| I. YAYIN MEANS GRAPE JUICE
Hebrew Lexicons (dictionaries of ancient languages) generally do not list grape juice as one meaning of yayin. But men write lexicons and they can be wrong. Dr. Teachout studied the Bible with the belief that Scripture cannot be wrong. When he started his research he did not know what his conclusions would be. After a long, careful and systematic investigation of the facts, he came to understand that the Old Testament word yayin means fresh juice as often as it means fermented wine.
What evidence in the Bible proves that yayin can mean grape juice?
The Character of God: He Does Not Change
The first evidence that yayin can mean grape juice is based on a fact God tells us about His own character: He does not change. When, in a verse like Psalm 104:15, God approves of yayin and in another, like Proverbs 23:31, He condemns yayin, God has not changed His stand. Since the juice of the grape can be either fermented or unfermented it is not hard to understand God's different attitudes. The logical way to solve the difficulty is to admit that He is talking about two kinds of yayin. God does not call something bad and later call the same thing good.
Christians who do not believe that God is talking about two kinds of wine argue that He does not really condemn intoxicating liquor. God, they say, approves of fermented wine; He is just against using too much of it. We have read before their claim about Proverbs 23:20,21. They try to prove that drunkenness is no different from the sin of overeating – too much of a good thing.
A strong argument against this reasoning is the fact, as we learned in Lesson 1, that God gives no hint about how much intoxicating wine you can drink before He gets angry. “There is not one verse in the whole Old Testament,” Dr. Teachout writes, “which even suggests that the amount you drink is the key to explain why God approves of yayin sometimes and disapproves at other times.”1 God should have told us what too much liquor is if He only disapproves of too much. Why did He not give us some clue so we would know the fine dividing line between acceptable drinking and sin? This is especially important since even one drink sends alcohol to the brain and the drinker is less and less able to decide when to stop safely.2
What God does tell us plainly in Proverbs 20:1 is that alcoholic drink is a mocker. He does not say the amount is sin. He says the drink is sin.
Wisdom Offers Grape Juice
In Proverbs 9 we find more important Bible evidence that yayin does mean grape juice.
Proverbs 1:2 tells us that we should know wisdom. Wisdom in Proverbs is more than knowledge. It is skill. God is telling us to get “skill in living life according to God's absolute standards.”3
According to Proverbs 20:1, it is not wise to drink yayin. It does not give us skill to live life according to God's absolute standards. “Yayin is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Other verses repeat this counsel.
Proverbs 4:17: ...the yayin of violence.
Proverbs 23:19,20: Be wise... be not among winebibbers.
Proverbs 23:29,30,31: Who hath woe... they that tarry long at the yayin. Look not
upon the yayin....
Proverbs 31:4,5,6: It is not for kings to drink yayin.
If it is not wise to drink yayin, what can we say about Proverbs 9:1 – 6? In these verses God invites us to drink yayin.
Wisdom hath builded her house... hath furnished her table... hath mingled her yayin...
She crieth upon the high places of the city. Whoso is simple... as for him that wanteth
Come, eat of my bread and drink of the yayin which I have mingled...
Forsake the foolish, and live, and go in the way of understanding.
Wisdom, one of the qualities of God, is acting as a person in these verses. She has built a house big enough for her guests. Now she invites all the simple to the great feast she has prepared. The food she offers at the feast in her house gives us understanding – the ability to think, to learn and to judge. Wisdom uses bread and yayin as a picture of spiritual food, God's Word.
Why does she do this? Just as good bread and good grape juice yayin keep our bodies healthy, so taking in God's word makes our mind and spirit healthy. We are able to forsake the foolish, and “live and go in the way of understanding.”
God is approving of yayin in these verses and it is clear that He means grape juice. Wisdom knows what alcohol does to the body. She would be foolish if she said in Proverbs 9:5, “Drink of my fermented wine simple ones, and get power to think and ability to judge.”
But what about drinking fermented yayin in moderation, or diluting the alcohol down with water? The answer is that wisdom would again be foolish if she said, especially to those who are innocent or have little sense, “Drink of my fermented wine in moderation simple ones, and get power to think, to learn and to judge.” God is not talking about fermented wine in any amount in Proverbs 9:2 – 6.
