Drunkenness





Among the better known cases of drunkenness in the OT are the following: Noah (Gen 9:21), Lot (19:33, 35), Nabal (1 Sam 25:36), Uriah (who was made drunk by David, 2 Sam 11:13), Amnon (13:28), Elah, king of Israel (1 Kings 16:9), Ben-hadad, king of Syria, and thirty-two allied kings (20:16).

Priests were forbidden to drink wine and strong drink while on duty in the sanctuary (Lev 10:9). Nazirites were expected to abstain from intoxicating beverages during the period of their vows (Num 6:3, 4).

The Scriptures contain strong injunctions against strong drink (Lev 10:9; Deut 21:20; Luke 21:34; 1 Cor 5:11; Gal 5:21).

Drunkenness also is used in a metaphorical sense (Job 12:25; Isa 19:14; Jer 23:9; Ezek 23:33; 39:19; Nah 3:11).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

I. Its Prevalance.


II. Its Symptoms and Effects.

These are most vividly portrayed:

(1) some of its physical symptoms (Job 12:25; Ps 107:27; Pr 23:29; Isa 19:14; 28:8; 29:9; Jer 25:16);

(2) its mental effects: exhilaration (Ge 43:34), jollity and mirth (1 Esdras 3:20), forgetfulness (1 Esdras 3:20), loss of understanding and balance of judgment (Isa 28:7; Ho 4:11);

(3) its effects on man’s happiness and prosperity: its immediate effect is to make one oblivious of his misery; but ultimately it "biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder," and leads to woe and sorrow (Pr 23:29-32) and to poverty (Pr 23:21; compare Pr 21:17; Ecclesiasticus 19:1); hence, wine is called a "mocker" deceiving the unwise (Pr 20:1);

(4) its moral and spiritual effects: it leads to a maladministration of justice (Pr 31:5; Isa 5:23), provokes anger and a contentious, brawling spirit (Pr 20:1; 23:29; 1 Esdras 3:22; Ecclesiasticus 31:26,29 f), and conduces to a profligate life (Eph 5:18; "riot," literally, profligacy). It is allied with gambling and licentiousness (Joe 3:3), and indecency (Ge 9:21 f). Above all, it deadens the spiritual sensibilities, produces a callous indifference to religious influences and destroys all serious thought (Isa 5:12).

III. Attitude of the Bible to the Drink Question.

Intemperance is condemned in uncompromising terms by the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as by the semi- canonical writings. While total abstinence is not prescribed as a formal and universal rule, broad principles are laid down, especially in the New Testament, which point in that direction.

1. In the Old Testament:


2. Deutero-Canonical and Extra-Canonical Writings:

In Apocrypha, we have the attitude of prudence and common sense, but the prophetic note of stern denunciation is wanting. The path of wisdom is the golden mean. "Wine is as good as life to men, if thou drink it in its measure; .... wine drunk in season and to satisfy is joy of heart, and gladness of soul: wine drunk largely is bitterness of soul, with provocation and conflict" (Ecclesiasticus 31:27-30 the Revised Version (British and American)). A vivid picture of the effects of wine-drinking is given in 1 Esdras. 3:18-24. Stronger teaching on the subject is given in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. The use of wine is permitted to him who can use it temperately, but abstinence is enjoined as the wiser course (Testament to the Twelve Patriarchs, Jud 1:16:3).

3. In the New Testament:


There are indications that He regarded wine as a source of innocent enjoyment (Lu 5:38 f; 17:8). To insist on a distinction between intoxicating and unfermented wine is a case of unjustifiable special pleading. It must be borne in mind that the drink question is far more complex and acute in modern than in Biblical times, and that the conditions of the modern world have given rise to problems which were not within the horizon of New Testament writers. The habit of excessive drinking has spread enormously among the common people, owing largely to the cheapening of alcoholic drinks. The fact that the evil exists today in greater proportions may call for a drastic remedy and a special crusade. But rather than defend total abstinence by a false or forced exegesis, it were better to admit that the principle is not formally laid down in the New Testament, while maintaining that there are broad principles enunciated, which in view of modern conditions should lead to voluntary abstinence from all intoxicants. Such principles may be found, e. g. in our Lord’s teaching in Mt 16:24 f; Mr 9:42 f, and in the great Pauline passages--Ro 14:13-21; 1Co 8:8-13.

IV. Drunkenness in Metaphor.


D. Miall Edwards