Beer in Israel and Palestine during Antiquity.


In everyday life, beer is celebrated as a source of joy and conviviality. With the exception of the pious Nazarenes, all the inhabitants love to drink it. Isaiah thus depicts the desolation on earth, and thus a contrario the blessed earthly life:

« (7) The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted do sigh.
(8) The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.
(9) They shall not drink wine with a song; beer shall be bitter [to them that drink it].[1]
(10) The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in.
(11) There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone. » (Isaïe 24:9)

The sad existence is therefore a life without wine or beer.

But Bible has severely condemned the overindulging in fermented beverages :

« Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, [that] they may follow beer; that continue until night, [till] wine inflame them! » (Isaïe 5:11)

The Bible is a code of moral conduct and religious prescriptions. The fermented beverages bring drunkenness, unfortunate in some cases, beneficial in others:

« (4)... It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes beer, (5) Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. (6) Give beer unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. (7) Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. » (Proverbes 31:6)


One would look in vain in the Old Testament for an absolute condemnation of beer or wine. Just a fine psychology of the drinking and an ethic of its proper use:

« Wine (yayin) (is) a mocker, beer (shekhar) (is) a brawler; whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. » (Proverbes 20:1).



[1] This metaphorical bitterness owes nothing to hops. The hop flower was not introduced to brewing until the Middle Ages in Europe.

18/06/2012  Christian Berger