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Holman Bible Dictionary

Immorality

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Any illicit sexual activity outside of marriage. Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament the word has a figurative meaning as well, referring to idolatry or unfaithfulness to God.

In the Old Testament zanah regularly refers to wrongful heterosexual intercourse, primarily in regard to women ( Judges 19:2 ; Jeremiah 3:1 ; Hosea 4:13 ). The noun “harlot” or “whore” is derived from the same stem (Genesis 34:31 ; Joshua 2:1-3 ; Proverbs 23:27 ; Hosea 4:13-14 ). In a figurative sense, zanah refers to Israel's unfaithfulness to God ( 2 Chronicles 21:11 ; Isaiah 1:21 ; Jeremiah 3:1-5 ; Ezekiel 16:26-28 ). In addition, the sinfulness of Tyre (Isaiah 23:17 ) and Nineveh (Nahum 3:4 ) are portrayed in this manner.

In Paul's letters, porneia and/or related words refer to an incestuous relationship ( 1 Corinthians 5:1 ), sexual relations with a prostitute (1 Corinthians 6:12-20 ), and various forms of unchastity both heterosexual and homosexual (Romans 1:29 ; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 ; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ; 1 Corinthians 7:2 ; 2 Corinthians 12:21 ; Ephesians 5:3 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ). Immorality is a sin against God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ; 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 ). In the Gospels, the term, on occasion, is related to adultery (Matthew 5:32 ; Matthew 19:9 ) and in Revelation may refer to harlotry or prostitution (Revelation 2:14 ,Revelation 2:14,2:20 ). The word “harlot” or “whore” is derived from the same root (Revelation 19:2 ). In Acts, the Apostolic Council requires that Gentiles avoid porneia ( Acts 15:20 ,Acts 15:20,15:29 ). Porneia , and related words also have a figurative meaning of unfaithfulness to God (Matthew 12:39 ; John 8:41 ; Revelation 2:21 ; Revelation 9:21 ; Revelation 14:8 ; Revelation 19:2 ). See Adultery ; Sex, Teaching on.

Donald E. Cook


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Immorality'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/i/immorality.html. 1991.

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