1) God valued wine as a sacrificial offering.

“With the one lamb shall be one-tenth of an ephah of flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine as a drink offering. And the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and you shall offer with it the grain offering and the drink offering, as in the morning, for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LordThis shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet you to speak with you.” Exodus 29:40-42


2) God allowed His ministers to consume wine after their service to Him.

“And the priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one unleavened cake from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and put them upon the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his consecrated hair, and the priest shall wave them as a wave offering before the Lord; they are holy for the priest, together with the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering. After that the Nazirite may drink wine.” Numbers 6:19-20

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works. Ecclesiastes 9:7


3) God promised to bless His followers with extra wine.

“Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you.” Deuteronomy 7:12-13


4) Women should not consume alcoholic beverages when they are pregnant.

And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean.”  Judges 13:3-4


5) Alcoholic Beverages should only be consumed in moderation.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. Proverbs 20:1

He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich. Proverbs 21:17

Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink; Who continue until night, till wine inflames them! Isaiah 5:11


6) Wine is a form of medicine.

Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart. Proverbs 31:6

So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. Luke 10:34

No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities. 1 Timothy 5:23


7) Wine is symbolic to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Isaiah 55:1

And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:15-17


8) Religious fanatics falsely accused Jesus Christ of being a drunkard.

“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by all her children.” Luke 7:33-35


9) Will your religious fanaticism keep you from a sincere earthly celebration?

Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” John 2:6-10


10) Will your religious fanaticism keep you from the eternal kingdom of God?

Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:23-25


Warning for those rich in faith toward Jesus Christ:


Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. Romans 14:19-23



Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?

By Michael M. Homan
Biblical Archaeology Review
Sep/Oct 2010

Ancient Israelites, with the possible exception of a few teetotaling Nazirites and their moms, proudly drank beer—and lots of it. Men, women and even children of all social classes drank it. Its consumption in ancient Israel was encouraged, sanctioned and intimately linked with their religion. Even Yahweh, according to the Hebrew Bible, consumed at least half a hin of beer (approximately 2 liters, or a six-pack) per day through the cultic ritual of libation, and he drank even more on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:7–10). People who were sad were advised to drink beer to temporarily erase their troubles (Proverbs 31:6). Yet the Biblical authors also called for moderation. Several passages condemn those who consumed too much beer (Isaiah 5:11, 28:7; Proverbs 20:1, 31:4). The absence of beer defines a melancholy situation, according to Isaiah 24:9.

Beer was a staple in the Israelite diet, just as it was throughout the ancient Near East. Yet a search of most English translations of the Bible will produce few, if any, occurrences of the word “beer.” Ancient Israel’s affinity for beer has largely been ignored. I believe this is for three reasons: (1) confusion about the meaning of the Hebrew word shekhar (שכר), (2) a general snobbery in academia causing scholars to scorn beer drinking while celebrating wine culture, and (3) the unique challenges archaeologists have faced in finding (or identifying) beer remains in the Israelite material record.

In ancient Near Eastern cultures, beer was in many ways a super-food. By producing and drinking beer, one could dramatically multiply the calories in harvested grains while consuming needed vitamins; the alcohol was also effective at killing bacteria found in tainted water supplies. Given the difficulty of producing food in the ancient world, beer gave you a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.

Humans have been making beer for at least 5,000 years, and most likely much longer. Some anthropologists have argued that it was a thirst for beer, rather than a hunger for bread, that led to the Neolithic Revolution (c. 9500–8000 B.C.E.), during which humans gradually abandoned a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in favor of sedentary farming. Beer eventually became a defining characteristic of human culture, much like wearing clothes. Thus in the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, when the wild man Enkidu becomes civilized and enters the world of humans, drinking beer is one of the defining moments:

Enkidu does not know of eating food; of beer [šikaram] to drink he has not been taught. The prostitute opened her mouth. She said to Enkidu, “Eat the food Enkidu, [it is] the luster of life. Drink the beer as is done in this land.” Enkidu ate the food until he was sated; of the beer he drank seven cups. His soul became free and cheerful, his heart rejoiced, his face glowed. He rubbed ... his hairy body. He anointed himself with oil. He became human.

