Saturday, May 11, 2013

John Kitto on Wine in Bible Times, and Isaiah 25:6

John Kitto (AD 1804-1854) was an outstanding Bible scholar. His work was highly praised by Charles H. Spurgeon. A keen observer of physical detail, while living in the Middle East he gained detailed knowledge of the land and the people; people who lived much as they did in Bible times. Kitto’s Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature (1852) was a standard for decades. 
John Kitto has the following to say about wine in Bible times:

“WINE. No fewer that thirteen distinct Hebrew and Greek terms are rendered in our common version by the word ‘wine.’ Besides the pure juice of the grape, frequent mention is made in Scripture of a kind of boiled wine or syrup, the thickness of which rendered it necessary to mingle water with it previously to drinking (Proverbs 9:2, 5), and also of a mixed wine, made strong and inebriating by the addition of drugs, such as myrrh, mandragora, and opiates (Proverbs 23:30; Isaiah 5:22). This custom has prevailed from the earliest ages, and is still extant in the East.

We are not, however, to conclude that all mixed wine was pernicious or improper. There were two very opposite purposes sought by the mixture of drinks. While the wicked sought out a drugged mixture, and was ‘mighty to mingle strong drink,’ Wisdom, on the contrary, mingled her wine with water or with milk (Proverbs 9:2, 5) merely to dilute it and make it properly drinkable. Of the latter mixture Wisdom invites the people to drink freely, but on the use of the former an emphatic woe is pronounced.

In Isaiah 25:6, mention is made of ‘wines on the lees.’ The original signifies ‘preserves’ or ‘jellies,’ and is supposed to refer to the wine cakes which are esteemed a great delicacy in the East.” 
-John Kitto, The Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature; 1852.

Note: This boiled down, thick, strong wine was not alcoholic and would not spoil or ferment. It would be mixed with water to drink. I have some, kept at room temperature, that is in perfect condition after several years. See much more on wine in Bible times, and on Isaiah 25:6 in the book, Ancient Wine and the Bible.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, May 11, AD 2013.

When I'm An Old Lady
Ancient Wine Production and the Bible
Charles H. Spurgeon on Alcohol
Alabama Baptist Review of "Ancient Wine and the Bible"
Deuteronomy 14:26 - Does it Commend Alcohol?
Other articles in lower right margin.


  1. Good to know about the various types of wine suggested in the Bible. I do wonder though, when the Bible refers to wine in Psalm 104:15, does popular conservative thought rule out the possibility that this wine could have been alcoholic? Last time I drank some grape juice I didn't exactly get elated. Just a thought.

  2. Johnny,
    You ask about Psalm 104:15.

    1. Knowing the various kinds of wine in Bible times, one should not therefore immediately conclude this is speaking of alcohol.

    2. The ancients could easily preserve wine in a nonalcoholic state and it was very commonly available. Nonalcoholic wine is often found in the Bible.

    3. You don’t have to have an intoxicating drug to make a man glad.

    My mother had a couple of large elm trees taken down in her yard. Three city workers came yesterday and loaded them up and hauled them off. It was hard, sweaty work. She gave each of them an ice-cold Cherry Coke Zero. It made their hearts glad.

    Other things brought the Israelites joy and gladness: 1 Chronicles 12:40; Proverbs 12:25; 27:9; 1 Samuel 14:29.

    4. The context would imply nonalcoholic wine, since it is mentioned right along with common food items and staples. In contrast, the context of Proverbs 23 leaves no doubt God is condemning alcoholic wine.

    5. Whether or not you believe this is alcohol - either view is an interpretation. Those who believe it is alcohol are not simply taking the Bible for what it says - they are giving their interpretation. Few of them will admit that.
    David R. Brumbelow

  3. Johnny,

    One other thought. The un-intoxicating Pinot Noir produced by Draper Valley Vineyard has on multiple occasions made my heart glad.
    There is a link to them in the right margin.
    David R. Brumbelow

  4. I appreciate your response. I see how you come to those conclusions. Perhaps I should read your book! Sounds like it would be an informative ride! Thanks!

  5. Johnny,
    Thank you very much.
    I think you'd enjoy "Ancient Wine and the Bible."
    David R. Brumbelow


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