Chapter 2

Physical Fornication ©

  Old Testament Usage of Fornication 
  Prostitution in the Old Testament 
  Fornication in the New Testament 
  GOD's Judgment 
  Flee Fornication! 
  Imitators of GOD 

In examination of the usage of fornication as it pertains to a physical sexual relationship, a biblical definition of the word must be obtained.  In order to arrive at a biblical definition, every occurrence of the corresponding Hebrew and Greek word(s) must be examined.  These words must be viewed within the verse in which they are found after arriving at an understanding of the scope of the word's context.  In addition to this, the verse must be understood in light of the surrounding context as well as the entire context of the bible itself.

A study of the usage of physical fornication throughout the bible has produced the following biblical definition:

The voluntary (mutually consenting) physical act of male/female sexual intercourse not prescribed by the law of GOD.

As will become evident, a sexual relationship is to be experienced only within the confines of a marriage.  A marriage provides the necessary essentials to ward off the potential problems that may be introduced into a relationship through sexual activity.  The unity that a marriage produces allows a sexual relationship to exist as GOD originally intended.  Therefore, the only sexual union prescribed by GOD is between a man and woman in a marital relationship.

- Old Testament Usage of Fornication -

In order for Scripture to interpret itself, it is essential that words, expressions, and utterances be understood in light of their first occurrence.  This is a vital key to a word's resulting usage and meaning, or at least a director leading us toward the essential point linked to it.  The Hebrew word zanah is most commonly translated in the KJV as; "go awhoring," "play the harlot," "harlot," and "commit whoredom."  The first occurrence of the word appears in Genesis.

Gen 34:31  And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot [prostitute (NIV)] ?

To understand this verse, a summary must be given of Chapter 34.  Dinah, a daughter of Jacob and Leah, ventured out to mingle with the foreign women living within her own country (Gen 34:1).  In so doing, she encountered Shechem (the son of Hamor, a Hivite).  In meeting Dinah, Shechem was so attracted by the sight of her that he raped her (vs 2 -- the word "defiled" is the Hebrew `anah, meaning to afflict or humble by force; therefore, used here of rape - cp. 2 Sam. 13:14).  It is interesting to note that the Hebrew root for this word means to answer or respond.  It appears that Shechem may have responded to Dinah's friendliness in a manner she neither expected nor deserved.  Jacob heard of the incident and did nothing (vss 5-6).  The Hivites wanted intermarriages with the Israelites (vss 7-12) and therefore Hamor sought Dinah for Shechem's wife as Shechem continued to vehemently desire her (vss 3 & 8-10).  Jacob's two sons heard of the incident and decided to avenge the rape by taking matters into their own hands (vss 12-25).  Jacob voiced his disgust with his sons' actions against Shechem and Hamor (vs 30) and his sons replied, "Should he [Shechem] deal with our sister as with an harlot?"  This is the figure of speech erotesis, a statement in the form of a question, not to obtain an answer but to make a point.  They were saying to Jacob, "He treated our sister like a harlot!."  In other words, "what do you think we should have done about that? Just stand by and let it go without retribution?"  They felt their actions were justified although they served as judge, jury, and executioner.

The sons of Jacob draw a comparison between Dinah, their sister, and a "harlot" or prostitute.  They did not say that she was a harlot but that Shechem treated her like a harlot.  This distinction is important.  It is an example of the figure of speech simile, a comparison by resemblance.  Dinah resembled a harlot only in the manner in which Shechem treated her; he had illicit sexual intercourse with her.  The word "deal" is the Hebrew ’asah and means to do or make.  Their response in Hebrew as rendered by Young's literal translation reads, "As a harlot doth he make our sister?"  Why?  Because it was not until after Shechem had sexual intercourse with Dinah that he tried to secure her for a wife (vs 12).  There was no marriage before the sexual relationship took place.  Shechem helped himself to Dinah sexually PRIOR to attempting to secure a marital relationship with her.  Whether or not Dinah's brothers understood it as "rape" we cannot be certain.  However, we are certain that they did understand that Shechem had sexual intercourse with her outside of the marriage contract.  This they knew to occur with prostitutes and that is why they elected to use the term.

The context in which fornication occurred in the ancient Near East must be understood in order to see the relationship between fornication and harlotry.  Prostitution became the primary means by which a person could participate in voluntary male/female sexual intercourse outside of a marriage relationship.  Biblically, prostitution (harlotry) was used to portray fornication.

The Eastern people took major strides to preserve the innocence and purity (virginity) of their young women. 5  Prostitution became an alternative to accommodate the sexual drives within the men of their culture.6   This was especially pertinent for the younger men, as many would not procure a wife until about twenty years of age.  There was no "living together" or "one night stands" during that time as is common today.  In light of this sexual accommodation, social or secular prostitution probably became as widespread among the Hebrew people as among other nations in the ancient Near East. 7

Lev 21:7, 14  They shall not take a wife that is a whore [Hebrew zanah], or profane; neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto his God.  (14) A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot [Hebrew zanah], these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife.

"The priests, the sons of Aaron" (vss 1-9) were given specific ordinances concerning different types of defilements while "the high priest" was addressed in vss 10-15 concerning the same.  In Ezek. 44:22, "the priests" were instructed to marry either a "maiden" (virgin) or "a widow" of another priest.  This ties in with verse 23, "And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean."  Without digressing into the type and shadow relating to Christ, the distinction here is between "holy" and "profane" or "clean" and "unclean."  The priests were forbidden to partake of that which was considered "profane" or "unclean."  A virgin would have been "pure" and "not defiled" by man.  Law would not have bound a "widow," for death separated her from the marriage bond with her husband.  There would be no defilement if a priest married her, as she was the widow of a priest.  A widow is one thing but the widow of a priest was another.  You must distinguish the two.  Interestingly, the Septuagint reads, "Neither shall they take to themselves to wife a widow, or one that is put away, but a virgin of the seed of Israel: but if there should happen to be a priest's widow, they shall take her."  Again, the contingency "if" is used, "if there should happen to be...a priest's widow."  The priest's widow is not excluded although she is not just "any widow."

