Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine >  Nation of Israel > Sacrifices and Feasts


Wine was prominent in the life of the Hebrew people, prominent in every dimension, whether the daily meal, the preaching of the prophets, or the religious and ceremonial life of the nation. Even in the sacrifices, feasts, and offerings wine was important because God required the people to present wine to Him.

The Daily Offerings (Ex. 29:38-46; Num. 28:1-8) required two lambs—one in the morning and one in the evening—to be offered on the altar. This was done “day by day continually” (Ex. 29:38). With each lamb the priest offered one-tenth of an ephah of flour (2 qts.), one-fourth of a hin of oil (1 qt.), and one-fourth of a hin of wine or strong drink (1 qt) as a drink offering (v. 40). The drink offering was poured out—the question is where—as an offering to the Lord, either on the sacrifice, on the horns of the altar, or at the base of the altar. All of the wine or strong drink was poured out, with none of the drink offering being given to the priest to use for himself; and the wine was to be wine that had aged at least forty days.

Wine is thus acceptable and pleasing to God, even required by God as a daily offering in the Old Testament. Wine was not given because man initially chose to give it, but because God commanded it. Every day wine was offered to God. It was a “sweet aroma to the Lord” (Num. 15:7, 10; every aspect of the sacrifice was a “sweet aroma” to the Lord) and was reminiscent of the drink offering Jacob poured out on the rock when he returned to Bethel (Gen. 35:14).

The drink offering could be “wine” (yayin, Ex. 29:40; for discussion of yayin see: Noah) or “strong drink” (shekar, Num. 28:7). Whereas the NKJV translates shekar in Numbers 28:7 as “drink,” the AV uses “strong wine,” the ESV and NASV uses “strong drink,” and the NIV uses “fermented drink.”

Shekar, literally speaking of “that which satiates or pleases, appears twenty-two times in the Old Testament and is translated “strong drink” (21 times) and “strong wine” (1 time) in the AV. It is translated “drink” (2 times), “similar drink” (7 times), “strong drink” (3 times) and “intoxicating drink” (10 times) in the NKJV. Obviously the translation “drink” in Num. 28:7 of the NKJV is a poor translation and does not convey the essence of the word.

At times shekar is used in the same verse with yayin and occasionally alone. They are similar in that both words refer to fermented drinks that could cause drunkenness. Yayin seems to be a fermented drink mainly from the grapes; shekar appears to be wine, enhanced by herbs, grain, dates, or some other fruit. Some have even suggested that shekar is not from grapes at all, but exclusively from grain or some fruit, such as pomegranates or dates. Shekar was a drink that was more intoxicating than just yayin; it was a “strong drink.” It was a more potent drink that was drunk by the people of Israel. And God accepted it.

In addition to the Daily Offerings, in each of the following sacrifices and feasts wine was used by the people. The usual formula accompanying the description of the sacrifices was “with their drink offerings”; and all the drink offerings were either yayin or shekar.

The Sabbath Offerings (Num. 28:9-10) were offered every Sabbath in addition to the daily offerings. Two additional lambs were offered, each with its prescribed grain offering, oil, and drink offering. Thus, each Sabbath “wine” or “strong drink” was to be offered to the Lord in the drink offering.

The Monthly Offerings (Num. 28:11-15) were at the beginning of each month. Offered were two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs, each with its prescribed grain offering, oil, and drink offering (one-half gallon of wine for each bull; one-third gallon for the ram; and one quart for each lamb). In addition, one kid of the goats was to be offered as a sin offering with its drink offering. All the drink offerings were either yayin or shekar.

The Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23:9-14; Num. 28:26; Deut. 18:4) included the priest waving a a sheaf and offering a male lamb of one year old with its grain offering, oil, and drink offering. Part of the firstfruits, whether of animals, grain, new wine (tirosh), oil, or the fleece of the ship, was to be given to the priests. None of the new grain was to be eaten until this was done.

During the reform under Hezekiah, the people brought “in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine (tirosh), oil, and honey” (II Chron. 31:5). And when the Exiles returned to the land they vowed “to bring the firstfruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine (tirosh) and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the house of our God” (Neh. 10:37). Wine was brought voluntarily by the people to the priests to be stored in the rebuilt Temple. For giving to God the firstfruits, the people were to be blessed with new wine (tirosh); and their barns were to be filled with plenty (Prov. 3:9-10). Wine was considered one of the blessings of God.

The Feasts of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-21; Num. 28:26-31) followed the firstfruits offering. With all the sacrifices offered during this Feast there was to be offered the appropriate drink offering. It was to be a holy convocation with no work done.

The Feasts of Trumpets (Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 29:1-6) was in the seventh month; there was to be a holy convocation, with the blowing of the trumpets and no work done. The sacrifices, one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs and one kid of the goats for a sin offering, were to be offered with “their drink offerings” (Lev. 29:6).

The Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:26-32; Num. 29:7-11) was a holy convocation with no work done. In addition to the atonement offerings described in Leviticus 16, one bull, one ram, and seven lambs, were to be offered, along with one kid of the goats as a sin offering; each was offered with “their drink offerings” (Lev. 29:11).

The Feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 16:13; Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-38) was after the grain and grape harvest and consisted of eight days of sacrifices. All of the many and varied sacrifices were to be offered with “their drink offerings” (Num. 29:17, 22, 25, 28, 31, 37).

In addition to the above national offerings and sacrifices, there were general guidelines for individuals (Lev. 23:37-38; Num. 15:1-16; 29:39). With each lamb there was to be a grain offering of one-tenth (2 qts) of a hin of flour mixed with one-fourth (1 qt) of a hin of oil, and one-fourth (1 qt) of a hin of wine (yayin) as a drink offering. For a ram it was four quarts of flour mixed with one-third gallon of oil, with one-third gallon of wine (yayin); for a bull it was six quarts of flour with one-half gallon of oil, with one-half galloon of wine (yayin) as a drink offering. These requirements were true for native-born and the strangers who were in the land. There is only one way to God, the same for Jews and Greeks. Both come by the way of the Sacrifice.

In each of these sacrifices, feasts, and offerings God directed that wine be offered to Him. With every sacrifice there was an appropriate drink offering; and the drink offering was wine, either yayin or shekar. It was an acceptable, even required part of the sacrificial system. The number of animals offered in sacrifice is staggering, and the amount of wine poured out before the Lord is proportional. God blessed the people with wine and directed that they return to Him part of that with which He had blessed them.

He is pleased when He receives what He requires. And God does not require in sacrifice that which is objectionable to Him or that which He deems unclean. What was given in sacrifice to the Lord could be used by the people in their daily lives. They offered wine with their sacrifices in obedience to God’s requirements and enjoyed wine with their meals, giving thanksgiving to God for His blessings.

How can that which is pleasing and acceptable to God in sacrifice and offering
be deemed unacceptable and inappropriate for man to enjoy in his personal life?

Does God condemn what He demands?

An exhilaration to the heart and gladness to the soul is wine,
drunk at the proper time and in sufficient quantity.
Ecclesiasticus 31:28

Return to: Wine and the Nation of Israel; Next Article: The Tithe 

 For overview of the website, see: Site Map
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.