Does God approve of intoxicating beverages? We say, “No.” In any debate about the use of alcohol in the Bible, tirosh is a word of primary importance to us.
I. TIROSH IS ALWAYS FRESH JUICE
Tirosh is fresh juice. In the English Bible, tirosh is normally called “wine.” It appears thirty-eight times in sixteen books. Because it is used so often in verses that show clearly what it means, this word is important proof of God's choice of grape juice for His people.
Dr. Teachout studied all the passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that named tirosh. After his study, he wrote four general conclusions about tirosh in Old Testament times. 1
a) Tirosh always means fresh, pure grape juice.
b) Tirosh is the one word beside the word for grape that is particularly used at grape
c) Tirosh was stored for longer periods of time (at least for some months) just like
other products from the garden or field.
d) The word tirosh stands for the raw material, the juice that has not yet been made
into a special product. It is the stored juice, not the beverage ready to drink. When the
juice was poured out to drink, it was called yayin. There is no reason to believe that the
tirosh had been fermented just because the word yayin was used. When people talked
about the harvest they used tirosh; when they talked about the grape juice drink they
What argument do those who favor alcoholic wine use against these conclusions? They link Acts 2:13 with Hosea 4:11 in an effort to prove that tirosh is alcoholic. How can we answer their argument? Dr. Teachout says the evidence to support their view is very weak.2
II. ACTS 2:13 IN THE ARGUMENT FOR ALCOHOLIC TIROSH
Acts 2:13 uses the Greek word gleukos. Gleukos is never alcoholic. It means sweet new wine, grape juice and sweetness. In English, gleukos is “new wine” or unfermented grape juice.
Since the mockers of the Christians said in Acts 2:13, “They are full of new wine (gleukos),” some Bible scholars say gleukos has to be intoxicating in this verse. They argue that the mockers said the Christians were drunk.
Then they build their argument to include tirosh. Tirosh is the Old Testament word for new wine. If gleukos or new wine is intoxicating in Acts 2:13 in the New Testament, they say, then tirosh or new wine is also intoxicating in a verse like Hosea 4:11 in the Old Testament.
What was happening in Acts 2:13? The mockers knew the testimony of the followers of Jesus. They made a sarcastic mocking remark to make fun of the Christians, “These men are full of new wine (gleukos).” Dr. Teachout translates it, “They have had too much grape juice to drink!” 3
The accusations of the mockers against the followers of Jesus do not change the meaning of gleukos. Also, Dr. Teachout points out, the meaning of the Old Testament word tirosh must be found in the Old Testament. An understanding of tirosh cannot be based upon a New Testament verse that is not a context of the word.
III. HOSEA 4 IN THE ARGUMENT FOR ALCOHOLIC TIROSH
People who argue that tirosh can be intoxicating use Hosea 4:11 to prove they are right. The verse appears to be a good argument for their side. It is an Old Testament verse, and it seems to say that God disapproves of tirosh.
Hosea 4:11,12 in the New American Standard Bible says,
Harlotry, wine (yayin) and new wine (tirosh) take away the understanding. (The King
James Bible says “take away the heart.”) My people consult their wooden idol, and their
diviner's wand informs them; for a spirit of harlotry has led them astray and they have
played the harlot, departing from their God.
Is new wine or tirosh intoxicating in Hosea 4:11?
Since tirosh means unfermented grape juice thirty-seven times in the Old Testament, we would expect it to mean grape juice in Hosea 4:11 too. If we just read the verse without studying the context, we might think tirosh would have to be intoxicating to take away the understanding or the heart. But we should first see if it is possible for grape juice to fit the verse. Dr. Teachout says it does.4
Hosea 2 Is the Context for Hosea 4
Hosea mentions tirosh six times in his short book. This is more than any other book except Deuteronomy where it is found seven times. The word tirosh must be understood in the light of the whole book of Hosea, and not just from one verse.
The vineyard is very important in Hosea, especially in chapter two, the context for chapter four. The people of Israel had disobeyed God and allowed the Canaanites to live with them. They even worhipped Baal, the Canaanite god. In Hosea 2:5, Israel says,
I will go after my lovers who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax,
my oil and my drink (siqquy, the word for drink).
What is the drink? When God answers Israel in verses 8 and 9, He calls the drink tirosh or grape juice. The people are so “into” Baal worship they think they must worship Baal to get their bread, water, wool, flax, oil and drink. Their allegiance (loyalty) is to Baal.
This terrible turning away from God causes Him to warn Israel in His answer to them in Hosea 2:8,9:
For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the grape juice (tirosh) and
the oil, and lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. Therefore, I will
take back My grain at harvest time and My grape juice (tirosh) in its season. I will also
take away My wool and My flax given to cover her nakedness.
