Hebrew: zonah (Genesis 34:31; 38:15)
In verses 21-22, the Hebrew word used in kedeshah, i.e., a woman consecrated or devoted to prostitution in connection with the abominable worship of Asherah or Astarte, the Syrian Venus.
This word is also used in Deuteronomy 23:17; Hos. 4:14. Thus Tamar sat by the wayside as a consecrated kedeshah.
It has been attempted to show that Rahab, usually called a “harlot” (Joshua 2:1; 6:17; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25), was only an innkeeper. This interpretation, however, cannot be maintained.
Jephthah’s mother is called a “strange woman” (Judges 11:2). This, however, merely denotes that she was of foreign extraction.
In the time of Solomon, harlots appeared openly in the streets, and he solemnly warns against association with them (Proverbs 7:12; 9:14. See also Jeremiah 3:2; Ezek. 16:24-25, 31).
The Revised King James Version, following the Septuagint, has “and the harlots washed,” etc., instead of the rendering of the King James Version, “now they washed,” of 1 Kings 22:38.
To commit fornication is metaphorically used for to practice idolatry (Jeremiah 3:1; Ezek. 16:15; Hosea throughout); hence Jerusalem is spoken of as a harlot (Isaiah 1:21).