Returning to Leviticus 21, the instruction in verse 7 identifies the type of woman they were not to marry.  However, "the high priest" had a much greater exception; he was only to marry a virgin.  The identification of the types of women prohibited from marriage in Lev 21 can be summarized as follows:

1. a whore (vs 7), harlot (vs 14)
2. profane
3. a woman put away from her husband [divorced]
4. a widow (vs 14)

The "profane" of vss 7 and 14 is the Hebrew word chalal and means to wound or pierce through.  The same word is used when one is said to be "slain" as by the sword (Josh 13:22).  Bleeding results when one is pierced or wounded with a sword.  The same analogy is true when the hymen is ruptured with the first sexual intercourse of a woman.  Indeed, the root word for chalal is connected with something that is a beginning or first.  Thus "profane" would indicate a woman who had already had her first sexual intercourse and hence, is no longer a virgin.  This will be demonstrated shortly when we examine the Hebrew word bethulah (translated "virgin" in vs 14).  There are two possible ways to understand the "profane" of vss 7 and 14; either as rendered in the NIV, "defiled by prostitution" using "profane" to modify "whore" and "harlot" or, a woman who had sexual intercourse and was unmarried as a result of Ex 22:16,17.  Regardless of the case, the one element common to the types of women listed is that all experienced sexual intercourse and therefore did not qualify as virgins.

Lev 21:9  And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore [Hebrew zanah], she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

The word "profane" is the same Hebrew word as is used in vss 7 and 14, chalal.  The daughter pierces herself physically through her illicit sexual activity.  However, her carelessness causes her father to be profaned.  She is the daughter of a priest.  The piercing or wounding he experiences is spiritual.  He not only stands in relation to her as a father but also as a priest.  She profanes her father, who is a priest, which is part of the priesthood, which is typical of Christ.  In reality, she is damaging the antitype who is Christ.

There are many ways in Leviticus in which one could be rendered profane (defiled or unclean).  Yet here, the daughter of the priest specifically accomplishes this task by "playing the whore."  To play the whore is simply a descriptive term used to illustrate her activity.  It refers to illicit sexual activity by way of prostitution.  It is an activity opposed to holiness (see vss 7b-8).  This can also be seen in Deuteronomy.

Deut 22:20, 21  But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:  (21) Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore [Hebrew zanah] in her father's house: so shall thou put evil away from among you.

This "damsel" had lost her virginity prior to her being married (cp. vs 14).  The word "maid" in vs 14 is the Hebrew bethulah and means a virgin.  Our English word stems from the idea of a twig or shoot.  This shoot of a bush or shrub appears before the flower.  As a girl enters puberty, she buds physically and flowers.  This is evidenced by the changes in her physical appearance with the development of secondary sexual characteristics and menstruation.  At this juncture, a girl is passing into womanhood and although no longer a child, remains sexually untouched.  Interestingly, when a woman has her first sexual intercourse with a man, he is said to have "deflowered" her.

Ezek 23:8  And she forsook not her fornication with the Egyptians: for in her youth they committed fornication with her, and they deflowered [Gr. diapartheneuo] her, and poured out their fornication upon her. (LXX)

Ezek 23:3  and they went a-whoring in Egypt in their youth: there their breasts fell, there they lost their virginity [Gr. diapartheneuo; lit. were deflowered]. (LXX)

Now, returning to the Hebrew, the root idea of bethulah means to separate.  A young woman is separate from all other groups of women in this respect, in that she possesses her virginity.  In the biblical sense of the word, a bethulah has not had a sexual relationship with a man; hence, her virginity remains intact.  A few scriptural examples will suffice;

Gen 24:16  And the damsel wasvery fair to look upon, a virgin [Hebrew bethulah], neither had any man known her:

Jud. 21:12  And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins [Hebrew bethulah], that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

Lev 21:14  A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin [Hebrew bethulah] of his own people to wife.

Rev 14:4  These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins [Gk. parthenos; equivalent of the Hebrew bethulah].

The qualifying words for "virgin" are "neither had any man known her" and "that had known no man by lying with any male."  Leviticus 21 lists categories of women whose virginity would not be intact.

Returning to Deut. 22, the accusation made by the husband in vs 14 was that he found his wife not to be a virgin when they were wed.

Deut. 22:14  And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid [Hebrew bethulah]:

This accusation would either be substantiated or not by the parents furnishing the "cloth" or "garment (LXX)" upon which were the "tokens" or proof of the woman's virginity.

Deut. 22:17  And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech , saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity.  And they shall spread the cloth [or, garment] before the elders of the city.

If the cloth or garment was not produced, it was concluded that the daughter was not a virgin prior to the marriage.  Interestingly, there is no Hebrew or corresponding Greek word for "tokens" in Deut. 22.  It is simply "virginity"; the state of being a virgin.  The evidence of virginity was the presence of an intact hymen (a thin membrane surrounding and/or covering the opening of the vagina).  It would remain "intact" until the first sexual intercourse.  At that time, the tearing or rupture of this membrane would produce some bleeding.

