I am doing some research on the symbolism of wine the Bible, particularly its use in the Old Testament and I came across your web site about the different Hebrew words and meanings of wine.

I wanted to ask you which Hebrew lexicon you are using because I use Strong's Lexicon and I found differences from your definitions to mine, and I want to make sure I have the most accurate information possible. For example, you wrote that "yayin" is a generic term used for any time of grape juice. However, Strong's Lexicon says very explicitly that it refers to fermented grape juice which intoxicates, and that it is even a root for when the word "winebibber" appears in scripture. Also, you mentioned that the "spiced wine" the Shulamite made in Song of Solomon 8:2 is the Hebrew word "asis." While "asis does show up in that scripture, it isn't referring to the word "wine" but the word "juice" which she uses to make "yayin."

Also, I'd like to point out that you said the use of "shawkar" was ALWAYS condemned, but I have already found a scripture in which it was not condemned, and actually ENCOURAGED by God to partake in: Deuteronomy 14:26 clearly uses the word translated to "strong drink" and it is God Himself giving permission for His people to enjoy "yayin" as well as "shawkar" (or shekar).

I appreciate your collection of information into one source as it makes my research much easier. I do want the most accurate information I can find, that is why I'm inquiring into your sources.


William Pinkney, an American diplomat (1764-1822), once said, "A definition is no proof." Dictionaries are useful tools, but alone they do not prove much. They are works of men, and men are known to make mistakes. A dictionary attempts to capture the meaning of words from the way words are used. What you find in "Old Testament Beverages" and "New Testament Beverages" are arguments based on how the words are used in context in the Bible.

I have a large collection of dictionaries, including Strong's. Strong in his attempt to be abbreviated and concise often is misleading and incomplete. For example, you mentioned: "I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, she who used to instruct me. I would cause you to drink of spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate" (Song of Solomon 8:2). My point remains that only one drink is being discussed. In this particular verse yayin (wine) is used as a synonym for pomegranate asis (juice). Therefore, yayin is not always alcoholic as Strong stated, nor is it always a product of grapes.

In the definition of shekar, you misquote me. I stated, "The use of shekar as a beverage was always condemned." The use of shekar in sacrifices is covered in greater detail in "I don't think you considered all the passages regarding the use of alcohol in the Old Testament" and "Doesn't the Bible indicate that God accepts alcohol?" Essentially, you haven't proven that the shekar used in the sacrifice was consumed as a beverage.

I really appreciate you taking the time to reply to me in such a thorough manner: this is teaching me a great deal. I also hope you understand that I'm not trying to disprove your viewpoint, but I'm simply playing devil's advocate because I've learned to never just take someone's word for scripture without some extra investigation, because the truth will always stand firm, no matter what is thrown at it.

What other dictionaries do you use in your research? I'd like to know so I can perhaps expand my own collection.

I do still have some lingering questions though, if you don't mind indulging me Song of Solomon 8:2, you say that the two Hebrew words are used as synonyms for the same juice from a pomegranate. Two things comes to mind: firstly, how can we assume that they are just synonyms back-to-back to describe the exact same liquid? And secondly, the verse mentions that it is "spiced" wine, which would mean, if I'm not completely mistaken, that there would need to be other ingredients added in order to make it spiced wine, particularly spices ("rehkak", which according to Strong's is a spice or an added flavor.") So that would mean it isn't the exact same beverage that came purely from the pomegranate if things were added, which would lead me to inevitably believe that we cannot say that the two words refer to the same drink.

My question about the use of "shekar" in the tithe is the fact that I see no explanation or support that it was only offered and not partaken of, considering the surrounding verses are the Lord's words telling them to "eat", also in reference to wine and strong drink. How could we say that they did not partake of the strong drink, but partook of everything else? Where is the support for that?

