“Do not debase your daughter by making her a prostitute (ZANAH), so that the land will not fall into prostitution (ZANAH) and become full of shame.”-Leviticus 19:29
The meaning of verse 29 is a little different than it appears.
What this verse is saying is to not DEFILE your daughter by making her a prostitute.
Otherwise, the whole land will fall into prostitution.
What this is specifically referring to is RELIGIOUS or CULTIC prostitution, which was another common Canaanite practice.
To put it simply, a father was not to have his daughter participate in a religious ceremony that involved sex acts.
Nor was he to sell his daughter for common or general prostitution in order get money to buy a sacrificial animal to sacrifice at the tabernacle.
The stern warning being given here is that if Israel begins to drift into ceremonial religious prostitution, then the whole Promised land will become defiled, it will fall into depravity.
This is another indication showing just how organically intertwined the people of Israel and the land of Israel are.
What we’re going to find in the Scriptures is that the Lord often refers to the “land” and the “people” as one singular entity.
Okay, at this juncture, I have to correct a mistake I made a while back about the meaning of two different words commonly used in Scripture to refer to prostitution.
The words are KEDESHAH and ZONAH.
I specifically said that KEDESHAH meant “cultic” or “religious” prostitution and that ZONAH only meant “common” or “regular” or “non-religious” prostitution.
I’ll be honest and inform you that I took my cue from the following paragraph taken from a Wikipedia article on sacred prostitution.
“The Hebrew Bible uses two different words for prostitute, zonah (זנה) and kedeshah (or qedesha) (קדשה). The word zonah simply meant an ordinary prostitute or loose woman. But the word kedeshah literally means consecrated (feminine form), from the Semitic root q-d-sh (קדש) meaning holy or set apart. In spite of the cultic significance of a kedeshah to a follower of the Canaanite religion, the Hebrew Bible makes it clear that cultic prostitution had no place in Israelite or Judahite religion.”
However, I now understand that KEDESHAH means “cultic” or “religious” prostitution (that doesn’t change) while ZONAH can mean BOTH, either “religious” or “common” prostitution depending on context.
Let me say that again, so there is absolutely no misunderstanding.
When the Scriptures speak of harlotry, the context determines whether the root word ZONAH is referring to common or cultic harlotry.
And make no mistake about it, the Scriptures make a clear distinction between one and the other.
Both are frowned upon but it is “cultic” or “religious” prostitution that is condemned as a high-handed, almost unforgivable sin against the living God.
And no doubt, because it has the component of idolatry being attached to the sex act which I would say is the true Scriptural meaning of FORNICATION.
I would also say that the overwhelming majority of the references to prostitution in the Scriptures bear out that it’s cultic.
This might be hard for our modern Western minds to grasp but the whole pagan world was awash in cultic prostitution.
Idolatry mixed with sex was the gross sin of the day.
In speaking of Israel’s rebellion in participating in Canaanite cult practices, the Prophet Jeremiah said,
`Upon every high hill and under every green tree
you bowed down as a harlot’.
Alright, so how do I know that the context of Leviticus 19:29 is referring to religious prostitution or sacred sex?
Notice that immediately following the command against making one’s daughter a prostitute, the Lord says, “Keep my Sabbaths, and revere my sanctuary; I am Adonai”.
This is a particular Hebrew literary structure and it is used to indicate avoid the one and instead do the other.
The idea is clear.
Do NOT offer “religious sex” as the heathens do to honor me!
That is an abomination!
Instead, if you want to honor me, OBSERVE MY SABBATHS AND REVERE MY TABERNACLE (YHVH’s earthly dwelling place).
Unfortunately, we will see as we move forward in the Scriptures, that Israel did do ALL these things against God.
And as a result, YHVH was forced to expel them from the land and scatter them throughout the earth.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Don’t you know that your bodies
are parts of the Messiah?
So, am I to take parts of the Messiah
and make them parts of a prostitute?
-1 Corinthians 6:15