Whoring or harlotry in a spiritual sense is generally understood to mean that individuals or groups dedicated to the worship of Jehovah turn to follow another god. But how can this come about, what could another god possibly offer that would draw them away from the creator or all things.
The account about Gideon at Judges, chapters 6 â€“ 9 helps to give insight into this conundrum. To find out we have to scratch off the surface and look behind the words for a fuller understanding.
Although each person is an individual, with their own strength and weaknesses, there are some characteristics that are common to humankind regardless of race, ethnicity or the era in which they live. Before we start let it be noted that zanah (#2181, root meaning well fed) is the word most commonly used in scripture to denote harlot, harlotry, whore, whoring, prostitute, immoral intercourse, fornication etc.; it is also the word used in the scriptures under discussion.
Gideonâ€™s account takes place after the Israelites entry into the promised land. Chapter 6 commences with the words ...Then the sons of Israel began to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah. So Jehovah gave them into the hands of the Midian... Although I quote only pertinent verses it would be beneficial to read all the verses in between. Verse 11 tells us ...Later Jehovahâ€™s angel came and sat under the big tree that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash... while Gideon his son was beating out wheat... Verses 14 & 15 ... Upon that Jehovah (Jehovahâ€™s angel) faced him and said: â€œGo in this power of yours, and you will certainly save Israel out of Midianâ€™s palm... Gideon answers ...excuse me Jehovah with what shall I save Israel: Look! My thousand (a subdivision of Israelâ€™s tribes) is the least in Manasseh, and I am the smallest in my fatherâ€™s house....
So, here we have picture of a strong but modest young man chosen by Jehovah to liberate Israel from the marauding Midianites. The first commission he is given is to tear down the altar to Baal and the sacred pole in his home town and to replace it with an altar to Jehovah. His defense for his action when confronted by the angry mob from the town show that beside brawn he also had brains (verses 28-32). What happened next is familiar to most of us as it has been covered in numerous WT study articles. The only thing that can be added is that the account also reveals a cautious side of his nature.
Completing the picture we now see a strong modest young man dedicated to doing Jehovahâ€™s will, who is not so enamored of his physical prowess that he ignores all caution in order to shine, but is one who thinks about the possible consequences of his actions and acts accordingly. A fine astute man indeed, not one who would easily be ensnared away from the true God, or so one would think.
We are familiar with the reasons why Jehovah asked Gideon to reduce the number of his volunteer army ...The people who are with you are too many to give Midian into their hand. Perhaps Israel would brag about itself against me saying, saying, â€˜My hand it was that saved me...â€™ (Ju 7:2) Gideon grasped the full import of Jehovahâ€™s reasoning and complied without question.
But after successfully routing the â€˜numerous as locustâ€™ Midian horde, with his miniature army of only 300 men something else had taken root in his heart. In replying to the men of Succoth and Penuel he says to them ...when Jehovah gives Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I shall certainly give YOUR flesh a threshing with thorns of the wilderness and the briers ...Hence he said also to the men of Penuel â€œWhen I return in peace, I shall pull down this towerâ€... (read complete account at Ju 8:1-9)
The modesty of the untried man has melted away exposing the swagger of a self assured male, but he still has his wits about him and does not allow it to overcome his good judgment when ...the men of Israel said to Gideon: â€œRule over us, you and your son... for you saved us from the hand of Midian.â€ But Gideon said to them: â€œI myself shall not rule over you... Jehovah is the one who will rule over youâ€... (Ju 8:22&23)
Even so, he cannot completely resist the lure of recognition and adulation, and so he has an ephod (girdle) made from the booty in memory of their exploits, which he exhibits in his home town Ophrah, (Ju 6:11) where the angel of Jehovah had first appeared to him. What happens next is a failing common humankind (lit rendering) ...and they are prostituting (zanah #2181) all of Israel go after him there... and it served as a snare to Gideon and his household... (Ju 8:27).
How could this be? Gideon and all Israel knew quite well by whose hand Midian had been routed and yet they flocked to Ophrah to see this symbol of their victory over the all-powerful Midianites. The people began to hero worship Gideon crediting the victory to him instead of Jehovah; they flocked to him like a weak woman attaches herself to a powerful man. Despite Gideonâ€™s public protestation (spin) to the contrary ...I shall not rule over you ...Jehovah is the one who will rule over you... (Ju 8:23) he soon assumes the mantel of privilege and power and it, as it says ...it served as a snare for him (verse 27). Even though he did not officially declare himself king, to all intents and purposes he was a king.
...And Gideon came to have seventy sons that issued out of his upper thigh, for he came to have many wives. As for the concubine of his that was in Schechem, she to bore him a son, so she named him Abimelech... (Ju 8:30,31). Further evidence of his assumed kingship can be found in chapters 9 & 10 where, after Gideonâ€™s death, Abimelech objects to the rule of his seventy sons.
...Which is better for you, for seventy men all the sons of Jerubaal to rule over you or for one man to rule over you... (Ju 9:2), the subject matter is without doubt about rulership.
From a spiritual perspective what has happened is that the people (the feminine entity) in stead of relying on Jehovah to keep them safe look to Gideon for leadership and protection. Instead of the Israelites as a nation resuming their rightful place as Jehovahâ€™s woman, we now see Gideon set apart assuming Jehovahâ€™s role of Baal (husband owner)
This then is the spiritual whoring that so offends Jehovah; it is not the simple whoring after other gods done in weakness or ignoranceâ€”people (women) flock together for comfort and safety and will always organize themselves with a (god-like) leader). Though not ideal this is natural and even necessary for imperfect man. Presuming to be God ordained when one is not, is another matter as is unauthorized presumption of leadership over a people covenanted to God.
Gideon began his descend into harlotry when he succumbed to the peopleâ€™s (womanâ€™s) blandishments to become their king; blinded by his own hubris he did not recognize the snare. The same mental transformation--becoming too big for oneâ€™s boots--took place with Saul (when he offered a sacrifice in place of Samuel), with David (when he numbered the people and in his affair with Bathsheba, the difference being that he came to his senses and repented) and many others including the Pharisees and Sadducees.
In a nutshell then the meaning of spiritual harlotry (zana #2181, well fed) is connect with chosen servants of Jehovah standing apart from the flock of followers (god's woman) and presuming to play the king (baal/husband) over their fellow followers. It is a trap any one of us could blunder into in our eagerness to serve. We have been told to wait on Jehovah, to be prepared and awake for Jesus' coming and may even light a fire, but as to doing more ... the heart is treacherous.
This is what Jesus may have had in mind when he prophesied concerning the FDS who, on becoming disenchanted at their lordâ€™s delay, started beating their fellow slaves and eating and drinking with confirmed drunkards (or lording it over their fellow servants [women] with inflated self-importance [Matt 24:48-50]). It may also explain Rev 14:4 where it calls 144 thousand (conquerors), male virgins who did not defile themselves with women (or chosen ones who do not use their position of privilege to gather a retinue of followers after themselves.