There must be a divine design to the presence of a hymen.  If the hymen was nonexistent, there would be no evidence that a woman was a virgin.  Since the scriptures place much emphasis upon the concept of virginity, there must be some measure of its validity.  The proof of virginity with respect to marriage was believed to be the blood-stained bed sheet upon which the couple experienced their first sexual intercourse.  This would have been secured by the parents of the bride and furnished, if needed, as evidence that she was indeed a virgin when she was wed.  The usage of "cloth" suggests it was a garment rather than a piece of linen.  In all probability it was a chemise (a tunic-like undergarment) that was worn by women, as they did not have "nightclothes."  Today, we would think of it as a nightshirt that some women wear to bed.  The length of the nightshirt would cover most of the thigh or usually extend down to the ankle.  To state the obvious, when the bride and groom consummated their marriage, the front portion of the undergarment would have been lifted, leaving the bride lying on the back portion.  When the hymen was ruptured, the blood would have stained the undergarment.  Therefore, the usage of "cloth" as garment would still be accurate and the parents would use this as proof of their daughter's virginity.

Deut 22:21  Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

If the proof of the woman's virginity could not be furnished, the men of the city were instructed to "stone her with stones that she die."  Why?  Because "she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house."

The word "folly" is the Hebrew nebalah and will need to be examined to see the relationship between the state of the mind (attitude) and the one who commits fornication.  Nebalah is derived from the root word nabel and means to be senseless, foolish; to drop down or wither.

Ps 14:1  The fool [Hebrew nabal, from nabel] hath said in his heart, There is no God.  They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

Isa 40:8  The grass withereth, the flower fadeth [Hebrew nabel]: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Job 2:10  But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish [Hebrew nabal, from nabel] women speaketh.  What?  shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?  In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

There are some specific usages of nebalah that occur in the context of a sexual relationship.

Gen 34:7  And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly [Hebrew nebalah] in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done.

Jud 19:23  And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren,nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly [Hebrew nebalah].

2 Sam 13:12  And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly [Hebrew nebalah].  (13) And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools [Hebrew nabal] in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee.

Jer 29:23  Because they have committed villany [folly - Hebrew nebalah] in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.

In these examples, nabal and nebalah are used to describe the behavior of rape, homosexuality and adultery.  The relevance of this examination is therefore vital to understand the relationship between the attitude and the actual illicit behavior.

Folly or foolishness as portrayed in the Old Testament describes one who is morally insensible.  They disregard the standard of morality by closing their mind to it.  In so doing, they refuse to listen to reason or to GOD.  It is a step down on the part of the individual's conscience.  The usage in Isaiah 40 is a good demonstration.  The concept of a "flower fading" or wilting is a prime example.  The mind of the fool fades or wilts with regard to their moral standard.  They shrink from the standard and step down or degrade their conscience.  Morality is no longer as important as it once was or should be.  The corresponding Septuagint usage of folly is just as revealing.  It is the Greek aphrosune which is derived from the Greek word aphron.

Prov 9:6  Forsake the foolish [Gr. aphrosune], and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Prov 18:13  He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly [Gr. aphrosune] and shame unto him.

Prov 19:3  The foolishness [Gr. aphrosune] of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.

Eccl 2:13  Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly [Gr. aphrosune], as far as light excelleth darkness.

The Greek aphrosune means that folly results from one not using the capacity of their mind to understand.  Such close-mindedness "perverts" one's way.  To make up one's mind that his or her way is right while moral standards are pointing the other direction is foolish.

Gen 34:7  And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done.

The statement, "which thing ought not to be done" demonstrates that there was a clear standard to follow and violating such a standard was described as "folly."  When using the term "moral," we are referring to that which is derived from custom or manners.  Morality is the manifestation or outgrowth of morals.  It is the character that one demonstrates which is in accord with the principles or standards of what constitutes right conduct or behavior.  In this instance in Genesis 34, Shechem elected not to adhere to the standard of right conduct and committed "folly."  The upholding of a right standard was extremely important and constitutes the very fabric and backbone of society.  What is deemed right and wrong in a society is determined by its custom or character.  It is what that society establishes as its custom and all the principles flow from there.  Israel had its custom established by GOD and all of its principles flowed from HIM.  A society not ruled by GOD is a GODless society.  Its standards for behavior are judged as immoral for they deviate from that which is just or right.  The scriptures demonstrate time and again that GOD is just and right.  Therefore anything deviating from the standards that HE has set would constitute immorality.

Knowing the difference between morality and immorality, it is not hard to imagine why the Bible would refer to folly as wickedness.  The detrimental nature of folly can also be seen with respect to other types of sexual behavior.

Jud 19:23  And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren,nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.  (24) Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing [Hebrew reads, the matter of this folly].

Homosexuality was considered "a matter of folly."  Rape is also "folly."

2 Sam 13:12  And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.

The standard of conduct for a GODless society is "do what feels good."  The prevalence of this attitude with its "open mind" has led many down the road of folly.  The degradation of the conscience leads one to be guided by what they "feel."  Situations in life which once produced a moral hesitation, no longer do so.  The reason for this is that the conscience has been brought down to a lower standard of conduct.  Immoral behavior is no longer recognized as violating the conscience.  Their folly becomes evident as this new standard takes hold and becomes their way of life.  In respect to sexual behavior, the stepping down of the conscience takes man from being an animal governed by reason to one governed by instinct.

The concept of "feeling" is not intrinsically wrong.  Let us be clear on that.  However, doing what one feels to be right can be and oftentimes is wrong with respect to morality.  It is reason that distinguishes between feeling and morality.  Feelings are subjected to the world of sensation; morality is governed by the world of reason.  As one once said, emotions are a good slave but a terrible master.  We were not designed to be governed by emotion or feelings.  That is not to say emotion has no place.  But rather, emotion was never designed to be a moral guide.  To do what one "feels to be right" is a trap that can only be supported by a degraded conscience for it oftentimes contradicts morals or reason.

Eph 5:17  Wherefore be ye not unwise [foolish = aphron], but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

Understanding opposes foolishness.

I Cor 14:20  Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men [men is the Gr. teleios, perfect, or, of a ripe age].

