The Bible and Alcohol
Today even 12 year olds in some countries buy alcohol beverages. The law on the legal drinking age varies from one country to another. Beer is increasing by 150% and drinks by 40 % meanwhile the population is increasing by only 45%. Alcohol consumptions stagnating and even dropping in industrialized countries, but it is skyrocketing in developing countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa where new brands of beers are coming out almost every year. It is predicted that in 20 years, the production of beer will grow by 200% in Latin America, 400%, in Africa, and 500% in Asia.
Alcohol is used differently in both worlds. In the developed world, alcohol is generally used for comfort; meanwhile, in the poor countries, it is generally used to alleviate misery. Yet, it affects all levels of the society whereby many have been addicted. Again, the differences in developed countries with dealing with the problems is dissimilar from those of the underdeveloped country. The rich countries like Germany put alcoholics on benefits because they consider it a disease that has handicapped and made them non-functional; meanwhile, their counterparts in the poor countries have name-calling and shame as their wage. It would be preferable for someone to be an alcoholic in the western world because he or she will earn benefits than to be one in Africa where you will sleep in the gutter a couple of times and be singing “ who slept with your mother? It’s me!”
A one-time survey confirmed that acoholisation is principally a masculine business. More than one-half of women do not drink, but 90% of them take at most two bottles a day. On the other hand, in Germany, smoking seems the handiwork of the women. Surveys have also revealed that 42% of great toxicomans started with marijuana, and 29% by alcoholic drunkenness. All surveys from Montreal Review show that youths use and abuse beer or drinks. Opinion polls show half of 12-19 years have consumed alcohol and at least once each month or once the last month preceding the survey. According to another study, ½ of adolescents between 15-17 years were excessively drinkers or dependants, 40% were social drinkers, and only ¼ abstinents. According to a renowned psychiatrist, alcoholism is the source of drug leading to toxicommania. This shows how alcohol is a human problem and must be treated with urgency.
I believe that neither prohibition nor abstinence of all sorts will be the solution because even things that are illegal are still being used. I believe people should be set face to face with the facts and truth about alcoholism. That’s the raison d’etre of this lesson.
Definition and etymology
In Israel and the Bible, there were three types of wines.
1) New wine/ tiros/ (Hebrew) Gleukos (Greek). Acts 2:13; Jn 2:3. It was called new wine because it was sweet and unfermented; as such, it had a low percentage of alcohol. That means, it was still alcoholic. New wine was the first drippings of the juice before the winepress was trodden. This is the same wine that Jesus made from water. Take note of the name and type.
2) Wine /yayin/ (Hebrew) /Oinos/ (Greek) Prov. 20:1. This type of wine was gotten from trodding the chaffs from the wine press and which could stay or ferment for some days. This was called at times “trodden wine” because it was tapped from winepress and after the wine has been extracted, then the chaffs from the winepress were trodden upon to produce wine. It is similar to the way Manyu people made palm oil in the early 70s and late 80s.
3) Strong drink /sekar/ Hebrew and /sikera/ (Greek) Lk. 1:15. This was wine that has been distilled through a local brewery method and could be termed today odontol, Arki, Gin or liqueur.
Part 2 Disadvantages of heavy drinking
1) Expenditures without income.
In the Western countries, almost 25 billion dollars are spent on alcoholic drinks. 20 Billions registered as a lost due to the consumption of alcohol. There are also about 95 or more millions drinkers of alcohol below the age of 15.
2) Cause of crime
Half of crimes including broken homes, ¼ of suicide cases, and half of road accidents are caused by heavy alcoholic drinking.
3) Destroys and stagnates input.
Statistics show that 175,000 people absent from their job sites as a consequences of alcohol. Drinkers experience too many job side accidents more than abstinents (non drinkers).
4) Physiological damage
After drinking alcohol moderately, we register a drop in our vision and dexterity in our reflexes. That means people are telling lies when they say that alcohol stimulates and boosts the body heat. Alcohol also deteriorates the cell of our bodies. This can cause liver cirrhoses and excessive weight. It relaxes the blood vessels in the epidermis thereby reducing the heat in our bodies.
