WINE: yayin. Masculine Noun. (Strong’s 3196).
Sounds like: yah-yeen.
I have a sensitivity to alcohol and am unable to drink wine, but I’m told by many friends that there’s nothing like a glass of wine after work to sooth the soul. Certainly our culture has connected wine with relaxation and decadence. The cup of my relaxation and decadence is filled with tea (with a side-order of a good book), but since tea is lacking in the Biblical narrative, today we will discuss wine.
Although there are a few different Hebrew words that are translated as wine, today we will look specifically at the most generic word yayin. Within the Tanakh, yayin (wine) was associated with feasting and abundance. YHWH could be seen as the Great Provider, and lists of His provisions almost always included wine:
He [YHWH] makes the grass grow for the livestock and provides crops for man to cultivate, bringing forth food from the earth: wine [w’yayin] that gladdens the heart of man, oil that makes his face to shine and bread that sustains his heart.
Just as God provided wine for humanity, wine was expected to be one of the main components in sacrificial offerings to YHWH. The book of Numbers, chapter fifteen, outlined many of these specific sacrificial offerings, which included wine. However, there came a time when these drink offerings did not please YHWH:
Do not rejoice, Israel, with jubilation like the nations! For you have been unfaithful, abandoning your God.
You have loved the earnings of unfaithfulness on every threshing floor. Threshing floor and wine press will not feed them, and the new wine will fail them.
They will not remain in YHWH’s land, but Ephraim will return to Egypt, and in Assyria they will eat unclean food.
They will not pour out drink offerings of wine [yayin] to YHWH, nor will their sacrifices please Him.
Their bread will be to them like mourners’ bread; all who eat it will be defiled, because their bread will be for themselves alone; it will not enter the house of YHWH.
For these people, the bread was for their own consumption and the wine they kept for themselves. This was not a sacrifice to YHWH. There was nothing sacred in their offerings and YHWH recognized it. The sacrifice would not enter the house of YHWH. The people, by their own actions, were judged and rejected.
Abusing Wine and Strong Drink
The mistreatment of wine went beyond insincere sacrifices. The Bible wholly recognized that some people became addicted and reliant upon the alcoholic properties of wine. Although it made them sick, like they were being tossed along a tumultuous sea, they still craved it:
Proverbs 23:19-20, 30-35
Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine [yayin], or with gluttonous eaters of meat; for the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe one with rags…
…Those who linger long over (the) wine [ha-yayin], those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look at wine [yayin] when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a snake and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things and your mind will say perverse things.
And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. “They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me, but I did not know it. When will I awake? I will seek another drink.”
The alcoholic’s focus has always been getting back to the drink. They had lost their wisdom to alcohol:
Wine [ha-yain] is a mocker, intoxicating drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.
Alcohol not only can make you daft, it also consumes you without end:
“…wine [ha-yayin] betrays an arrogant man, so that he does not achieve his objective. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied.”
Wine itself was not a bad thing. It was part of the great abundance offered to us as children of God. But overuse and abuse of anything was never good. Our bodies really are temples of God’s presence where the Spirit dwells. Overfill it with alcohol and we defile the temple.
Turning away from YHWH usually meant turning towards foreign gods, and in some descriptions the people also turned towards drink (as if it was a god) and acted like drunkards:
And these also reel with wine and stagger from intoxicating drink: the priest and the prophet reel with intoxicating drink, they are confused by wine [by-yayin], they stagger from intoxicating drink; they reel while having visions, they stagger when rendering a verdict.
For all the tables are full of filthy vomit, without a single clean place.
Wine from the Cup of YHWH
Wine was also rich with metaphor. Drinking wine was like consuming punishment. Early mentions of wine included the foaming liquid that was in the Cup of YHWH, a cup that was filled with the medicine of God’s judgement:
For thus YHWH, the God of Israel, says to me, “Take this cup of the wine of wrath [kows ha-yayin ha-khemah] from My hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it. They will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them.”…
…“You shall say to them, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, “Drink, be drunk, vomit, fall and rise no more because of the sword which I will send among you.”’ “And it will be, if they refuse to take the cup from your hand to drink, then you will say to them, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts: “You shall surely drink! For behold, I am beginning to work calamity in this city which is called by My name, and shall you be completely free from punishment? You will not be free from punishment; for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth,” declares YHWH of hosts.’
It was bitter wine that they would taste! It would churn their stomachs and destroy them. Not only had they turned their backs on God, they did everything God asked them not to do: they were greedy, they shunned those in need, they defiled their bodies with impure food and dangerous living, they had no respect for life, they did not honour God in any way. YHWH was given no choice, but to punish and set them back on the right path:
For a cup is in the hand of YHWH, and the wine foams; it is well mixed, and He pours out of this; surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.