There was nothing wrong with the grain, grape juice, oil, gold, silver, wool and flax the people received. What was wrong was that they gave Baal the credit for them. They worshipped Baal and not God.
In Hosea 2:11 and 12, God says He will put an end to their gaiety and destroy the vines and fig trees. In verses 6 and 7, He says He will block their way with a thorn hedge so they cannot find their old lifestyle. He will fence them out of the vineyard and remove by force the good things they enjoyed before. 5
God expects to see a change in the people when they see that Baal cannot help them. Dr. Teachout translates the end of verse 7 to say, “Then she (Israel) will stop and say: ‘I will return again to my first husband because it was so much better for me then than it is now.’”
After Israel learned her lesson, God wanted to bring her back inside the vineyard. In verse 22 God says the earth will hear or respond with grain, grape juice and oil.
What God Really Means in Hosea 4:11
The picture of Israel that we see in Hosea 2 helps us to understand Hosea 4:11. Hosea 4:1 says God has a controversy or legal claim against Israel.
...There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and
lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery they break out..., Hosea 4:1,2.
Verse 3 says the land mourns. Harlotry – because Israel has turned from God, her true husband – intoxicating yayin, and even God's special blessing of tirosh – because she gives Baal credit for it – have taken Israel's heart from God. God is saying again what He said in Hosea 2. Even the good things He provided, since they gave credit to Baal for them, have taken their allegiance away from God.
Dr. Teachout translates Hosea 4:11 this way: “Harlotry, wine (yayin) and even the freshly pressed grape juice of the harvest (tirosh) have taken away their allegiance.” 6
Some Helpful Information
Hosea lived about 700 years before Christ. Dr. Bacchiocchi tells us that the Jewish Talmud, a summary of the thinking of the rabbis who lived 400 years after Hosea, (from 300 B.C. to 500 A.D.,) shows a shift in the use of the word tirosh. In later Jewish history it came to mean intoxicating wine as well as fresh juice.7 What the Jewish people did in later years does not, of course, change the Bible.
Horace Bumstead (1881), was a noted Bible scholar who wrote a well researched paper defending the use of alcohol by Christians. But even though he thought that God approved of fermented drink, his study of the Bible led him to agree with what Dr. Teachout has taught us about Hosea 4:11. He wrote that tirosh in Hosea 4:11 had to be fresh juice.8
Another indication that tirosh is grape juice is the verb that is used with it in Hosea 4:11. "Take away" is yiqqah and the Bible never uses this word with a sense of intoxication. Also why would Hosea use the word harlotry and then name two kinds of alcoholic wine to take away the heart? This illogical listing caused the translators of the Septuagint and the Vulgate to depart from the original Hebrew and translate tirosh as drunkenness. They said, "Fornication, wine and drunkenness take away the heart."
The connection Hosea is making between harlotry, wine and grape juice, says Dr. Bacchiocchi, is not that of physical intoxication or that they made people drunk. Rather it is that they brought about spiritual apostasy (spiritual turning from God). Dr. Teachout's clear analysis of Hosea 2 and 4 and God's complaint against Israel shows that not only evil turns people away from God. The good things God gives man can also take away the heart.
Dr. Patton asks us if the good things God gives us can take our hearts away from Him today? Could the things we get become more important to us than God Himself? If they do, the Bible says we are like the Israelites, idol worshippers.
The word tirosh translated “fresh juice” fits perfectly in Hosea 4:11.
IV. TIROSH IS A HARVEST TIME WORD
Careful study of the word tirosh shows that it is only used for the grape juice harvest. Tirosh is linked with both grain and fresh oil or just grain or just oil in thirty-two of the thirty-eight verses where it is found. Four of those verses are in Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 7:13: And He will love thee, and bless thee... He will also bless... the fruit
of thy land, thy grain, thy grape juice (tirosh), and thine oil....
Deuteronomy 11:14: I will give thee the rain... that thou mayest gather in thy grain, and
thy juice (tirosh) and thine oil.
Deuteronomy 12:17: Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy grain, or of thy
grape juice (tirosh) or of thy oil . . .
Deuteronomy 14:23: And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which He
shall choose to place His name there, the tithe of thy grain, and of thy juice (tirosh) and
of thine oil....
The word for grain means harvested grain after threshing has taken place. The word for oil is fresh olive oil. Since tirosh is found with these words (usually it is in between the fresh grain and the fresh oil: grain, wine and oil), it too refers to the fresh product. All three words speak of the raw harvested product. The Hebrew language uses another three words when it talks about the manufactured product ready to be eaten. Grain is called bread or food, tirosh is changed to yayin, and oil is a different Hebrew word too.