Nobody disputes the importance of beer in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, where it was the national drink. Beer was used to pay laborers and the fathers of brides. It was used medicinally for stomach ailments, coughs, constipation; one ancient Egyptian prescription calls for a beer enema. Hammurabi’s Law Code regulates the price and strength of beer. Many ancient temples had their own brewers. One text from Mari indicates the possible use of beer to induce a prophetic state. There is little doubt that these references are to beer. So there has been much academic attention given to beer in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Two big reasons for the emphasis on beer (compared to wine) in these cultures are climate and agriculture. Grains such as barley can be easily grown throughout the Fertile Crescent, but grapes are harder to produce and can be grown only in certain regions. Due to the type of soils and weather in Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was difficult to grow grapes. They still drank wine, to be sure, but wines in Egypt and Mesopotamia were often imported from areas such as Palestine, Phoenicia and Greece, where grapes grew more easily. Yet even in the wine-producing regions of Canaan, Greece and Rome, the ancient people also produced and drank beer.

Barley, one of the more popular grains for making beer in the ancient world, was (and is) the main ingredient. The Hebrew Bible records barley as one of the most abundant and important crops of ancient Israel. It is one of the seven species of plants with which the Promised Land is blessed (Deuteronomy 8:8). In fact, it was so common that its price was approximately half that of wheat (2 Kings 7:1, 16, 18; cf. Revelation 6:6). There is no doubt that ancient Israel, like its neighbors, planted, harvested and consumed mass quantities of barley.

The process for making beer was different in the ancient world from that used today, and it didn’t include the addition of hops or carbonation. Beer was often produced by creating a bread or cake made from malted barley or wheat. The bread was then placed in water, forming a sweet liquid known as a wort. In a few days, after adding yeast, the carbohydrates would be converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide, which would cause the liquid to bubble, indicating fermentation. Thus the wait from the time it was produced until the time it was consumed would have been only a few days. Moreover, beer did not keep well, so it was made for immediate consumption.

The word from the Hebrew Bible that I translate as “beer” is shekhar (שכר). I believe this is the best translation, based on linguistic and archaeological sources. I am certainly not the only scholar to adopt this translation. Others include Richard E. Friedman, Magen Broshi, Robert G. Boling, Johann Döller and Werner Dommershausen. The most frequent translation of shekhar in English Bibles, however, is “strong drink.” The Jewish Publication Society translation uses ten different English terms for this single Hebrew word: “liquor,” “other liquor,” “drink,” “strong drink,” “any strong drink,” “other strong drink,” “other intoxicant,” “any other intoxicant,” “fermented drink” [with footnote “i.e., wine”], and “drunkards [for drinkers of shekhar].” 

When used as a noun, the word shekhar appears 20 times in the Hebrew Bible. In all but one of these (Numbers 28:7), it stands in parallel to “wine.” Thus, it is similar to wine in that it is fermented and is capable of causing drunkenness, but it is also distinct from wine.

It is hardly surprising that “wine” stands parallel to shekhar in the Hebrew Bible; this is the case in many extra-Biblical texts too. For example, in the Enuma Elish (the Babylonian creation story) the gods drink “wine” and “beer” in the same sitting. In a neo-Assyrian winery at Calah, 11 tablets were found that documented the distribution of “wine” and “beer.” At Ashkelon, a late-seventh-century B.C.E. ostracon records measures of “red wine” and shekhar. Aramaic and Egyptian records keep track of quantities of wine and beer.21 So the parallel usage of “wine” and shekhar [=“beer”] in the Hebrew Bible fits well in this literary context.

One key to understanding shekhar as “beer” is its etymology. The Hebrew word shekhar is clearly derived from Akkadian šikaru (Sumerian KAŠ), which means “barley beer.” The term šikaru references beer at all of the major Akkadian archival centers, including Alalakh, Amarna, Ebla, Emar, Karana, Mari, Nineveh, Nippur, Nuzi and Ras Shamra.

The importance of beer in the ancient Near East can be seen by the fact that, in time, the word for beer came to designate the state of drunkenness. The word for beer became synonymous with inebriation in Akkadian, Aramaic, Ugaritic and Arabic. Similarly in the Egyptian language, “beer” (ḥnqt) was used for general drunkenness. And in the Bible, shekhar is often a verb that means “to get drunk” (e.g., Genesis 9:21; Isaiah 29:9), a parallel linguistic usage that furthers the case for shekhar as “beer.” (This parallel usage has also survived in modern Hebrew: A drunk is a shekhor (שכור), and shekhar (שכר) means beer, although beer is also commonly called simply beera.)

Some have argued that shekhar is actually a fermented wine made from dates rather than barley beer. This argument stems primarily from the belief that certain sandy regions in Israel, including Ashkelon and Jericho, were better suited for date production than for barley. Yet barley remains have been found at both sites, and one need not travel far from such sites to find soil well suited to barley production.

Others have argued for a grape-based shekhar. The primary reason for the idea that shekhar is grape-based stems from the law of the Nazarite:

“He shall separate from wine and shekhar, he shall not drink wine vinegar and shekhar vinegar; and he shall not drink all grape juice and he shall not eat grapes, fresh nor dried. All the days of his separation; from all that is made from the grapevine of wine he shall not eat, from seeds to skins.” (Numbers 6:3–4)

“She will not eat from all that comes from the vine of wine and she shall not drink wine and shekhar.” (Judges 13:14)

Because the authors of Numbers and Judges elaborate on grapes and their products, some have contended that shekhar must be grape-based. Yet nowhere does the text state that shekhar is produced from grapes. The issue here is that the Nazirite and a woman pregnant with a child destined to be a Nazirite (such as Samson and his mother) must not come in contact with alcoholic beverages. The Biblical texts elaborate on grapes because a single grape contains the ingredients necessary to ferment and produce alcohol: sugars, liquid and even yeast. Barley, however, cannot ferment on its own and therefore no elaboration is necessary in the Biblical text as to shekhar.

Ancient alcoholic beverages don’t always fit into neat, distinct categories. Chemical evidence of ancient alcoholic drinks show that they were often mixed concoctions. It would be rare to find products composed solely of barley, wheat, dates or grapes. Dates (where and when available) were perhaps the most frequent additive to beer. But beers were often sweetened also with grapes, sycamore, figs, honey (fruit and bee) and spices. As a general rule, ancient alcoholic drinks are identified by the type of primary sugars used in the fermentation—fruits for wine, cereals for beer.

There is no doubt that ancient Israel loved wine and prized it highly. Wine is more difficult to produce than beer because, unlike growing cereals, which ripen in a few months, viniculture requires permanent fields and social complexity. Over the past 100 years, however, many scholars have inferred that beer drinking is uncivilized—even loutish and uncouth. Some scholars have gone so far as to translate classic ancient Akkadian texts that clearly reference beer (šikaru) with the terms “wine” or “strong drink,” apparently to avoid degrading the esteemed imbibers. This has led many Bible scholars actively to distance Biblical heroes from a beer-drinking world, much like some Christians prefer to believe that Jesus drank unfermented grape juice despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.b William Foxwell Albright called the Philistines “carousers” because of their alcohol-orientated ceramic assemblage. This bad reputation for beer is unfounded in antiquity, and there is even good news lately for modern beer drinkers. The recent revolution of microbreweries, many of which produce brews that rival wine in complexity, means that beer drinkers need no longer feel inferior to wine connoisseurs.

Archaeological evidence of beer making is often hard to come by because most of the tools used in beer production—such as mortars, querns and winnowing baskets—are often linked to bread making, and the possible connection to beer is sometimes overlooked. Indeed the production of bread and beer were intimately linked. The artistic record from ancient Egypt clearly depicts women producing beer at the same time as they made bread. In the ancient world, beer was typically produced by women, most often in domestic contexts. Several ancient texts illustrate the connection between women and beer. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, it was the female prostitute Shamhat who first gives Enkidu beer. Then the tavern keeper Siduri provides Gilgamesh with beer and some advice. Women ran taverns in the ancient world, and these places were associated with music, celebration and, at times, prostitution. The Mesopotamian fertility goddess Ishtar, or Inanna in Sumerian, had close associations with beer. In one poem the goddess’s genitals were described as being as “sweet” as “beer.” Several other female deities were connected with beer production, including the Egyptian goddess Hathor, who was sometimes known as the “Lady of Drunkenness.” In Mesopotamia, where the vast majority of deities associated with trades were male, Ninkasi, the goddess of beer, was female.

Iron Age sites in Israel have recently produced numerous remains, such as beer jugs and bottles, straw-tip strainers and donut-shaped fermentation stoppers, all of which provide evidence of Israelite beer drinking. Fermentation stoppers were used during the production process to seal the opening of the beer-making vessel from impurities, while allowing the resulting gas to escape through the small, cloth-stuffed hole.

