Some of the Hebrew words in this lesson are verbs and some are nouns. The verbs are action words; they tell us something about the winemaking or the wine itself. Treading, mixing and foaming are examples. The Hebrew nouns are names of different kinds of wine.
I. ASAS AND ASIS: FRESH JUICE IN THE MILLENNIUM
The word asas, a verb, is used one time in Malachi 4:3. It means treading down. “And you will tread down the wicked.” Asas gives the idea of treading grapes.
Asis, a noun, appears five times in the Old Testament. The King James Bible calls it new wine or spiced wine; it means freshly pressed out juice. Song of Solomon, Isaiah and Amos each use this word one time; Joel uses it two times.
Asis Is Fresh Juice in Five Bible Verses
Song of Solomon 8:2 in Dr. Teachout's translation is, “I would give you some mixed grape juice (asis)to drink, even some mixed with the juice of my pomegranates.” 1
In Isaiah 49:26, the Bible plainly calls asis sweet wine or grape juice in the King James version. But when we read the verse we think asis is intoxicating because of the word drunk. The verse says, “And they shall become drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine.” A better translation is, “And they shall drink copiously (be filled up) of their own blood as if it were fresh juice.” 2
Joel 1 tells us that God sent the palmerworm, the locust, the cankerworm and the caterpillar to destroy Israel's crops. In verse 5, Joel cries out,
Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; And wail all ye drinkers of wine ( yayin), because
of the new wine (asis); for it is cut off from your mouth.
Since the grape juice is cut off, the drinkers have no way of making intoxicating yayin. Verses 7 and 12 say that the vines themselves are destroyed. “He hath laid my vine waste... The vine is dried up....” When the vines are gone, verse 10, “...the new wine (tirosh or fresh grape juice) is dried up.”
Joel 3:18 and Amos 9:13 promise that God will bless His people with grape juice in the millennium, the 1000 years when the Lord rules.
The mountains shall drop down fresh juice (asis), Joel 3:18.
Behold the days shall come... that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the
treader of grapes him that soweth seed, and the mountains shall drop down grape
juice (asis)..., Amos 9:13.
II. HAMAR, HEMER, ARAMAIC HAMAR: HAND ON A WALL
Hamar is a Hebrew verb. Two nouns related to hamar, Hebrew hemer and Aramaic hamar are names of grape beverages.
Hamar Means to Foam
Hamar , a Hebrew verb, means to foam or to ferment. In Psalm 46:3, water is foaming: “Though its waters roar and foam (hamar).” Fresh juice foams as it goes into the vat.
One time in the Bible hamar and yayin appear together. In Psalm 75:8, hamar describes alcoholic yayin.
For a cup is in the hand of Yahweh (God), and the wine (yayin) foams (hamar)... the
wicked of the earth shall drink....
The King James Bible says the wine is red. Red is hamar or “foaming.” God makes alcoholic foaming yayin a picture of the wrath He gives to the wicked as their drink.
Hemer Is Grape Juice in the Bible
Hemer, a Hebrew name for a grape beverage, comes from a root word that can mean either fresh juice or fermented wine. The Old Testament uses hemer two times, once in Deuteronomy and once in Isaiah. Both times it is fresh grape juice.
Deuteronomy 32:12 – 14 and Isaiah 27:2,3,6, tell about planting a vineyard and God's blessing on the grape juice that comes from it.
So the Lord alone did lead him (Israel)... that he might eat the increase of the fields...
And thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape (hemer - grape juice),
In that day sing unto her (Israel), a vineyard of red wine (hemer - grape juice). I the
Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment. Lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and
day, Isaiah 27.
The Aramaic Word Hamar Is Like Hebrew Hemer and Hebrew Yayin
Parts of the books of Daniel and Ezra were written in Aramaic, not in Hebrew. Aramaic, the ancient language of Syria, was very similar to Hebrew. Both Daniel and Ezra used the Aramaic word hamar in their writing.
Aramaic hamar, like the Hebrew words yayin and hemer, can mean either fermented wine or grape juice. But unlike Hebrew hemer which, as used in the Bible, only means fresh juice, Aramaic hamar means fresh juice in Ezra and intoxicating wine in Daniel.
