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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Jesus and Wine > John the Baptist      


Shortly before Christ was born, Zacharias and Elizabeth were living in Jerusalem. “Both were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Lu. 1:16). But they had no children. Elizabeth was barren, and they both were old.

While he was serving in the Temple an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias with an announcement that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son and his name was to be John. The angel also informs him that the son “will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine (oinos; see: The Wedding in Cana) nor strong drink (sikera; see: below)” and “will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (v. 15).

This child would be the one to announce the arrival of the Hebrew Messiah, which he did with the words: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jo. 1:29). Therefore, the son of their old age is the messenger predicted by Malachi in the Old Testament (3:1).

The prohibition against wine and strong drink is stated because it was customary for the people to enjoy the fruit of the vine, which was wine and was the most common drink of the people. In addition, Zacharias was a priest, and the people annually brought a tithe of their wine and gave it to the priest to use for himself (see: The Tithe).

Zacharias and his wife obviously drank wine, and it would be expected that their child would drink wine. The customs that had prevailed in the Old Testament were still followed at the time of Christ. It was acceptable for those who led the people in worship and sacrifice to be “drinkers of wine.” Wine was a daily drink, enjoyed at nearly every meal, as it had been throughout the Hebrew history (see: Wine and the Nation of Israel).

The abstinence of John the Baptist was related to his special ministry in relationship to Christ—he was the forerunner of Christ—not to the evil of fermented drink. Some have felt that John was a Nazirite though the Scriptures do not state that to be the case (see: The Nazirites).

Sikera appears only here in the New Testament and is translated “strong drink” in the AV, NKJV, and ESV. The word is similar to the Hebrew, shekar (see: Sacrifices and Feasts), which it translates in the Septuagint. Thayer states that sikera was “made of a mixture of sweet ingredients, whether derived from grain and vegetables, or from the juice of fruits (dates), or a decoction of honey” and that it was “an intoxicating beverage.” John was to abstain not only from sikera but also from oinos, which is discussed in the next section.

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