Saturday, August 27, 2005

Male Temple Prostitutes

Continuing my exploration of homosexuality in the Bible...(see My Rigid Take on Homosexuality in the Bible, Expressing My Freedom of Religion, Same-Sex Marriage: Exercising My Freedom of Speech in reverse order for previous discussions).

1 Kings 14:24 and 15:12 are sometimes cited as God's prohibition against homosexuality:
"there were also male temple prostitutes in the land. They committed all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel."
"He put away the male temple prostitutes out of the land, and removed all the idols that his ancestors had made."

The Harper Collins Study Bible NRSV notes that the prostitutes "may have been of both sexes. They had some sort of official role in fertility rites." (p. 542) Wikipedia has a rudimentary article on religious prostitution, which is what 1 Kings here refers to.

To understand these verses better, it's best to read the sentences around them and the entire paragraphs in which they reside and to understand the context of the book, in this case 1 Kings. Kings 1 and 2 chronicle Israel's history at the time of her kings; 1 Kings covers the time from David to the division of Israel into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and ends at the death of Ahab, king of Israel, and the succession of his son. 1 Kings 14 includes a chronology of events the author considered important in the rule of Rehoboam over Judah, especially this blunt statement: "Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord..." (1 Kings 14:22) The entire paragraph around 1 Kings 14:24, the verse in question, outlines who Rehoboam was and why God considered Judah so evil. One of the reasons was these prostitutes. In contrast, Asa, Rehoboam's grandson, written about in Chapter 15, "did what was right in the sight of the Lord" (1 Kings 15:11) and one of those things he did right was to get rid of those prostitutes (15:24).

Clearly, God is unimpressed with prostitution, religious or otherwise, male or female. Those who engage in prostitution and use their services are evil in the sight of the Lord. But what has this to do with homosexuality? Do the prostitutes on Jarvis and the loser Johns they service have anything to do with a man and a woman dating or becoming engaged or getting married? Does the prostitution between women and men all over the city make sex between a married couple evil in the sight of the Lord? Of course not. Prostitution is also not the reason why sex between men and women outside of marriage is considered a sin. So what has prostitution between men to do with sex between men in a relationship? That's a bit of an illogical leap.

God is not speaking about homosexuality in these passages. The topic here is prostitution, as one element of the evil committed under the reign of Rehoboam (and by implication what God considers to be evil today). And the chapter goes on to list the consequences of Rehoboam committing such evil as king of Judah. Instructive but not insightful into God's view of homosexuality and thus same-sex marriage.

Next!

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