Truth & Error about Bible Wine2

22 January 2023 AM – Psalm 86:11 – Wine – Scott Childs
Introduction: Last week we laid a foundation for our study of Bible Wines by looking at many of the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated “wine” in the Bible. We established the fact that the two main words, yayin and oinos are both generic words that describe grapes in all of their forms. We came to the understanding that the only way to tell if the word “wine” is grapes, fresh pressed juice, preserved fresh juice, raisins, or fermented wine is by the context and moral intent of each passage.
Transition: This morning, we are going to take two more steps to distinguish truth from error about Bible wines.
The second step I want us to take to distinguish truth from error is to …
2.        Examine fermentation and preservation of wine
In order to understand how to preserve grape juice, we must have a basic understanding of the cause of fermentation.
a.         Laws of fermentation
1)         According to the website, “To convert the sugars from the grapes to alcohol, yeast is needed. Yeast is normally already present on the grapes and the alcoholic fermentation can be done with it… Fermentation requires temperatures from 22 to 25 °C for red wine and 15 to 18 °C for white wine.”
2)         To that, William Patton adds,
a)         The juice must be of a certain consistence. [Not too thick. Not too much or too little sugar.]
b)         Too much or too little [gluten] will impede and prevent fermentation. Professor Donovan, in his work on Domestic Economy (in Lardner’s Cyclopaedia) quoted by Patton
3)         Grapes typically get ripe in Israel during August and September. Average temperature in Israel during those months is 30C. Before the days of refrigeration, that was too hot to ferment juice into wine. If not preserved, the fresh juice would turn into vinegar at that temperature. Based on web articles
b.         Preventing fermentation
In the article that I sent you, I went into some detail about preserving grape juice. Here is a summary of the processes from
1)         One method involved boiling the juice and reducing it to a syrup that could later be diluted with water.
2)         Another was to boil the juice with minimum evaporation and then immediately seal it with beeswax in airtight jars.
3)         Drying the fruit in the sun and then reconstituting it with water, adding sulphur to the fruit juice, or filtering the juice to extract the gluten were also methods that would prevent the juice from fermenting.
These means of preservation were known to the ancients, who also practised boiling fermented juice to eliminate the alcohol.
To this list, another author, Ryan Hasty adds,
4)         “They were able to refrigerate and seal wine. Grape juice kept at 45° (7 °C) or less cannot ferment. If it is kept cool long enough, the yeast settles at the bottom and the juice can be skimmed off of the top where it can never ferment even if warmed. We know from archeology that they stored this kind of wine in caves, under water, and in the ground where it was cooler. So even without refrigerators, they still had the means to keep wine cool. They also kept their containers air tight by corking the bottle and then sealing it with pitch. The Jews also poured olive oil on top to seal the juice from the air. In the 1960s, a sunken ship was discovered at the bottom of the Mediterranean that had containers of wine dating back to the Roman Empire. The containers were sealed so well that water from the sea had not penetrated them.”
c.          What does the Bible say about wine preservation?
1)         We read in (Genesis 40:11) “And Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.” The fact that the Pharaoh’s choice of drink was fresh squeezed grape juice may indicate a common practice of that day.
2)         (Isaiah 65:8) “Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all.” This verse also tells us that the ancients considered fresh grape juice to be a blessing.
3)         (Isaiah 25:6) “And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” We read the phrase “wine on the lees” twice in this verse. This translates the Hebrew word shemer. According to Mickelson’s lexicon and the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, shemer refers to something preserved. These same lexicons state that the word translated “refined” means to strain or purify. I believe that modern translations are incorrect when they call this well-aged wine, implying alcohol. Jehovah gave this to His people for their feast. This is the same Jehovah that clearly said (Proverbs 23:31) “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
4)         The point I want us to see is that people in Bible days were not ignorant about preserving grape juice.
The third step I want us to take to distinguish truth from error is to …
3.        Examine Scriptures that Warn Against Alcohol
The Bible includes sad stories of Noah, Lot, and Nabal who got drunk. God’s Word gives us many clear warnings against alcohol and drunkenness.
a.         Scriptures that condemn alcohol
1)         (Proverbs 20:1) “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” One need not be a Bible scholar to see that in this context these words describe alcoholic wine. They mock and roar.
2)         (Proverbs 23:31-33) “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.” These verses very clearly condemn drinking alcoholic wine. If the wine could cause these effects at the last, then we must reject it, even in moderation.
b.         Scriptures that condemn drunkenness
1)         (Isaiah 5:11) “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!” This is obviously speaking of low alcoholic wine.
2)         (Hosea 4:11) “Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.” Hosea lists three pleasures common in his day: immorality, drinking alcohol, and even drinking fresh grape juice. When people are ruled by pleasure, they have no time for God. It does not matter if that pleasure is forbidden, questionable, or harmless.
3)         (Habakkuk 2:15) “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!” This verse speaks for itself.
4)         (Romans 13:13) “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” Each of these activities is sinful, even in moderation. God says that those who are involved in drunkenness will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21). No matter how you interpret that verse, it is very serious.
5)         (Ephesians 5:18) “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” We will discuss this verse later.
Conclusion: People in Bible days knew how to preserve fresh grape juice. While fermented wine was available, it is an error to believe that drinking fermented wine was the norm for all people. Proverbs 23:31 that forbids looking upon fermented wine is one of the clearest verses on wine in the Bible. I challenge you to let the Bible be your guide.
Song: Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord – 337