Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Judges 9:13 and Alcohol

But the vine said to them, ‘Should I cease my new wine, which cheers both God and men, and go to sway over trees?’ -Judges 9:13

Judges 9:13 is often brought up with the contention that it shows God is pleased with alcohol, that alcohol is intended by God to cheer the heart of God and man.

A closer look reveals a number of problems with this view.

1. In the Bible, as much as some wish and assume, wine is not synonymous with alcohol. Sometimes wine refers to an alcoholic drink, sometimes it does not. In Bible times they had no word for “alcohol,” so they described it by its effects. For example, Proverbs 23:29-35 (Significantly, after describing this kind of alcoholic wine, it then says not to even look at it!).

Judges 9:13 is talking about wine, it is not necessarily talking about alcohol.

2. The word for wine used in this verse is the Hebrew word tirosh. Tirosh usually means new wine, just pressed wine, unfermented wine, nonalcoholic wine.

Some even contend tirosh always meant unfermented wine. Two Jewish Encyclopedias take this position. For example, The Jewish Encyclopedia states,

“‘Tirosh’ includes all kinds of sweet juices and must, and does not include fermented wine (Tosef., Ned. iv. 3).”

By the way, this also shows the ancient Jews knew much more than they are often given credit about making and preserving all kinds of nonalcoholic drinks.

3. Notice in this verse the vine says, “My wine.”

What kind of wine does a vine possess? Wine in the grapes, the pure blood of the grape, unfermented wine, nonalcoholic wine, or grape juice.

This is reminiscent of Isaiah 65:8, another clear biblical reference to nonalcoholic wine.

As the new wine is found in the cluster. -Isaiah 65:8 (Notice the English translations that use the word “wine” for this obviously nonalcoholic grape cluster.)

4. “which cheers both God and men.” A number of Christian social drinkers have claimed this has to be alcohol, since it “cheers” both God and man. Some have actually claimed this shows even God enjoys getting a little tipsy.

There are several problems with this view.

1. God condemns drunkenness and it is unlikely He is saying it’s alright to get a little drunk. As Jerry Vines has said, “Moderate drinking is moderate intoxication.” God would not violate His own commandments.

There are now government TV commercials warning, “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.”

2. Isn’t it possible to have a drug-free cheerfulness? My heart has often been glad (cheered), without drugs being involved.

3. The harvest, and the huge amount of work that went into saving the harvest, when completed gave great cause to be cheerful, to rejoice.

4. They craved sweet things, and a good glass of sweet wine would bring joy. They had no cane sugar; their only sources of sweetness were from fruit and honey. I’ve had Pinot Noir unfermented wine; it cheers my heart every time.

5. It is sacrilegious to present God as getting even a little drunk.

6. If God ever did get a little drunk, can you imagine the trouble we would be in?

Rather than commending alcohol, Judges 9:13 does just the opposite. It shows a great example of one of the many Bible verses that speak of nonalcoholic wine.

(More on this issue in Ancient Wine and the Bible.)

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, February 18, AD 2014.

Ancient Wine Production and the Bible
Deuteronomy 14:26 - Does it Commend Alcohol?
More Articles in lower right margin. 



  1. Even Jesus drank wine. The pharisees even called him a drunkard for doing so. If God did not want to us to drink wine then He would have don't do it. But he only said don't get drunk. Drinking to get drunk means giving yourself over to alcoholic beverages, not just having a couple of drinks. Bottom line: drink if you want to but DON'T get drunk.

  2. Anon,

    Contrary to your claim, interestingly the Bible never says Jesus drank wine.
    And the Bible certainly never says Jesus drank alcohol.
    Even if it did say Jesus drank wine, the question would then be if it was fermented or unfermented wine. The same biblical words were used of both kinds of wine. They knew how to make and preserve both kinds of wine.
    In Scripture wine is not synonymous with alcohol.

    If you believe Jesus drank alcoholic wine, that is your interpretation.
    It is not you just taking the Bible for what it says.

    The enemies of Jesus accused Him of being a winebibber. They also accused Him of being demon possessed.
    Just because those who hated Jesus falsely accused Him - no more means He drank even a little alcohol than it means he was a little demon possessed.
    Jesus did not do drugs, and He was not demon possessed.

    I Peter 5:8 (also 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8) commands us to, “Be sober.” That seems to me a pretty clear command to not do drugs for recreation or pleasure.
    David R. Brumbelow

    1. Please read Matthew 11:18 and Luke 7:34. Jesus was saying John didn't drink (since he was a Nazarite) but He did since He did not take the Nazarite vow (which was a vow that included not taking wine or strong drink). It seems people really have to do biblical gymnastics to say God prohibits alcoholic beverages. But, if its a sin for you to drink, then don't do it.

  3. Anon,
    Matthew 11:18-19 and Luke 7:33-34 are weak evidence that Jesus drank alcohol.
    All they are saying is that John Baptist did not socialize with the people, while Jesus did.

    To say Jesus came eating and drinking and socializing with the people does not say He consumed alcohol. I respond to their false accusations against Jesus in my previous comment.

    Jesus was not a Nazarite. But not being a Nazarite does not therefore mean you drink alcohol. After all, I’m not a Nazarite either.
    David R. Brumbelow


What do you think?