WINE WITHOUT BREAD
Noah, we are told was a farmer or man of the soil. He was the first to give up bread making and turned to planting a vineyard and the making of wine. He, like so many that followed, allowed wine to take over his life. He got drunk and exposed himself and then blamed his grandson Canaan for his indecency. He cursed his grandson and the curse became a prophetic reality for all drunks. Drunks lose their minds and self-control and do regrettable and irresponsible things. It was because of Noah’s sin that the Canaanites, descendants of Ham, were cursed and dispossessed by their cousins, the Shemites or Semites (Genesis 9:18-29).
In reading the Old Testament, Semitic bias is undeniable. The writers justify the mistakes of their people that were more severe than the sins of the Canaanites. The Semites were led to believe that their shortcomings would not change God’s promise that Canaan would become theirs because they were cursed. Apparently, the curse had not affected the prosperous Canaanites at the time of Moses (Numbers 13:26-33). It is troubling that Esther is elevated over moral Queen Vashti who refused to expose herself to the drunkards of king Xerxes (Esther 1). The New Testament, no longer endorsed that one sided attitude of God (Romans 3:29; Galatians 3:26-29). For our purpose, there is another meaning to the curse that has been perpetuated into our day. The curse itself is alcoholism. It is a condition that deprives human beings of their ability to act normally and provide sustenance for their dependants. It is one of the major reasons why so many are destitute and in need of bread.
Bread and wine were part of the daily diet and blessed of the Lord (Deuteronomy 7:13; 11:13-15) and people build relationships with bread and wine (Genesis 14:18). Drunkards were stoned (Deuteronomy 21:20-21), not allowed to attend tent meetings (Levticus 14:9), pregnant women could not drink (Judges 13:1-14) and holy men had to be sober when they sacrificed to God (Numbers 6:3). Incest and adultery were outlawed by Moses. Before Moses the daughters of Lot intoxicated their father and became mothers. Jacob dulled his father’s mind with wine when he swindled his brother, Judah must have been in a real stupor when he slept with his daughter-in-law. With the law, there were no changes. Would Boaz have married Ruth without wine? In what condition was David when he had Bathsheba brought to his chamber? His son Absalom had his half brother Amnon killed while he was drunk for violating his sister Tamar. Far more puzzling is Solomon’s relationship to his bride whom he also called his sister in his personal confessions, his songs. Under his great spending administration mothers ate their children because they starved. He was praised by those for whom he built the temple, but not so much by the majority when he built his palace and stables. No wonder, that he blamed it all on wine.
His regrets are obvious in his writings. “The drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will cloth a man in rags” (Proverbs 23:21). “Like a thorn that goes up in the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like an archer who wounds everybody is he who hires a passing fool or a drunkard. Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool that repeats its folly. Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. The sluggards says, ‘There is a lion in the road. There is a lion in the street!’ As a door turn on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer directly” (Proverbs 26:9-16). “Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of a free man, and your princess feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness! Through slot the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything” (Ecclesiates 10:16-19).
Salomon knew first hand the impact of too much wine had on leaders. “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine, those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. ‘They struck me,’ you will say, ‘but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it'” (Proverbs 23:29-35). “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drinks; lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more” (Proverbs 31:4-7).
The name “Lemuel” is a fictitious designation for a man of God, who at the advice of his mother, counseled kings and leaders (Proverbs 31:1). Salomon understood Lemuel but too late and his mighty kingdom ended when Rehoboam his son took over the reign (I Kings 12). Isaiah, the greatest of Israel’s Prophets, in “The Song of the Vineyard, depicts the same Lemuel reasons why the kings and leaders lost their two nations to the world” (Isaiah 5). The vineyards and the earth were God’s creation and so was the nation of Israel (Psalms 24:1; Isaiah 5:7). From the king to the farmer, man is merely a leaseholder or a steward and the improper use of food (glutton) and wine (drunkard) causes man to fail. The kings and leaders of Israel, and so did most nations, bankrupt themselves by taxing their people out of existence and then had to force their people into slavery and they did no longer produce enough bread or wine (Isaiah 5:8-10). No confiscated property was allowed to be sold or held longer than fifty years and no slave longer than seven with out personal consent (Leviticus 25; Exodus 21:1-11).
Paul urged his Christians to be good slaves because he expected Christ to come back and remove them from this world (Ephesians 6:5-9). Down the road and Christ’s delayed return, turned Christians into land holders and slave owners that has stained Christianity and other religions with shameful memories of much suffering and death. Isaiah believed that this kind of behavior and management of God’s recourses resulted from too much wine infested thinking. He cried out, “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening till wine inflames them! They have lyre and harp, ringing bells and flutes and wine at their feasts; but they do not respect the deeds of the Lord, or recognize the work of his hands. Therefore my people go into exile for want of understanding; their honored men are dying of hunger, and their multitude is parched with thirst. Therefore the grave has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down, her throng and he who prides in her. Man is bowed down, and man are brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled” (Isaiah 5:11-15).
What does it all mean for us? A little wine can be medicine (I Timothy 5:23), but too much wine will not supply us with bread. Drunkards lack sobriety and do not make good farmers nor can they be trusted with bread making.