Verses That Especially Prove the Freshness of Tirosh
Isaiah 65:8 says, “As the new wine (tirosh) is found in the cluster....” In this verse the tirosh is still in the grape. Micah 6:15 is translated by Dr. Teachout like this:
“You will sow, but you will not reap; You will tread the olives, but you will not anoint
yourselves with the oil; And you will express the juice (tirosh), but you will not drink
the grape beverage (yayin).” 9
Verses That Put Tirosh and the Grape Vat Together
Proverbs 3:9,10 tells the people that if they honor God, their vats (presses) will overflow with fresh grape juice (tirosh). Joel 2:23,24 says,
Be glad... for He hath given you... rain... and the floors shall be full of wheat and the
vats shall overflow with fresh juice (tirosh) and oil.
In Nehemiah 10:37,38, the fruit of every tree, the grape juice and the fresh oil is brought to the priests.
We will also bring... the fruit of every tree, the grape juice (tirosh) and the fresh oil to
the priests at the chambers of the house of God. 10
Summary of Tirosh at Harvest
The Bible shows us that tirosh is freshly pressed juice. Tirosh is the word used for grape juice at harvest time, and for the harvest time juice that is stored. Tirosh always means fresh grape juice. The Bible does not support the argument that it is sometimes fermented.
V. TIROSH IS A BLESSING FROM GOD
From the first time it is mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 27:28, until the last time in Zechariah 9:17, tirosh is a blessing of God. We have studied how Isaac blessed Jacob with the promise of an abundance of grape juice (tirosh) in Genesis 27:28. Jacob passed this blessing on to Judah in Genesis 49:11,12. Before Moses died the blessing was given to the whole nation of Israel.
Deuteronomy 33:28 says, “So Israel dwells in security... in a land of threshed grain and harvested grape juice (tirosh)....” 11
God Set Conditions on the Blessing
Because of His love for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God promised His blessing for each generation. But He made it clear that the people of each generation would receive the blessing only if they obeyed Him. Deuteronomy 7:9 – 13 is a solemn warning that God repays those that hate Him “to their face, to destroy them.” Those who obey Him will multiply. Verse 13 says their land, animals and crops, including freshly pressed out grape juice (tirosh), will be blessed. Deuteronomy 11:13,14 repeats this blessing.
And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments... to
love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your soul... That I will give you the
rain of your land... that thou mayest gather in thy grain, and thy wine (tirosh) and thy oil.
In II Chronicles 32:27 – 29, God blessed Hezekiah for his obedience.
Now Hezekiah had immense riches and honor; and he made for himself treasuries for
silver, gold, precious stones... storehouses also for the produce of threshed grain,
harvested grape juice (tirosh) and fresh oil... for God had given him very great
Tirosh Pictures Blessing in a Parable
Judges 9 has a parable spoken by Gideon's son. The parable says that those who have nothing to offer are the ones who want to rule others. The trees are asking someone to rule over them. The grapevine refuses, and says in verse 13, “Shall I leave my fresh grape juice (tirosh) which cheers God and man, and go to wave over the trees?”13 But the bramble bush is happy to rule.
Israel's Enemies Knew What Israel Valued Most
Sennacherib tried to persuade Israel to surrender to him by promising that he would take them to another land like theirs. In II Kings 18:31,32, he offered grain and juice and oil.
Hearken not to Hezekiah... come out to me... and then eat ye every man of his own
vine.... Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and
tirosh, a land of bread and vineyards....
David Wrote about the Joy of Harvested Tirosh
In Psalm 4:7,8, David wrote that the gladness he had in his heart because he knew God was greater than the gladness of threshed grain and harvested grape juice (tirosh).
Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their grain and tirosh
increased. I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for Thou, Lord, only makest me
dwell in safety.
Taking Away the Tirosh: God's Curse for Disobedience
Deuteronomy 28 is a chapter about the blessings from God for obedience and the curses for disobedience. If Israel disobeys, verses 15,18 and 20 say that God “will send curses, confusion and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed.” 14 In verses 30, 49 and 51, God warns Israel that a nation will come and eat their produce, the threshed grain and the harvested grape juice (tirosh).
Joel 1:10 – 12 confirms that God keeps His word. Because Israel turned from God, the harvested grape juice disappeared. The harvest of the field perished and the grapevines dried up.
God knows what we think and in Hosea 7:14, He says the people do not cry to Him with their hearts. They rebel against him. With this rebellious heart they wail or howl to Him because of the lack of threshed grain and harvested grape juice.