But as for me, I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
The Psalmist knew they deserved the punishment that they got. The Psalmist also knew that YHWH was a forgiving God and he cried for salvation:
You have rejected us, O God; You have broken us; You have been angry; restore us!
You have shaken the land and torn it open. Heal its fractures, for it is quaking.
You have shown Your people hardship; we are staggered from the wine [yayin] You made us drink.
You have raised a banner for those who fear You, that they may flee the bow. Selah.
Save us with Your right hand; answer us, that those You love may be delivered.
Salvation was what they needed. They needed a King who put sacrifice over glory, compassion over strength, and humility over wealth.
Wine & Blood
And YHWH did, indeed, provide that King. The cup of wrath, filled with foaming wine, was to be handed over to the Messiah, so he could drink it down to the dregs on behalf of humanity. He would consume our punishment. The Messiah would drink the wine of wrath so He could become salvation for us all.
It should not surprise us the Jesus (Yeshua, in Hebrew, meaning Salvation) talked about this cup. When Peter cut off the centurion’s ear, at the moment they came to take Jesus away to be tried and then killed, Jesus said to him:
“Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”
Yeshua knew his fate. He knew he was to drink the cup of wrath by the shedding of his blood. However, this pairing of wine and blood wasn’t just a New Testament (B’rit Chadashah) theme. Isaiah, in particular, was rich with the metaphors of wine, lifeblood, and drunkenness:
“Who is this who comes from Edom, with garments of glowing colours from Bozrah, this One who is majestic in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength?”
“It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”
“Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the winepress?”
“I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come. I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought salvation to Me, and My wrath upheld Me. I trod down the peoples in My anger and made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
It’s a startling image: the people were put through the winepress; their blood was squeezed out of them and pour out over the earth. Although the invasions of the Assyrians and, later, the Babylonians was a terrible and bloody time in Jewish history, there was hope. In this time of devastation and exile, the people held onto the Covenant that YHWH had promised them. Through the Blood of the Covenant they would return to the Promised Land and be saved by the seed of David, the anointed Messiah to come.
Zechariah 9:11-12, 15-16
As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you…
…YHWH of hosts will defend them. And they will devour and trample on the sling stones; and they will drink and be boisterous as with wine [yayin]; and they will be filled like a sacrificial basin, drenched like the corners of the altar. And YHWH their God will save them in that day as the flock of His people; For they are as the stones of a crown, sparkling in His land.
They were filled and they were drenched, yet YHWH would save them through the blood of his covenant. It was a binding promise… a promise of a sacrifice to save humanity.
Bread & Wine
Wine brings to mind the bread and wine of the Communion Table. Bread and wine was a common, and distinguished, pairing in the Bible. The first time they were paired together in the Scripture was at the hand the king-priest Melchizedek of Salem:
After Abram returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem [melek salem] brought out bread and wine [lechem wa-yayin]—since he was priest of God Most High— and he blessed Abram and said:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Many consider king Melchizedek to be a proto-Messianic figure, or even the pre-incarnate Messiah. Jesus offered his own body, as bread, and his own blood, as wine. For Yeshua’s disciples, who were well versed in the Tanakh, the final Passover with Jesus may have triggered an association in their minds with the king-priest Melchizedek of Salem, whose full name in Hebrew meant My King is Righteous(ness).
Yeshua and the Wine
Although, as we read last week, bread was a significant symbol in the life of Yeshua, wine, too, had an impressive track record as a Messianic symbol. Yeshua’s first sign, or miracle, was about wine:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine [Greek: oinou] ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him.
When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
Usually the good/best/first-fruits were served at the beginning of an event. Later on, when people were too drunk to notice, the lesser wine would be served. But Jesus turned it around (which was a common theme for most of his life). With Jesus, the best was saved for last. Although, this best sign would be good news for us, it would be painful news for Jesus.
Jesus’ first sign on earth was changing water to wine at Cana, at his mother’s request. Jesus’ last sign was his sacrificial death at Calvary where he drank bitter wine. His mother was a witness to this:
But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
Jesus may have saved the best wine for last at the wedding, but he swallowed the worst wine at the last moment before his death.
Salvation is a free offering from YHWH. We should have been the ones to drink down the sour dregs, but God saved us from that fate. He sent a Messiah to drink it down for us, so that we could live freely, without cost.
Of course what comes to mind with Yeshua (Jesus) and wine, is the communion table:
And when He [Jesusu] had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again, until that day when I drink it, new, in the kingdom of God”
When we remember Yeshua’s blood sacrifice we should celebrate our Saviour… and our Salvation that cost us nothing, but cost Him everything.
“You there! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine [yayin] and milk without money and without cost.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you.”
Next week: Cling/cleave/keep close