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Book 2, Lesson 4
Yayin, Intoxicating or Sweet?

 I. YAYIN IN PUZZLING VERSES

In several contexts in the Old Testament the meaning of grape juice for the word yayin seems to be debatable. As we study these verses we will see that evidence supports the conclusion for grape juice.

Job 1

Did Job's children spend their time feasting and drinking wine? On feast days, Job 1:4, these brothers and sisters went to each other's homes to eat and drink. Job's children seemed to love each other. Their custom of celebrating with the family on holidays and birthdays has passed on down through the ages to us. In Job 1:13 and Job 1:18 the Bible says, “...his sons and daughters were eating and drinking  yayin in their eldest brother's house.” General evidence supports sweet grape juice in these verses. There is absolutely no mention made of drunkenness, and there is no reason to think that these children of godly Job were drinking alcoholic wine.1

Job is a very old book. Since most of the Bible was not yet written, critics argue that in Job's time God had not yet clearly forbidden fermented wine. They believe that Job's children were drinking alcoholic drink.

The answer to this argument is that the first record we have about the use of fermented wine is in Genesis. God tells about Noah in chapter nine and later about Lot. The Bible does not say these men intended to become drunk, but it does reveal the terrible effects of intoxication. For two nights Lot did not know what he was doing because he was so drunk. From these incidents the patriarchs (ancient fathers like Job) had a clear warning about the effects of fermented wine. The idea that Job thought God approved of fermented wine because he didn't have a direct order not to drink it has no basis in the Bible. Job did know about Noah and Lot.

Proverbs 21:17

It may surprise us, but Proverbs 21:17 is probably talking about grape juice. The first part of the proverb declares,
    
He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man....

The word pleasure is usually translated joy. Joy comes from God's goodness to us. He wants us to have pleasure and enjoy life. But if pleasure seeking becomes our goal or our “love” as the verse says, it will make us poor.

The second part of the proverb in verse 17 gives us the same warning in other words.
     
He that loveth grape juice (yayin) and oil shall not be rich.

Grape juice and oil were God's gifts to make life joyful. Psalm 104:15 says, “And grape juice that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine....” But again, if we love the gifts and “the good life” they represent, more than God Himself, we will not be rich. In the Bible God removed the good things, even the grape juice, when His people rebelled against Him.

     ...they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards 
     but not drink the grape juice (yayin) of them, Zephaniah 1:13.

     Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap... and sweet wine, but shalt not drink 
     grape juice (yayin), Micah 6:15.

The great commandment in the Bible is to “love the LORD with all your heart.” Proverbs 21:17 teaches that grape juice, God's good gift and one of the major crops, if it turned aside Israel's love to Him, led to sin and poverty.

Ecclesiastes 9:7,8

Dr. Teachout translates these verses:

     Go then, eat your bread with joy, and drink your grape juice (yayin) with a 
     cheerful heart; for God is already pleased with your works. At all times, let 
    
your garments be white and do not fail to anoint your head with oil.2 

The use of the word joy, along with God's approval of the people's works, shows us that the word yayin means grape juice.

II Samuel 16:1,2 and Other Verses about Food and Drink

When King David fled from Absalom, Ziba brought food and grape juice.

     ...Ziba... met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them were two 
     hundred loaves of bread, a hundred clusters of raisins, a hundred summer fruits, 
    
and a jug of grape juice (yayin). And the king said to Ziba, Why do you have these?
     And Ziba said, The donkeys are for the king's household to ride, and the bread and 
     summer fruit for the young men to eat and the grape juice (yayin) for whoever is 
     faint in the wilderness to drink.

The whole gift was food items that would help strengthen them in this crisis. If Ziba had given fermented wine, it would have looked suspicious. Getting people to drink alcohol would only help their enemies. But Ziba said the drink was for those who might become faint or weary. Grape juice would be helpful in such conditions, but intoxicating wine would not.3

In contexts where yayin is part of the ordinary food and drink supplied to someone who needs it, more than likely the yayin is grape juice. Samuel told Saul he would meet men who would give him bread and grape juice as he traveled home, I Samuel 10:3. Abigail provided David and his men with food and grape juice, I Samuel 25:18. The men of Israel took food and grape juice to Hebron when they made David king, I Chronicles 12:40. Solomon paid the men of Tyre for their work with wheat, barley, grape juice and oil, II Chronicles 2:10,15. King David stored grape juice and oil, I Chronicles 27:27,28 and Rehoboam stored food supplies, oil and grape juice in a fort, II Chronicles 11:11.

Nehemiah, Nehemiah 5:11, warned the wealthy to give back the land, vineyards, houses, money, grain, tirosh (fresh juice) and oil to the people. Then in verses 15 and 18, he told them that former governors demanded from them a large amount of bread and grape juice (yayin) but he took less. Once in ten days he received all sorts of grape juice.

Many serious problems about wine disappear if yayin is translated grape juice whenever the Bible approves of it as a drink.