In Haggai 1:7 – 11, God makes clear again that He watches His people to see what they do. He asks them in verse 7 to consider their ways. Because Israel had stopped work on His temple He called for a drought on the land... on the grain harvest, the grape juice harvest (tirosh) and the olive oil harvest.
Nehemiah returned to Israel to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Opposition arose from enemies on every side. In Nehemiah 5, the greed of some of the Israelites themselves caused them to disobey God. The wealthier people forced their poorer countrymen to mortgage their land and houses before they would loan them money to buy food. They made the poor slaves. Nehemiah was very angry when he heard about this. In verses 10 and 11 he ordered, “Restore their lands, their vineyards... the grain, the tirosh, and the fresh oil, that ye exact (demand) of them.”
The whole earth is in trouble because of disobedience to God. Isaiah 24:4 – 7 is God's word to us.
The earth mourneth and fadeth away.... The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants
thereof; because they have transgressed the laws.... Therefore hath the curse devoured
the earth.... The new wine (tirosh) mourneth, the vine languisheth (decays), all the
merry hearted do sigh.
VI. TIROSH WAS A TITHE OR OFFERING TO GOD
Israel brought tithes of their threshed grain, harvested grape juice and fresh oil to God. In both Deuteronomy 12:17 and 14:23, verses we studied when we learned about tirosh and the harvest, God names tirosh as part of the tithe.
…the tithe of thy corn (grain), or of thy wine (tirosh) or of thy oil. Deuteronomy 12:17
And thou shalt eat before the Lord... the tithe... of thy wine (tirosh)…that thou mayest
learn to fear the Lord thy God always, Deuteronomy 14:23.
Tirosh is an offering in Numbers 18:8 – 12. God says to Aaron,
Now behold, I Myself have given you charge of my offerings.... This shall be yours from the most holy gifts... This also is yours, the offering of their gift.... All the best of the fresh oil and all the best of the harvested grape juice (tirosh) and of the threshed grain, the first fruits of those which they give to Yahweh (God), I give them to you. 15
As the people offered Him their tithes, God wanted them to see two things: He was the Giver of all their blessings; they were to share their blessings with the priests.
VII. TIROSH WILL BE A BLESSING OF GOD IN THE FUTURE
God is always true to His promises and He loves His people. He will heap great blessing on Israel in the future and this message should encourage them.
When the Millennium comes and Christ reigns on earth there will be peace, prosperity and righteousness. Isaiah 62:8,9 says that foreigners or enemies will not drink the beverages made from the fresh grape juice (tirosh) in that time. Those who gather the grapes and press the juice (tirosh) will themselves drink the grape beverages. Jeremiah 31:12 tells us that the people will be radiant over the bounty of God, over the threshed grain and the harvested grape juice (tirosh) and fresh oil. In Joel 2:18,19, God promises that He will have pity on His people and will send them threshed grain, harvested grape juice (tirosh) and fresh oil.
Dr. Teachout has added several words to help us understand Zechariah 9:16,17, the last Bible verses about tirosh in the Old Testament. This is what God says:
And Yahweh their God will save them in that day as the flock of his people; For they
are as the stones of a crown, sparkling in His land. For what comeliness and beauty will
be theirs! Threshed grain will again be the raw material which will make the young men
flourish, and the harvested grape juice (tirosh) will do the same for the virgins.
VIII. SHORT SUMMARY OF TIROSH
Tirosh is a word that speaks of God's best blessings. It always refers to the harvest. Without exception it is fresh grape juice, the normal harvest product of the vineyard. Oil and grain were stored fresh for a long time and tirosh is listed with them as a harvest product that was stored until it was needed. II Chronicles 32:28 says ancient Israel built storage places for tirosh. “Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine (tirosh) and oil....”
1. Dr. Robert Teachout, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, Doctoral Dissertation for Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979, p.180.
2. Ibid., p.182.
3. Ibid., p.184.
4. Ibid., p.185.
5. Ibid., p.188.
6. Ibid., p.191.
7. Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, Biblical Perspective, Berrien Springs, Michigan, 1989, p.238.
8. Ibid., p.240.
9. Teachout, Use of Wine..., p.196.
10. Ibid., p.197. The context in Joel is the Millennium. The juice and oil in Proverbs 3:9,10 as well as Joel 2:23,24 might be stored juice and oil rather than juice and oil in the vat. God is emphasizing the freshness of the harvest crop and its abundance. Nehemiah also speaks of stored juice.
11. Ibid., p.199.
12. Ibid., p.200.
13. Ibid., p.201.
14. Ibid., p.203.
15. Ibid., p.202.