, a passage which warns against the wiles of the immoral person who seeks to seduce another into the destruction of his soul. We now quote the entire passage:
6 For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice,
7 And I saw among the naive, I discerned among the youths, A young man lacking sense,
8 Passing through the street near her comer; And he takes the way to her house,
9 In the twilight, in the evening, In the middle of the night and in the darkness.
10 And behold, a woman comes to meet him, dressed as a harlot and cunning of heart.
11 She is boisterous and rebellious; Her feet do not remain at home;
12 She is now in the streets, now in the squares, And lurks by every comer.
13 So she seizes him and kisses him, And with a brazen face she says to him:
14 1 was due to offer peace offerings; Today I have paid my vows.
15 Therefore have I come out to meet you, To seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you.
16 1 have spread my couch with coverings, With colored linens of Egypt.
17 1 have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
18 Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with caresses.
19 For the man is not at home, He has gone on a long journey;
20 He has taken a bag of money with him, At full moon he will come home.
21 With her many persuasions she entices him; With her flattering lips she seduces him.
22 Suddenly he follows her, As an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool,
23 Until an arrow pierces through his liver, As a bird hastens to the snare, So he does not know that it will cost him his life.
24 Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, And pay attention to the words of my mouth.
25 Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her paths.
26 For many are the victims she has cast down, And numerous are all her slain.
27 Her house is the way to Sheol, Descending to the chambers of death.
– New American Standard Version
In the scene described above, a foolish young man seeking sexual experimentation goes to a “worldly-wise and sophisticated” woman whose character is known by the manner in which she dresses. This is a loud-mouthed woman who despises to be in subjection to her husband. She is too busy to give adequate care to her home and children because she is occupied with running around town trying to appear seductive. She has a face hardened by sin, and can no longer blush (cf. Ezra 9:6; Jer. 6:15; 8:12). She pretends to be religious and is very concerned with her physical appearance, and with the things which create sexual interest. She persuades her victim using flattery to inebriate him.
This young man is described by the writer of Proverbs as a fool who goes blindly and willingly to his own destruction, not knowing just how great a price he must pay for his indiscretions!
To me, one of the striking characteristics of this seductive and immoral woman has always been the phrase, “dressed as a harlot” (NASB) or “with the attire of an harlot” (KJV).
The description of this woman makes it clear that she was a harlot. What is a harlot? The Hebrew word here translated is zanah, which means “to commit fornication, go a whoring” (Young’s Analytical Concordance). Therefore, the word “harlot” here describes a person who is willing to engage in sexual love with someone to whom she is not married.
If one is available for purposes of sexual immorality, how does one advertize this fact? One way, clearly, is to dress with “the attire or dress of a harlot.”
What is the attire of a harlot? Proverbs 7 does not give a description of the “attire of an harlot” or of anyone else’s attire, for that matter. So then, what is the attire of an harlot?
Quite clearly, the attire of an harlot is any manner of dressing which communicates the message of sexual interest and abandon so that there is the underlying implication of sexual availability, the freedom from shame and moral or spiritual restraints. If one wishes to know what is the attire of an harlot, he need only study the dress styles of those who boast of having no morals. If he or she wishes to communicate the same message, he will then imitate those dress styles.
On the other hand, one who wishes to communicate the message of chastity and moral restraint will studiously avoid dressing in a manner which raises doubt about moral character!
There are many modem ways to wear the “attire of a harlot.” Women may wear the attire of an harlot by either overdressing or underdressing. Dressing in a garish manner, wearing too much makeup, wearing slinky gowns, etc., may be as much the attire of an harlot as underdressing in the skimpy shorts, modern swim wear, miniskirts, cheerleaders and majorettes costumes, and the omitting of foundation or undergarments – all characteristic of those who wish to send the signal – “I am available.” The woman or girl who dresses in such a manner is saying, “Look at me – I’m sexy.” Every such woman is either telling the truth or lying by her manner of dress. If she is telling the truth, she is guilty of the sins of lasciviousness and fornication. If she is lying by her manner of dress (and she really isn’t that kind of person) she is guilty of the sins of lasciviousness and lying. There is just no “Christian” way to wear “the attire of an harlot.”
I personally believe that any woman who will wear the “attire of an harlot” will commit fornication. She may not commit it with just anyone who comes along, but she will commit it if “Mr. Right” comes along. If she does not have enough Christianity to dress like a Christian, then she will not have enough Christianity to act like a Christian in the face of sufficient temptation! If not, why not?
And what about the men? Can they, and do they, not also wear the “attire of an harlot”? Yes, they can, and they dol It is becoming more characteristic for men to communicate their lack of morals through various stages of undress and various manners of dress. The more abbreviated male swim wear is coming into vogue which is designed to emphasize the male genitals; porous “net shirts” are becoming more popular in the summer time; shirts are worn unbuttoned to reveal the chest hair; trousers are worn slung low in some countries, the “fly” is left unbuttoned or unzipped apparently to communicate availability. Male homosexuals sometimes wear a ring in one ear to advertize themselves; in some communities the wearing of a turtleneck shirt is taken to indicate male homosexuality. Men are more commonly running around the yard and even going to the store in very abbreviated shorts.
All of these things shout one message loud and clear; they are the signals of the decay of the morals of a nation. We are b6coming a nation of fornicators – and we advertize itl Celebrities seek a public forum to boast of itl And slowly citizens seek opportunities to imitate the lifestyles of the rich and famous!
The whole question of what is the attire of an harlot can be summed up with the following:
Years ago when Mary Quant (fashion designer) and others had succeeded in introducing the miniskirt into mainstream use, Miss Quant was asked the question, “What is the point of the miniskirt?” She answered very simply, “Sex.”
No thoughtful Christian who wants to do right will be guilty of wearing the “attire of an harlot” because to do so is to be guilty of lasciviousness, which is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). The penalty for lasciviousness is that those guilty cannot “inherit the kingdom of God.” In other words, those guilty will spend eternity in a Devil’s Hell.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 3, pp. 67-68
February 6, 1986