FornicationAid to Bible Understanding
silver shekels, the money then being given to the father. (Deut. 22:13-21) Prostitution of a priest’s daughter brought disgrace on his sacred office. She was to be killed, then burned as something detestable. (Lev. 21:9; see also Leviticus 19:29.) Fornication between married persons (adultery) was a violation of the seventh commandment and merited the death penalty for both parties.—Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18; 22:22.
If a man committed fornication with a servant girl who had been designated for another man, but who had not been redeemed or freed, punishment was to take place, but they were not to be put to death. (Lev. 19:20-22) Evidently this was because the woman was not yet free and in full control of her actions, as a free engaged girl would be. The redemption price had not yet been paid, or at least not fully paid, and she was still a bondservant to her master.
When the mercenary prophet Balaam could not bring a curse upon Israel by divination, he found a way to bring them under God’s displeasure by appealing to wrong desire for sexual relations. By means of the women of Moab he seduced them into practicing the filthy phallic worship of the Baal of Peor, for which 24,000 of the sons of Israel died.—Num. 25:1-9; 1 Cor. 10:8 (possibly 1,000 heads of the people were killed and hung on stakes [Num. 25:4] and the rest destroyed by the sword or the plague).
FORBIDDEN TO CHRISTIANS
Jesus Christ restored God’s original standard of monogamy (Matt. 5:32; 19:9) and he showed the wickedness of fornication by classing it with wicked reasonings, murders, thieving, false testimony and blasphemy, pointing out that these come from within a man, from his heart, and defile him. (Matt. 15:19, 20; Mark 7:21-23) Later, the governing body of the Christian congregation, comprised of the apostles and older men in Jerusalem, wrote to Christians in 49 C.E., warning them against fornication, and placing it alongside idolatry and the eating of blood.—Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25.
The apostle Paul points out that fornication is one of the works of the flesh, the opposite of the fruitage of the spirit of God, and warns that the practice of fleshly works will prevent an individual from inheriting the Kingdom. (Gal. 5:19-21) He counsels that the Christian should deaden his body “as respects fornication, . . . which is idolatry.” (Col. 3:5) In fact, he warns that it should not be a topic of conversation among Christians, who should be holy, just as the Israelites were not to use the names of the pagan gods of the nations surrounding them.—Eph. 5:3; Ex. 23:13.
Fornication is an offense for which an individual may be expelled (disfellowshiped) from the Christian congregation. (1 Cor. 5:9-13; Heb. 12:15, 16) The apostle explains that a Christian committing fornication sins against his own body, using reproductive members for a perverted purpose. He is greatly affected spiritually in an adverse way, brings defilement into God’s congregation and lays himself open to the danger of deadly venereal diseases. (1 Cor. 6:18, 19) He encroaches on the rights of his Christian brothers (1 Thess. 4:3-7) by (1) bringing uncleanness and disgraceful folly, with reproach, into the congregation (Heb. 12:15, 16), (2) depriving the one with whom he commits fornication of a clean moral standing and of the right of being clean in order to enter into a pure, clean marriage, (3) depriving his own family of a clean moral record, as well as wronging the parents, husband or fiancé of the one with whom he commits fornication. He disregards, not man, whose laws may or may not condone fornication, but God, who will exact punishment for his sin.—1 Thess. 4:8.
Jehovah God spoke of the nation of Israel in covenant relationship to him as a “wife.” (Isa. 54:5, 6) When the nation became unfaithful to him, ignoring him and turning to other nations such as Egypt and Assyria for help and entering into alliances with them, Israel was like an unfaithful wife, an adulteress, a prostitute, one carrying on fornication promiscuously. (Ezek. 16:15, 25-29) Likewise Christians, in a dedicated relationship to God, or professing such relationship, if unfaithful by engaging in false worship or by being friends of the world, are called adulteresses.—Jas. 4:4.
Babylon the Great, described in the Bible book of Revelation as a harlot, therefore symbolically represents something religious. Her various sects, “Christian” and pagan, have claimed to be organizations of true worship. But she has consorted with the rulers of this world for power and material gain, and with her “the kings of the earth committed fornication.” Her unclean, filthy course of fornication has been detestable in God’s sight and has caused great bloodshed and distress in the earth. (Rev. 17:1-6; 18:3) For her course she will suffer the judgment of God on those practicing fornication, namely, destruction.—Rev. 17:16; 18:8, 9.
FortificationsAid to Bible Understanding
While fortifications and defense systems basically were much the same throughout Bible history, the competition between methods of defense and offense continually brought about changes and developments.
Since fortification of a town was costly and difficult and required an adequate defense force, not all towns were fortified. The larger cities were usually walled cities, with the smaller towns in that area, known as dependent towns, being unwalled. (Josh. 15:45, 47; 17:11) Inhabitants of these towns could flee to the walled city in the event of an invasion by the enemy. Fortified cities thus served as a refuge for the people in the area. Cities were also fortified when they were strategically located so as to protect highways, water sources, routes to supply bases and communication lines. Cities in Bible lands generally covered an area of but a few acres. Some, however, were much larger. The capital cities of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and Rome were exceptionally large.
The strength and height of the fortifications of many cities in Palestine were such that the unfaithful spies sent by Moses to spy out Canaan reported that “the fortified cities are very great” and “fortified to the heavens.” From their faithless viewpoint the cities looked impregnable.—Num. 13:28; Deut. 1:28.
Babylon was one of the most strongly defended cities in Bible times. Not only did it have unusually strong walls, but it was situated on a river that provided a fine moat for defense as well as a water supply. Babylon felt she could hold her captives forever. (Isa. 14:16, 17) But the city was taken in one night by the strategy of Cyrus the Persian, who diverted the Euphrates and entered the city through gates in the walls along the quays.—Dan. 5:30.
Three essentials were required for a fortified city: (1) walls to act as a barrier to the enemy, (2) weapons so that the defending forces could retaliate to repel the attackers and (3) an adequate water supply. Foodstuffs could be stored during times of peace; but a constant, accessible source of water was essential for a city to withstand a siege of any length.
It is obvious that a city located on an elevation was more easily defensible. But, since the terrain did not always provide such desirable locations, cities built on level ground had to give more attention to their defensive walls. As time went on and cities fell into ruin and decay, new cities would be built on top of the rubble of old ones, giving them greater elevation. This resulted in great mounds or tells being built up over the centuries. Archaeologists digging in these tells have uncovered layer after layer of building. In the case of Jericho, twenty-six strata of building were found during what has been classified as the “Pre-Pottery B” period.