II. YAYIN AS AN OFFERING TO GOD

When God commanded the Israelites to offer sacrifices to Him, He included an offering of grape juice (yayin). This offering was the “drink offering,” or a “liquid poured out.”

     And with the one lamb a tenth part of flour mixed with the fourth part of an hin of 
    
beaten oil (1 3/5 pints); and the fourth part of an hin of  yayin for a drink offering.
     Exodus 29:40.

     And the meal offering ...of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire unto 
    
the Lord for a sweet savor: and the drink offering thereof shall be of  yayin, the 
    
fourth part of a hin, Leviticus 23:13. 

Other verses that mention a drink offering are Numbers 15:5,7,10; 28:14; I Samuel 1:24 (probably), I Chronicles 9:29, and Hosea 9:4; 14:7,8. 4

God did not eat the animal sacrifices or drink the drink offerings. They were burned or poured on the altar. A part was given to the priests. But in Bible times, and even today, people who worship pagan gods do offer these gods food and drink to eat. In their literature they write of their gods eating and drinking what is offered to them. “The gods smelled the sweet savor. The gods gathered like flies....”5  We know what God thinks about this from Moses' words in Deuteronomy 32:16 – 18, and 37,38.

     And He shall say, Where are their gods...Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices 
    
and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up and help you, and be 
    
your protection.

Was the Drink Offering Intoxicating Yayin?

Since it was poured out, did God really care whether the drink offering was grape juice or fermented wine? Dr. Teachout reminds us that God is very careful about details in the Old Testament. The offerings for worship were presented to Himself, a Holy God. He gave exact instructions about the animals He would accept and also every other part of the sacrifice in Leviticus. There can be no doubt that He chose carefully the beverage for the drink offering.

When we consider the question of whether these drink offerings were grape juice or fermented wine, we must think of some overall biblical truths.

     a) The vine was a blessing from God; He did not want the fruit made into intoxicating
     drink. Israel was to use fresh juice, and that is what He expected them to offer to Him.

     b) Leviticus 2:11 says the grain (meat in the King James version) offerings were to be
     made without yeast. If no yeast was permitted in the burnt offerings, why would yeast
     fermented juice be permitted?

     c) God asked for natural products –  fine flour, oil and live animals for the  offerings. 
     It is logical that He asked for the natural product of the grape harvest too –  grape juice.
     Fermented wine is not natural. It has been changed by the fermentation process.

The facts just mentioned are strong evidence that God wanted only nonintoxicating grape juice for the offerings. Some say that since the Bible does not say much about this subject it is not important. A better explanation is that Moses and those who lived in his time knew so well how God felt about intoxicating drinks they didn't need to say much about it.

Why Did God Command an Offering of Grape Juice?

Because God wanted His people to recognize that all their blessings came from Him, He asked two things of them. The first was the sacrifice or offering. The second was the tithe or “tenth part.” Both the sacrifice and tithe came from the young of the herds and flocks and from the three main crops – grain, grape juice and olive oil.

Under the law God gave to Moses, the grape juice drink offering was never offered by itself. Grain could be offered by itself; when it was offered with the drink offering it was made into a cake of fine flour mixed with oil. The juice was poured out upon the burning sacrifice. As it burned a sweet aroma pleased God.

Every morning and evening a yearling lamb was offered along with a grain offering of 3 1/15 pints of fine flour mixed with 1 3/5 pints of oil and a drink offering of 1 3/5 pint of grape juice. On the sabbath this offering was doubled, Numbers 28:3-9.   When a ram or a bull was offered, the grain offering and the drink offering was doubled or tripled according to the size of the animal burnt offering, Numbers 28:11-15.  For the Passover and other feasts multiple animals were offered, each with its meat and drink offering, Numbers 28:16-31, 29:1-38.

A huge quantity of Israel's  produce was used each year for the tithes and sacrifices. To the people, this should have been a constant reminder of God’s goodness.

III. YAYIN AS A FIGURE OF SPEECH

The word yayin is used in many verses as a figure of speech. Figures of speech take something common to daily life like grape juice or wine drinking to help the reader understand or picture some other truth. Grape juice is used as a figure of what is good and wine of what is harmful. (Some of the verses in this section on figures of speech we have studied before.)

Word Pictures with Unfermented Yayin

Grape juice is used as a figure of speech to picture God’s blessing on Judah. In Genesis 49:11, Judah washes his garments in grape juice (yayin) and his robes in the blood of grapes.
    
Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine, he washed his
     garments in grape juice, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.

The abundant grape juice is a picture of the harvest. The Bible says the  harvest is so plentiful the clothes of the treaders appear to be washed in the juice.

In Genesis 49:12, grape juice is a picture of beauty. Judah's eyes are like sparkling dark juice (yayin). Both the King James Version and New American Standard Bible translate this verse so that it seems Judah's eyes are red or dull with intoxicating drink. If Judah had been in that condition God would not have chosen him as king. Dr. Teachout's translation is, “His eyes are darker than grape juice.”7

Song of Solomon 1:2,4 and 4:10 compare love and grape juice (yayin). Solomon says grape juice is wonderful, but not so wonderful as genuine love. Chapter 7:9 compares grape juice with the mouth of the beloved. It says, “...your mouth is like the best grape juice.”

