Living Word Christian Magazine

Free Bible Study Magazine

Wine and its Uses in the Bible

This study by Carl Whorley is a supplement to his wonderful article in February’s Living Word Magazine 2012.

According to Matthew George Easton, 1823-1894, the common Hebrew word for wine is “yayin”, from the Hebrew root meaning “to boil up,” or “to ferment.” Others derive it from a root meaning “to tread out,” and hence the juice of the grape trodden out. The Greek word for wine is oinos. The Latin word for wine is vinun. But besides this common Hebrew word, there are several others which are thus rendered.

Ashishah: The Hebrew word is used in II Samuel 6:19; I Chronicles 16:3 & Hosea 3:1. This Hebrew word denotes a solid cake of pressed grapes, or, as in the Revised Version, a cake of raisins.

Asis: “sweet wine,” or “new wine,” It is a product of the same year as per Isaiah 49:26; Joel 1:5; 3:18 & Amos 9:13. This Hebrew word is from a root meaning “to tread,” hence juice trodden out or pressed out. Thus, referring to the method by which the juice is obtained. Power of intoxication is ascribed to it.

Hometz: From the Hebrew text, hometz gives us the English word vinegar or sour wine. We see this in Psalms 69:21, which is a prophecy fulfilled in the history of the crucifixion in Matthew 27:34. This was the common sour wine daily made use of by the Roman  soldiers.

They gave it to Christ, not in derision, but from compassion, to assuage his thirst Proverbs 10:26 shows that there was also a stronger vinegar, which was not fit for drinking. The comparison, “vinegar upon nitre,” probably means “vinegar upon soda.”

Hemer: This Hebrew word is used in Deuteronomy 32:14 where it is referred to as the blood of the grape. In Isaiah 27:2; Ezra 6:9; Daniel 5:1-2 & 2:4, it is called red wine. This word conveys the idea of “foaming,” as in the process of fermentation, or when poured out. It is derived from the root hamar, meaning “to boil up,” and also “to be red,” from the idea of boiling or becoming inflamed.

Enabh: This Hebrew word is used in Deuteronomy 32:14 meaning, a grape. The last clause of this verse should be rendered as in the Revised Version, “and of the blood of the grape, enabh or thou drankest wine, hemer.] In Hosea 3:1, the phrase in Authorized Version, “flagons of wine,” is in the Revised Version correctly “cakes of raisins.” Please note here Genesis 49:11; Numbers 6:3 & Deuteronomy 23:24. In these verses the Hebrew word used means grapes.

Mesekh/Mesk: This Hebrew word means a proper mixture of wine and water with spices that increase its stimulating properties. We see this in Isaiah Psalms 75:8 & 5:22. “The wine, yayin, is red and full of mixture mesekh.” In Proverbs 23:30 it means mixed wine. In Isaiah 65:11 it means drink offering or mingled wine.

Tirosh: This Hebrew word is translated wine in Deuteronomy 28:51 and new wine in Proverbs 3:10. It is translated sweet wine or vintage in Micah 6:15. This Hebrew word has been traced to a root meaning “to take possession of” and hence it is supposed that tirosh is so designated because it has an intoxicating effect which takes possession of the brain. Among the blessings promised to Esau in Genesis 27:28, we see he is promised “plenty of corn and tirosh.” Palestine is called “a land of corn and tirosh” Deuteronomy 33:28 &
Isaiah 36:17. Please note here also Deuteronomy 28:51; II Chronicles 32:28; Joel 2:19 & Hosea 4:11.

Sobhe: This Hebrew word means to consume to excess or to suck up. Please note here Isaiah 1:22; Hosea 4:18 & Nahum 1:10.

Shekar: This Hebrew word refers to strong drink, an intoxicating effect, to drink deeply to the point of being drunken. Shekar is used in concert with yayin. Please note here Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; 28:7; Judges 13:4; Provers 20:1 31:6; Isaiah 5:11; 24:9; 29:9; 56:12; & Micah 2:11.

Yekebh: This Hebrew word refers to wine press or vats. It works in concert with tirosh. Please note here Deuteronomy 16:13; II Kings 6:27; Job 24:11; Proverbs 3:10; Jeremiah 48:33; Joel 2:24 & Haggai 2:16.

Shemarim: This Hebrew word refers to dregs or old wine. Isaiah 25:6.

In Acts 2:13, the word gleukoV/gleukos, rendered “new wine,” denotes properly “sweet wine.” It must have been intoxicating.

In addition to wine the Hebrews also made use of what they called debash, which was obtained by boiling down must to one-half or one-third of its original bulk. In Genesis 43:11, this word is rendered “honey.” It was a kind of syrup, and is called by the Arabs
at the present day dibs. This word occurs in the phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Please note here Exodus 3:8-17; 13:5; 33:3; Leviticus 20:24 & Numbers 13:27.

The Rechabites were forbidden the use of wine in Jeremiah 35. The Nazarites also were to abstain from its use during the period of their vow in Numbers 6:1-4. Those who were dedicated as Nazarites from their birth were perpetually to abstain from it as per Judges 13:4-5; Luke 1:15 & 7:33. The priests, too, were forbidden the use of wine and strong drink when engaged in their sacred functions in Leviticus 10:1-11.
“Wine is little used now in the East, from the fact that Mohammedans are not allowed to taste it, and very few of other creeds touch it. When it is drunk, water is generally mixed with it, and this was the custom in the days of Christ also. The people indeed are everywhere very sober in hot climates; a drunken person, in fact, is never seen.”
The sin of drunkenness, however, must have been not uncommon in the olden times, for it is mentioned either metaphorically or literally more than seventy times in the Bible.

A drink-offering of wine was presented with the daily sacrifice Exodus 29:40-41. Also with the offering of the first-fruits in Leviticus 23:13. Also, with various other sacrifices as per Numbers 15:5-10. Wine was used at the celebration of the Passover.

And when the Lord’s Supper was instituted, the wine and the unleavened bread then on the paschal table were by our Lord set apart as memorials of his body and blood.

However, in Bible days, there was yet another form of wine which has been overlooked by the Church of today. And that was what we would today call, “watered down wine.”

In the Middle East, and other parts of that particular region of the world, the ground produces minerals and other natural substances which makes water taste very bad or may even make one ill. In the Old Testament especially we see where that from time to time, Bible characters would encounter waters which were bitter or dangerous to drink. Please note Exodus 15:23… And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.

The Apostle Paul was aware of this and even conveyed his deep concern about this to Timothy. We see this in I Timothy 5:23… Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

In Bible days, it was quite customary for societies in this region of the world, to add just enough fermented wine to their drinking water for health reasons. The inner chemical properties of fermented wine would neutralize the various natural, harmful bacteria and minerals which were naturally deposited into the ground water table. The introduction of this wine would be well calculated and regulated for the purpose of human health.

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One comment on “Wine and its Uses in the Bible

  1. biblecommentaries
    January 9, 2012

    Thanks Carl, I really appreciated your article and this fascinating account of wine and its uses in the Bible.

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