Wine as described in the Bible


Old Testament (Hebrew)                               New Testament (Greek)

Tirosh                                                               Oinos

Yayan                                                             Gleukos

Shekar                                                              Sikera


1 Thess 5:7-8

7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

Be drunken – “to drink to intoxication, i.e. get drunk” Strong's Greek-Hebrew Dictionary

Be sober – “to abstain from wine (keep sober)” Strong's Greek-Hebrew Dictionary

The Bible contrasts sin to the fullest and righteousness to the fullest. Says -- don’t be drunken, be sober, as in 1 Thess 5:7-8. A little drunkenness is not okay, just as a little sobriety is not okay.

The term “wine” as translated in the Bible, is a generic term that means the blood of the grape, and can be be not intoxicating to very intoxicating.

In the Bible it can mean -- New wine in the cluster or straight out of the press – non-intoxicating (has a blessing in it)

Isa 65:8

8 Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all.

Prov 3:10

10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

A Medical Dr. Pereira; (Nott, London Ed., F. R., Lees) speaking on the manufacture of wine, says: “Grape-juice does not ferment in the grape itself. This is owing to … the exclusion of atmospheric oxygen the contact of which … enable[s] … the process of fermentation.”

Or in the Bible it can mean Alcoholic wine – intoxicating.

Prov 20:1

20 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Prov 23:31-32

31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. 32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

So Biblical wine may be new or old, sweet or sour, fermented or unfermented, intoxicating or non-intoxicating.

Like the term “Milk” can have several variant meanings – sweet milk, sour milk, buttermilk, skim milk.

And the term “Cider” is a term for the juice of the apple that may mean any stage of fermentation from none or “sweet” (non-alcoholic) cider to sharp or “hard” (alcoholic) cider. Daddy had an orchard and made the best (non-alcoholic) cider around (was offered $1000 for formula). We kids knew the formula – a percentage of this and of that; and so on.

And in Bible times wine could be kept new and sweet for extended periods by processes known to the ancients:

By boiling down to a syrup, which could then be re-constituted by the addition of water

By boiling and placing in sealed bottles to keep out oxygen

And by burying bottles in the ground to keep them cool

Old Testament usages of the term “wine” – Three Hebrew words are translated as “wine” in the Old Testament. Fausset’s Bible Dictionary defines “wine” in the Old Testament as follows:

Tirosh is the most general term for "vintage fruit," and is put in connection with "corn and oil" ... It is translated as wine 38 times in the Old Testament. [Never as an intoxicant.]

Yayin is the extract from the grape, whether simple grape juice unfermented, or intoxicating wine; related to the Greek oinos [in the New Testament].

Shekar "strong wine," "strong drink," including palm wine, pomegranate wine, apple wine, honey wine; … [Strong intoxicant.]

So in the Old Testament “tirosh” is used for vintage wine in the cluster or straight from the press, and “yayin” is used as the extract from the grape whether simple grape juice either unfermented or fermented, and “shekar” is used as strong wine/strong drink.

Look at examples of passages in the Old Testament that show these various Hebrew words translated as “wine.”

Tirosh – is translated “wine” 38 times and used of wine in the cluster or wine straight out of the press – and by definition non-intoxicating.

Isa 65:8

8 Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all.

Prov 3:10

10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

By implication this was good wine – sometimes spoken of as being given by God for the good of the people.

Gen 27:28 (could have plenty of it)

28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:

Deut 7:13

13 And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.

Deut 11:14

14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.

Jer 31:12

12 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.

Hos 2:8-9f

8 For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal. 9 Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof …

Zech 9:16-17

16 And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land. 17 For how goodness, and how great is his beauty! corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids.

Yayin – translated “wine” and literally means the blood of the grape.

Gen 49:10-11 (Jacob’s last remarks)

10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. 11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:

“yayin” sometimes indicates a non-intoxicating drink – fresh from the winepresses.

Isa 16:10(God;s judgments)

10 And gladness is taken away, and joy out of the plentiful field; and in the vineyards there shall be no singing, neither shall there be shouting: the treaders shall tread out no wine in their presses; I have made their vintage shouting to cease.

Jer 48:33 (God’s judgments)

33 And joy and gladness is taken from the plentiful field, and from the land of Moab; and I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses: none shall tread with shouting; their shouting shall be no shouting.

Jer 40:12 (God’s blessings)

12 Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much.

And “yayin” is sometimes used for good purposes

Melchizedek, priest of God brought forth bread and wine and blessed Abraham.

Gen 14:18-19

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:

Used as a drink offering to God.

Lev 23:13

13 …. and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.

Num 15:5

5 And the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, for one lamb.

Sometimes referred to as a gift from God.

Ps 104:14-15

14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

To make glad the heart in no way implies the use of an intoxicating agent – Intoxicating agents produce sorrow and woe to those who partake.

Prov 23:29-30

29 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? 30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.

But “yayan” sometimes indicates a deadly, intoxicating drink – to be avoided.

