Would You Please Explain Deuteronomy 23:18?

The passage reads, in the New King James Version: “You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog to the house of the LORD your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.”

Alternate renditions of this verse might make the intended meaning a little bit clearer.

The New International Version says: “You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the LORD your God to pay any vow, because the LORD your God detests them both.”

The New Living Translation states: “When you are bringing an offering to fulfill a vow, you must not bring to the house of the LORD your God any offering from the earnings of a prostitute, whether a man or a woman, for both are detestable to the LORD your God.”

The Christian Standard Bible says: “Do not bring a female prostitute’s wages or a male prostitute’s earnings into the house of the LORD your God to fulfill any vow, because both are detestable to the LORD your God.”

The Contemporary English Version reads: “The LORD your God is disgusted with men and women who are prostitutes of any kind, and he will not accept a gift from them, even if it had been promised to him.”

The International Standard Version states: “Don’t bring the earnings of a female prostitute nor the income of a male prostitute into the house of the LORD your God as payment for any vow. Both of these are detestable to the LORD your God.”

The Living Bible says: “No prostitutes are permitted in Israel. either men or women; you must not bring to the Lord any offering from the earnings of a prostitute or a homosexual, for both are detestable to the Lord your God.”

The Amplified Bible says: “You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the price of a dog [a sodomite] into the house of the Lord your God, in payment for a vow; for both of these –the gift and the giver—are an abomination to the Lord your God.”

Most commentaries are in agreement that the wages from male and female prostitutes were forbidden to be brought into the house of God; and that the reference to “dog” in the above-cited passage must be understood as applying to male prostitutes or homosexuals (sodomites).

For instance, the Ryrie Study Bible says: “… dog. A Hebrew epithet for a male prostitute or sodomite.”

The Benson Commentary elaborates:

The hire of a whore — It was a custom among the idolatrous nations for prostitutes to dedicate to the honour of their false gods some part of what they had earned by prostitution. In opposition to which abominable practice this law is thought to have been instituted. Or the price of a dog — It is not easy to give any satisfactory account why these two, the price of a whore, and of a dog, are associated in the same law. Thus much seems clear… that the price of a dog is not here rejected because the dog is an unclean creature.

“Some have thought it is because the dog was worshipped by the Egyptians; that God, to draw his people from or guard them against idolatry, casts this contempt upon that creature in refusing the price it should be sold for. But the most natural sense of the passage seems to be, to take the word dog here in a figurative sense, for the sodomite, or whoremonger, before mentioned [in verse 17], such persons being not improperly styled dogs, on account of their shameless incontinency and brutal manners. Accordingly, men of canine, beastly natures, are called dogs, Matthew 15:26; 2 Peter 2:22; Revelation 22:15.”

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible adds:

“Another Gentile practice, connected with the one alluded to in the preceding verse, is here forbidden. The word ‘dog’ is figurative (compare Revelation 22:15), and equivalent to the ‘sodomite’ of the verse preceding.”

Matthew Poole’s Commentary states:

“This is opposed to the practice of the Gentiles, who allowed both such persons and their oblations they made out of their wicked and infamous gains; and some of them kept lewd women, who prostituted themselves in the temples, and to the honour of their false gods, and offered part of their profit to them… the price of a dog may seem to answer to the sodomite…

“Both these, i.e. the whore and the dog, and therefore the price of either of them cannot be acceptable… the dog is here taken metaphorically rather than properly, because there is no mention in the law… of any abominableness of a dog unto God… or any other unclean creature; but how abominable sodomites are to God is sufficiently evident from other scriptures, and from undeniable reasons.”

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible comments:

“Thou shall not bring the hire of a whore… Which was given to her as a reward for the use of her body… or the price of a dog…  figuratively of a sodomite, comparable to a dog, for his uncleanness and impudence… and the price of such an one the gain he got by the prostitution of his body to unnatural lusts; and so as the hire of a whore answers to one in Deuteronomy 23:17, the price of a dog to a sodomite here.

“… this law seems to be made in opposition to the customs and practices of the Phoenicians and Canaanites, whose land the Israelites were going to inhabit; whose women, as we are told… used to prostitute themselves in the temples of their idols, and dedicate there the hire of their bodies to their gods, thinking thereby to appease their deities and obtain good things for themselves; and the like did the Babylonians and Assyrians… a whore and a dog are fitly put together, because both are libidinous, impure, and impudent; perhaps the vileness and baseness of the creature is chiefly regarded in this law, to keep up the credit and veneration of sacrifices as sacred things.

“… for even both these are an abomination to the Lord thy God; both the hire of the whore and the price of the dog, when brought as a sacrifice to him; the one being a breach of the moral law, and the other tending to bring into contempt the sacrifices of the ceremonial law, if not a favouring idolatry, than which nothing is more abominable to God, who cannot endure anything evil, base, and impure.”

