(a) female, in Hebrew זָרָה זוֹנָה, נָכריָּה, קדֵַשָׁה (on the last see Gesen. Thes. 3, 1197);
(b) male, in Hebrew קָדֵשׁ. While all sexual intercourse between others than married persons was forbidden by the Mosaic law, especial prohibition was laid upon Israelitish women from hiring themselves as prostitutes (Le 19:29; comp. 21:9); and, with special reference to the Phoenicians, they were forbidden to abandon themselves to the use of men (De 23:17). The "hire of a whore" (אֶתנִן זוֹנָה; comp. also Eze 16:33, and Rosenmuller, ad loc.) must not be accepted by the priests as the subject of a vow, or a gift of devotion in the Temple (De 23:18); this hire, consisting in a piece of money or a kid (Ge 38:17), if presented at the Temple for a sacrifice, and received as among other ancient nations, would have seemed to allow prostitution (comp. Mishna, Terumoth, 6:2; Movers, Phonic. i, 680). In Paphos, a kid was offered to the goddess of love (Tacitus, Hist. ii, 3). The Hetaerae used to bring to Aphrodite Pandemos the sacrifice of a goat (Lucian, Dial. Meret. 7:1). The trade of prostitution was sometimes very profitable among the ancients (Herod. i, 93). In spite of all prohibitions, there were always public prostitutes among the Hebrews who, probably, as among the Arabs and Persians, practiced dancing and music (Baruch 6:8, 43; Wisd. 9:4; 1Ki 3:16; Pr 6:26 sq.; 7:10 sq., 23, 27; Amos ii, 7; 7:17; Hosea i, 2), and may have been in part foreigners (Movers, Phonic. i, 53), as Phoenicians and Syrians (Jg 16:1). Syrian harlots travelled in the time of the Roman empire. and were called Ambubajoe (Suteton. Nero, 27; Horace, Sat. i, 2, 1), because they were sometimes skilled in playing on the harp (see Heindorf, on Horace, l.c.; comp. Apuleieus, letam. 8:p. 182, ed. Bip.). But the Hebrew name נָכרַיָּב perhaps means, not a stranger, but the strange women, like זָרָה; hence, adulteress.
The harlots walked in public, adorned and veiled (Ge 38:14; Petron. Satyr. 16; but see Pococke, East, 1, 76), or seated themselves by the wayside, and, with seductive gestures, strove to lead aside travellers (Ge 38:14; Baruch 6:43; comp. Dougtnei Analect. i, p. 42 sq.). We may well suppose that the harlots could be in some way recognised in dress, gait, etc.. even when they put on a show of modest behavior (comp. Hartmann, Hebr. ii, 495 sq.). It is not probable that the veiling ever distinguished the harlots from chaste women. SEE VEIL. (Comp. Buckingham, Mesop. p. 55.) In the brothels the girls bore peculiar names which had become by some chance attached to them (Senec. Controv. i, 2, p. 84, ed. Bip.). Some would interpret in allusion to this the words in Re 17:5, but see Ewald, ad loc. At the time of the division of the Hebrew kingdom, whoredom was practiced, especially among the ten tribes, under the Syrian influences then pouring in (comp. Nu 25:1 sq.), often even in service of the gods, especially of Astarte (Ho 4:14; 1Ki 14:24; 1Ki 15:12; 1Ki 22:47; 2Ki 23:7; comp. Baruch 6:43; Herod. 1, 199; Justin, 18:5; Strabo, 8:378; 12:559; Val. Max. ii, 6, 15; Augustine, Civ. Dei. 4:10; Heyne, in Commentat. Soc. Goetting. 16, and see Gesen. on Isaiah 2, 339 sq.). The law did not establish municipal and police penalties against notorious harlots, and the toleration of those from abroad (which certainly was not the design of the law-giver, though it is easily explicable among an Oriental people when polygamy was allowed) seems to have been unconditional (see Porter, Greek Antiquities, i, 354; Wachsmulth, Hellen. Alterth. II, ii, 48). The existence of companies of prostitutes in the sacred groves and high-places of the ancient Jews may serve to account for the rendering which the Sept. gives to the expression "high-places" in Eze 16:39, by a term which in Greek denotes a place of indecent resort. The Sukkoth benoth, literally "tabernacles of daughters," which the men of Babylon are mentioned in 2Ki 17:30 as having made, are probably places of the same kind, being haunts of wickedness. According to Josephus (Ant. 4:8, 23), all intercourse with a prostitute was illegal, which is natural, since even the sons of public harlots could never attain citizen's rights among the Jews (De 23:2), and had no claim to share in their father's inheritance (comp. Jg 11:1).
Among the Greeks and Romans, at the time of the appearance of Christianity, prostitution had become a great public evil. The cause of this lay by no means alone in the excessive worship of certain divinities (Wisdom of Solomon 14:26 sq.), but in the frivolity of the times and the general decay of morals. In Rome harlots were legally tolerated (Zimmerm. Rom. Rechtsalterth. I, ii, 489 comp. Schuttgen, Hor. Hebr. i, 468 sq.). The laxer the principles of men in general were on this subject in its various forms, and the more boldly they avowed it (comp. Terence, Adelph. i, 2, 21 sq.; Eunuch. 3, 5, 35 sq.), the more vigorously were the apostles compelled to oppose unchastity where it had entered the Christian Church (1Co 5:1 sq.; 2Co 12:21; 1Th 4:3; 1Ti 1:10). The apostolic decree in Ac 15:20,29 (comp. 21:25), which has often been denounced as not genuine (Deyling, Observ. ii, 469 sq.; Kuinol, Comment. p. 521 sq.), was sufficiently called for by the character of the times (comp. Tholuck, in Neander's Denkwi'rd. i, 143 sq.). The practice of prostitution was then prevalent, too. among the Jews, especially the higher classes (Ro 2:22; Joh 8:7; see in general Michaelis, Iuos. Recht, v, 281 sq ). Among the Romans, the abominable practice of combining immorality with the worship of the gods appears to have continued down to the days of Constantine, as is evident from a passage in his life, written by Eusebius, where he mentions it in connection with the temple of Venus at Apheca on Mount Libanus. Sacred prostitution forms a part in the religious rites of heathen nations both in ancient and modern times. Among the Phoenician Babylonians, and other Eastern nations, it was the custom to erect adjoining the temples of their gods residences for courtesans. who were supposed to be pleasing to the deities. Strabo says that no fewer than 1000 of these abandoned females were attached to the temple of Aphrodite in Corinth, and were considered as an indispensable part of the retinue of the goddess. Among the Hindus we have the Linga worship (q.v.). SEE ADULTERY; SEE FORNICATION; SEE HARLOT; SEE SODOMITE.