In Ezra 6:9,10 and Ezra 7:21 – 23, Aramaic hamar is grape juice. God required grape juice in the sacrifices to Him. King Artaxerxes wanted to please God when he provided all that was needed for the sacrifices, even down to the salt. He sent “...bullocks, and rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, grape juice (hamar) and oil... that they may offer sacrifices of sweet savors unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.” In Ezra 7, the king said he was sending a hundred measures of wheat (1000 bushels), a hundred baths (900 gallons) of grape juice (hamar) and 100 baths (900 gallons) of oil and as much salt as necessary.
In Daniel 5, Aramaic hamar is intoxicating wine. Daniel 5 tells the story of Belshazzar and his great feast. In verses 1,2,4, and 23, hamar is clearly intoxicating. After drinking some hamar, Belshazzar, inflamed with the taste of the wine, became very bold. He ordered his servants to bring out the gold and silver vessels his grandfather had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. Then he invited his guests to drink wine (hamar) from these cups or bowls, and they did. Verse six says,
They drank wine (hamar - intoxicating wine), and praised the gods of gold, and of
silver, of bronze, of iron, of wood, and of stone.
In the same hour the fingers of a man's hand wrote a message for the king on the wall. While Belshazzer's knees were knocking together, Daniel translated the message from God. God was finished with the great Babylonian empire. That night Belshazzar was killed and the Medes and Persians took over the country.
Both Aramaic hamar and Hebrew yayin, show themselves to have two meanings by their context in the Bible.
III. MASAK, MIMSAK, MESEK: MIXED AND DILUTED WINE
Masak Is Mixing
Masak is a Hebrew verb; it appears five times in the Old Testament. It means a mixing of a beverage.
Masak is used in two verses with grape juice and the mixed beverage is a blessing. Three times it describes a drink that brings harm or sadness.
Mixed Drink That Brings Harm or Sadness
Isaiah 5:22 says, “Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine (yayin), and valiant men in (masak) mixing wine (shekar).” The context of the yayin and shekar in this verse shows that these beverages are intoxicating. What is mixed with the intoxicating drink? The Bible does not tell us. It may be spices or could it be drugs? Whatever it is, it cannot be water. Water would dilute the harmful effect of the alcoholic wine and in this verse those harmful effects are not diluted. The drinkers, Isaiah says, call evil good and good evil, and they take bribes from the wicked. They cast away the law of the LORD of hosts..., Isaiah 5:20,23,24.
In Isaiah 19:14. God pictures His judgment on Egypt.
The LORD has mingled (mixed - masak) a perverse spirit in the midst of... Egypt...
causing Egypt to err in every work... as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.
Egypt has lost good judgment and staggers in vomit because God has made her drink the mixed wine of a perverse spirit. 3
Psalm 102:9,10 says, “I have mingled (masak - mixed) my drink with weeping, because of thine indignation and wrath.” We don't know what drink is mixed, but the psalmist is sad.
Mixed Drink That Is a Blessing
Two references to mixing (masak) say it makes the beverage a blessing. In Proverbs 9:2 and 5, wisdom mingles (masak) her grape juice (yayin). She calls the simple to drink her mixed grape juice and to get understanding. The mixture might be grape juice and pomegranate juice, or the mixing might just mean stirring the grape juice. It could also mean mixing a thick preserved grape juice with water.
Wisdom in these verses is not diluting intoxicating wine with water. The diluted drink would still contain ethyl alcohol. She offers grape juice because God approves of it. No drink with alcohol gives understanding or power to think.
The Claim That Diluted Alcohol Is Approved by God
Boiled down grape juice was a concentrate that ancient people diluted or reconstituted with water. But alcoholic wine is not a thick sweet juice. It is just alcoholic drink.
In recent years Christians who believe all wine in the Bible is intoxicating have printed articles saying that the wine God approves of is diluted wine. For example, when God offers mixed wine in Proverbs 9:2 and 5, they consider this to be alcoholic wine diluted or mixed with water.