The Geneva Study Bible states: “…Forbidding that any income gained from evil things should be applied to the service of God.”

What are being addressed here are “wages” or “earnings” from female and male prostitutes, as well as homosexuals (sodomites), which wages were earned in the pursuance of their “business” activities.  These wages were not permitted to be accepted as tithes or offerings in God’s house—even in compliance with a “vow” to tithe faithfully to God and give Him offerings.

The Soncino commentary states:

“Harlots used to devote some of their earnings to religious objects in order, as they believed, to expiate their sins and continue in their way of living. For this reason the hire of a harlot was unacceptable as an offering in the house of God.”

After all, Micah 1:7 states very clearly what God thinks about the wages or pay of a harlot; even though applied here, at least to an extent, in figurative ways, by comparing Israel with a harlot or a prostitute, the strong language reveals God’s rejection of the acceptance of the wage of a harlot in the service of God:

“All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces, And all her pay as a harlot shall be burned with the fire; all her idols I will lay desolate, For she gathered it from the pay of a harlot, And they shall return to the pay of a harlot.”

The New International Version states:  “All her idols will be broken to pieces; all her temple gifts will be burned with fire; I will destroy all her images. Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes, as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.”

The New Living Translation reads: “All her carved images will be smashed. All her sacred treasures will be burned. These things were bought with the money earned by her prostitution, and they will now be carried away to pay prostitutes elsewhere.”

On the other hand, God’s people would be under a curse if they were to refuse to tithe faithfully from their “legitimate” and not objectionable income. This would also include giving offerings, for instance on the annual Holy Days (Malachi 3:8-12; Deuteronomy 16:16).

The translation of the Authorized Version (King James Bible) could be confusing to some, which reads, “Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”

From this some surmised that the Scripture prohibits tithing or giving an offering from the sale of a literal dog. But this is not what is meant. The “Personal Correspondence Department” of the [now defunct] Worldwide Church of God addressed and answered this question as follows:

“The Hebrew word for ‘dog’ in this verse means ‘a male prostitute’ (See Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary to the Old Testament, by Alexander Harkavy, page 294). The Moffat and other modern versions make it clear that this verse is speaking of sexually corrupt humans. Also notice Revelation 22:15, ‘For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers…’ This refers to various categories of unrepentant and degenerate humans who will not be able to enter God’s Kingdom.

“Literal dogs, on the other hand, are merely a part of the animal creation, which God has given man dominion over (Gen. 1:26). To tithe the income from the sale of a dog or any other animal is in accord with God’s tithing laws and principles.”

While unclean animals could not be sacrificed but had to be redeemed (Exodus 34:20), this did not apply to tithing from the sale of an unclean animal. The Church of God is most certainly permitted to accept the tithe from such increase, but the Church is not to accept tithe and offerings from the wages of male or female prostitutes in the pursuit of their “business.” Note that in the article, quoted above, the reference to “dogs” (and by extension, “prostitutes”) applied to “unrepentant humans.” Jesus accepted pure and clean “services” from prostitutes who had a repentant attitude.

Remember the example of the well-known sinner in Luke 7:36-50 who washed the feet of Christ, wiped them with her hair, kissed His feet and anointed them with flagrant oil. While the prostitute was condemned by the Pharisee for anointing Christ’s feet, He defended her, saying that her sins, which were many, were forgiven. As God only forgives sins upon repentance, it is obvious that the woman had repented of her sins, which also became manifest by her entire conduct towards Christ.

Christ did not in any way violate the command in Deuteronomy 23:18, not to accept the wages of an unrepentant prostitute (or portions of her wages in the form of fragrant oil), while she would continue her ungodly conduct as a prostitute.

A practicing male or female prostitute cannot “satisfy” God by tithing from the proceeds of his or her ungodly “business” activities; nor can the Church of God be, in any way, “participating” or “sharing” in his or her sin (1 Timothy 5:22) by accepting such donations. Rather, we are told that we must keep ourselves pure (same verse).

The [now defunct] Worldwide Church of God, under Herbert W. Armstrong, has consistently taught that the Church is not to accept donations under certain circumstances. For instance, contributions obtained from the wages of practicing male and female prostitutes, in pursuit of their “business,” would fall under that prohibited category, as well as money earned from the production of weapons for the sole purpose of using them in war. Another obvious example would be donations stemming from illegal activities.

The Church of the Eternal God and its international affiliates abide by this practice. If the Church were to find out that the origin of donations to be received stems from prostitution or the manufacturing of weapons for war or from illegal activities, it would have to refuse acceptance of such donations, as God would not be pleased with such offerings.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link