Understanding is the hallmark of the full-grown or the one "of ripe age."  Children are governed by their emotions or feelings; what they want to do at any given time.  They look for on-the-spot gratification.  Children usually do things in haste; impulsively without thought.  It is only in the process of time as they are disciplined and instructed that they begin to learn the place of reason; the place that standards of proper conduct and behavior should occupy.

Deut 22:21  Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

Returning to the matter at hand, the "folly" takes us back to Gen 34:7.  It manifests itself as the insensitivity of the conscience.  Such insensitivity was evident by the actions of the damsel.  She despised Israel and her father through her conduct.  The damsel violated the morals governing her behavior and her actions gave no thought to those whom she offended.  This disregard for morality and those standards given by GOD demonstrates a mind without reason or thoughtful reflection.  She acted rashly in her behavior by closing her mind to the morals established by GOD.

- Prostitution in the Old Testament -

In the ancient Near East, the only occupations for women who were unmarried were tavern workers, virgin (cultic) priestesses and social prostitutes. 8  The cultic priestesses were often prostitutes who affiliated themselves with pagan temple worship.  Prostitution is illustrated frequently throughout the Old Testament.

Gen 38:1-14  And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.  (2) And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.  (3) And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.  (4) And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.  (5) And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.  (6) And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.  (7) And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.  (8) And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.  (9) And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.  (10) And the thing which he did [not providing seed for his brother's progeny] displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.  (11) Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father's house, till Shelah my son be grown: Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father's house.  (12) And in the process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah's wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.  (13) And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.  (14) And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.

Because of Judah's fear, Shelah was withheld from marriage to Tamar.  Tamar takes it upon herself to make right that which was wrong.  She dressed up to look like a prostitute and placed herself in an ideal location.  The girls at brothels "often stood or sat where they could be seen by passers-by."  The Latin word prostitute, meaning ‘to set forth in public’ or to be exposed for sale" 9 entered the English language as a reference to those women who sat in an open place.  This idea is similar today.  We see prostitutes occupying certain areas of a town or street looking for opportunities to fornicate.

Gen 38:15  When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot [Hebrew zanah; Gk. porne - a fornicatress or whore ]; because she had covered her face. 10

She covered her face, as was the custom of harlots during this period.  Judah did not recognize Tamar (vs 16) but thought her to be a prostitute or fornicatress and therefore, one with whom he could fornicate.

Gen 38:16-23  And he turned unto her by the way, and he said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? (17) And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?  (18) And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.  (19) And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.  (20) And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman's hand: but he found her not. (21) Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the wayside? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.  (22) And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of that place said, that there was no harlot in this place.  (23) And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.

The word "harlot" in these vss is the Hebrew qedheshah (temple prostitute associated with pagan fertility rituals) and not the Hebrew zanah (social prostitute).  The servant questions and seeks for a sacred or temple prostitute.  He expected the temple prostitute to be much more prominent in that vicinity and the payment more socially acceptable. 11  Tamar's intent was not to obtain payment but to convict Judah.  That does not become evident until her pregnancy is called into question and she uses the pledge to save her life.  However, the concept of payment was established and therefore the term "harlot" was used.

Gen 38:24  And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot [Hebrew zanah]; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.

The word "whoredom" is the Hebrew zenunim and is plural; hence, whoredoms.  This word is used to describe the ACTIVITIES or PRACTICES of the prostitute or zanah. 12

There are several references in Judges that utilize the term "harlot" without any reference to its moral or immoral nature.  However, they do serve to build a greater understanding of the term's usage.  These are divinely inspired historical records of events (see II Tim 3:16 and II Peter 1:21).  There is nothing to suggest that the incidents be the will of HIM who had them recorded (i.e., HIS approval or disapproval).  An understanding of these records must be in light of the whole SCOPE of the Bible see [Appendix B, Keys to Biblical Interpretation, I-A-2]

Jud 16:1  Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot [Hebrew zanah], and went in unto her [meaning he had sexual intercourse with her (cp. Gen 16:1-4a; 29:21, 30)].

It was quite common for people who were traveling to seek refuge in inns, which provided food, provender and other services.  Many of them, in addition, provided prostitution as part of their menu or system of operation. 13  Samson took advantage of this aspect and acquired a harlot.

Following Samson's encounter with the harlot, no specific reproof of his behavior follows the record within the Scriptures.  The purpose for which this event is recorded and the inappropriateness of Samson's behavior are not paired.  In other words, GOD does not chose to occupy space reproving Samson's behavior as that was not HIS purpose in this record.  GOD can make HIMSELF quite clear with regard to morality in other locations within the Book without necessarily having to do it in every place.  Many fall short of GOD's standards but the standards themselves remain unchanged.  However, when we come to that realization, we should repent of our wrong behavior and uphold the standard (e.g., David -- I Sam 17 & II Sam 11).  We must keep in mind that the scriptures by in large are Jewish in nature and GOD had a specific purpose in mind in writing to these people.  In addressing the fallibility of man within the scriptures, it is GOD who chooses how and when to demonstrate the weakness of man.  Despite all of man's shortcomings, GOD is still able to overrule them all and accomplish HIS purposes.  GOD had a specific purpose(s) in the life of Samson as it related to the people of Israel.  Albeit, the greater context and scope of Scripture would suggest that fornication in and of itself was not one of them.

Jud 11:1  Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.

GOD chose Jephthah to be a Judge.  He was not a "mighty man of valour" because he was the son of a harlot.  Conversely, he was mighty because of what GOD chose him for and enabled him to do.  The fact that he was the "son of an harlot" ties in with the fallibility and weakness of man as a whole.

Josh 2:1  And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's [Hebrew zanah] house, named Rahab, and lodged there.