People who believe that yayin is always intoxicating argue that God is not speaking about real food and wine in Proverbs 9:2,5. He is teaching about spiritual food. Therefore the fermented wine is not real, but only a picture or illustration of spiritual food. That argument in favor of alcoholic drink will not stand up. God is speaking to those with little understanding. Since He is against intoxicating yayin, He would not use this harmful drink as a picture of a great spiritual truth. Nowhere in the Bible does God take something evil and present it as a symbol of something beneficial. The answer to the whole problem is to translate yayin as grape juice in Proverbs 9:2 and 5.
II. GRAPE JUICE YAYIN: SYMBOL OF BLESSING AND LOVE
God's high praise of yayin in Isaiah and Song of Solomon is still more evidence that yayin is often grape juice.
Yayin Is a Symbol of Spiritual Blessing
In the verses in Proverbs 9 that we have just studied, God used grape juice as a symbol. A symbol is a real object that stands for something you can't touch. For example, the dove is a symbol of peace. Grape juice is a symbol of the understanding God wants to give us.
Isaiah 55:1,2,6 is like Proverbs 9. God again calls out and invites everyone to come to drink grape juice yayin.
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come,
buy and eat. Come buy grape juice (yayin) and milk without money and without cost.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not
satisfy? ...Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good... Seek ye the Lord while He
may be found....
Grape juice (yayin) and milk are used together. Both are symbols of the spiritual growth the Lord wants to give us. These verses say they are good and satisfying.
Yayin Is a Symbol of Love
In the Song of Solomon, a love poem written by Solomon, King of Israel, yayin or grape juice and milk appear together again.
Song of Solomon 5:1, “I have drunk my grape juice (yayin) with my milk.
...Drink, yea, drink abundantly,O beloved.”
God is approving the drinking of milk and yayin, so we know the yayin is grape juice.
All through the Song of Solomon grape juice yayin is a symbol of love.
Song of Solomon 1:1,2: The song of songs, which is Solomon's. Let him kiss me with
the kisses of his mouth: for your love is better than grape juice (yayin).
Verse four says, “We will be glad and rejoice in you, we will remember your love more than grape juice (yayin): the upright love you.”
In chapter four, verse 10, Solomon again says, “...How much better is your love than grape juice (yayin).” All of these verses, writes Dr. Teachout, “have compared the enjoyment of pure righteous love with yayin.”4
King Solomon is also the author of Proverbs 20:1. “Wine (yayin) is a mocker and strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Solomon is not warning against intoxicating yayin in Proverbs and praising intoxicating yayin to a level almost as high as love in the Song of Solomon. He is talking about two kinds of yayin, fermented alcoholic wine and grape juice.
Non-Christian stories, poems, and songs have always praised alcoholic wine. The pleasure of drinking is compared to love. From ancient times, until today with our TV, most people have had the idea that alcoholic drinks and love go together as the greatest enjoyments of life. This is a false picture. Alcohol will rob you of good sleep, good looks and a good love-life.5
The Song of Solomon is a love story inspired by God. Because it is God's word, what it says is more important than any writing by man.
Drinking alcoholic yayin does not make the senses of the body more alert. Instead it really knocks them out or anesthetizes them. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and the drinker does things that ordinarily with good judgment he would not do. Since alcohol is a depressant it decreases sexual performance. For a male drinker, alcohol can lead to an excess of female hormones.6
“Alcohol,” says Dr. Teachout, “...does not increase pleasure at all; it merely gives an illusion, a promise which it cannot deliver. Therefore, to compare wine, which is a harmful, artificial stimulus (beneficial only for those dying without hope – Proverbs 31:6), with the natural and beneficial sense-enhancing and God-approved (and ordained) stimulus of genuine love between two about-to-be-married lovers would be a complete (and biblically impossible) defamation of the latter. Far from exalting love by comparison, the very mention of love and fermented wine together in a favorable light would discredit them both.”7
Drinking grape juice makes man's heart rejoice, Psalm 104:15. The grape harvest was a time of rejoicing. Grape juice is delicious and it is beneficial to the body. Solomon compares God's gift, grape juice, and the pleasure of a proper love because both are approved of God.
As we continue to study about yayin we realize more and more that yayin must be translated as grape juice in the verses where God approves of it.
1. Dr. Robert Teachout, from notes made when he read this manuscript, July, 1990.
2. Dr. Robert Teachout, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, Doctoral Dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979, p.270. See text and footnotes.
3. Ibid., p.271.
4. Dr. Robert Teachout,Wine, The Biblical Imperative: Total Abstinence, 1983, p.38.
5. Allan Luks and Joseph Barbato, You Are What You Drink, Villard Books, New York, 1989, p.4.
6. Ibid., p.104.
7. Teachout, The Use of Wine . . ., p.276.