Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here.
Thanks for joining our study. Today we will explore what the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) says about wine and next week, the New Testament.
For the record, I am a big fan of Pinot Noir, especially from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. With that established, let’s launch our study with three intertwined trivia questions:
When was wine first mentioned in the Bible? Who was the first person to get drunk? And who planted the first vineyard?
The following verses provide the answers:
“Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent” (Genesis 9:20-21).
A little family drama ensued after Noah’s sons discovered dear old dad in the buff. But we are moving on to the second time the Bible mentions wine in what also happens to be one of my favorite Bible passages:
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:18-20).
Those verses are noteworthy since it is the first time wine (and bread) are used in a blessing ritual. Furthermore, there is ongoing scholarly debate, with many believing that Melchizedek is the pre-figuration of Jesus. Among the reasons are as “king of Salem” [Jerusalem], Melchizedek foreshadows how Jesus blessed the bread and wine as His body and blood at the Last Supper. (Refer to Vol. 1 and Vol. 50 for further study.)
Our final Genesis wine verse is from a blessing that Isaac gave his son Jacob. But there was a slight problem since Isaac believed he was blessing his son Esau — deceit intentionally arranged by Jacob and his mother, Rebekah — followed by more family drama. And, if you are captivated by this kind of life, death, and family betrayal, Genesis is your book. I digress, but the point is how wine has been established in blessings asking for God’s grace:
“‘May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine'” (Genesis 27:28). Throughout the Old and New Testament, “new wine” is a multi-dimensional phrase. In the Hebrew Bible, it can mean harvest time, God’s abundance, or joy after emerging from a time of crushing, similar to how grapes are crushed in the winepress.
Another new wine verse appears in Deuteronomy Chapter 11, but first the context. God is speaking to His chosen people, telling them to obey His commandments ending with:
“You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today” (Deuteronomy 11:31-32). But, earlier in the chapter, God says He will grant a successful harvest if His laws are obeyed:
“‘Then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil'” (Deuteronomy 11:14).
New wine also reflects Israel’s restoration after God’s judgment, when God told the prophet, Amos:
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the LORD your God'” (Amos 9:13-15).
Wine is connected to favorable activities such as blessings, the harvest, and restoration — but also unfavorable behaviors in God’s eyes. Drunkenness, for example, is discouraged in the neighborhood:
“‘Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies!'” (Habakkuk 2:15). (That get “drunk and naked theme” appears to be a hangover from Noah.)
Isaiah excoriates religious leaders for their drunkenness in this vivid passage:
“‘And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions. All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth'” (Isaiah 28:7-8).
Three chapters later in Ezekiel, but perhaps related to Isaiah, is this warning:
“‘No priest is to drink wine when he enters the inner court'” (Ezekiel 44:21).
Proverbs warn about the consequences of excessive wine consumption:
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper” (Proverbs 23:29-32).
Now let’s review two wine-related passages that give glory to God:
“On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Isaiah 25:6).
“He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts” (Psalm 104:14-15).
Proverbs suggests wine as a remedy for anguish:
“Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!” (Proverbs 31:6).
So much wine, so little time, but you can read more verses here, then tune in next week when we uncork the significance of wine in the ministry of Jesus.
Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.