The problem about wine in the Bible seems, for them, to be easily solved. All wine is alcoholic but God approves of it if it is diluted with water. If it is not diluted He does not approve of it. They believe drunkenness is prevented with diluted wine. Their theory says the drinker fills up with weak wine before he gets enough alcohol to get staggering drunk. 4
The argument that God approves of diluted alcoholic wine is not a valid argument for several reasons.
a) All the proof that diluting alcoholic wine was a common practice comes from outside
the Bible. The Greeks and Romans, and Jews too, who lived in pre-New Testament
times did dilute intoxicating wine. But the Old Testament, Dr. Teachout says, gives no
evidence at all to support the argument that water was mixed with wine to make it less
b) In the Old Testament God approves of mixed yayin in some verses and disapproves
of mixed yayin in others. That is to be expected since yayin has two meanings. The
evidence shows that God is speaking of two different kinds of wine. One is mixed
fermented wine and the other is mixed grape juice. He is not talking about one kind of
drink (fermented) and saying that whatever is mixed in with it makes it good or bad. 5
Water does not make ethyl alcohol good.
c) Isaiah 1:22 stands directly against the argument that water added to wine makes the
wine good in God's sight. In this verse God tells the people the wine becomes worthless
when they have to dilute it with water. “Thy silver has become dross, thy wine (sobe)
mixed with water.”
We will study more about Isaiah 1:22 later in this lesson.
Mimsak and Mesek Are Names of Mixed Wines
Mimsak and mesek are Hebrew nouns related to masak. Each time these words are used in the Bible they are mixed wines that are evil in God's sight.
Mimsak appears two times in the Old Testament. In Proverbs 23:29,30 it is mixed drink or mixed intoxicant. Dr. Teachout translates these verses like this:
To whom is distress? ...misery? ...quarreling? ...To those who regularly prolong their
drinking of wine (yayin); To those who go about searching diligently for any available
mixed intoxicant (mimsak).
Isaiah 65:11,12, says that those who forsake the Lord and fill cups (make a drink offering) with mixed wine (mimsak) for Destiny (pagan gods) will be destined for the sword. 6
Mesek occurs only in Psalm 75:8. The foaming yayin has an evil mixture in it.
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine (yayin) is red (foaming -
hamar); it is full of mixture (mesek)... all the wicked of the earth... shall drink...
The Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek during the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. The Greek words for the Hebrew “full of mixture” in Psalm 75:8, Dr. Teachout says, should probably be read, “full of mixed but undiluted wine.” The translators wanted to make sure the readers would not think “full of mixture” was simply wine mixed with water to dilute it. Whatever was added to the yayin made it more deadly.
Summary of Mixed Wine
In the Bible, mixed wine (yayin) can either be helpful (Proverbs 9:2,5) or harmful (Psalm 75:8).
If alcoholic yayin is used the drink is harmful. If grape juice yayin is mixed with other juices or if boiled down grape juice is mixed with water the drink is healthful.
Mixed shekar in Isaiah 5:22 is harmful. Mimsak, a mixed intoxicating drink, is harmful in Proverbs 23 and Isaiah 65. Mesek, another mixed drink, is harmful in Psalm 75.
The Bible does not teach that God approves of alcoholic drinks if they are diluted with water. Dr. Teachout tells us that the standard lexicon, F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, eds., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, on page 587, “observed many years ago that the mixing of wine with water is a later custom than that found in the Old Testament.” He himself has found no evidence in the Old Testament to support any practice of diluting intoxicating wine with water to make it less intoxicating. The evidence he has found, such as in Isaiah 1:22 and in verses about harmful mixtures, is evidence against this practice.
Even though someone might make a logical case to try to convince us that alcoholic wine was mixed with water how could they say God approved of that wine? Nowhere in the Bible does God say He approves of such a drink.
IV. SABA AND SOBE: GRAPE JUICE DILUTED WITH WATER
Saba : Drunken Drinking
Saba is a Hebrew verb that means to drink deeply. In the Old Testament it is drinking deeply of intoxicating drink.
Dr. Teachout has translated Isaiah 56:12 where the word saba is used this way:
Come, says each one, I will get the wine (yayin). And let us drink deeply (saba) of
strong drink (shekar); And tomorrow will be like today. Yea, it will be greater by far!
Nahum 1:10 describes the sad end of those who are drunken with their drink. The New American Standard Bible says, “Like tangled thorns, and like those who are drunken (saba) with their drink (sobe), they are consumed as stubble completely withered.”
