Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cotton Picking; When He Comes

Cotton farming is still big in parts of the South. My dad did a little cotton picking for extra money when he was a kid. Cotton farming was, and still is, important around his hometown of Damon, Texas.
Damon is about 30 miles off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The 1932 Hurricane blew the Brumbelow house off the blocks and gently set it down a few yards away. A kerosene lantern never overturned, nor was it extinguished. My dad, Joe Brumbelow, at two years old, was asleep, and never awakened when the house blew off the foundation. (Some of this covered in The Wit and Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow.)

After that experience, grandpa, E. P. Brumbelow, never stayed for another hurricane. When one was coming, grandpa would pack up his family and head inland for 50 miles or so. They would sleep with others in the halls of the courthouse in Bellville or Brenham or that general area. One year when they evacuated, a rich man, at least to them, invited them to stay at his house. Though he missed the excitement of the courthouse, Joe marveled at the mansion. Grandpa lectured his kids on being well behaved and not touching anything, in such a wealthy man’s home.

Dad told of some friends of his in Damon that were about his age. The Sims had ten boys, and their dad owned a cotton trailer. When a hurricane was bearing down on Damon, their dad would hitch up a cotton trailer, throw cotton in it, and head further inland. The partially filled cotton trailer gave them a perfectly comfortable place to sleep. Joe told of how he envied their setup.

Some have spoken disparagingly of those who worked the cotton fields. Those picking cotton, however, always had my deepest respect. You had to be tough to farm, hoe, and pick cotton. Before mechanical cotton harvesting, an older generation used to jokingly refer to someone as an old cotton picker; usually done in a friendly manner. Call someone a cotton picker, and to me that is a compliment.

I’m just old enough to remember cotton picking. On a trip from the North Side of Houston down to Damon, we would pass through Sugar Land. This would have been the early 1960s. I looked out the car window onto a vast cotton field. Mostly, maybe all, black folks were scattered out along the rows picking cotton, with their long cotton sacks trailing behind. I couldn’t see the end of the rows; they seemed to go on forever. It looked to me an endless job. Ever since I’ve been glad I came along a little too late to have to pick cotton.

But to that older generation, cotton picking brings back bitter-sweet memories. Maybe you have to have been involved in cotton farming to fully appreciate the following poem. But I’m not the only one who likes it; W. A. Criswell did too. He grew up in the cotton country of the Texas Panhandle. The poem reminds me of an humble believer, maybe a slave, in a field of cotton, raising his eyes to the heavens, and thinking of the return of Jesus Christ, his King.

When He Comes

There’s a King and Captain high,
Who’ll be coming by and by;
And He’ll find me hoein’ cotton when He comes.
You will hear His legions charging
In the thunders of the sky,
And He’ll find me hoein’ cotton when He comes.

When He comes, when He comes,
All the dead will rise in answer to His drums.
While the fires of His encampment
Stir the firmament on high
And the heavens are rolled asunder when he comes.

He was hated and rejected,
He was scourged and crucified,
But He’ll find me hoein’ cotton when He comes.

When He comes, when He comes,
He’ll be ringed with saints and angels when He comes.
They’ll be shoutin’ out hosannas
To the Man that men denied,
And I’ll kneel among my cotton when He comes.
-unknown. Quoted by W. A. Criswell in Look Up Brother, Broadman; 1970.

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! -Revelation 22:20

Note: Wording varies. Some refer to this as an old Black Spiritual Song. The words above are from Criswell’s book. If Dr. Criswell said it, it must be right :-).

-David R. Brumbelow,, February10, AD 2011.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Common Wine in the Bible #2

Recently a brother asked the question whether a strong case can be made that the most common wine in Bible days was nonalcoholic.

Some of my thoughts:
All agree they had alcoholic wine in the Bible; this is unmistakably the case where folks got drunk, like Noah and Lot. They also plainly had nonalcoholic wine in the Bible, and it was called wine. A few clear examples are Proverbs 3:10; Isaiah 16:10; 65:8; Joel 2:24. These passages are clearly nonalcoholic wine because just pressed grapes do not produce fermented, but unfermented wine or grape juice. Notice how many English translations translate this nonalcoholic grape juice as “wine.”

