ALCOHOL BEVERAGES ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE
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 Lord. This
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
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
your bread with joy,
and drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your
works. Ecclesiastes 9:7
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
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
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
those who rise early in the morning,
may follow intoxicating drink;
Who continue until night, till wine inflames them! Isaiah
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
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
Wine is symbolic to the indwelling of
the Holy Spirit.
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.”
And Jesus said to
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
Religious fanatics falsely accused
Jesus Christ of being a drunkard.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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