In Deuteronomy 21:20 parents tell the elders of the city, “This son of ours... is a glutton and a drunkard (saba).” And in Proverbs 23:20,21 God says, “Do not be with heavy drinkers (saba) of wine (yayin) or with gluttonous eaters of meat, for the heavy drinker (saba) and the glutton will come to poverty.”
It is a blessing of God to drink deeply until satisfied if you are drinking what is good. Another word, (shakar), is used for drinking deeply of love in Song of Solomon 5:1, “Drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved.” But drinking deeply of an intoxicant is sin.
Sobe's Two Meanings: Alcoholic Wine and Sweet Juice
Sobe is a Hebrew noun linked to saba. Three times in the Old Testament it is the name of a beverage. What the beverage is exactly the Bible does not say. Two times it is alcoholic.
In Nahum 1:10, a verse we read when we studied saba, the drink sobe is intoxicating. In Hosea 4:18 we can see by the context that it is also intoxicating. Dr. Teachout translates Hosea 4:18 like this:
“Their drink (sobe) has turned them aside, They prostitute themselves continually; Their
rulers dearly love dishonor.” 7
Isaiah 1:22 is the third verse with sobe. Isaiah reveals what is going on in Jerusalem.
How the faithful city has become a harlot,
She who was full of justice!
Righteousness once lodged in her,
But now murderers.
Your silver has become dross,
Your drink (sobe) diluted with water.
In the King James Bible the word “diluted” is “mixed.” This “mixed” is not masak. It is another Hebrew word that means to cut down, reduce or dilute.
Isaiah is listing good things that have been destroyed. Righteousness and justice have disappeared from Jerusalem, and the silver is worthless. The good sobe too is ruined. Since God never calls any alcoholic drink good, sobe, Dr. Teachout says, must be understood as fresh juice in Isaiah 1:22.
The sobe is diluted. Adding water to this fresh grape juice is not a blessing but a tragedy. Grape juice loses its nutritional value and its taste when diluted. Because of Israel's sin, the land that had been blessed by God with abundant grape juice now has to dilute the harvest juice so everyone can have some.
Remember the argument that all wine is intoxicating and that the wine God approves of is diluted intoxicating wine? If all wine is intoxicating then sobe would be intoxicating in Isaiah 1:22. God should be approving the diluting of it. Adding water to intoxicating wine, according to the argument, makes it better. But God is not approving the diluting with water in Isaiah 1:22. He calls it a disaster. That is because the sobe is grape juice and the diluting is destroying the quality of the juice.
V. ASHISHAH: A CAKE OF RAISINS
Ashishah is a type of fruit-cake, probably a cake of pressed grapes or raisins. 8 We mention this word because the old King James version translates it as some kind of drink. II Samuel 6:19, I Chronicles 16:3 and Hosea 3:1 call it flagons (bottles) of wine. For example, I Chronicles 16:3 says David gave “everyone a loaf of bread, a good piece of flesh and a flagon (bottle) of wine.” Song of Solomon 2:5 says flagon.
The new King James Bible translates ashishah as “cakes of raisins.” I Chronicles 16:3 in this Bible says that David gave “everyone a loaf of bread, a portion of meat and a cake of raisins.”
VI. MAMTAQQIM: DRINK THE SWEET
Mamtaqqim comes from the word to suck, and stands for sweetness. In Song of Solomon 5:16, the Bible says, “His mouth is most sweet,” and Nehemiah 8:10 tells the people to “eat the fat and drink the sweet.”
1. Dr. Robert Teachout, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, Doctoral Dissertation for Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979, pp. 159,160. In Song of Solomon 8:2, “mixed grape juice” seems to be a poetic parallel to “juice of my pomegranates.” Both phrases could refer to the same beverage, grape and pomegranate juices mixed together. The New American Standard Bible translates this verse, “I would give you spiced juice to drink from the juice of my pomegranates.”
2. Ibid., p.160.
3. Ibid., p.168.
4. Ibid., p.170. A viewpoint presented by Robert Stein in Christianity Today, 19:19, June 20,1975:9-11. Dr. Teachout also states in footnote 2 that another author “is wrong in assuming that biblical Hebrew uses any word to denote wine mixed with water.”
5. Ibid., pp.171,174.
6. Ibid., p.172.
7. Ibid., p.177.
8. Dr. William Patton, Bible Wines, Sane Press, Olka. City, p.61.