There are many passages in the Bible, however, that mention wine with no clear immediate evidence to demonstrate it as alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Most modern day readers immediately assume these passages must be speaking of alcoholic wine, as we know alcoholic wine today. Can we not just as easily assume, or even more easily assume, these references are speaking to common, nonalcoholic wine of their day?

A modern day myth is that they could not keep or preserve unfermented wine or grape juice until pasteurization and Welches. That myth is partially answered in the GCP artilce, Preserving Unfermented Wine in Bible Times. Not only could they prepare and preserve unfermented wine, it was easier to do than preserving fermented wine. On top of all this, unfermented wine was simpler to keep, easier to transport, was nutritious, sweet, and had no harmful side effects.

Scripture often refers to new wine and sweet wine. The most obvious and natural meaning of these terms would refer to unfermented wine. New wine and sweet wine always, or almost always, referred to nonalcoholic wine. Scripture also often refers to wine right along with grain, oil, milk, bread. In other words, wine was considered a food like these other substances, not a hard drug.

A few Scriptural considerations:
Grain shall make the young men thrive, and new wine the young women. -Zechariah 9:17
Imagine a preacher today telling young women if they want to thrive, drink alcohol.  That is ludicrusAlcoholic wine does not make young women thrive, it does just the opposite. Nonalcoholic wine, however, will make young women thrive.

The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who are faint in the wilderness to drink. -2 Samuel 16:2
Sweet nonalcoholic wine is much better for the faint than intoxicating wine.
“Nevertheless, to speak generally and broadly, sweet flavours and those of that order are more nutritive than the rest and more natural.” -Theophrastus, De Causis Plantarum; c. 280 BC.

And you drank wine, the blood of the grapes. -Deuteronomy 32:14
Press a grape and it bleeds unfermented, not fermented wine.

“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” -Proverbs 9:4-5
The worst thing you could do to the simple is tell them to drink intoxicating wine. Wisdom, however, personified as a woman, bids the simple to drink the common, sweet, un-intoxicating wine so common in that day.

Because the children and the infants faint in the streets of the city. They say to their mothers, “Where is grain and wine?” -Lamentations 2:11-12
The ancients knew intoxicating wine was inappropriate for children. This Scripture would be comparable today to infants crying out for a juice box.

Genesis 40:11 tells of a common method of preparing wine on the spot; and fresh grapes were kept throughout the year.

In ancient times sweet wine was unfermented wine; fermentation took the sweetness away. Aristotle, Hippocrates, Athenaeus and others testified that sweet wine did not intoxicate. (I know we have sweet intoxicating wine today. We are not speaking of modern day wine, but ancient wine. There is a big difference.) Scripture often speaks of sweet, new wine. Nehemiah (8:10) even instructed his people to drink the sweet wine. Most translations just say, drink the sweet. The ESV says, “sweet wine.” Intoxicating sweet wine in ancient times, was the exception, not the rule.

At the wedding at Cana (John 2) great quantities of wine was consumed. After they ran out, Jesus made over 120 gallons more wine. Yet there is not a hint that there were any problems with drunkenness or unruly behavior. Added to this evidence is that the holy, sinless Jesus was unlikely to have made great quantities of a hard drug. Can you imagine Him creating a bale of marijuana today? If you argue but marijuana is illegal - can you imagine Jesus making a bale of marijuana in a country were it is legal today? I can’t.

But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom. -Matthew 26:29
The most natural meaning of “fruit of the vine” is unfermented wine, not that which has been manipulated and processed by man. Jesus is an abstainer now (even of grape juice), but in the future kingdom He will drink wine with us that is new and un-intoxicating.

I could keep going. There is much, much more evidence. But that is what my new book is for, due out later this year.

Ancient Wine and the Bible - the book

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, February 5, AD 2011.

Preserving Unfermented Wine in Bible Times
2006 SBC Resolution on Alcohol Use in America
Deuteronomy 14:26 - Does it Commend Alcohol?
Common Wine in the Bible
Other articles in lower right hand margin under Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels).