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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Early Use of Wine in the Bible > Noah      

NOAH (Gen. 9:20-24)

After the Flood Noah planted a vineyard, produced grapes, and made wine; he then “drank of the wine (yayin) and was drunk” (Gen. 9:21). The Bible also relates that he exposed himself before he awoke from his wine. In this initial reference to wine in the Scriptures, the Hebrew word translated “wine” is yayin, which literally speaks of “that which is pressed out” or “that which boils.” The context reveals unmistakably that the word is used of a drink that was derived from the grapes, that the drink was fermented, and that it could cause and did cause drunkenness. Noah became drunk because he drank too much yayin. His drunkenness and inappropriate behavior are attributed to the yayin, so the intoxicating quality of yayin is beyond dispute (see: Jer. 23:9). To argue otherwise is to defy the facts.

Thus, the first time wine is mentioned in the Bible it is abused. Wine, however, is neither advocated nor condemned; the incident is merely reported. The man who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8) drank wine. The man who was “just,” “perfect,” and “walked with God” (v. 9) drank wine. Luther observed of Noah that “even the greatest saints may at times stumble and fall.”

Yayin appears 141 times in thirty-two of the Old Testament books, either alone or in combination with other words. When used alone (134 times) it is translated “wine” 133 times and “banqueting” one time in both the AV and the NKJV. In Song of Solomon 2:4 where “banqueting house” is used, the literal translation is “house of wine.” The “banqueting house” was the place where wine was served and enjoyed; it was not a suspicious or evil place.

Of the eleven words in the Old Testament referring to fermented drinks, yayin is the most common word for wine in the Hebrew language. The other ten words are: tirosh, shekar, chamar, asis, sobe, chemer, yeqeb, mimsak, enab, and shemarim; and all are Hebrew words, except chamar which is Aramaic.

None of the eleven words refer to grape juice; all indicate wine. They are translated variously as: “wine,” “new wine,” “sweet wine,” “red wine,” “mixed wine,” “drink,” “strong drink,” “similar drink,” or “intoxicating drink.”

In the Septuagint yayin is always translated by oinos, the Greek word for wine in the New Testament. Therefore, yayin and oinos are virtual synonyms.

The yayin was not grape juice, and the word is never used in Scripture of just grape juice. No instance of this usage can be found in the Old Testament, with the only questionable passages being Isaiah 16:10 and Jeremiah 40:10-12. Isaiah says that “no treaders will tread out wine (yayin) in the presses,” and Jeremiah tells the people to “gather wine (yayin) and summer fruit and oil.”

These passages simply reveal the close association of grapes and wine in the minds of the people; for them, wine was the drink the grapes produced. To speak of the grapes was to speak of wine. Grapes and wine were inseparable and interchangeable in the Hebrew psychic. In fact, grape juice was impossible to keep in its natural form as it came from the grapes. Fermentation began immediately; and there is no record of any attempt to keep the juice from the grapes in its natural, unfermented state. There was no method known at that time to accomplish such a task.

Blessed be God, who prosper’d Noah’s vine,
and made it bring forth grapes, good store:
but much more Him I must adore,
who of the Law’s sour juice sweet wine did make,
even God Himself being pressed for my sake.
George Herbert

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