Gen 9:21 (Noah got drunk on intoxicating wine and became immodest)

21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

Gen 19:32 (Lot’s girls used intoxicating wine for evil purposes)

32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. [he had no idea what had happened]

2 Samuel 11:13 (David used intoxicating wine to try to make Uriah go to his wife)

And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his Lord, but went not down to his house.

Isa 28:7 (priests and prophets drank intoxicating wine and lost judgment)

7 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. [Bible never says take strong drink in moderation]

Prov 20:1 (intoxicating wine and strong drink to be avoided)

20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Prov 23:29-32 (not to even look at intoxicating wine)

29 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? 30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. 31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. 32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

Dan 1:8 (Daniel avoided the King’s intoxicating wine)

8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Shekar – is translated “strong drink” and is always to be avoided – deceptive and causes one to err.

When “yayan” linked to “shekar” – bad stuff.

Prov 20:1

20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Isa 28:7

7 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

Isa 5:11

11 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!

New Testament usages of the term “wine” -- Three Greek words in the New Testament are translated as wine or strong drink -- Oinos, Glucose, Sikera

The first New Testament word for wine is Oinos. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines Oinos as “wine” and says it is used in the “the Septuagint for yayin, also for tiyrowsh (must, new wine);”

So Thayer says the Hebrew words “yayin” and “tiyrowsh” are both translated using the Greek word “oinos” in the Septuagint translation (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament).

So very obviously “Oinos” can be used for either a non-intoxicating or an intoxicating drink, because it can replace either of the Hebrew words tiyrowsh (non-intoxicating) or yayin (sometimes intoxicating), in the Septuagint. Jesus used and quoted from the Septuagint translation.

It can be used for wine when fermenting toward the vinegar state.

Matt 27:34

34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

Mark 15:23

23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.

It should be noted that it was heavily fermented and Jesus refused to drink fermented wine!!

It was called wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee where Jesus turned water into wine.

John 2:3-10

3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

It should be emphasized that Jesus made “good wine.” That is the key to the passage.

The ancient Greek philosophers said that “good wine” was that which was milder than intoxicating wine. Pliny, Plutarch, and Horace describe wine as "good," or mention that as "the best wine," which was harmless or "innocent" … The most useful wine … was that which had little strength; and the most wholesome wine … was that which had not been adulterated by "the addition of anything to the 'must' or juice." Pliny expressly says that a good wine was one that was destitute of spirit.

In Barnes’ notes, Barnes said that:

The wine referred to here was doubtless such as was commonly drunk in Palestine. That was the pure juice of the grape. It was not brandied wine, nor drugged wine, nor wine compounded of various substances, such as we drink in this land. The common wine drunk in Palestine was that which was the simple juice of the grape.

Did Jesus make them “Booze”? It would have flown in the face of everything he ever taught about being level headed and sober and hospitable and kind and gracious to others. No, he did not make Booze – he made them “good, tasty wine” which was tasty and healthful, and so identified by the Governor of the feast.

A blessing was in the wine that Jesus made – all benefited from it and appreciated it:

Isa 65:8

8 Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all.

Jesus was familiar with the wines of his day. He knew that if new (unfermented) wine was put into old, used bottles (having a ferment/yeast residue left in them) then the new, unfermented wine would ferment and burst the bottles.

Luke 5:37-38

37 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. 38 But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.

This shows that the Ancients knew that there was a wine that was unfermented and called it wine, and that they knew how to preserve it in an unfermented state (put it into new sealed bottles).

Jesus was accused of being a wine-bibber by his enemies.

Matt 11:18-19

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

Jesus considered their charges to be so spurious that he didn’t bother to answer, other than to say that wisdom is justified of her children – which is saying that the wisdom of his manner of life was shown in the results -- his life would speak for itself.

The Bible many time to emphasize a point – condemns sin in its fullest sense. It many times speaks in terms of deeds being wholly sinful or wholly righteous, but we recognize that there are degrees of involvement. Like with covetousness, one can be wholly given to covetousness with no regard to trying to serve God -- or he can be caught in the middle and be trying to serve both God and Mammon. Like Balaam in the Old Testament who wanted both.

Matt 6:24

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

The Lord also indicated that if we are inclined do a little unrighteousness and think that we can get away with it, then it is as if we had sinned to the fullest.

Luke 16:10

10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

James 2:10

10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

Examples of where the Bible speaks of sin in its fullest sense:

2 Chron 33:6 (King Manasseh)

6 And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

Does that mean that if Manasseh had just cut back from much to some evil (eliminated burning children) that God would not have been provoked?

Eccl 10:18

18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.

Will just some slothfulness keep things in line?

Ps 10:4-7

4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. …… 7 His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.

Does that mean that if we have a mouth half-full of cursing and deceit and fraud then we will no longer be considered wicked?

Ps 26:9-10

9 Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men: 10 In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes.

Does that mean that we can have a right hand half-full of bribes and be no longer considered a sinner?

Eccl 9:3

3 This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Does this mean that we can have a heart half-full of evil and be acceptable to God?

Rom 1:29 (Gentiles)

29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

The Gentiles were spoken of as being filled with sin, and God said that they were worthy of death. If they would have backed off and just sinned a little, would this have solved the problem?

