The Question of Wine and the Drink-Offering of the Old Testament

The Question of Wine and the Drink-Offering of the Old Testament

Original Author Unknown,
Edited by Carl A. Allen and Jeffrey W. Hamilton
via The Berean, Vol. V, No. 5,6, February 2010

The argument for the drinking of wine with the Old Testament feasts is stated as thus: "The drink-offerings at all set feasts, including Passover, were of wine (Numbers 15:1-10); therefore, as Jesus was eating the Passover when he instituted his Supper, he had to use wine." This conclusion is erroneous for the following reasons:

First, let's define the drink-offering:

  1. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, P. 26:39. "A liquid offering of wine, rarely water, sometimes of oil, and usually accompanying the burnt-offering, but often
    with the peace-offerings."
  2. Clark's Commentary, Vol. I, P. 530. "To diffuse or pour out. Water or wine poured out at the conclusion or confirmation of a treaty or covenant."
  3. Rabbi Baylinson, Reform Jew, Detroit, Michigan; Rabbi Goldman, Orthodox Jew, Oak Park, Michigan: "The drink-offering was always, definitely poured out upon the altar, and no one drank of it."

As the word "drink-offering" comes from nesek (Hebrew), which means "to pour out." It was that which was "poured out" upon the altar, and not that which was drank by the people at the eating of the Passover Feast. Any portion of it which was not "poured out" could not properly be called a "drink-offering." Therefore; what the people drank could not have been the "drink-offering."

The following are scriptural considerations to this subject of "drink-offerings."

  1. In the first Biblical reference to a "drink-offering," it was "poured out," (Genesis 35:14);
  2. The priest were to "pour no drink-offering" upon the altar of incense, Exodus 30:9, indicating that the drink-offering was to be "poured out," not upon the altar of incense, but upon the "Altar of burnt-offering," (Exodus 38:1; Ezra 7:17);
  3. All the Scriptures which tell us what happened to 'the "drink-offerings" says that they were "poured out," (Numbers 28:7; II Kiings 16:13; Isaiah 57:6; Jeremiah 7:18; 19:13; 32:29; 44:17-19, 25; Ezekiel 20:28);
  4. A deity is the one who drink the "drink-offering," (Deuteronomy 32:38);
  5. In the New Testament the "drink-offering" is used by Paul to show his complete sacrifice of his life (Philippians 2:17; II Timothy 4:6).

The "drink-offering" was a "pour-offering."

Another argument is made: "Drink-offerings" are related to the "offering made by fire." We are presented with this fact(?): "Drink-offerings not only accompanied 'burnt-offerings,' which were entirely consumed by fire, but they also accompanied 'sacrifices,' Numbers 15:5, including the Passover lamb which was eaten by the people; and therefore, its "drink-offering" was likewise drank by the people." This conclusion is erroneous for the following reasons:

  1. An offering made by "fire" refers to that portion of any offering which is consumed by fire upon the altar, Leviticus 6:10;
  2. "An offering made by fire" was unto Jehovah, Numbers 15:3, 10, 13-14, is in the same verse also called "a sweet savor unto Jehovah," (Exodus 29:41; Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17; 23:13,18; Numbers 28:2, 6, 8, 13, 24; 29:6, 13, 36), whether referring to a burnt-offering, or to a sacrifice;
  3. The "sweet savor" was burned on the altar. Leavened bread might be offered as first-fruits, but not as a "sweet savor" on the altar, Levitucs 2:12;
  4. The drink-offering was called "an offering made by fire," Numbers 15:10, 28:8, whether it pertained to an individual's private offering, Numbers 15:1-14, or to a community offering on behalf of, and at the expense of the entire nation of Israel, Numbers 28:1-29:40; or whether it accompanied a "burnt-offering," or a "sacrifice", Numbers 15:3, 5, 8.

Possibly we need to define "burnt-offerings:

  1. Peloubet's Bible Dictionary, p. 102: "The word is applied to the offering which was wholly consumed by fire on the altar, and the whole of which, except the refuse ashes, ascend in the smoke to God."
  2. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, P. 26:38. "to go up." "The term applies to beast or fowl when entirely consumed upon the altar."
  3. Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 1, P. 530. "To ascend, because this offering, as being wholly consumed, ascended as it were to God in smoke and vapour. It was a very expressive type of the sacrifice of Christ, as nothing less than his complete and full sacrifice could make atonement for the sin of the world. In most other offerings the priest, and often the offerer, had a share, but in the whole burnt offering all was given to God."
  4. Levitcus 6:2, Jewish translation published in (Levitcus 6:9, ASV) 1946, "It is that which goeth up on its fire-wood upon the altar all night unto the morning; and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning thereby."

It should be noted that some "burnt-offerings" were fowls, Leviticus 1.14, and the duties were somewhat different for both priest and offerer, Leviticus 1:14-17. Thus in the "burnt-offering" the whole animal was burned on the altar, Levitucs 1:9, 13; I Kings 18:38. Likewise its "drink-offering" was "poured out" upon the altar and was not drunk by the people.

One should note the difference between the word "drink," and the word "drink-offering," even though both of these terms contain the word "drink," in the English versions, there is no connection between the two.

  1. Mashqeh "drink," means "any drinkable liquid," Leviticus 11:34; Isaiah 32:6.
  2. Nesek "drink-offering," means "that which is poured out," whether it is drinkable or not, such as:
    1. Oil, Genesis. 35:14;
    2. Blood, Psalms 16:4;
    3. Melted metals, translated "molten image," Isaiah 41:29; 48:5; Jeremiah 10:14; 51:17.

We are forced to the conclusion that "drink-offering" does not mean "mashqeh-offering;" for a "mashqeh-offering," if there had been such, would not necessarily have been poured out, just as the "meal-offering" was not all burned. Consider the fact that any liquid to be a nesek, it had to be "poured out." Then, when it is stated that no mashqeh (drink) is anywhere mentioned in the Scriptures as being a prescribed part of the Passover, it is recognized that wine was to be used as the nesek (drink-offering; that which is poured out) as a part of the "offerings made by fire" on that occasion, Numbers 15:5, 7, 10.

The conclusion I would draw is:

  1. As the Scriptures plainly point out that the "drink-offering" was poured out, then the assumption that. it was drank by anyone other than a deity is without any scriptural or historical suggestion or inference;
  2. As the "drink-offering" was "an offering made by fire," then it was totally consumed upon the altar;
  3. When then Jesus instituted his Supper, he did not use the "drink-offering" because the "drink-offering" was "poured out" upon the altar at the door of the temple, and it was not to be found in the upper room;
  4. The argument that the priest drank wine during certain offerings is not substantiated in the Word of God, it was all nesek, poured out, and not mashqeh drank!

The preceding material was found when I lived in Mt. Pleasant, Texas and there was not a name presented as author of the material. Please consider some of the material as being my own, but the most of it is from that which I stumbled upon and profited from it through the years.

A special thanks to Thomas Dohling who spotted an inaccuraccy in the article that has now been corrected.