In considering some of the above effects, people find it wise to say that the Bible objects to the drinking of alcohol. I will present a couple of those verses and their interpretations. The question is why did God accept the use of alcohol knowing fully well of its effects?
The Bible mentions wine 200 times. Listen to me again: the Bible mentions wine 200 times. The usage varies from testament to testament. In the Old Testament (OT), we read that Melchizedek who was regarded as the prototype of Christ gave wine and bread to Abraham for tithes (Gen 14:18). Israelites brought wine, and God accepted it as an offering (Num 18:12). God commanded them to buy wine (Deut. 14:26). Solomon tells us that God blessed them with wine (Prov. 3:10). There are various reasons why people in the OT used wine. They used wine because wine made the heart of man merry (Ps.104:5) and brought merriment in feasts (Eccl. 10:19). One quick thought arises here. If wine per se was bad, then God will not ask anybody to touch, drink or offer it. Why has He not authorized any form of witchcraft or illicit sex?
The role of the wine taster (Gen 40:1-3; Neh 2:1). He was a man trusted by pharaoh who could be like a protocol officer today. The wine taster would tastes all the king’s food and drinks to see if it was poisoned before it was given to him. We do not see that same practice in the New Testament (NT). However, the usage of wine in the NT differs a bit from that of the OT in that it was used more than just for recreational reasons. Wine was used for merriment (Jn 2:1-10) too. It was used for didacticism (Mt. 9:17). It was used for socialization (Mt. 11:19; Lk. 7:34). Here again is very troubling because the Master Jesus is accused of it by his own personal inference. It even goes further when Jesus calls himself a winebibber in the words of the Pharisees and scribes. Wine was also used as medicine for the stomach (5:23). Now a quick question. Could and would the apostle Paul ask another Christian to commit fornication for their back pain?
Among the 200 verses mentioning wine, only one cautions against drinking wine. However, I will treat the most frequently quoted verses against the consumption of alcohol. As such, we would conduct a serious exegesis on some of those polemical verses. Remember that to perform a good hermeneutics, one has to do a proper exegesis and horizontal studies while scanning the language and culture. That is what we call dynamic equivalence and an expository teaching. So slowly let’s go!
1) Leviticus 10:9-10
And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, 9 Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: 10 And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; 11 And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.
Neither the priests nor their descendants could drink wine or liquor when they were going into the Tabernacle in order to prevent their senses from being dulled as they offered sacrifices or taught the people. Nothing is said of prohibiting them alcohol in their daily life. More so, this was a religious law and not a moral law. Let me quickly show the difference between the two. The difference between the Ten Commandments which we generally call Moral law and Mosaic Law (religious, ceremonial and civil) is that, the moral law was given to Moses as a microcosm of Man. Meanwhile, the Mosaic Law was given to Moses as a microcosm of Israel. Therefore, the Mosaic Law bound a given people and culture. It loses its strength when transcending other cultures. In case of assimilation, it becomes ethnocentric, that could lead to acculturation of the adopter. For that reason, proper hermeneutics beckons a thorough exegesis. For example, an American woman who delivers a male child does no more become unclean because it was given to Jewish women alone (Lev. 12:2) and not all women on earth, whereas the injunction not to kill is for both Jews and Gentiles. More so, Moral Law is not relative; whereas, Mosaic Law is. In addition, considering that moral law is part of God, it does not abrogate (Mt 5:17-19); meanwhile, Mosaic Law does because each individual must enter into covenant with God (Mt 22:32).
No doubt with the death of Christ all Christians become priests and enter into the holy of holies daily. Yet, it is because of the His death that, the ceremonial law was abolished. As such, we are no more under ceremonial laws like this one. Our worship is no more physical into the spiritual but spiritually direct. If we bring back this same principle then we have to bring back that of women not appearing before the Lord when they were seeing their periods. You don’t want that do you?
