Wine, one sip of this will bathe the drooping spirits in delight beyond the bliss of dreams. Be wise and taste.
~ John Milton
I think it is a great error to consider a heavy tax on wines as a tax on luxury. On the contrary, it is a tax on the health of our citizens.
~ Thomas Jefferson
We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.
~ Benjamin Franklin
This is what men say about wine, but what does God say about alcohol?
I was raised under the teaching that Scripture condemns the consumption of alcohol. There came a point in my life when I began to examine every teaching and belief in light of the teaching of Scripture. I embarked on a journey to discover what Scripture really taught about this issue. It may very well condemn the consumption of alcohol in any form. That was fine with me, but I wanted to know I was thoroughly biblical in my position on this issue.
Those who are reading this and were taught as I was are more than familiar with such passages as Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” and Proverbs 23:31 “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.”* [one should note that the context of this verse is one of drunkenness, not that it is a sin for one to even see a glass of wine. John Gill states, “not that it is unlawful to look upon the colour of wine, and thereby judge of its goodness; but it should not be looked upon with a greedy eye, so as vehemently to desire it, which will lead to an intemperate use of it; just as looking upon a woman, so as to lust after her, is forbidden, Matthew 5:28; ”]
I must confess that although I have been asked multiple times to voice my stance on alcohol, I have delayed. The reason being I really do not wish for my blog to be the host of a “beer battle”. I realize that no matter which side I come down on concerning this issue there are God-fearing people that take the opposite view and I do not want to stir anyone up to anger. What I have decided to do is to post a few Scriptures clearly speak of fermented wine and provide some commentary throughout.
I will then conclude with sharing my stance on this issue.
*Please note that I realize that every time the word “wine” is used in Scripture it is not always speaking of fermented drink. I am only going to list verses that are clearly speaking of fermented wine or strong drink and give a brief reference to the definition of the word translated in the original languages. Also note that I am not going to list every verse in Scripture as I do not think it is necessary. One can get a proper view of whether Scripture condemns or condones the consumption of fermented wine without knowing every single verse that addresses the issue.
The following verse use the Hebrew #3196 yayin yah’-yin
from an unused root meaning to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by implication, intoxication:–banqueting, wine, wine(-bibber).
It should be clearly evident that the wine mentioned in these verses is not merely grape juice. I would urge also you to read each verse withing context.
Genesis 9:21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
While it is true that Noah was drunk off the wine this verse does not condemn the consumption of alcohol. We must let Scripture condemn it, not the abuse of man. Men abuse food and sex as well as alcohol and we do not condemn the enjoyment of either of those two gifts of God.
Genesis 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
It is worth noting that the priest of the most high God provided fermented wine.
Genesis 27:25 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank.
Here, Abraham’s drinking is not condemned, but presented as a normal, acceptable action.
Genesis 49:12 His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.
Here Abraham is blessing Judah and expressing how God’s favor would manifest itself. Fermented wine is here said to be a blessing from God.
Exodus 29:40 And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering.
Leviticus 23:13 And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.
Numbers 15:5 And the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, for one lamb.
Numbers 15:10 And thou shalt bring for a drink offering half an hin of wine, for an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
In the previous section of verses it should be noted that The LORD is commanding that fermented wine be offered up to Him. We are not to offer God that which is wicked, nor would God command us to do so. Yet here, He commands wine to be offered thus declaring it to be good and pleasing unto Him.
Numbers 6:20 And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine.
God expressly says that after the Nazarite has fulfilled his vow he may partake of fermented wine.
Deuteronomy 14:26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,
The Israelites are told to go purchase wine and strong drink and to partake of it in celebration before The LORD.
Deuteronomy 28:39 Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them.
Here, God says that He will not permit them to drink fermented wine made from the vineyard that they toil in as judgment. God’s not letting them drink fermented wine is part of their judgment that is couples with poor crop production. Fermented wine is clearly a sign of God’s blessing.
Judges 13:4 Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
Judges 13:7 But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.
Judges 13:14 She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.
She was not to drink fermented wine or strong drink during pregnancy as her child was to be a Nazarite from birth and for his life long. Remember, once the vow was fulfilled a Nazarite could drink fermented wine.
2 Samuel 16:2 And the king said unto Ziba, What meanest thou by these? And Ziba said, The asses be for the king’s household to ride on; and the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat; and the wine, that such as be faint in the wilderness may drink.
