Genesis 38:21 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 38:21, NIV: He asked the men who lived there, 'Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?' 'There hasn't been any shrine prostitute here,' they said.

Genesis 38:21, ESV: And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.”

Genesis 38:21, KJV: Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.

Genesis 38:21, NASB: He asked the people of her place, saying, 'Where is the temple prostitute who was by the road at Enaim?' But they said, 'There has been no temple prostitute here.'

Genesis 38:21, NLT: So he asked the men who lived there, 'Where can I find the shrine prostitute who was sitting beside the road at the entrance to Enaim?' 'We've never had a shrine prostitute here,' they replied.

Genesis 38:21, CSB: He asked the men of the place, "Where is the cult prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim? ""There has been no cult prostitute here," they answered.

What does Genesis 38:21 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Hirah the Adullamite is looking for the prostitute Judah slept with (Genesis 38:20). He's assigned to pay her fee and retrieve Judah's personal belongings, left as a pledge (Genesis 38:18). When Hirah can't find her, he asks around, referring to her as a "cult prostitute." Some pagan religions included prostitution in the worship of their gods. In a culture where idol worship was fully normalized, this kind of prostitution may have been somewhat more respectable than non-religious prostitution.

The locals, however, don't know about any roadside cult prostitute. They'd never heard of her. Tamar, of course, was not a resident of that area or an actual prostitute. She was back living in her father's household and pregnant with Judah's child (Genesis 38:19). Her goal was to force Judah to care for her, after realizing his earlier promise (Genesis 38:11) was a lie (Genesis 38:14).