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According to 1 Kings 3:16-28, two prostitutes came to Solomon for a judgment over their dispute.

Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him... Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

If sex outside of marriage was illegal, why did those criminals openly come to King Solomon? Was Solomon aware of their job?

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This question would be improved if you provided a source in the Torah for prostitution being illegal in the first place. –  Shimon bM Dec 16 '13 at 3:59
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There is no death penalty for "all sex outside marriage" –  Yirmeyahu Dec 16 '13 at 4:17
    
Actually there is nothing in the Torah that says that prostitution is illegal that I know of short of some ambiguous passage. Yet VIRTUALLY ALL Christians believe that sex outside marriage is sin, prohibited in Torah, and carry death penalty. Go figure. If prostitution is not illegal then it could be the answer. –  Jim Thio Dec 16 '13 at 8:08
    
Part of the motive behind this question is to figure out whether prostitution is illegal or not in the first place, among other things. –  Jim Thio Dec 16 '13 at 8:18
    
zona does not mean a prostitute. see judaism.stackexchange.com/a/32010/1857 –  ray Dec 16 '13 at 19:28

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

First, as @Yirmeyahu commented above, there is no death penalty for "all sex outside marriage". There is a verse which states לֹא תִהְיֶה קְדֵשָׁה מִבְּנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא יִהְיֶה קָדֵשׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, but that does not specify a death penalty of stoning.

The prostitutes profession was irrelevant to the case. And it would not be a good society if sinners, when they are the vulnerable members of society, could not turn to the king or the courts for personal justice. So whether he knew or not, it could be said to be irrelevant to the case.

The Targum on the verse renders zonot as pundekan, which can either be innkeepers or harlots. (See Jastrow page 1143-1144.) Ralbag there says (parenthetical inserts by me):

"I think that they were pundekaot (by which he means innkeepers) who sold mazon (provisions, thus zonot), in the same sense as Rachav the zonah (innkeeper). And it is possible that they made themselves hefker (thus were prostitutes)."

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hefker does not necessarily mean prostitutes. literally means "free for the taking", i.e. promiscuous, willing to have sex with men outside of marriage –  ray Dec 16 '13 at 10:49
    
I never understood how they could fight over who the mother was until I learned they were prostitutes. –  avi Dec 16 '13 at 13:19
    
@Avi what do you mean? –  Seth J Dec 16 '13 at 13:44
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@SethJ Well ignoring my childhood vision of the hospital switching babies in the giant nursery... –  avi Dec 16 '13 at 14:34
    
It's still worth asking whether prostitution was punished, and if so why they would admit to being prostitutes. –  Malper Dec 16 '13 at 23:35

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