Rahab was a secular or social prostitute who lodged and hid the spies, sent by Joshua, in her home (vss 2-7).  As the record unfolds, we see that because Rahab feared the Lord (vss 9-16) and therefore hid the spies, she could secure safety for herself and her family by fulfilling the conditions set by the spies (vss 17-21; also, Josh 6:17, 22, 25).  The root of Rahab's name, rakh, means merciful. 14  Because she was merciful to the spies, GOD was merciful to her and saved her family and possessions from destruction.  The emphasis is on her example of faith and obedience toward GOD, which led to her being mentioned in Scripture (Heb 11:31; Jas 2:25).  Her example of faith and the typical teaching associated with her is emphasized in Scripture with the notation of her being a harlot.  There is much controversy, of which we are aware, surrounding Rahab being a harlot vs. an innkeeper.  A brief summation by E.W. Bullinger settles this problematic debate quite effectively:

With her description as being a harlot we are not concerned.  It is parenthetical but not without its importance.  We have no sympathy with those who from Josephus downward have striven to show that she was an ordinary ‘innkeeper,’ though we respect their motive.  Etymology and usage alike are against it (which we may see for ourselves by comparing Judges 11:1, 16:1, I Kings 3:16, Matt 1:5, James 2:25).  When this interpretation was first suggested the Christian ‘conscience’ eagerly welcomed it.  But now that the suggestion has been abandoned, Rahab is passed over in silence.  But the Holy Spirit does not pass her over in silence.  On the contrary, He singles her out from all others for special honor in the roll call of faith.  The ‘higher’ critics do not know what to do with her. 15

- Fornication in the New Testament -

In the New Testament, the Greek word porneia is always translated "fornication."  It is used of illicit sexual intercourse outside of a marriage.  In this way, it is very similar to the usage of the Hebrew word zanah in the Old Testament.

Matt 15:10-19  And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear and understand:  (11) Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.  (12) Then came his disciples, and said unto him [Jesus], Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?  (13) But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.  (14) Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.  (15) Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.  (16) And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?  (17) Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught (Gk. aphedron; a sewer or sink) 16?  (18) But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.  (19) For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications [Gk. porneia], thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

Jesus was illustrating that physical food eaten with unwashed hands will not defile the man (make him unclean).  In other words, what you feed your body has nothing to do with it's defilement.  However, what you feed your mind determines your heart and your actions whether right or wrong with GOD.  It is the thoughts (food) fed to the mind that proceed from the heart and defile the man.

It is essential to understand the concept of the "heart" as "fornication" is one of the actions that proceed out of it.  Modern terms, such as character, personality, will, or mind 17 help us to better comprehend the biblical usage of the word "heart."  Prov 4:23 states that it is the "heart" that makes a man what he is and regulates all his actions.  Fornication, as a physical act, has its very root within the heart of a person.

I Cor 5:1  It is reported commonly that there is fornication [Gk. porneia] among you [in Corinth], and such fornication [Gk. porneia] as is not so much as named among the Gentiles [and of a kind that does not even occur among pagans (NIV)], that one should have his father's wife.

Corinth, a Greek city principally pagan in culture, was filled with Gentiles and dispersed Jews.  Pagan influences reflected upon such things as sexual ethics and sexual conduct and served to establish behavioral patterns leading to ethical questions among the Corinthian believers.  The magnitude of fornication was so great within the city of Corinth that it even exceeded the accepted boundaries of social and sacred (temple) prostitution.  As common as prostitution was within the city, incest was becoming quite popular.  This was contrary to Old Testament Law, which strictly prohibited incestuous relationships (Lev 18:8).

Heb 12:16  Lest there be any fornicator (Gk. pornos), or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

This passage refers to an incident in the life of Esau.  The incident took place in the book of Genesis.

Gen 25:29-34  And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:  (30) And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.  (31) And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.  (32) And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?  (33) And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.  (34) Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised (Hebrew bezah) his birthright.

Esau despised his birthright.  The birthright was the right of the firstborn to "inherit the blessing" (Heb 12:17).  To "despise" is the Hebrew word bezah and means to hold as cheap or to treat disparagingly.  In English, to "despise" means to look down upon.  How did Esau despise his birthright?  He traded it for "one morsel of meat."  Satisfying his appetite was more important to him than that estimable inheritance that was his by birth and by right.  Momentary gratification gave precedence over a life-long treasure.  There are spiritual overtones to what Esau did with his inheritance.  These Hebrews were admonished not to give into satisfying worldly appetites at the cost of their spiritual blessing.  They were to not be like Esau who treated his birthright of little value.

Heb 12:16 gives a caution against two categories of people; fornicator(s) and profane person(s).  The disjunctive conjunction "or" (Gk. e) occurs in vs 16; "fornicator OR profane person."  It is placed there to mark an alternative; not an addition.  Esau is given as an example of a "profane person" and not a "fornicator."  The word "profane" is an adjective and modifies the noun, Esau.  What is a profane person and why was Esau referred to as such?

The word "profane" is the compound Greek word bebelos and is made up of two words; basis (to walk) and belos (a threshold).  It literally means to walk across a threshold.  The threshold is that which separates; a division.  Bebelos means common or that which is open and accessible to all.  It is the opposite of that which is holy or sacred (cp Lev 10:10; Ezek 22:26; 44:23).  It "lacks all relationship and affinity to God" (Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek).

A profane person is a worldly person.  Esau crossed the threshold that separated the spiritual from the carnal when he despised his birthright.  He forsook a priceless inheritance for a "pottage of lentils."  The path trodden by the world is a common one and that of least resistance.  He became like those "whose god is their belly" (Phil 3:18,19).  Esau's god was not the GOD of the Bible but his belly and his birthright was treated as nothing more than a cheap commodity; something easily traded or discarded.