In Zechariah 10:7, the people rejoice over the harvest of grape juice (yayin). Their rejoicing at the grape harvest is compared to the rejoicing of the believing remnant of Israel when God delivers his people.

In Isaiah 55 and Proverbs 9, grape juice (yayin) is a picture of spiritual nourishment and godly wisdom. 
    
Isaiah 55:1: ...come, buy grapejuice (yayin) and milk without money...
    
Proverbs 9:5: She (Wisdom) says, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the grape juice
     (yayin) I have mixed.

Isaiah 16:6 – 10 uses yayin both as a figure of speech and also as real grape juice. God pictures Moab as a fertile grape vine. Then He pictures His severe punishment of Moab by the failure of the harvest; “...the treaders shall tread out no yayin in their presses.” But the warning God gives in these verses is real. God did take away from Moab the grape vines and the enjoyment of life that was pictured by the grape harvest because “...the pride of Moab; he is very proud....”

Word Pictures with Fermented Yayin

Intoxicating wine (yayin) is like the poison of a snake in Deuteronomy 32:33. God speaks of rebellious Israel and says, “Their wine is the poison of serpents and the cruel venom of asps.”

Proverbs 4:17 tells about wicked men: “For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.”

God chose drunkenness from intoxicating yayin as the best way to show His fierce anger against sin. Psalm 60:3 says, “Thou has made Thy people experience hardship; Thou hast given us wine (yayin) to drink that makes us stagger.”The wicked drain the dregs of the wine to the last drop to receive receive the punishment they deserve.

     For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine (yayin) is red; it is fully 
     mixed, and He poureth out of the same; but the dregs thereof all the wicked of the 
     earth shall drain them, and drink them, Psalm 75:8,9.

     Thou hast drunk the dregs... afflicted and drunken but not with yayin..., Isaiah
     51:17,20,21,22.

     Wineskin filled with yayin, ...I will fill all the inhabitants... with drunkenness, 
     Jeremiah 13:12,13.

The fury of God's judgment is like drunkenness that leads to madness in all the nations.

     Take the wine cup (yayin) of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations... to drink it.
     And they shall drink and be moved (stagger) and be mad, because of the sword that I
     will send among them, Jeremiah 25:15,16.

     Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD'S hand... the nations have drunk of her
     wine (yayin); therefore, the nations are mad, Jeremiah 51:7.

The figure of drunkenness in Psalm 78:65,66, describes how the people think when, after  they have suffered a long time for their disobedience, the Lord starts to help them.They compare His sudden move to someone waking out of a stupor from wine. “Then the Lord awoke as if from sleep, Like a warrior overcome by wine (yayin). And He drove His adversaries backward.”

Jeremiah compared the effects of wine to the way he felt in Jeremiah 23:9. He said he was so weak when he thought of the terrible punishment God was going to bring on wicked Israel that he “had become like a drunk man, even like a man overcome with wine (yayin).”

Zechariah 9:15 gives a picture of Israel like a lion defeating its foes. The victors eat the flesh and drink the blood of their enemies like wine.

The Lord (Yahweh) of hosts will defend them.
And they will devour, and trample on the sling stones;
And they will drink and be boisterous as with wine;
And they will be filled {with blood}like a sacrificial basin,
Drenched like the corners of the altar.8

The wine is real in the figure of speech in Isaiah 5:22,23, where God mocks the wicked who think they are real heroes.

Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine (yayin),
And valiant men in mixing strong drink;
Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right.

Summary of Yayin as a Figure of Speech

Grape juice as a figure of speech  pictures a) what is good and b) God's blessing on His people.

Intoxicating wine as a figure of speech pictures a) what is evil and b) God's anger against sin and punishment for it.                                 

IV.CONCLUSION OF THE STUDY OF YAYIN

The common Hebrew word wine yayin used in the Bible means a grape beverage. The judgment of whether the beverage is grape juice or fermented wine depends on God’s approval or disapproval of the drink as shown by the context of the word.

Endnotes

1. Dr. Robert Teachout, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, Doctoral Dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979, p.292.
2. Ibid., p.294.
3. Ibid., p.295.
4. Ibid., p.296.
5. Ibid., p.297. This is a quote from the Gilgamesh Epic. After the flood the gods were hungry because they had not been fed for weeks.
6. Ibid., p.302.  If a bull was sacrificed, the flour, oil and grape juice offering was larger than when a ram was offered. The amount offered with the ram was more than with a lamb. Dr. Teachout has tables of offerings in modern proportions listed.
7. Ibid., pp.305,306. The New English Bible says,  “Darker than wine are his eyes...”
8. Ibid., p.310.

 

 

   
 
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