This is the only verse where the Bible cautions against drinking alcohol and it was just for the time they were going into the tabernacle. Meaning, when they were not involved with religious activities they could drink.
2) Jeremiah 35:1-5 ( sons of the rechabites)
The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, 2 Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink. 3 Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites; 4 And I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door: 5 And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.
This was a tribe that existed since the time of Moses. They adhered to ascetism through out their expeditions. They were a group of Arabs among refugees from neighboring country who sought asylum within the walls of Jerusalem. They believed wholeheartedly to the doctrines of Jonadab some 300 years ago on abstinence of wine. The main idea was that as pilgrims they should not be given to wine less they strike their roots too deep and forget their way back home. While the rest of the nation was breaking the covenant of commitment, they remained faithful and steadfast to theirs. It had little or nothing to do with the evil of wine. It was because of their vision and assignment.
In this passage, the people took upon themselves to maintain their tradition. It was not God ordained or to an extent the Bible is mute.
3) Habakkuk 2:15)
Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
Here the condemnation was on Babylonian violence. She deceived her neighbors with wine, stripped them of all their wealth which is the same like individuals who gave people wine, made them drunk so that they can take advantage of them sexually. An example is that of Lot and his daughters (Gen 19:33). Remember the evil in this verse is on the intention and not the subject.
All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk? 5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. Abstinence from wine by the Nazarite was for clarity and differentiation when engaged in the service of the Lord. It was for those who made the vow to serve the Lord as liberators. The extension to grape products would symbolize all sensual enjoyments by which holiness could be impaired. Today it would be staying away from any external stimulation other than the Holy Spirit.
N.B. Questions or challenges only after part 5
PA Hamilton Ayuk
Prov 20:1; 23:20; 31:4-7’
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. 6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. 7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
In all three passages, phrases like “deceived thereby is not wise, winebibber, drunkard shall come to poverty, drink to forget the law”, all denote abuse or drunkenness and not mere drinking wine per se. As you very well know, strong drink will influence people with immediate promises of happiness and in an instant turns to mock at them in their behaviors or even making them slaves in their misery. It may promise strength for the arm, joy for the heart, brilliance for the mind but those promises are not kept and the end is impotence, misery and imbecility.
According to the mother of Lemuel, drunkenness might be understandable among unbelievers who are on the brink of death, but it is inexcusable for national leaders because alcohol clouds the mind and can lead to injustice and poor decision. We must recall that wine was a form of soporific or anesthesia in their days. Leaders have better things to do than anesthetize themselves with alcohol. In direct reference, the logic that since man cannot control himself when he drinks a glass of wine, alcohol beverages should then be banned is really pretentious and unfounded. Despite the many case of adultery, fornication, no one has suggested the banning of sex. Despite the numerous cases against McDonald for obesity, no one has suggested the prohibition of eating.
In 2004, the US accused Mexico for helping infiltrate drugs into their country. The Mexican president replied with “tell your people to curb their appetite”. If each person would curb his or her appetite, then the problem of excess will never exist. We have fought cases of counterfeits and yet the department of treasury has never suggested the banning of money. There are many false churches and doctrines in the world, yet we have not campaigned to ban the existence of churches. Don’t you think the best way to cure the existence of false doctrines and churches would be to ban the existence of churches entirely? Don’t you think the solution to counterfeits would be to stop using money entirely? Or may be the solution to lack of proper governments in most African countries would be to ban all governments entirely.
I believe in the scriptures that says do not eat if your brother will stumble “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” (Rom. 14:21). However, he has to grow up. I am conscious all is permitted and not all is useful (I Cor. 6:12; 10:23-24) because we want to do everything for the glory of God (I Cor 10:31). Paul admonishes the Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit and not be drunk (Eph. 5:18). Take note of the word drunk. It is not drink. Therefore, if anyone should abstain from alcohol, their argument should be that either it is not good for their system or they don’t like it, but it is not because the Bible interdicts it.
Until then, wine per se is not the problem but drunkenness is.
Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk