Hire of a harlot/wages of a dog in Deuteronomy 23:18?


Does anyone know the literal meaning of “hire of a harlot” or “wages of a dog” in the following verse?

You shall not bring the hire of a harlot, or the wages of a dog, into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow; for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 23:18)



“Hire of a harlot” = dirty money. “Wages of a dog” is a bit more unclear, though a common idea is that it refers to wages acquired from male prostitution.


Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm…if I drew a paycheck from Planned Parenthood, would I bring it to Church to make a donation hoping to buy the washing of my hands of all that blood? Some have done similar in the past and some will do similar in the future. Do you?

Does this help?



I’m looking for the literal sense - what “hire of a harlot” and “wages of a dog” would have meant to a Hebrew standing on the banks of the Jordan River in the year 1500 BC.

I’m not interested in the moral sense of the passage today. I get that.

Patrick’s answer is close to what I am looking for though I would ask how much a harlot was paid, with what was she paid, what it means to offer a pledge to a harlot, etc.



The force of the passage isn’t the literal amount – it isn’t like the verse is saying, “prostitutes charge $20, so don’t you dare bring $20 to the temple!” – but rather, that the money earned through prostitution cannot be brought into the temple for payment for sacrifices, etc.

Just think about it: that would be the ultimate money laundering scheme, wouldn’t it? A person earns their living as a prostitute, and then, they take a portion of what they’ve earned and use it for temple sacrifices, to absolve them of the sin. Then, they’re free and clear to use the rest of the money as they choose! No, says Deuteronomy, you cannot do that.

Notice, too, the parallelism between the two verses: “there shall be no temple prostitute among Israelite women nor Israelite men; a prostitute’s fee or a dog’s pay shall not be offered for votive offerings.”

I’m looking for the literal sense - what “hire of a harlot” and “wages of a dog” would have meant to a Hebrew standing on the banks of the Jordan River in the year 1500 BC.

They would have meant exactly what they appear to be saying: the proceeds of prostitution, either heterosexual prostitution (with a woman) or homosexual prostitution (with a man), cannot be used to make offerings to God in the temple.

I would ask… what it means to offer a pledge to a harlot, etc.

If I understand the context of your question correctly, then I’d direct you to Genesis 38. Tamar isn’t paid for her ‘prostitution’, but rather, takes Judah’s seal, cord, and staff as a pledge against future payment of a goat for her ‘services’. The idea is that she’s willing to be paid later, but she holds onto things that are identifiable as Judah’s, such that she would be able to shame him as a man who doesn’t pay his debts, if he doesn’t make good on his promise.


This makes a lot of sense.



Some people in the literalist Pentecostal denomination in which I grew up took the “wages of a dog” passage to mean that one could not be a Christian and breed dogs :rolleyes:


I’m thinking more along the lines of dogs being non-Jews.

***And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” *(Matthew 15:26-27)

The woman in this passage was a Canaanite, a non-Jew, which many Jews referred to as dogs.



No, it’s about male prostitutes in this verse. Babylonian male prostitutes working for the temples of Ishtar and serving males were allegedly called “dogs.” The parallelism of the verses tells you the meaning. You weren’t supposed to be hiring out your servants or slaves as prostitutes anyway, because God didn’t like the whole trade. But offering the proceeds to God was a deep insult to Him.

OTOH, calling Canaanites “dogs” may have been associated with Canaanite use of male prostitutes in their worship of pagan gods, but it was probably more just a normal level insult. People in the Middle East still call each other “dog” as an insult. It’s basically saying, “You’re a stray yellow dog who runs in packs, eats trash, and licks your butt.” (Most Middle Eastern dogs aren’t working dogs or family pets. They’re feral.)

But here’s the main reason we can’t go with your “don’t take money from pagans” idea -

The Temple had absolutely NO PROBLEM taking Gentile pagan offerings. As long as you changed the money into Temple money, they were fine with it. If a Gentile pagan king wanted to give goodies to the Lord, the Temple was perfectly willing to take his goodies, do whatever purifying was needed, and pray for him. You read about this a fair amount in the Bible - they’re the good guy Gentile kings whom God blesses. A pagan didn’t know any better, so it was amazing if they did the right thing for once and offered to the real God. It was a good and righteous deed. Nobody was going to prohibit it, much less God in His Law!

The entire promise of a lot of Messianic prophecy was that eventually all the Gentiles would see the light and all come to Jerusalem to make offerings to the one true God, the Lord. (And stop being pagan, of course.) So any Gentile, even a pagan, making an acceptable offering in the right way, was to be encouraged.

Jews (who should know better) offering filthy lucre from a filthy trade was not to be encouraged.


Happy New Year, All!

Good question. Just did a search online and of the several choices, this one ‘fits best’, to me.

Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 9 - edited by Daniel Denison Whedon

“It was customary in ancient times, when a city was captured, to carry away its idols and temple treasures (Joel 3:5; Hos. 10:6; Isa. 46:1-2; Dan. 1:3).”

