Biblical Beer and John MacArthur

In the words of Joel McDurmon, “The wailing imans of the dry jihad are shouting ‘forbidden!’ at Christians again.” McDurmon of course is referring to an article by John MacArthur awkwardly titled “Beer, Bohemianism, and True Christian Liberty.” Bohemanism? Really?

A friend just passed along an interesting article from an archaeological journal on the Ancient Near East and beer. I’ve included the section on the Bible and beer below for your enjoyment.

While beer has not often been the subject of inquiry by Near Eastern scholars, its neglect by biblical scholars has been marked. It is true that ancient Israelites are seen as, particularly and undoubtedly were, wine lovers. The many words for wine in the Hebrew language are evidence of this. The Talmud records that “stores of beer in Babylon are like stores of wine in Palestine” (b. Pesali 8a). Wines from various regions in Israel were as famous in antiquity as they are today.” Additionally, wine is more difficult to produce than beer. Viticulture requires permanent fields and some degree of social complexity. Grapes ripen just once a year and can only be preserved as wine or raisins. Barley, however, is easily stored, which allows the production of beer year round. Yet, the fact that ancient Israel produced, consumed and cherished wine by no means precludes beer production. Though often mistranslated as “strong drink” or “wine,” linguistic and archaeological
evidence suggests that biblical ‘sekar’ is best translated as beer. ‘Sekar’, or beer, played a large role in Israelite religion and society. It was libated to Yahweh twice daily (Num 28:7-10), and Israelites drank it at sacrificial meals (Deut 14:26). While people who consumed beer in excess were condemned (Isa 5:11; 28:7; Prov 20:1; 31:4), its absence signified melancholy occasion (Isa 24:9), and it was prescribed to the forlorn to temporarily erase their tribulations (Prov 31:6). Ancient Israel, like its neighbors, produced and consumed massive quantities of beer.

Michael Homan. “Beer And Its Drinkers: An Ancient Near Eastern Love Story.” Near Eastern Archaelogy, Vol. 67, No. 2 (June 2004), pp. 84-95.