References: Genesis chapter 34; Leviticus chapters 19, 21, 23.
Heart of the Story: The Levitical Law on prostitution applied only to Israelites. Yet, before the law prostitution was identified.
Key Laws from Leviticus:
Father should not force daughters into prostitution (Leviticus 19.29; 21.14). Why: lest the land (likely means the nation) fall into prostitution and the land (nation) will become full of depravity.
Priests should not marry a harlot (prostitute) (Leviticus 21.7). Priest shall marry a virgin. Most likely reason is so that all children in the home will be progeny of the priest and not another man.
Wages of prostitution should not be brought to tabernacle/temple to pay a vow (Leviticus 23.18).
A Israelite priest’s daughter who became a prostitute was to be killed by burning (Leviticus 21.9), Reason is that the daughter profanes her father by being a prostitute.
Before the Levitical Law:
Before the Levitical Law on prostitution, the concepts of whore and rape were present in Genesis. Probably, they were culture-based. The sons of Jacob heard that Shechem, son of King Hamor, seized their sister Dinah, lay with Dinah, and violated Dinah (Genesis 34.2-7). Jacob’s sons in the fields, heard what happened, and came back to the tents. The sons were “very angry” because Shechem did such an “outrageous thing by lying with Jacob’s daughter” (Genesis 34.7) The sons concluded “such a thing must not be done” (Genesis 34.7 ESV). Subsequently, Dinah’s brothers killed the people of the land and returned Dinah to her mother. When Jacob reprimanded them for killing the people of Shechem, they said, “Should he treat her like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34.31).
The word “prostitution” used by Dinah’s brothers to their father could have been a repudiation of Jacob leaning toward permitting Prince Shechem to marry Dinah. Readers of Genesis chapter 34 (8-12) note that King Hamor was willing to pay Jacob a large sum of money which he called a bride price for Dinah. It was Dinah’s brothers, not Jacob, who objected to Dinah marrying an “uncircumcised” male. Further, the brother’s noted that if they allowed Dinah to marry Shechem it would be a disgrace to them (Genesis 34.14).
Reflection: Do you think that Jacob prostituted his daughter? Why or why not?
Copyright July 10, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth