HARLOTRY AND COVENANT IN BIBLICAL IMAGERY

PMW 2019-066 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Harlot drunk 3An insightful question.
Recently one of my blog readers made the following perceptive comment regarding my statement that Rome could not be Revelation’s “harlot” because Rome was never in a covenantal relationship with God:

“You said: ‘Fourth, Rome cannot commit adultery against God, for she had never been God’s wife.’ The language of harlot/marriage is spoken of Tyre in Isaiah, and as far as I know, they weren’t in a marriage with God either. Tyre is also spoken of as committing fornication.

So a city doesn’t necessarily have to be in covenant relationship like Israel/Jerusalem, in order for God to use the language of marriage, i.e harlot/fornication. Tyre wasn’t God’s wife, yet he called her a harlot who committed fornication.”

My reply:

It is true that the OT prophets charged harlotry against the pagan cities Nineveh (Nah 3:1–4) and Tyre (Isa 23:15). But this does not undermine my argument that the charge of harlotry in Rev points to Jerusalem-Israel, for the following reasons:


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by Ken Gentry

A popularly written antidote to dispensational sensationalism and newspaper exegesis. Convincing biblical and historical evidence showing that the Beast was the Roman Emperor Nero Caesar, the first civil persecutor of the Church. The second half of the book shows Revelation’s date of writing, proving its composition as prior to the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. A thought-provoking treatment of a fascinating and confusing topic.

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First, despite the abundant use of harlot imagery by the prophets, “only twice in the biblical corpus is a non-Israelite nation referred to as a harlot” (Rick van de Water, Reconsidering the Beast from the Sea in New Testament Studies 46 [Apr. 2000]: 256). Statistically the numbers favor a Jerusalem referent. “How could a non-Israelite nation be called ‘harlot’ except in a much less precise sense? It is the covenant which makes the bride, the breaking of it which makes the adulteress” (J. M. Ford, Revelation 285).

Second, in the two instances of harlot-denunciation beyond Israel, “this is done casually; it is not the characteristic symbol of a heathen city. As against these two texts, we find all through the prophets, beginning from Hosea, faithless Israel is called a Harlot or False Bride; it is to be found everywhere. In particular Ezekiel, who is St. John’s literary model, develops the idea at great length in certain repulsive chapters (xvi. and xxiii.) which have profoundly influenced the Revelation” (Philip Carrington, The Meaning of Revelation, 276).

Third, furthermore, Tyre and Nineveh had been in a covenant of sorts with God. Nineveh was converted under Jonah’s preaching (Jon 3:5–10) about 100 years prior to Nahum’s ministry. And Tyre’s king Hiram blessed God’s name and assisted in the building of the temple (1Ki 5:7–12), called Solomon his “brother” (1Ki 9:13), and had a “covenant of brotherhood” with Israel (Am 1:9). The “covenant of brotherhood” statement is “Amos’ way of summarizing the lengthy cooperative relationship that had existed bewtween the Phoenicians and the Israelites.” Covenantally we see a reason for applying harlotry images to these two particular cities.


Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil (by Ken Gentry)

Technical studies on Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, the great tribulation, Paul’s Man of Sin, and John’s Revelation.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


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2 thoughts on “HARLOTRY AND COVENANT IN BIBLICAL IMAGERY

  1. Cj February 10, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Thanks for ironing out that wrinkle.

  2. Fred V. Squillante September 5, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Hello Dr. Gentry, My forthcoming book: The Harlot of Revelation and the Great Tribulation traces the harlot throughout the entire Old Testament and it is God’s people, the Israelites. There is no mention of the harlot in the New Testament until you get to Revelation, but who were the people harassing Jesus and persecuting the Apostles after they had Jesus crucified but the sons of those Old Testament fathers. The Harlot is Jerusalem.

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