Question: Please explain Deuteronomy 14:26 to me. I have been doing an internet search regarding alcoholic beverage consumption and what the Bible has to say. This one verse has really perplexed me because this is the only time I have seen a possible endorsement of intoxicating liquors in the Bible.
Answer: Thanks for asking the question about alcohol and the Bible. The Bible is very clear on this subject, I will give you the “short” answer. The word “wine” in our English Bible does not always mean a fermented drink. The main Hebrew word for “wine” (since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew) is “yayin” (what is pressed out). The verse you are asking about (Deuteronomy 14:26) is very straight forward.
It uses this Hebrew word “yayin” which means “grape juice”. Remember that this word is almost always translated as “wine” whether the grape juice is fermented or not. When we think “wine”, we always think “fermented”, but this is not the case. The word “wine” in the Bible is a generic term. The context (words before and after the word wine) indicates whether it was fermented or not. For some examples of this look at Isaiah 65:8. Grape juice is called “wine” when it is still in the grapes on the vine, where it is impossible to be fermented.
So to assume that every time the Bible uses the word “wine” it is talking about a “fermented drink” is not looking at the facts! Another example of this is found in Isaiah 16:10b where it says “…no treaders will tread out wine in their presses…” As soon as the juice was pressed out of the grapes it was called wine. Now in Genesis 9:21 it is clear that fermented drink is what Noah drank to get drunk on. (It is well to note, however, how it got him and his son Ham into trouble drinking it when it was fermented!)
For more detail on this subject, and the New Testament references on wine, please look at the two articles I have entitled “Wine In The Bible” and “Beer and Other Alcoholic Beverages in the Bible”. This last article has some more references from other places you can peruse. I hope you will browse our other subjects as well. There are some more coming out soon, Lord willing.
To finish your question on this reference specifically (Deuteronomy 14:26). God wanted these believers to tithe on everything, including their fresh grape juice (look at verses 23b and 26). Here God is saying if it too far to travel from your house to the place of worship with these things, you could sell them right away and take the money instead. Then when you get there, you can buy the same type of things, fresh grape juice, etc.
Then you can rejoice before the Lord. That doesn’t mean to get drunk, but to enjoy the food and grape juice you have bought for your family. The New King James Version of the Bible is the best to read when discussing this area of alcohol, it is the most accurate.
I guess I didn’t isolate the part that bothered me. It is the other drink mentioned. The New King James says “wine or similar drink”. The Old King James says “wine or strong drink”. The Complete Jewish Bible says “wine, other intoxicating liquor”. One source I read says the noun in Hebrew means an intoxicating drink. Where did the New King James get “similar”? I was raised in a Baptist church and never ever heard a word about this verse. Do you disagree with the meaning of the Hebrew word for the other drink mentioned with wine?
Yes, I do stand by the New King James Version translation “wine or other similar drink”. I do this for two reasons: first, having been raised in a Baptist church (I myself was an M.K. & P.K.) you will know that one does not make a doctrine out of one verse. The rest of Scripture is very clear on this subject.
I hope you had a chance to look at my articles and the other web sites listed there. Second, the NKJV used the 1967/1977 Stuttgart edition of the Biblia Hebraica, based on the Ben Asher text, while frequent comparisons were made with the Bomberg edition of 1524-25. The Septuagint (Greek) Version of the Old Testament and the Latin Vulgate also were consulted. In addition to referring to a variety of ancient versions of the Hebrew Scriptures, the New King James Version draws on the resources of relevant manuscripts from the Dead Sea Caves. You can read more of these quotes from the front of a good NKJV.
For more information email me.