Word Study: Wine יינ



Genesis 9:21: “And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.”

So this man of God, this one righteous person, the one who walk with God, and found favor in the sight of God, leaves the ark and the first thing he does is build a still and declares happy a hour.

Scripture is very good when it comes to showing ones failures. Odd, that Noah is never condemned for getting drunk although Scripture does make it clear that drunkness is clearly sinful. Also, we have a man who has found favor in God’s eyes, a righteous man, one who walked with not before God. In other words he had a very close relationship with God. How could such a man fall into such debauchery? Perhaps he didn’t.

The word wine is a very misunderstood word and very debated. The word wine in the Hebrew is yayin. Linguistically this word is related to the Greek word oinos which is related to the Latin word vinum which is related to the English word wine, sort of goes like this: wine, vin,oin, yin. They all share a similar stem. So what is the importance of all this? It is the sound of the same word which has been transliterated rather than the equivalent meaning which has been passed down with a different word. There seems to be a universally accepted definition that wine is fermented grape juice. Thus, in our good old Western cultural thinking Bible wine must be fermented grape juice. This is known as the “one wine theory.” This has led many to believe that God approves of the use of fermented wine.

When we look to Jewish literature we find the matter of fermented and unfermented wine is hotly discussed. Yayin in Talmadic Aramaic is used with a dual meaning for fermented and unfermented. What is significant is that the Talmud specifies the stages of fermentation. The first stage is from being freshly pressed to three days. In Baba Bathra 91a Rabbi Hiyya discusses whether freshly pressed wine could be used for Kiddush, the ceremony which welcomes the Sabbath. The Talmud concludes that freshly pressed wine (yayin) was the proper wine to use for religious ceremonies. In the Halakot Gedalot, the earliest compendium of the Talmud we find that one is to press out a cluster of grapes just before pronouncing Kiddush. The Talmud seems to establishes that unfermented wine was used for ceremonies that would prepare one for worship. I am not a connoisseur of wine so I have virtually no idea what a good wine is in the 21st Century but I do know what a good wine was in the first century. It was a wine that was not fermented.

In the story of Jesus turning water into wine (John 2:1-11) it was said by the host that Jesus had good wine. You see in the first century everyone had their own label so to speak and when they attended a wedding they each brought their brew (do you use the word brew with wine?) and it was considered bad form if you did not bring your own. Not everyone was capable of having good wine, generally the wine they brought was already fermented and not really proper to use in Jewish ceremony. However, this was not a ceremony but a wedding feast so throw caution to the wind. That is why the host was rather surprised to find that wine that wasn’t fermented.

This then brings us back to Noah. Why did he plant a vineyard to make wine? To get drunk or maybe to enter into worship. Here’s a little know fact. Your very orthodox Jews believe you just don’t just jump into prayer and pray, you prepare yourself for prayer. Why do we miss this in Christianity? The Jews believe you must spend time reciting Scripture, meditating on God and his majesty to clear your mind of “foreign thoughts” as the sages call it, we call it thoughts of the flesh. Also n Christianity we call this putting the flesh under control. It is very possible that Noah was drinking the wine as a ceremonial process to enter into the presence of God. One explanation is that he miscalculated the fermentation and ended up getting drunk.

I tend to follow another idea. The word used here for drunk is shacar. Shacar does mean intoxication, but in its Semitic root it has the idea of a gift. It is very possible and much more logical, particularly in light of Jewish tradition, that the wine Noah drank was not fermented and did not produce intoxication in Noah but manifested a gift. In Acts we read something about a gift of the Spirit what cause men to act like they were drunk. Perhaps his son mocked him for being drunk in the spirit. I mean, who, has not seen someone act goofy when they are just filled with the joy of Lord. In Acts 2 we see Christians who are behaving in a way that appears to be drunken, when really they are just filled with the Spirit. So Noah’s son was really mocking the Spirit of God more than his father.