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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Abuse of Wine > Warnings for Political Leaders


King Lemuel gives the clear warning in the Old Testament that he had received from his mother: “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine (yayin), nor for princes intoxicating drink (shekar); lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted” (Prov. 31:4-5). A ruler under the influence of wine or some other intoxicating drink will not be fully cognizant when he interprets and applies the law, with the result being that justice will be perverted. Political leaders are not to be drunkards; they must have self-control.

This passage cannot be interpreted to teach that wine is not to be consumed, for the next verses teach that it is proper to give wine to the one facing death or who is in misery. And the Bible record without rebuke the fact that political leaders like David and Nehemiah, and other notable Hebrew leaders, drank wine. Wine is acceptable, but it is not to interfere with responsibilities and obligations. The ruler must have a clear mind. Like the priest, he is not to drink when performing his official duties (see: Isa. 56:9-12).

How tragic when the ruler is held captive to wine or strong drink. Consider Elah, who was killed while he was “drinking himself drunk” (I Ki. 16:8-9); Benhadad and the thirty-two kings, who were “getting drunk at the command post” (I Ki. 20:16); Ahasuerus, who was “merry with wine (yayin) (Esther 1:10); and Belshazzar, who “drank wine (chamar; see: A Blessing from God) in the presence of the thousand” (Dan. 5:1-4).

“Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, and your princes feast at the proper time—for strength and not for drunkenness” (Eccles. 10:17). Wine is to be consumed “at the proper time” and for the proper reason. It is tragic when the ruler succumbs to evil influence and disqualifies himself for leadership because of his excessive indulgence. “In the day of our king princes have made him sick, inflamed with wine (yayin); he stretched out his had with scoffers” (Hos. 7:5). Festivity led to excess, and excess led to evil. As a result, the land was not blessed because the leader had no conception of what was appropriate. How devastating it is when leaders have no discipline and no temperance in such a small matter as what to drink and how much to drink. For their indiscretions the people suffer and the lands they rule suffer.

Return to: The Abuse of Wine; Next Article: Warnings Concerning Eternity 

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