Some of the dictionaries in my collection are:

  • Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words
  • Thayer Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
  • Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson
  • The Complete Biblical Library
  • Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by G. Kittel
  • Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings by Walter Bauer
  • Strongs
  • American Tract Society Dictionary
  • Eastons Bible Dictionary
  • Smiths Bible Dictionary
  • The Illustrated Bible Dictionary by Tyndale

The point in Song of Solomon 8:2 is based in simple grammar.

"I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, she who used to instruct me. I would cause you to drink of spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate." (NKJV)

"I would lead you, bringing you into my mother's house, who would instruct me. I would have you drink spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate." (WEB)

"I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, who used to instruct me; I would give you spiced wine to drink from the juice of my pomegranates." (NASB)

"I would lead you and bring you to my mother's house-- she who has taught me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the nectar of my pomegranates." (NIV)

Only one drink is being offered, a spiced wine made from pomegranate juice. The fact that spices were added doesn't alter the simple fact that this wine (yayin) is pomegranate juice (asis) based. As I pointed out, yayin is a generic term that applies to a wide variety of beverages. This is born out in "Now that which was prepared daily was one ox and six choice sheep. Also fowl were prepared for me, and once every ten days an abundance of all kinds of wine. Yet in spite of this I did not demand the governor's provisions, because the bondage was heavy on this people" (Nehemiah 5:18). There are many kinds of wine (yayin). The point in my original article is that not all of them were alcoholic.

"But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household" (Deuteronomy 14:24-26).

"Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Command the children of Israel, and say to them, 'My offering, My food for My offerings made by fire as a sweet aroma to Me, you shall be careful to offer to Me at their appointed time.' And you shall say to them, 'This is the offering made by fire which you shall offer to the LORD: two male lambs in their first year without blemish, day by day, as a regular burnt offering. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, the other lamb you shall offer in the evening, and one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil. It is a regular burnt offering which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD. And its drink offering shall be one-fourth of a hin for each lamb; in a holy place you shall pour out the drink to the LORD as an offering. The other lamb you shall offer in the evening; as the morning grain offering and its drink offering, you shall offer it as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD" (Numbers 28:1-8).

These are the two passages which mention the use of shekar. Both are in connection with sacrifices. One mentions a free-will offering which allows the person to offer what he desires (within reason). Even though oxen and sheep may be offered, there is an implication that they were not entirely eaten. Some parts would be impractical to eat, such as the bones and skins. Some was off limits, such as the blood. Some parts could not be eaten because they were devoted to God (Exodus 29:22).

"But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the LORD your God has blessed you" (Deuteronomy 12:5-7).

"However, you may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike. Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it on the earth like water. You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstborn of your herd or your flock, of any of your offerings which you vow, of your freewill offerings, or of the heave offering of your hand. But you must eat them before the LORD your God in the place which the LORD your God chooses, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all to which you put your hands" (Deuteronomy 12:15-18).

Nor can we assume that the entire offering was eaten because it was from the tithes that the Levites, priests, and the poor were feed.

The second passage (Numbers 27:1-8) tells us how the liquid parts of the offering (the drink offering) was used. It was poured out (not consumed).

What I am pointing out that while God allows the person making the offering to purchase whatever he desired to offer (within limits), not all of it was consumed. It isn't even necessary to assume that the parts consumed were in uncooked or raw states, or in unmixed states for flour and oil.

Despite the fact that shekar is universally condemned for consumption in dozens of verses, you select one verse regarding tithe offerings and make an unnecessary assumption that it was used as beverage for consumption. I also noted that these tithe offerings were shared with the priests and Levites, yet there is a specific law stating the priests could not consume shekar while on duty (Leviticus 10:9). My point is that Deuteronomy 14:26 does not prove that shekar was used as a beverage by Israelites with the approval of God. The best you can say it that it was allowed to be used in connection with yearly tithe offerings and that it might possibly had been consumed in an uncooked state. But even here it is only a possibility and given other passages, it isn't necessarily a likely possibility.