Then two women who were harlots came to the king and stood before him.

Should not the harlots have been killed by law? However, far from executing them, Solomon judged between them!

But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father's house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you. Deut 22:20, 21

Therefore, why weren't the harlots executed under the law?

3 Answers 3


Deut. 22:20 is not about harlotry but about deceiving a man that he is about to marry a virgin when in fact she is not. Virginity in the ANE was highly prized, and tricking someone by selling him an unchaste bride was considered a serious offense. Harlotry however was not punishable by death in Ancient Israel,

No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. (Deut. 23:17)

So you see, harlotry was banned and forbidden by Mosaic law but was not considered a capital crime punishable by death.

The case of Judah and Tamar is an exception to the rule. Tamar was bound by the law of Levirate (Deut. 25) to marry her brother in law Shelah, when she slept with Judah she violated this law and the people considered it a crime akin to adultery which was punishable by being burnt alive. See commentary of Nahmanides Gen. 38:24. But it is clear that in normal circumstances prostitutes were not executed.

Hope this helps.


Prostitution in Israel was not illegal. In fact, it was only illegal to put the earnings of a prostitute into the temple treasury (Deut 23:18). The book of Hosea also discusses open prostitution. Temple and shrine prostitution was illegal which involved the disgusting practice of members of the public offering themselves for sex once per year (on a rotational basis) at the temple for ritual sex.

There were some famous prostitutes in Israel such as the Judge Jephthah's mother (Judges 11:1) and Rahab (Josh 6:17, 22) who became a progenitor of Christ (Matt 1:5).

The law listed in Deut 22:20, 21 not against prostitution but is against a bride being found to be unchaste (not a virgin).

Therefore, Solomon had no basis be executing the two prostitutes and treated them justly under the law of the Torah.

  • When daughter-in-law of Judah became pregnant for what he want to bury her? Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 9:48
  • That was in the pre-Mosaic era, before the laws of the Torah were enacted and declared. Tamar had behaved like a shrine prostitute which later became illegal anyway. (Gen 38:21). Tamar was also a widow.
    – user25930
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 9:54
  • @БогуславПавлишинець She was supposed to marry Shelah, Judah's other son (Deuteronomy 25:5)
    – b a
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 11:53
  • But I don't about it. When he known that she became pregnant and don't know about from whom what he wants to do? Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 11:57
  • I don't agree with Mac's Musings. God always the same. There does not matter it was once or today Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 11:58

before I start please realize that I am not making a "moral" statement here but a Torah observation. I think something to note here is that there is a difference between "zanah" with a temple prostitute "qedeshah" and "zanah" or fornication with a common "zonah" or uncovered woman (a woman not under the authority of a male). This could happen or many different reasons and often the "uncovered" woman who had no protector or authority over her would have little way to earn money or maintain herself. For a man to have sex with that woman violated no laws within Torah because it was not adultery because she was unmarried and under no authority. No matter how immoral one might think it is a married woman was beholden to her husband and any sexual relations outside of marriage for her was forbidden but there is no such limitation or restriction placed upon the husband. That isn't to say that he could have sex with anybody because he certainly wasn't allowed to have sex with another mans wife. (Leviticus 18:20) However, adultery was sex with a married woman that wasn't your wife. Could a mans extra marital sexual relations carry legal repercussions for him? That would depend upon the "ketubah" and the legal agreement made before the union but Torah wise, voluntary sex with a "zonah" was not forbidden, at least as far as my research has shown. If I'm mistaken in any of my views or understanding please bring them to my attention. THX My2Cents

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