The "fornicator" marks the other category in the warning of Heb 12:16.  The example of Esau and his attitude toward his birthright is nothing less than applicable for the fornicator.  As Esau was a profane person and despised his birthright for food, so the fornicator despises something of value as well.  In contrast to Esau, the fornicator despises his own body.  This he does, not to satisfy his appetite for food but to satisfy his appetite for sex.  The fornicator despises his flesh by giving himself over to multiple sexual relationships.  He devalues his body by not reserving the purpose of his sexuality for a marital relationship.

I Cor 6:18-20  Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  (19) What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  (20) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body,...

Indeed, we are "bought (redeemed) with a price" and therefore should "glorify God in your body."  What value GOD has assigned to our bodies and yet, to the fornicator, the body is not sacred.  Instead, he sexually opens himself to all to satisfy his pleasure-seeking behavior.  He is truly a lover of his own self (II Tim 3:2).

The threshold GOD established for the body sexually was marriage.  In the likeness of Esau, the fornicator crosses the barrier and treats his body disparagingly to gratify his flesh.  Indeed, the fornicator lacks a relationship and affinity to GOD.  He denies all that is sacred with respect to the divine purpose of his sexuality and uses it in a disparaging manner consistent with a GODless world (contrast Rom 6:11-22).

- GOD's Judgment -

In the Old Testament, when sins were committed, they oftentimes invoked an immediate punishment or penalty.  This justice involved the active participation of GOD which brought consequences upon the guilty individual(s).  GOD did not remain silent in the administration of judgment.  Rather, HE made sure that retribution was made for the offences committed.  Here are some examples of GOD's participation in this manner.

Ex 8:16-19  And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.  (17) And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.  (18) And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.  (19) Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Num 15:32-36  And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.  (33) And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.  (34) And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.  (35) And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.  (36) And all the congregation brought him without [outside] the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.

I Sam 6:19  And he [the LORD] smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he [the LORD] smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.

For more illustrations of the above principle, see Ex 11:1 (cp. 12:29); Num 33:4; Deut 28:15-45 (cp. vs 37 with I Kings 9:8); II Sam 6:17.

Scripture tells us that our GOD and LORD is just (Zeph 3:5).  In so being, HIS justice requires that HE render judgment just as HIS mercy requires the withholding of that judgment.  The method or manner in which this judgment is executed is determined by the times and conditions during which an offense is committed.

Heb 1:1  In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (NIV)

This period or age in which we are living (the Grace administration) is scripturally called "man's judgement" (I Cor 4:3) or, more literally, "man's day."  This is the day and time in which man is judging and doing that which would incur GOD's judgment, yet GOD is silent.  HE does not bring immediate consequences upon an individual when he/she commits a sin.  This is, in part, due to the Grace Administration in which we live (Rom 3:24; 5:15, 17, 20, 21; 6:14; Eph 2:7-9; 4:7; II Tim 1:9; Tit 2:11; 3:7).  Atonement for sins committed was made through the one great sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ our Lord (Heb 9:22, 26).  Through the redemption of His blood, we have remission and forgiveness of sins (Rom 3:25; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14).

Therefore, having been released from sin and its consequences, we are given the liberty to walk before GOD as redeemed and righteous.  However, we are admonished as to the manner of this walk and our conduct.

Gal 5:13  For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love [Gk. agape - noun form of agapao] serve one another.

(See also, Eph 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8; Phil 3:16-18; Col 1:10; 2:6)

Though we are living in a dispensation of grace (pertaining to the Mystery of the One Body of Christ), it is important to understand that we have no free license to sin.

Rom 6:1, 2, 12-16  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  (2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?  (12) Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lust thereof.  (13) Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.  (14) For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  (15) What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (16) Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourself servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

(Cp. Jas 1:13-16; II Pet 2:20-22; III John 11)

- Flee Fornication! -

The people of Corinth, along with ancient Greece, were influenced by many pagan philosophical systems within the region in which they lived.  The most noted among these philosophical groups were the Epicureans, Cyreniacs, and Stoics.  Their philosophies served to establish the beliefs of many throughout the city of Corinth.  Contained within these philosophies were ideas of self-pleasure.  The attainment of pleasure was their basic premise and in some cases, the primary objective.  Paul became aware of many of their beliefs through the things that he heard.  The structure of the epistle of I Corinthians reveals that chapter six falls within a section of those things that Paul heard.

As the truth of GOD's Word and Christianity grew, many of the falsehoods that were believed and practiced by the people of Corinth were exposed.  Among those beliefs within Corinth were various "slogans" that were used to explain or justify their actions.  Several of these slogans were confronted by Paul to correct the peoples error in I Corinthians 6 pertaining to fornication.

I Cor 6:12-20  All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.  (13) Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.  (14) And God hath both raised up the Lord and will also raise up us by his own power.  (15) Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot [Gk. porne]? God forbid.  (16) What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot [Gk. porne] is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.  (17) But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.  (18) Flee fornication [Gk. porneia]. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication [Gk. porneuo] sinneth against his own body.  (19) What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  (20) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. ["and in your spirit, which are God's." is not in the Greek text].

Verse 12 contains the first slogan that Paul confronts to correct the error of fornication within their Christian practice.  "All things are lawful [permissible] unto [for] me" was used by the Corinthians to justify their actions of doing anything they pleased.  It was their doing and acting as they pleased that led many of them into the practice of fornication.  Paul begins by noting that even if all things were permissible, not all things are expedient or profitable.  To begin with, it is only "in Christ" that all things were permissible and therefore profitable.  Anything done apart from Christ and contrary to the will of GOD is not profitable for the Christian.  In addition, if all things were lawful or permissible, he would "not be brought under the power of any" or "not be mastered by anything (NIV)."  He would not allow anyone or anything to have mastery over him or be enslaved to them.  He would not allow the freedom or permissiveness to overpower and control him.  Paul knew that those things in which anyone partakes could become an enslavement to them and control them.  This is an admonition to recognize the dangers inherent in one's freedom and to not use the liberty granted in Christ "...for an occasion to the flesh..." (Gal 5:13).  The Corinthian people thought that they possessed the freedom to live and act as they pleased.  They became enslaved to the fornication in which they freely indulged.  Thus, their freedom truly became a source of bondage and corruption.

