Word Study: Whore and Harlot (Part 1)

There is a Greek word, porne (Strong’s 4204), a feminine noun found 12 times in the writings of the apostolos (New Testament), 8 times “harlot” and 4 times “whore”. There is also a masculine form of the word, pornos (Strong’s 4205), and it is found 10 times in the NT, 5 times “fornicator” and 5 times “whoremonger” (whore seller). Thus, what is basically the same word, female and male, is translated differently for each.  I will come back to this point later.

In the Greek language a similiar word to porne/pornos, but a verb or action word is “porneuo” (Strong’s 4203). It is found 8 times in the NT, and translated “to commit fornication” each time. The noun-form of “porneuo” is “pornueia” (Strong’s 4202) and is found 26 times in the NT, translated “fornication” each time. Fornication is a word distinct from adultery which is knowing another person sexually at the same time one is married. This distinction is seen in Mat 15:19, Mark 7:21, and Gal 5:19.  From what I am able to see and what linguist say, the root word of porne, pornos, porneuo and pornueia is the Greek word, pernemi, meaning “to sell”.

The origin of the meaning of porne/pornos is “to sell” and in particular sex and with it comes a negative connotation. Thus, if the words porne/pornos are to translated accurately both would have the same meaning, the only difference is “porne” is a woman and “pornos” is a man. Thus, in Spirit of no partiality whether porne or pornos,  the male and female must be both whores; must be both harlots, must be both fornicators, must be both whoremongers. Now they who sell and buy sex are of the loosest morals, the meaning of the word was expanded to cover all sex outside of marriage and thus the translation of the words as “fornicate” or “fornication”, which represent sex outside of marriage. As we will see, the Hebrew language does not have the distinctions of the Greek to translate a word as whore, harlot or fornicator whether male or female, but it speaks of an act in general.

The Hebrew word “zanah” (Strong’s 2181) is found 93 total times in the Old Testament (OT): 38 times harlot; 19 go a whoring;  15 whoredom; 12 whore; 3 commit fornication, 3 whorish, and 3 miscellaneous. “Zanah” is a verb, a word of action. The root of “zanah” is the word, “zan” (Strong’s 2177 & 2178). It has a meaning as “a sense of fulness”, thus is translated “divers kinds” which would be all kinds (2 Chron 16:14), “all manner of store” (Ps 144:13) and “all kinds” (Dan 3:5, 7, 10, 15). Another word derived from “zan” is Strong’s 2179, “zanab”, tranlated hindmost or in the sense of fulness or the greater part. Strong’s 2180, also “zanab” is translated “tail” in the sense of hindmost or greater part. For example in Isaiah 9:14 is reads, “Therefore the Yehovah will cut off from Yisrael head and “zanab” (tail, hindmost, the fulness), branch and rush (LXX: “great and small”), in one day. The ancient and the honorable, he is the head, and the prophet that teaches lies, he is of the “zanab”. For the leaders of this people cause them to err, and they that are led of them are destroyed.”  It is prophesied that the head and the fulness will be cut off from Yisrael. Thus, if the head and the fulness be cut off, what is left? The smaller part, the remnant. Is it not so in the Mashiach. He was condemned in the flesh, justified in the Spirit.

With this understanding of the root word of “zanah” being “zan” and having a meaning in the sense of fulness, what then could be the meaning of this word of action, “zanah”? First, “zanah” when it is used has a negative connotation, much like porne/pornos. Thus it would be an act of fulness in a negative sense, such as sensual, carnal, of the flesh. “Thou shalt not desire!” So “zanah” takes on a connotation of partaking of the flesh in its fulness, with no restrictions. It is in this full partaking that fornication and idolatry fall within. God uses the word “zanah”  in Exodus 34:15 & 16 and Lev 17:7 as Yisrael “going a whoring” or “zanah after other gods”. It is with idolatry all manner of works of the flesh follow, perversions, and the selling and buying of persons’ bodies and sexual immorality. The two fornication and idolatry in the Spirit are linked.

Thus “zanah” in the Spirit is the act of fulness of the flesh manifested as sexual immorality or idolatry. Both male and female partake of this unrighteousness. Zanah speaks not of a person but an act.  People commit acts. Judge not the unbeliever. Judge yourselves, oh, assembly of the living God.

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