The ceramic vessel commonly known as a beer jug, or, more properly, a side-spouted sieve jug, was designed for personal use. Whereas jugs meant for pouring had the spout at 180 degrees from the handle, these “beer jugs” placed the handle 90 degrees to the right of the spout. Thus the consumer would place the spout in his or her mouth while holding the jug with the right hand and then imbibe. The ceramic form is very widespread and was used to consume all sorts of alcoholic beverages. Similar vessels found in the Gordion tombs contained residues of a mixture of beer, wine and mead. The beer was sometimes also drunk from a communal vessel by several drinkers with straws. We have depictions from Egyptian tombs and Mesopotamian seals demonstrating this technique. Like today, drinking beer was often a social activity.

The final piece of evidence demonstrating that ancient Israelites drank beer invokes chemical analysis. Traces of beer are more difficult to detect chemically than wine, however. Because beer was made for immediate consumption, it stayed in jars for a significantly shorter time than wine, which was aged in ceramic vessels to improve the taste. Civilizations typically traded dried cereals and jars of wine rather than jars of beer.

With all that we now know about beer and its important role in the life of the ancient Israelites, I’d like to offer a new interpretation of a famous passage in Ecclesiastes that advises the reader to:

Throw your bread upon the face of the water, because in many days you will acquire it. Give a serving to seven and also eight, because you do not know what evil will be upon the land. (Ecclesiastes 11:1–2)

I believe this is a reference to the cakes of bread used in ancient beer production, as noted earlier. Cast your bread upon the water and it will return as beer. Much like the phrase carpe diem, the author advises making beer and drinking it with friends, because you don’t know what evil might be coming.




Beer and Bible Launches in Mormon Community

By Lillian Kwon
Mar. 24 2010
Christian Post Reporter

There are a few places where you will find non-Mormons in Utah: pubs and coffee shops.

And that's exactly where Pastor Charles Hill has set up camp.

Hill, 36, was at a pub in South Jordan on Monday for the launch of his "Beer and Bible" meeting. It was a soft launch with five people but he expects it to "blow up" in the months ahead, he told The Christian Post.

The meetings are meant to be casual – just common people hanging out in a common place, talking about God and Scripture.

The combination of beer and Bible may not sit well with many Christians but for Hill, it's about going where the non-religious crowd is gathered, building relationships and talking about Jesus.

"We go where the people are like Jesus did, and of course we are criticized," said Hill, who had half a beer Monday night. "This is the hardest place in the country to plant a church. They will not come to us. We have to be Jesus and go to them."

And in a city where some 80 percent of the population is Mormon, it's not likely pub patrons have come across any Christians.

His aim is not to reach only the unchurched. He's not in Utah to "defeat" the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – which is headquartered in Salt Lake City – either.

His mission is simply to reach those who need Jesus, he said.

It's been months since the young pastor left the church he started – New Hope Community Church in Loudonville, Ohio – to answer God's calling in what he says is the most unchurched state in the country.

Less than 10 percent of the state population is Christian and less than 2 percent is evangelical, according to Presbyterian Church in America.

In 24-plus cities in the upper one-third of Utah, not one non-LDS church exists, said Hill. The total population of those cities is projected at 160,000.

"That blows my mind," he wrote in his blog. "But that is why we and our team are here. That’s why we were called to join the work out here and leave it all behind."

Hill hopes to launch a church in September, if God allows. For now, he and his team of "warriors" are sticking to the pubs and other public places to engage people with love and community in Jesus' name.

Pastor Tim Stevens, executive pastor at Granger Community Church in Indiana, says there's nothing innovative about Christians having a spiritual conversation in a bar with someone who isn't yet convinced but doing so in a community where there are zero non-Mormon churches is (innovative).

"You may disagree with the method or location – but these guys’ hearts are in the right place," Stevens wrote in his blog. "They are going to rub shoulders with some people who they would NEVER otherwise reach."

And for those in the area who aren't into beer but may be curious about the Bible or have life questions, Hill is hosting a separate meeting called Alpha, a "10-week gathering that involves a meal, fellowship and discussion of what Christians believe in a very non-threatening way." Alpha launched on Tuesday.

Eventually, the meetings will move into a house or campfire setting to build community but Hill said they will continue to meet in public places once a month "no matter what."

"We will not withdraw from the world in any way," he said.