I Cor 6:13a  Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them.

This was another Corinthian slogan which promoted the idea that fornication was as natural an act as eating.  Eating was viewed as nothing more than a bodily function.  Since eating was a bodily function, they concluded that sexual intercourse was also just a bodily function.  The Corinthian people believed that bodily functions had no bearing upon their spiritual life. As the stomach (belly) was designed to digest food (meat), so the physical body was designed for sexual intercourse and could therefore be used for fornication.  They also considered food and the stomach to be transitory and things that would eventually be destroyed.  In the same way they viewed the physical body; something transient and ultimately destroyed.  Therefore, in applying these beliefs, they concluded that it did not matter what the physical body was used for as it would eventually perish anyway.  Paul refutes this idea by contrasting the remainder of the verse.

I Cor 6:13b  Now [Gk. de BUT; in contrast] the body is not for fornication [Gk. porneia], but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

Paul begins by illustrating the point that even if the belly and meats are transitory, the body itself is not.  Even if the stomach was designed to digest food, the body was not designed for fornication.  Rather, the body was designed for the Lord and His work and destined for resurrection.  The reason Paul states that the body is for the Lord is because it was redeemed through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul confirms the destination of the body in the next verse.

I Cor 6:14  And God hath both raised up the Lord and will also raise up us by his own power.

As GOD resurrected the Lord Jesus Christ, so HE will also raise up them through that same power.  The Lord Jesus Christ possessed His body when He was raised although it was a changed body; a spiritual body.  Paul is emphasizing the importance of the body in resurrection and that it is not disposable.  As a body destined to be raised, it was not designed for fornication.

I Cor 6:15  Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot [Gk. porne]?  God forbid.

This verse is a further explanation of Paul's statement, "the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord."  Romans 6 tells us that we are to yield our members as instruments of righteousness unto GOD and not as instruments of sin.  As being part of a Body of Christ, their whole being is a part of that Body.  Paul illustrates that they should not take those very members and make them part of a harlot.  These two "bodies" are complete opposites.  Scripture tells us that no man can serve two masters (Matt 6:24) and Paul illustrates this truth in reference to idolatry (I Cor 10:14-22).  The physical body is not excluded when it comes to serving the Lord (Rom 12:1).

I Cor 6:16,17  What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. (17) But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

Paul gives another supporting argument for the use of the body.  He uses this example to strike at the very root of their error; illicit sexual intercourse with prostitutes.  The "one flesh" of Genesis has a very pertinent application in this epistle.  The unity of one flesh begins with sexual intercourse.  The becoming one with her in body was achieved because they cleaved to her through sexual intercourse.  In contrast to being joined to (cleaving to) a harlot, they were to be joined to (cleave to) the Lord.  They were to dedicate and yield themselves in service to Him, thus being one with Him in spirit.

I Cor 6:18a  Flee fornication [Gk. porneia]. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body;

Paul's admonition to flee fornication is an imperative verb with present active tense.  He is commanding them to presently and continuously FLEE FORNICATION.  In other words, keep running from fornication.  It was such a commonality among the Corinthian Christians that Paul uses a forceful command to try and shatter their habitual activity.  A third slogan appears in this vs, "Every sin that a man doeth is without [outside] the body."  The Corinthians believed that their acts of fornication were legitimate based upon their philosophical beliefs.  Their attitude about fornication was that the body remained untouched since all sin is directed outside of the body.  They maintained that sin exited the body and therefore would not pollute the body itself.  This view supported their freedom to do with the body as they determined.  Paul refutes this falsehood in the remainder of the verse.

I Cor 6:18b  but he that committeth fornication [Gk. porneuo] sinneth against his own body.

Paul, in contrast to their belief, states that their sin of fornication produces just the opposite effect; it pollutes the body.  Sexual sin dishonors and degrades the body (Rom 1:24).  This is why he specifically commands them to flee fornication.

I Cor 6:19, 20  What?  know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost porneuo which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  (20) For ye are [were] bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body,....

These verses contain the justification for Paul's statement in the latter part of vs 18.  The body, as the "temple of the Holy Ghost," is the present habitation of GOD's holy spirit.  He also points out that they were "bought with a price" (Gal 3:13; 4:5) and GOD's exclusive ownership would not permit such activity.  Paul wants them to comprehend that their bodies are not their own and that they should not sexually abuse it.

We should realize that the body is a neutral vessel that is designed to carry out whatever we determine.  The one who inhabits it can either use it to obey the flesh or to serve GOD.  In whichever direction an individual chooses to yield, the outcome will be for either good or evil.  It therefore becomes vitally important not to abuse the body by using it as a vehicle for sin.  Instead, we should use it for good by rendering it unto GOD as it is HIS habitation and is determined for resurrection.

There are other reasons to flee fornication.  Not only are there spiritual implications but practical as well.

Prov 6:26a  For by means of a whorish [Hebrew zanah] woman a man is brought to a piece of bread:

Prov 29:3  Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots [Hebrew zanah] spendeth his substance.

The whorish woman of Prov 6 makes one financially destitute and the sexual company with harlots (Prov 29) leads one to "spend his substance" or feeds them his wealth. 18  The parallels today are significant not just in relationship to social prostitution but also regarding fornication in general.  Consider the amount of money spent on abortions because of illicit sexual relationships.  Depending on the degree of responsibility that one may assume and the number of children so begotten, the financial cost may be much greater than one originally expected (e.g., child support).

