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Fermented grape juice. Wine ranked with oil as an important commercial crop and the grape harvest was a time of special joy (Judg 21:20-21; Isa 16:10; Jer 48:33). Bread and wine represented the basic elements of food and drink (Judg 19:19; Lam 2:12), giving rise to metaphorical and symbolic uses (Prov 4:17), as in the Eucharist (1Cor 11:23-26). But wine was especially identified with court dining and feasts (Esth 1:1-9; Dan 1:5; Dan 1:8; Dan 1:16; 1Sam 25:36; John 2:1-10), where it was frequently mixed with spices (Song 8:2; Prov 9:5). A special kind of drinking feast was the Canaanite mourning feast, characterized by ritual drunkenness and sexual intercourse, which persisted in Israel despite prophetic condemnation (Amos 6:4-7; Isa 28:7-8; see “house of mourning,” Jer 16:5, and “banqueting house,” Song 2:4). Wine was generally viewed as a blessing (Gen 27:28; Deut 7:13) that “gladdens the heart” (Ps 104:15; Eccl 10:19) and banishes misery in forgetfulness (Prov 31:6). Its absence on special occasions such as weddings was a misfortune (John 2:1-10). Wine was offered to God in Israelite worship (Lev 23:13; Num 28:14) and was employed medicinally to administer drugs (Matt 27:34), to treat wounds (Luke 10:34), and to cure digestive ailments (1Tim 5:23). But a glad heart meant a dull mind (Hos 4:11), making one irresponsible (Prov 31:4), unwary of danger (2Sam 13:28), and easily manipulated (Gen 19:32-35; Esth 5:4-10; Esth 7:2). The drunkard is depicted as foolish or mad (Jer 51:7), reeling and vomiting (Isa 28:7-8), licentious (Rev 18:3), sprawling in senseless stupor, and babbling incoherently (Acts 2:13). The wise are counseled to avoid strong drink (Prov 23:29-31). Kings should abstain lest they pervert justice (Prov 31:4-5); bishops and deacons should be temperate (1Tim 3:3; 1Tim 3:8). Priests were prohibited from drinking on duty (Lev 10:9), and Nazirites pledged abstinence for the duration of their vows (Num 6:3-4; Num 6:20; Luke 1:15). The itinerant Rechabites rejected all fruits of the vine as expressions of sedentary life (Jer 35:7-9).

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.