James 3:8

8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

The Bible speaks of sin to the fullest to emphasize the point. Can we just back off to having a tongue half-full of deadly poison and be okay.

2 Peter 2:14

14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:

The Bible says that false teachers have eyes full of adultery. Will a false teacher be any less a false teacher if he backs off to a set of eyes just half-full of adultery.

Eph 5:18

18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

The term “excess” means “an abandoned, dissolute, life” per Thayer's Greek Lexicon.

Drunkenness leads to an abandoned, dissolute, life. Does this mean that we can have a little drunkenness, as long as we don’t go too far?

1 Peter 4:3-4

3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines “excess of wine” in this passage as follows:

drunkenness (A.V., wine-bibbing) 1 Peter 4:3.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon also defines “excess of riot” in this passage as follows: “the excess (flood) of riot in which a dissolute life pours itself forth” 1 Peter 4:4.

The tern “excess of wine” means “drunkenness,” and “excess of riot” means an “overflowing, a pouring out” of riot, per the above Thayer’s Greek Lexicon.

To emphasize the point – “excess of wine” and “excess of riot” (sin in the fullest sense) are emphasized as being wrong – but that doesn’t mean that we can back off and partake of a little drunkenness or a little riotous behavior and be okay.

Elders, Deacons, Aged women

Titus 1:7 (elders)

7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

“given to wine” -- Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: "quarrelsome over wine; hence, brawling, abusive.”

1 Tim 3:8 (deacons)

8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;

“given to much wine” -- Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: “to be given or addicted to”

Titus 2:3 (aged women)

3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

“given to much wine” -- Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: “wholly given up to, enslaved to”

So Elders are not to be "quarrelsome over wine; hence, brawling, abusive.”

And Deacons are not to be “given or addicted to” wine

And Aged women are not to be “wholly given up to, enslaved to” wine

Its all bad (quarrelsome over, addicted to, enslaved to -- wine) and represents sin to the fullest – can’t back off to partially quarrelsome over, partially addicted to, partially enslaved to and be acceptable to God. Don’t be addicted to in any degree (0.08 or any level).

The Bible says don’t even look at booze – it is deadly like a poisonous snake and to be avoided, not even looked on.

Prov 23:31-32

31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. 32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

Paul commanded that Timothy use a little wine for medicinal purposes. Some say that allows social drinking -- Not so.

1 Tim 5:23

23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.

There is good evidence in the history of that period that unfermented wine was used for medicinal purposes. And it is also known that hard drink can make one as sick as the proverbial dog and induce vomiting (my room mate with the vomiting and dry heaves at Purdue). Booze is not good for the stomach.

Regarding this passage one thing is for sure. Timothy was a devout, righteous young man and wanted to serve his Lord without bringing any possible reproach on Jesus. Timothy wasn’t a drunkard in any sense, but just the opposite. Paul said Timothy was the best he had.

Phil 2:19-20

19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.

And note this – Timothy had to be commanded by an apostle to use even a little wine (whatever it was) for medicinal purposes. This passage is not the social drinker’s passage, but rather is the passage of restraint and purity.

The next New Testament word for wine is Gleukos Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: “must, the sweet juice pressed from the grape;”

Gleukos was sometimes kept in the unfermented state – or could be allowed to ferment, in which case it became very intoxicating. Because it was the first out of the press and had high sugar content.

Dr. Wm. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, page 1189, says: – “A certain amount of juice exuded from the ripe fruit from its own pressure before the treading commenced. This appears to have been kept separate from the rest of the juice, and to have formed the sweet wine (Greek, gleukos, A. V. new wine) noticed in Acts 2:13.”

He says, “The wine was sometimes preserved in its unfermented state and drunk as must.”

He says, “Very likely, new wine was preserved in the state of must by placing it in jars or bottles, and then burying it in the earth.”

Found in Acts 2:13-15 (where obviously had fermented to the intoxicating state)

13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

The last New Testament word for wine is Sikera Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: sikera, (Hebrew sheekaar) literally, "intoxicating" drink” …. strong drink, an intoxicating beverage, different from wine. It was … made of a mixture of sweet ingredients, whether derived from grain and vegetables, or from the juice of fruits (dates), or a decoction of honey Luke 1:15

So Thayer says that the Greek word “sikera” in the New Testament corresponds to the Hebrew word “sheekaar” in the Old Testament.

Luke 1:14-15 (Angel telling Zacharius about the birth of John)

14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

Note that to be great in the Lord’s sight don’t drink wine nor strong drink.

Look at the Bible teaching on the positive side – the Bible teaches to be sober, not drunken.

1 Thess 5:6-8

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

To be drunken – “to drink to intoxication, i.e. get drunk” Strong's Greek-Hebrew Dictionary

To be sober – “to abstain from wine (keep sober)” Strong's Greek-Hebrew Dictionary

So remember – Wine as described in the Bible can be – good non-intoxicating, healthful wine (grape juice), or bad intoxicating, deceiving wine (Booze). Avoid the bad, deceitful wine and teach against its use.