Jewish proselytes, and to Samaritans. The Italian Cornelius is described as “a devout man and one fearing God . . . [who] made many gifts of mercy to the people and made supplication to God continually.” But he was not a Jewish proselyte, for he was an uncircumcised Gentile. (Acts 10:1, 2; compare Luke 7:2-10.) When once the door was opened to the Gentiles, active Christian missionary work expanded. Nevertheless, Paul often preached first to the Jews and proselytes in cities to which he traveled. Paul had great love for his Jewish brothers and a desire that they might be saved. (Rom. 9:3; 10:1) Moreover, the Jews and proselytes were the logical ones to approach first, for they knew of Jehovah and his laws and were looking for the Messiah. Their background enabled those among them with good hearts to recognize Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of their hopes. These could form a strong nucleus for a congregation and could, in turn, teach the Gentiles, who knew nothing about Jehovah and his Word.
A person, usually a woman, given to indiscriminate lewdness; specifically, one who offers herself indiscriminately to sexual intercourse for hire; a harlot.
UNDER THE LAW
The law that God gave to Israel commanded: “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, in order that the land may not commit prostitution and the land actually be filled with loose morals.” (Lev. 19:29) Adultery was prohibited by the seventh commandment (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18); the penalty was death for both parties. (Lev. 20:10) The girl found guilty of having married under the false pretense of virginity was to be put to death. (Deut. 22:13-21) The engaged girl who committed fornication with another man was considered the same as an adulterous wife, and was put to death. (Deut. 22:23, 24) The single girl who committed fornication was to be married to the man who seduced her unless the father refused to permit the marriage.—Ex. 22:16, 17; Deut. 22:28, 29.
For these and other reasons, prostitutes in Israel were, doubtless with few exceptions, foreign women. The Proverbs repeatedly warn against the “strange woman” and the “foreign woman” who would entice a man to commit immorality.—Prov. 2:16; 5:20; 7:5; 22:14; 23:27.
A priest was forbidden by the Law to marry a prostitute, and the daughter of a priest who committed prostitution was to be put to death and afterward burned in the fire. (Lev. 21:7, 9, 14) The ‘hire of a prostitute’ was not to be received as a contribution at Jehovah’s sanctuary, because prostitutes were detestable in Jehovah’s sight.—Deut. 23:18.
It was the case of two prostitutes, handled in a wise and understanding way, that greatly strengthened the faith of the people in Solomon as the fitting successor of David to the throne of Israel. Probably the case had been one upon which the judges of the lower court could not decide, and it was referred, therefore, to the king. (Deut. 1:17; 17:8-11; 1 Sam. 8:20) These women may have been prostitutes, not in a commercial sense, but women who had committed fornication, either Jewish women, or, quite possibly, women of foreign descent.—1 Ki. 3:16-28.
Temple Prostitutes constituted a prominent feature of false religion. The historian Herodotus reports the “abominable custom of the Babylonians, who compelled every native female to attend the temple of Venus [Ishtar] once in her life, and to prostitute herself in honor of the goddess.” Temple prostitutes were also connected with the worship of Baal, Ashtoreth and other gods and goddesses worshiped in Canaan and elsewhere.
According to the historian Strabo of the first century B.C.E., the great temple of Aphrodite at Corinth boasted of having no fewer than a thousand temple prostitutes. Concerning the phallic worship of Aphrodite as centered at Corinth, Clarke’s Commentary (Preface to First Corinthians) says: “Public prostitution formed a considerable part of their religion; and they were accustomed in their public prayers, to request the gods to multiply their prostitutes! and in order to express their gratitude to their deities for the favours they received, they bound themselves, by vows, to increase the number of such women; for commerce with them was neither esteemed sinful nor disgraceful.”
‘THE WAY TO DEATH’
King Solomon, in the seventh chapter of Proverbs, describes a scene that he observed, illustrating the workings of the prostitute and the results to those who are ensnared by her. He speaks of a young man passing along the street near a prostitute’s house, at the approach of night. Solomon describes the young man as “in want of heart,” for his motive is bad since he goes to this place at a late hour, evidently knowing the probability that he will meet such a woman. (Compare Proverbs 6:32.) The woman, dressed in the immodest manner of a prostitute, is lying in wait and approaches him. She has smooth lips and fair speech, but her actual disposition is boisterous and stubborn; she is cunning of heart. This prostitute puts on a display of being righteous by saying that she had made communion sacrifices that very day (implying that there would be food on which to feast, inasmuch as the offerer regularly took part of the communion sacrifice for himself and his family).
Now that the young man is enticed to this point, Solomon shows, he is irresistibly drawn into sin with her, throwing all good sense to the wind, going ahead ‘like a bull to the slaughter,’ as a man who is in fetters and cannot escape the discipline he will get. “Until,” says Solomon, “an arrow cleaves open his liver,” that is, until he gets the wound that causes death, both spiritually and physically, for not only has he exposed his body to death-dealing venereal disease (syphilis often attacks the liver), but also “he has not known that it involves his very soul.” His entire being and his life are seriously affected and he has sinned seriously against God. Solomon concludes his account saying: “The ways to Sheol her house is; they are descending to the interior rooms of death.”—Compare Proverbs 2:16-19; 5:3-14.
‘Destroys valuable things’
The proverb says: “A man that is loving wisdom makes his father rejoice, but he that is having companionship with prostitutes destroys valuable things.” (Prov. 29:3) First of all, he destroys his relationship with God, the most valuable possession; then he brings reproach upon his family and destroys family relationships. As another proverb warns, such a man ‘gives to others his dignity and his years to what is cruel; strangers take their fill of his power, and the things he got by pain come to be in the house of a foreigner.’—Prov. 5:9, 10.
The wise man therefore counsels: “Do not desire her [the foreign woman’s] prettiness in your heart, . . . because in behalf of a woman prostitute one comes down to a round loaf of bread; but as regards another man’s wife, she hunts even for a precious soul.” (Prov. 6:24-26) This may mean that a man in Israel, by his association with a prostitute, squandered his substance and was reduced to poverty (compare 1 Samuel 2:36; Luke 15:30), but the man who committed adultery with another man’s wife was losing his soul (under the Law death was the penalty for adultery). Or, the entire passage may be referring to the adulterous wife as a prostitute.
The concluding verses of the chapter (Prov. 6:29-35) say: “[As to] anyone having relations with the wife of his fellow man, no one touching her will remain unpunishable. People do not despise a thief just