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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine >  Nation of Israel > Preaching of the Prophets


PREACHING OF THE PROPHETS

Several themes appear frequently in the preaching of the prophets. While the drinking of wine was perfectly acceptable, even endorsed by God, the abuse of the drink was severely condemned.

The prophets equated Israel’s sin with too much wine and excessive wine drinking which kept the people from the Lord’s work and from His ways. Isaiah speaks of the people who “rise early” to “follow intoxicating drink (shekar)” and follow the drink “until night,” but “the work of the Lord” is not regarded and no consideration is given to “the operations of His hands” (5:11-12).

Insatiable desire for wine interferes with devotion to the Lord and with one’s ability to be spiritually perceptive. Isaiah does not condemn the drink but the passion for it that has become all consuming. In another place God calls for “weeping and for mourning,” but instead there was “eating meat and drinking wine (yayin)”; and the people were saying: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (22:12-13).

The people were exhibiting concern for the physical with no regard for the spiritual; their total focus was upon the temporal. They desired one last experience of self-indulgence, and even the inevitability of death meant for them the necessity of more drink. Too much wine led to manifold sins, and with the sinning God was forgotten. Wine was not the only factor, but it was a contributing factor to the spiritual decline of the nation.

The prophets are emphatic in their pronouncements:

Isaiah speaks of the pride and drunkenness of Ephraim (28:1, 3);

Amos charges Israel with drinking wine as they committed moral and sexual immorality (2:8) and announced woe to those who “drink wine (yayin) from bowls and anoint themselves with the best ointments but they do not grieve “for the affliction of Joseph” (6:6);

Hosea claims that instead of crying to God and wailing on their bed the people assembled “together for grain and new wine (tirosh)” (7:14).

The prophets predicted that part of God’s judgment would involve taking away the wine from the people. Isaiah states that “the new wine (tirosh) fails, and the vine languishes” (24:7); also the people “shall not drink wine (yayin) with a song,” and the “strong drink (shekar) is bitter” (v. 9). There is a “cry for wine (yayin) in the streets” and “all joy is darkened” (v. 11), and “in the city desolation is left” (v. 12). In this passage, Isaiah 24:7-11, the three most common Hebrew words for fermented drinks appear: tirosh (see: Isaac and Jacob), yayin (see: Noah), and shekar (see: Sacrifices and Feasts).

In judgment God removes the fruit of the vine as well as the vine itself. There is no gladness in the drinking, and the drink that is consumed results in a bitter experience. Abundance gives way to want.

Again the prophets are emphatic in their pronouncements:

Hosea says the “new wine (tirosh) would be taken away by God (2:9) and that the “threshing floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine (tirosh) shall fail” (9:2);

Joel claims that “the new wine (tirosh) is dried up (1:10; see: Hos. 2:22);

Amos states that “you have planted pleasant vineyards but you shall not drink from them” (5:11; see: Zeph. 1:13);

And Micah declares that you shall “make sweet wine (tirosh), but not drink wine (yayin)” (6:15).

To be without wine was to be the recipient of God’s judgment. That which God gives to His people in blessing, He withdraws from them in judgment. The same God who gives also takes.

The prophets affirm that following repentance by the people the wine would be restored by God. “Thus says the Lord: ‘As the new wine (tirosh) is found in the cluster, and one says: “Do not destroy it, for a blessing is in it,” so will I do for My servant’s sake that I may not destroy them all’” (Isa. 65:8). What is done at harvest will be done by God for His people.

The cry at the time of harvest is to save and not lose the first drippings (new wine) because it is of a more noble quality. Just so, God will save and not lose any of His people; in addition, He will bless them with wine. The prophets inform the people of these facts:

Jeremiah claims that “they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, streaming to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat and new wine (tirosh) and oil” (31:12);

Hosea says that when the Lord answers He will answer the heavens and the heavens will answer the earth “with grain, with new wine (tirosh), and with oil” (2:21-22; see: Joel 1:10); “they shall be revived like grain and grow like a vine” (14:7);

Joel states that when the Lord has pity on His people He will send them “grain and new wine (tirosh) and oil” and that they would “be satisfied by them” (2:19); he also predicts that “the vats shall overflow with new wine (tirosh) and oil” (v. 24).

In several of these passages is mentioned the combination of grain, wine, and oil, a combination that appears throughout the Old Testament. The removal of these indicates God’s judgment, and the presence of these indicates God’s favor.

The prophets predict that the glorious Messianic age will be characterized by an abundance of wine. A vision was given to the prophets that reached beyond the judgments and restorations of the present to an unmatched time of God’s blessing in the future. In Chapter 3 Joel writes: “And it will come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drip with new wine (asis, see below), the hills shall flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water” (v. 18). This time is usually associated with the coming Messiah. Whether the text is taken literally or interpreted in some spiritual manner related to the Church, the imagery of wine plays a part in the message.

Other prophets speak of a coming day of prominence for Israel, a day associated with the Messiah of Israel. It will be a time of restoration and blessing. And ultimately the day of Israel is the day of Christ and His people (see: The Day of the Lord and Rule of Christ). Amos adds commentary:

Behold the days are coming” says the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine (asis), and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine (yayin) from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them” (9:13-14).

Wine is not only associated with sin, judgment, and restoration, but also with the future time of blessing that God enabled the prophets to see. The time of Messiah will be a time of “sweet wine.”

Asis appears five times in the Old Testament and is translated “juice” (1 time), “new wine” (2 time), and “sweet wine” (2 times) in the AV and NKJV; but “nectar” (1), “wine” (1), and “new wine” (3) in the NIV; and “juice” (1) and “sweet wine” (4) in the NASV.

The word refers to “must or new wine”; it is from a root meaning “to squeeze out,” “to press out,” or “to crush.” “Juice” and “nectar” are possible translations of Song of Solomon 8:2 which speaks of “spiced wine (yayin)” and “the juice (asis) of my pomegranate.” Intoxicating juice, from pomegranates or some other fruit, at times was added to wine to make a “spiced wine,” which is the translation of yayin in verse two in the AV, the ESV, and the NASV, while “juice” translates asis.

Wine is like life to men, if you drink it in moderation.
What life has a man who is without wine?
For it was created to give gladness to men.
Ecclesiasticus 31:27


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