wine in the Bible

Grapes growing on the vine. Copyrighted © image.

The common Hebrew word for wine is yayin, from a root meaning “to boil up,” “to be in a ferment.” Others derive it from a root meaning “to tread out,” and hence the juice of the grape trodden out.

The Greek word for wine is oinos_, and the Latin _vinun.

Other words for wine

But besides this common Hebrew word, there are several others which are also translated as “wine”:

  1. Hebrew: Ashishah (2 Samuel 6:19; 1 Chronicles 16:3; Song of Songs 2:5; Hos. 3:1), which, however, rather denotes a solid cake of pressed grapes, or, as in the Revised King James Version, a cake of raisins.

  2. Hebrew: 'Asis, “sweet wine,” or “new wine,” the product of the same year (Song of Songs 8:2; Isaiah 49:26; Joel 1:5; 3:18; Amos 9:13), from a root meaning “to tread,” hence juice trodden out or pressed out, thus referring to the method by which the juice is obtained. The power of intoxication is ascribed to it.

  3. Hebrew: Hometz. See VINEGAR.

  4. Hebrew: Hemer, Deuteronomy 32:14 (translated “blood of the grape”) Isaiah 27:2 (“red wine”), Ezra 6:9; 7:22; Dan. 5:1,2,4. This word conveys the idea of “foaming,” as in the process of fermentation, or when poured out. It is derived from the root hamar, meaning “to boil up,” and also “to be red,” from the idea of boiling or becoming inflamed.

  5. Hebrew: 'Enabh, a grape (Deuteronomy 32:14). The last clause of this verse should be translated as in the Revised King James Version, “and of the blood of the grape ['enabh] thou drankest wine [hemer].” In Hos. 3:1 the phrase in the King James Version, “flagons of wine,” is in the Revised King James Version correctly “cakes of raisins.” [also in the NKJV and NIV] (Compare Genesis 49:11; Numbers 6:3; Deuteronomy 23:24, etc., where this Hebrew word is translated in the plural “grapes.”)

  6. Hebrew: Mesekh, properly a mixture of wine and water with spices that increase its stimulating properties (Isaiah 5:22). Psalm 75:8, “The wine [yayin] is red; it is full of mixture [mesekh];” Proverbs 23:30, “mixed wine;” Isaiah 65:11, “drink offering” (Revised King James Version, “mingled wine”).

  7. Hebrew: Tirosh, properly “must,” translated “wine” (Deuteronomy 28:51); “new wine” (Proverbs 3:10); “sweet wine” (Micah 6:15; Revised King James Version, “vintage”).

    This Hebrew word has been traced to a root meaning “to take possession of” and hence it is supposed that tirosh is so designated because in intoxicating it takes possession of the brain. Among the blessings promised to Esau (Genesis 27:28) mention is made of “plenty of corn and tirosh.” Israel is called “a land of corn and tirosh” ( Deuteronomy 33:28; compare Isaiah 36:17). See also Deuteronomy 28:51; 2 Chronicles 32:28; Joel 2:19; Hos. 4:11, (“wine [yayin] and new wine [tirosh] take away the heart”).

  8. Hebrew: Sobhe (root meaning “to drink to excess,” “to suck up,” “absorb”), found only in Isaiah 1:22, Hos. 4:18 (“their drink;” Gesen. and margin note of Revised King James Version, “their carouse”), and Nahum 1:10 (“drunken as drunkards;” literally, “soaked according to their drink;” Revised King James Version, “drenched, as it were, in their drink”, i.e., according to their sobhe).

  9. Hebrew: Shekar, “strong drink,” any intoxicating liquor; from a root meaning “to drink deeply,” “to be drunken”, a generic term applied to all fermented liquors, however obtained. Numbers 28:7, “strong wine” (Revised King James Version, “strong drink”).

    It is sometimes distinguished from wine, c.g., Leviticus 10:9, “Do not drink wine [yayin] nor strong drink [shekar];” Numbers 6:3; Judges 13:4, 7; Isaiah 28:7 (in all these places rendered “strong drink”). Translated “strong drink” also in Isaiah 5:11; 24:9; 29:9; 56:12; Proverbs 20:1; 31:6; Micah 2:11.