So, perhaps gifts that had been offered to temple prostitutes for services - were not to be ‘re-gifted’ as worship items in the temple back home.



Hello Mintaka.

You score again! Good stuff. You’ve done your homework.




The thing, though, is that the context of this passage has nothing to do with “capturing cities” or dealing with the booty that results from such conquest. Rather, the context is prostitution itself, and the proceeds one earns from it; moreover, the injunction is directed toward Israelites (and directly follows a prohibition against Israelites working as prostitutes). In this context, then, “re-gifting” doesn’t seem at all likely as what’s in play here… :shrug:


Thank you for this.



I didn’t see it as ‘out of context’ in a list of various and sundry “thou shalt nots” covering not turning in runaway slaves to bathroom habits; however, I trusted your view that it ‘missed the mark’ somehow, and took up the search again.

It’s looking even better for “harlot and dog” being the worship of idol gods. (Baal and Asherah, maybe?)

The Minor Prophets; with Notes, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical … By …


(Hosea 9:1) p. 46 – “The idolatry of Israel is here, as heretofore, spoken of as adultery. The original word for “reward” is currently used for the hire of harlots. It is spoken of here as being “on every corn-floor,” because, like the heathen about them, idolatrous Israel had sunk so low as to attribute her corn and wine to Baal’s favor and not to Jehovah’s. Hence she paid her offerings to Baal—here thought of as the harlot-hire of her spiritual adultery.”

(Parallel Commentaries) - biblehub.com/micah/1-7.htm

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

"And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces - Its idols in whom she trusts, so far from protecting her, shall themselves go into captivity, broken up for the gold and silver whereof they were made. The wars of the Assyrians being religious wars , the idolatry of Assyria destroyed the idolatry and idols of Israel.

**And all the hires thereof shall be burned with fire - All forsaking of God being spiritual fornication from Him who made His creatures for Himself, the hires are all which man would gain by that desertion of his God, employed in man’s contact with his idols, whether as bribing his idols to give him what are the gifts of God, or as himself bribed by them." **




The prescriptions of the Mosaic law found in Deuteronomy certainly cover a range of topics; after all, the Mosaic law functioned not only as ‘ecclesiastical law’, but as ‘civil law’ as well. However, despite the fact that there are a wide range of teachings, that doesn’t imply that, within the context of a particular teaching, there’s a plurality of meanings. A prohibition against prostitution is a prohibition against prostitution, not a teaching against plundering cities. :shrug:

It’s looking even better for “harlot and dog” being the worship of idol gods. (Baal and Asherah, maybe?)

I would suggest that you’re trying a little too hard to make your assertion work. First off, in order to explain a teaching that’s being presented as from the time of Moses, you’re appealing to actions of the Israelites that do not take place until some 500 years later. That’s kind of like trying to justify a law written in 16th century England by pointing to a 21st century controversy! That’s just anachronistic…

More importantly, though, you’re conflating a literal problem with a later allegorical allusion to a different problem. In the passages you cite, especially Hosea, we see God pointing to literal ‘harlotry’ and making the case that idolatry, in a spiritual sense, is not unlike literal prostitution. That’s kind of like someone today, bristling under their workload, exclaiming, “what am I, your slave?” It’s not that he’s really a slave, but that he’s making a reference to a real situation from the past, for the sake of communicating an idea. Same thing here: the “worship of idol gods,” in the context of Hosea, isn’t the same as the “harlot and dogs” reference of Deuteronomy, although Hosea uses this image to explain the evils of idol worship and of the fall from proper worship of God.

It’s a valiant attempt, but it still doesn’t work. :shrug:

(Hosea 9:1) p. 46 – “The idolatry of Israel is here, as heretofore, spoken of as adultery. … [Israel] paid her offerings to Baal—here thought of as the harlot-hire of her spiritual adultery.”

See what I mean? Your source isn’t claiming that ‘idolatry’ is ‘adultery’, but that it’s “spoken of as adultery” and that it isn’t literal, but only “spiritual adultery”. Big difference, there. (Valid allusion, I’d say, and it’s the brilliance of Hosea’s prophetic witness – but that allusion doesn’t explain the literal use of the concept in Deuteronomy.)


Hello Gorgias.

Bravo! Bravo! :clapping: Play it again Sam! Go team!



LOL! :wink:

Thanks, Glenda…! :blush:



LOL… nice!

Then again… aren’t you the one who’s claiming that Deuteronomy is about a dozen things, whereas I’m claiming that it’s only about one, and not more than one?

After all, it’s really only about prostitution; not about Baal, Asherah, Hosea’s prophecies, the Assyrians… or the rest of the dirty dozen. Just about prostitution… and only that one meaning.



aren’t you the one who’s claiming that Deuteronomy is about a dozen things

I still haven’t found my ‘one’ yet. :slight_smile: There are very few Biblical verses where I feel I’ve found even 3/4 of ‘one’ - have been surprised too many times. Learn more, see more.

Just enjoying the mind s-t-r-e-t-c-h … :slight_smile:


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