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What the Bible says about Harlot, Symbol of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Proverbs 7:10-21

Proverbs 7:10-21 details some of a harlot's characteristics. A careful study would find that she is described as deviously sly and cunning in that she feigns love, knowing how to pull a man's strings. Her "love" is strictly business—it is nothing but window dressing. Part of her eye-appealing attraction is her purposeful seduction and immodest dress, arousing lust. She is described as "loud," which might be better rendered as turbulent, flighty, confused, inconstant, and unstable. She lacks dignity and gravity, and she is stubborn, defiant, brazen, deliberately obstinate, and headstrong. Further, she is aggressive, impudent, contemptuous, presumptuous, and disrespectful.

Apart from Israel, the biblical record relates the story of one woman, Delilah, who exemplifies the harlot, helping us to zero in on what drives most prostitutes. Only two verses, Judges 16:4-5, are needed to isolate her reason for living as she did:

Now afterward it happened that [Samson] loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, "Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver."

What motivates Delilah's harlotry, and what does it teach us from God's perspective? Harlotry has its base in lust, deceit, and treachery, entered into, executed, or performed for what the perpetrator believes is an immediate gain. Not every case of harlotry follows Delilah's exact pattern, but the motivations center on sinning for personal gain, an element that never seems to change.

Delilah illustrates a greedy, smooth-talking temptress. Biblically, she becomes a metaphorical image for the Israelites, who reject God's provision for her as Husband to seek personal, "more satisfying" gain by other means. The driving forces are unbelief and distrust combined with self-indulgence primarily expressed through greed.

The term "greed" may sound harsh, considering the circumstances some women get themselves into before choosing to prostitute themselves. However, we have to learn that nobody has to sin—but something motivates us to do so. Greed is "expressing excessive desire, especially for food, drink, or wealth." We give ourselves and others an almost endless stream of justifications for sinning, but the bottom line is that we are simply unwilling to pay the price to discipline ourselves to do what is right. In our impatience, we convince ourselves that righteousness will not get us anything.

Recall the Great Harlot's boast in Revelation 18:7: "I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow." This is the statement of one who would compromise rather than suffer the loss of what she felt is her due. Greed is a synonym for lust or covetousness. However, it is especially applicable here because of Israel's well-known desire for wealth and comfort.

Notice how clearly Hosea expresses this:

For their mother has played the harlot; she who conceived them has behaved shamefully. . . . She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, "I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now." For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold—which they prepared for Baal. (Hosea 2:5, 7-8)

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great

Ezekiel 23:1-4

Isaiah, Jeremiah, and especially Ezekiel and Hosea use this same metaphorical form to illustrate Israel's faithless relationship with God, connecting directly to the same usage in Revelation 17 and 18. Why is this important? Virtually the entire Bible is devoted to God's purpose for and relationship to Israel and the church. They are the focus of God's intention to reproduce Himself, beginning with His promises and then His covenant with Abraham. God went so far as to enter into a symbolic marriage with Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, revealing the intimacy He considered their relationship to have.

He did this with no other nation. Even when the time came to summon Gentiles into His purpose, the great bulk of those called into the church have been Israelites dwelling among fellow Israelites in Israelitish lands. A person even becomes a spiritual Jew when converted! God's pattern of focusing on Israel continues throughout the Bible to the end-time prophecies. We live in the end time, and God's concern in Revelation, the ultimate end-time book, does not turn from this pattern. God's purpose for the nation of Israel is not yet complete, as Romans 9-11 makes clear.

Thus Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, and the church, the Israel of God, Abraham's spiritual descendants, are still His major focus. Other parts of the Bible reveal that Israel has fully earned the title of "the Great Harlot Babylon" even as she has earned the titles of "Sodom" and "Egypt."

The Great Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18 is not a Gentile church or a Gentile nation because neither of these has ever qualified for that title by corrupting a covenant relationship with God as Israel has. Of this, God says in Amos 3:2, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Having done only what comes naturally without the revelation of God, the Gentile world will have its opportunity to have a covenant relationship with Him following Christ's return.

In defiance of God, Israel has rebelled against her responsibilities and played the harlot with the world. She has embraced its ways to such an extent that she has outdone the Gentiles in their manner of life, becoming appropriately named "Babylon the Great." In Revelation 17 and 18, God is describing the influence and character of end-time Israel. He depicts all of Israel in close relationship with the Beast, influencing it, but with the two Joseph tribes, America (Manasseh) and Britain (Ephraim), as the Woman's strongest components - and perhaps America is the one primarily described, as it is the most influential at the end.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible

Hosea 2:2

Israel is so faithless to her duties, she openly invites adulteries and aggressively chases after her lovers. Her aggressiveness does not merely perpetuate a condition but creates a climate that increases its effects. Paul reveals this principle in Galatians 6:7: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." It is a law of nature that unless something intervenes to interrupt the growing cycle, more is reaped than is sowed.

The Bible uses a saying to describe this latter principle, "Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind" (see Hosea 8:7). It is like saying, "Fan a breeze and produce a hurricane!" Sowing faithlessness is no different: Unless real repentance interrupts it, it will produce more faithlessness until the spirit of harlotry, an attitude that causes many serious ramifications, permeates the entire nation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment (1997)

Nahum 3:1-4

God directs this prophecy against Nineveh, not Israel, but it gives us insight into the way God perceives matters and their uses. He considers as harlotry their military power and its use against others. In addition, God repeats His earlier statement that dealing in the occult, sorcery, is harlotry.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great

Revelation 18:4

Revelation 18:4 is God's exhortation to the churches to shun the treacherous beauty and charm of this theological and political prostitute, Babylon. God uses very specific wording in His description of her in Revelation 17, calling her a harlot or prostitute. A prostitute can have beauty and charm. Any number of a harlot's attributes can snare a man's attention and divert him from his purpose. Because the world had already ensnared him before conversion, a Christian must be spiritually watchful that he does not return to it. Unfortunately, the world too easily reclaims the unwary, so the apostle counsels God's people to flee from it—to avoid the edge of the cliff.

But what must we flee? In Nebuchadnezzar's vision in Daniel 2, Babylon is the head of gold. Gold is attractive. People give their lives to the power and attractiveness of gold. The head of gold has a beauty that stimulates the eyes, the feelings, the desire for the good things of life. In addition, gold represents quality. In the prophetic image, the quality of metal degenerates or declines as time moves toward the end. Babylon represents a tolerable system, but through the ages, the system degenerates from gold to silver to brass to iron to a final mixture of iron and miry clay.

At its beginning, the system, represented by the whole image, is attractive. As in Paul's analogy of the body in I Corinthians 12, the head guides and directs the other parts of the body. In effect, this means that Babylon, the head of gold, has impressed its system, its ideas, its style, its qualities on all of civilization. Though the system is not acceptable to God, it nevertheless has stamped its mark on the whole world.

Everyone has participated in it. American culture is an Israelite adaptation of the head of gold. All other nations have absorbed its qualities, putting their own particular twists on them. The same basic system pervades the world—and as it is practiced, it is anti-Christ. Because of its attractiveness, its magnetism, and because all are defenseless before conversion, it has impressed itself upon God's people. Babylon is the world Christians must flee.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 




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