Wisdom and Appetite

Proverbs 23:19-35

In our lesson material for today we are warned that the indulgence of two things will bring a person to poverty. Few people desire to be impoverished so it would be well to carefully consider what the words mean in each of these instances.

We are first warned not to be wine bibbers. The word which is used is – yayin which means wine Yayin is used 140 times in the Old Testament and is only one of the words of varied meaning to describe the beverage. In at least twenty times of these references it refers to an intoxicating drink.. Wine was the most intoxicating drink known in those times. Something should be noted at this point, however. All of the wine was light wine – no extra alcohol was added. The addition of alcohol did not begin to occur until the Middle Ages when the Arabs invented distillation. What we know as liquor today was unknown in Bible times. Beer was brewed in various ways but was light in alcoholic content. The strength of the natural wines was limited by two factors. The percentage of alcohol was half of the percentage of the sugar in the juice. If the alcoholic content was above 10 or 11 percent the yeast cells were killed and the fermentation stopped. The wines of Bible times were probably about 7 – 10 percent. Wine was a common drink and it was a normal practice to mix wine with water to dilute the drink. Other non-alcoholic drinks were available, however, such as tirosh which was the fresh juice from the vineyard.

The second prohibition was against riotous eating. The word zalal – means to shake, quake – to flow down – worthless, make light of , squander, be a glutton, or to be vile. It is used in reference to earthquakes and volcanos. It is thus a picturesque word to describe the person who is so addicted to eating that he quivers and trembles in anticipation of his next bite. The food “flows down” the open cavern of the persons throat as he without tasting his delight reaches for the next mouthful.

Both of these behaviors lead to certain poverty. The word for poverty is yarash and means to take possession of, to dispossess, to disinherit, to devour or to impoverish. The wise man is therefore saying that drinking wine and eating in a gluttonous manner will devour your livelihood. Not only the purchase of these items will lead you to poverty but also the lifestyle of banqueting and partying that naturally accompany them will have a part in your impoverishment.

(Theological Wordbook of the OT)

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