The ancient Hebrews spent a period of exile in Babylonian captivity from 586 B.C. to 538 B.C. During that time, they would have been exposed to Babylonian religious customs and the roles of women. The Babylonians were pagans and, like the Sumerians, worshipped Ishtar, the goddess of life, love, and fertility. The Bible called her the Whore of Babylon, a euphemism for evil. The harlots made up an organized hierarchy of temple workers who engaged in sacred sex. In the act, a man became a god, worshipped in the arms of the harlot as a representative of the goddess.