1 Chronicles 9:29 Some of them also were appointed to oversee the vessels, and all the instruments of the sanctuary, and the fine flour, and the wine, and the oil, and the frankincense, and the spices.
Fermented wine was in the sancturary of God and had a place in worship. This would mean those who were given charge over the wine would have to look on it, as well as those offering it had to look on it. This verse causes one to re-evaluate his interpretation of Prover 23:31 if they hold to the view that God tells us not to merely look at a glass of wine, for it is the very same wine that was here being guarded for the LORD.
1 Chronicles 12:40 Moreover they that were nigh them, even unto Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, and meat, meal, cakes of figs, and bunches of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep abundantly: for there was joy in Israel.
1 Chronicles 27:27 And over the vineyards was Shimei the Ramathite: over the increase of the vineyards for the wine cellars was Zabdi the Shiphmite:
Psalms 104:15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.
Fermented wine is explicitly said to be a gift of God.
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
We are not to be deceived by it. This is not to say that one must not drink it, for we know from the previous Scriptures that fermented wine is a blessing from God and the priests were to offer it to the LORD. We also know Solomon drank wine, and as we will see in future verse, even compared love to it.
Proverbs 23:20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
Proverbs 23:30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Again, wine is not condemned, but the abuse of it is.
Proverbs 23:31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
Don’t lust for fermented wine.
Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
the context here is drinking to the point of drunkenness.
Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
Song of Solomon 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
Song of Solomon 1:4 Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.
Song of Solomon 2:4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
Song of Solomon 4:10 How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!
Song of Solomon 5:1 I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
Song of Solomon 7:9 And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.
Song of Solomon 8:2 I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.
Isaiah 5:11 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
Again, drunkenness is condemned, not merely consuming it.
Isaiah 16:10 And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease.
The lack of fermented wine is a sign of God’s judgement.
Isaiah 24:9 They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.
Isaiah 24:11 There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone.
Isaiah 28:7 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
They erred, not in drinking, but drinking to excess.
Isaiah 55:1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Here is a gospel plea. Eternal life is compared to fermented wine.
Zephaniah 1:13 Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.
Again, God denies people the pleasure of fermented wine as a form of judgement.
Now for a few New Testament referrences.
The N.T. Greek word is #3631 oinos oy’-nos
a primary word (or perhaps of Hebrew origin (3196)); “wine” (literally or figuratively):–wine.
See Hebrew 3196
Notice that it points back to the same word as we just finished viewing the Old Testament usage of.
Matthew 9:17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
Luke 7:33-34 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
Jesus drank fermented wine and was falsely accused of being a drunkard.
Luke 10:34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
Fermented wine has healing properties.
John 2:3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
John 2:9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
John 2:10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
Some say this was not fermented wine (AKA grape juice). There is nothing in the context to say so and we have already seen where Jesus drank fermented wine. The O.T. Has established that the abundance of wine was a sign of God’s blessing as well as using it as a picture of the beauty of the gospel.
Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
No one stumbles over a Christian drinking grape juice. Paul is not condemning the consumption of alcohol, rather he is saying not to enjoy wine in the presence of a weaker brother.
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Again, the abuse of wine is condemned, not the consumption of it.
1 Timothy 3:8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
Deacons are not to be drunkards
1 Timothy 5:23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.
Fermented wine is good for medicinal reasons.
Titus 2:3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
Godly women consume fermented wine in moderation not excess.
It should be apparent from the passages listed that wine is not condemned in Scripture. From the Old Testament and into the New Testament, fermented wine is seen to be a blessing from God and a thing to be enjoyed in moderation. Now having said that, I do not think it is necessary or good for everyone to drink. Per Romans 14, if you have scruples about it in your conscience then do not partake of alcohol. My only warning would be for those who choose this option not to condemn your brother who does enjoy his God given liberty in consuming alcohol in moderation. It is my opinion that those who try to depict alcohol as “the devil’s brew” instead of a gift from God are misrepresenting the teaching of Scripture as well as calling good evil. They miss some of the strongest illustrative references to the power of the gospel as well as place unbiblical rules on other believers. Let us make sure we are not trying to be more holy than Jesus.
PS. Some of you may have noticed that I quoted from the KJV. I have done this as I am certain that many who read this post and find themselves on the side that believes Scripture condemns the consumption of alcohol will also happen to exclusively use the KJV. I hope that by reading these passages in their favored translation it will help them process what is presented a bit more easily.