- Imitators of GOD -

In the following section, there are passages of Scripture that are very instructive.  Some passages are specifically addressed to us, whereas others are written for our learning.  All have practical value that can help us in our walk with GOD and HIS Son Jesus Christ.

Eph 5:3-5, 7  But fornication [Gk. porneia], and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;  (4) Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.  (5) For this ye know, that no whoremonger [Gk. pornos - a man who fornicates 19], nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  (7) Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

This section of the Epistle to the Ephesians deals with the practical aspect of the Christian walk in their behavior with respect to others.  In the latter part of chapter four, Paul states that we are to "put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts" and "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."  Fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness should cease in putting off the old man.

In contrast to putting off the old man, we are to put on the new man.  This process involves being imitators of GOD and walking in agape love (Eph. 5:1, 2).  It is this love that we manifest to others through our actions as Christ did to us.  Through the sacrifice of Himself, He left us an example of how to love others.  In applying this love, we do not take advantage of others by misusing or abusing it.  Perverting the love of GOD results in such things as fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness.  It is the indulgence in self-pleasure at the expense of others and it should not once be named among us.  The "not once" of vs 3 is the Greek mede and means not even once. 20  This strong negative gives it such a force so as to read " ‘not to speak of doing such a thing, let it not be even so much as mentioned among you’...." 21  Filthiness, foolish talking and jesting only serve to disturb and overthrow the good conscience of those who have faith (cp. I Tim 1:19; Heb 13:18).  This behavior is not befitting of saints who are to give thanks and praise for the edification and support of each other.

It is GOD's desire, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that we keep ourselves pure in our walk.  That is partially accomplished by our not partaking of attitudes, actions and behavior exhibited by those who "walk by the flesh" and their physical senses.  They manifest the works of the flesh that are contrary to the works of the Spirit (Gal 5:17) and, as such, are "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (II Tim 3:4).  It is the purity of our Christian life that enables us to manifest HIS presence in our walk, for "He is pure" (I John 3:3).  Another example and reiteration of this truth is found in Colossians.

Col 3:4-6  When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.  (5) Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication [Gk. porneia], uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry;  (6) For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:

Instruction is given to "mortify," or put to death, those members used in the service of sin.22   "Upon the earth" (vs 5) is a descriptive term used to depict that which is physical or sensual.23   In other words, we are to extinguish those qualities (e.g., fornication, uncleanness) that are characteristic of those who walk according to the flesh.  We should mortify those members because they are of such a quality that they invoke the wrath of GOD (vs 6).  The word "cometh" in vs 6 is in the present tense.  This is to emphasize the absolute disdain that GOD has for such behavior even now.  It will be confirmed at a future time when GOD will no longer remain silent (cp. Isa 2:19; 13:13; Haggai 2:6,7, 22; John 12:8; Rom 2:3; Heb 10:27; 12:26; Rev 20:15).  In contrast, we should be like Christ who is our life and with whom we shall appear in glory.  Our Christian walk and life should be a mirror image of Col 3:8-16 in that newness of life.

I Thess 4:2, 3  For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.  (3) For this is the will of God even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication [Gk. porneia]:

Here is a subdivision of I Thessalonians chapter 4 within its own context (vss 2-8).  Abstaining from fornication is according to the will of GOD regarding our sanctification.  That sanctification, or setting apart by GOD, is ours in Christ (I Cor 1:30), and we have an excellent opportunity to exemplify and illustrate that sanctification in our behavior.  When we begin to exhibit attitudes and actions fitting for children of GOD, we will begin to display our sanctification by and for HIM.  I Peter 1:16 states "Be ye holy for I am holy"?  As Christians we should pay attention to what we think, say and do to the end that we imitate GOD as dear children in agape love (Eph 5:1; see also Phil 4:8).  Our Lord Jesus Christ left us a perfect example (I Pet 4:1; I John 2:6) of how to walk and please the FATHER.  This we can do if we only take heed to the Scriptures with the knowledge and wisdom they provide.

I Thess 4:4, 5  That every one [each one] of you should know how to possess his [his own 24] vessel in sanctification and honour;  (5) Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

"That every one of you should know" is a Hebraism that gives the impression of "have care or regard for." 25  "Possess" is the Gr. ktaomai and means to acquire, obtain, or procure (Luke 21:19), and "vessel" is the Greek skeuos, which is used metaphorically of the physical body as in II Cor 4:7 and is used here for a wife 26 (cp I Peter 3:7).  That care or regard is with respect to possessing (procuring) his vessel (wife) in sanctification and honor.  Putting these pieces together, the solution or practical conclusion for a Christian to "abstain from fornication" is to exercise proper and necessary care or regard in acquiring or obtaining a wife in sanctification and honor.  The opposing attitude is given in vs 5: "not in the lust of concupiscence," or rather not in the passion of desire, 27 which does not give respect or regard to the elements of sanctification and honor (esteem and respect) as in vs 4.  There is more due a wife, in GOD's eyes, than just being an object of sexual desire.

- Conclusion -

There is no divine approval for illicit sexual activity.  There are those who, through ignorance of the principles of marriage and of what a marriage consists, continue to fornicate through multiple sexual relationships.  It is our hope that through scriptural education and divine grace we can dispel much of the misinformation and false beliefs regarding fornication.  In biblical times, a GODly society tried to protect its virgin women from premature and wrongful sexual intercourse as virginity was for them a prized possession.  In our society, many do not consider virginity a prized possession.  This is a sad reflection upon the condition of our times and the degradation in our thinking and societal values.

We believe that again we can rise to a greater level of integrity and self esteem and through GODliness, purge ourselves and our children from this societal corruption that appears so harmless yet possesses such a venomous and lethal bite.

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