The Sin of Harlotry

By Wayne S. Walker

Prostitution is an increasing public menace and moral evil. Its rise in popularity is representative of the degeneracy among American citizens which is becoming more and more prevalent. I realize that it has been practiced almost from the dawn of history, and even on a large scale in this country in the past. But it is much more publicized today than it used to be. There are cries for its legalization and demands for “hookers’ rights”; it receives a large amount of television and newspaper coverage. Bumper stickers proclaim, “Support Your Local Hooker.” Where whorehouses were once considered places of ill-repute, they are now coming to be thought of as “in” places to frequent, and there are numerous books, magazines, and movies which portray their activities in a very appealing manner. People everywhere talk jokingly of “cat houses” and “pick-up joints.” But it is no laughing matter. Dealing with, going to, or playing a harlot is called sin by the Bible and is condemned by God.

God’s Rule for Man’s Sexual Activity

There are numerous scriptures in the Old Testament which disclose God’s displeasure with this nauseating activity. The first is found in Genesis 2:24 where God said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.” Beginning at the very creation, it was God’s will that the marriage of a man and woman was to be a life-long, unbroken, and exclusive partnership. It is in this relationship that God ordained all human sexual desires to be fulfilled. Men have perverted that decree with polygamy, adultery, divorce, and of course, prostitution. “But from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8).

According to the Covenant at Sinai

In the law of Moses, God also revealed His attitude toward the harlot. Fathers were forbidden to give their daughters over to prostitution (Lev. 19:29). Priests were not allowed to marry or permit their daughters to become whores (Lev. 21:7-9). God did not permit money procured from prostitution to be brought into the place of worship (Dent. 23:18). Harlotry is a form of fornication (illicit sexual relations) and the Decalogue strictly forbade this: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14). The penalty for such activity was death (Dent. 22:21-24). Even before the Ten Commandments were given, God’s people knew the reprehensivity of this vice, and death was its deserts (Gen. 38:24). The figure of whoredom is often used by the prophets symbolically to describe Israel’s spiritual condition in forsaking God, but they also condemned the actual act.

What the Wise Man Said

Some of the best bits of wisdom concerning harlotry are found in the book of wisdom, Proverbs. Listen to Solomon as he warned in chapter 5, “My son, attend unto my wisdom; incline thine ear to my understanding: that thou mayest preserve discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of a strange woman drop honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on Sheol. . . . Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh to the door of her house; lest thou give thine honor unto others, and thy years to the cruel; lest strangers be filled with thy strength, and thy labors be in the house of an alien.” Instead, he encouraged his son, “Drink waters out of thine own cistern . . . and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. As a loving hind and a pleasant doe, let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished with her love. For why shouldest thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a foreigner?”

He further asked in 6:24-35, “Can a man take fire into his bosom, and his clothes be not burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be scorched? So he that goeth into his neighbor’s wife” or any other woman he has no right to. In the seventh chapter, he spoke of “a woman with the attire of a harlot,” and described her character and her seduction of a young man. As disgusting as the prostitute may be, we must not forget also the sin on the part of the one being seduced and yielding to her. “He goeth after her straightway as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the correction of the fool; till an arrow strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.” Solomon concluded with this piece of good advice: “Now therefore, my sons, hearken unto me, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways; go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, all her slain are a mighty host. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.”

New Testament Teaching

The New Testament is no less forceful in its denunciation of dealing in prostitution. Jesus condemned the unbridled and passionate lust that would lead a man to resort to such things as adultery and prostitution (Matt. 5:27-28). As previously noted, prostitution is a form of sexual immorality and is thus disapproved of by God in general as seen in such passages as Matt. 15:18-20, Rom. 1:24-32, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21, and Col. 3:5-9. But there is also special mention of judgment against whoremongers, as mentioned in Eph. 5:3-5, 1 Tim. 1:9-10, Heb. 13:4, and Rev. 21:8. These principles include all who are associated with harlotry: those who operate whorehouses, prostitutes themselves, and those who go to harlots. One interesting thing about the word “whoremonger” is that, although it generally means a fornicator, it was sometimes used in a special sense to denote a male prostitute. Let us not be chauvinistic. History reveals that men have actually hired themselves out for sexual favors as well as women. Lest someone the Bible condemns both.

A Sin Against the Body

In my estimation, one of the most important passages in the New Testament in this connection is l Corinthians 6:15-20. Paul here said that our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost and members of Christ (vs. 15,19). When the body of the first man was created by God and whenever a baby is born, that body is pure and clean (Eccl. 7:39). We use the term “virgin” to describe not only females but also males who are undefiled. It is generally true of all humans, since each man is created in the image of God and his body is the handiwork of God, and especially true of Christians who have been recreated in Christ, that to take this body and defile it by sexual impurity is a sin against the body – against the very purpose for which God created the body. While I recognize that no sin is in reality any greater than another, and that no sin is too great to be repented of, this verse does indicate that when a person engages in unlawful sexual activity, in a special way he “sinneth against his own body.” However, this does not take place when one is married, for the marriage bed is undefiled (Heb. 13:4).

Many might think this whole discussion is silly. It may seem not of harmony with propriety to some. Others may ask why bring up a subject that everyone obviously abhors. The point I tried to make at the beginning was that not everyone abhors it, so it seems; at least not as many as we might like to think. I have tried to deal firmly yet delicately with a practice that has the very real possibility of becoming an increasing temptation to the saints of God. Our young people are growing up with the same biological urges that their elders have, and unless they are instructed in the dangers of this realm below and are told how the beauty of sex as given by God can be marred by men, they will be easy game for the devil and his agents am evil influences prey upon their natural desires. This is a special danger whenever those who pervert God’s way are allowed to come out into the open and publicly advertise themselves, as is happening more and more today. I have out even introduced the rising threat of venereal disease in our society, most of which is fostered by promiscuity in sexual relations. Suffice it to say, we need to be on guard against all forms of sexual impurity, and teach our young people to do likewise.

Truth Magazine, XX:18, p. 12-13
April 29, 1976