  10. Hebrew: Yekebh ( Deuteronomy 16:13, but in Revised King James Version correctly “wine-press”) [also in NKJV and NIV], a vat into which the new wine flowed from the press. Joel 2:24, “their vats;” 3:13, “the fats;” Proverbs 3:10, “Thy presses shall burst out with new wine [tirosh];” Hag. 2:16; Jeremiah 48:33, “wine-presses;” 2 Kings 6:27; Job. 24:11.

  11. Hebrew: Shemarim (only in plural), “lees” or “dregs” of wine. In Isaiah 25:6 it is rendered “wines on the lees”, i.e., wine that has been kept on the lees, and therefore old wine.

  12. Hebrew: Mesek, “a mixture,” mixed or spiced wine, not diluted with water, but mixed with drugs and spices to increase its strength, or, as some think, mingled with the lees by being shaken (Psalm 75:8; Proverbs 23:30).

  13. In Acts 2:13 the word gleukos, rendered “new wine,” denotes properly “sweet wine.” It must have been intoxicating.

Other uses of grapes

In addition to wine, the Hebrews also made use of what they called debash, which was obtained by boiling down must to one-half or one-third of its original bulk. In Genesis 43:11 this word is rendered “honey.” It was a kind of syrup, and is called by the Arabs at the present day dibs. This word occurs in the phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey” (debash), Exodus 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27. (See HONEY.)

Miracle of water turned to wine

Our Lord miraculously supplied wine at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11).

NOTE: “In view of the long trip from Bethabara to Cana, it is probable that Jesus and the disciples arrived late to the wedding only to find that the guests had exhausted the wine supply and had ‘well drunk’ (literally had ‘become drunken’—John 2:10). ‘Have well drunk’ is one word in the Greek (methuo) meaning simply “are drunk” and is translated with this meaning in every other instance where it is used (Matthew 24:49).

…These six waterpots (normally used for washing feet) when full would contain about 150 gallons. [Jesus ordered them filled with water, and turned the water into wine.] This much additional intoxicating wine would certainly be too much for guests who were already drunk, and it is inconceivable that Jesus would provide such. This ‘good wine’ had been miraculously created by the Creator and was brand new, with no time to ferment and become old, intoxicating wine. The Greek word oinos was used for the juice of grapes in general, the same word for both unfermented and fermented wine, with the context determining which. The decay process, utilizing leaven (always in Scripture representing corruption) to convert good fresh wine into old, intoxicating wine, could not have acted in this case because Christ Himself had created the wine in its originally intended form before sin and decay entered the world. In this form, it was certainly the best wine, having all the health-giving, joy-inspiring character it was created to exhibit in the beginning. It was probably the same wine which Christ will provide in ‘that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom’ (Matthew 26:29), and it will certainly not induce drunkenness.” (Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Defenders Bible—notes)

People who were forbidden to drink wine

The Rechabites were forbidden the use of wine (Jeremiah 35). The Nazarites also were to abstain from its use during the period of their vow (Numbers 6:1-4); and those who were dedicated as Nazarites from their birth were perpetually to abstain from it (Judges 13:4,5; Luke 1:15; 7:33).

The priests, too, were forbidden the use of wine and strong drink when engaged in their sacred functions (Leviticus 10:1; 10:9-11).

Wine offering

A drink-offering of wine was presented with the daily sacrifice (Exodus 29:40-41), and also with the offering of the first-fruits (Leviticus 23:13), and with various other sacrifices (Numbers 15:5, 7; Num. 15:10).

Passover and Lord’s Supper

Wine was used at the celebration of the Passover.

And when the Lord's Supper was instituted, the wine and the unleavened bread then on the paschal table were by our Lord set apart as memorials of his body and blood.


The sin of drunkenness, however, must have been not uncommon in the olden times, for it is mentioned either metaphorically or literally more than seventy times in the Bible.

Several emphatic warnings are given in the New Testament against excess in the use of wine (Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7).


Article Version: June 27, 2024