Take your tithing and have a kegger, thus saith the Lord?!

In spite of the prophetic statement in D&C 89 that the Word of Wisdom was given because of conditions particular to our own time, many LDS read it back into the scriptures in one form or another. “Wine,” for example, only means “grape juice” or some such. I view these historically inaccurate statements as attempts to legitimate or rationalize the Word of Wisdom. For myself, I keep the Word of Wisdom because I believe that it is God’s will for me, and I have covenanted to keep it. (Sidenote: Interesting paper on the authority of doctrine.) Historically speaking, however, several things are fairly undisputable regardint the use of alcohol in the Old Testament.

First, though often watered down, Hebrew yayin “wine” and shekar were capable of inebriating people. The two words are often paired, in the KJV as “wine and strong drink” but Biblical “strong drink” is not equivalent to modern strong drink such as vodka, whiskey, etc. Pure distillation only arose in the 8th century AD. Shekar and its cognates such as Akkadian shikru clearly refer to beer, or can refer more broadly to any intoxicating drink.

Second, alcoholic beverages were a prescribed and regular part of Israelite ritual.

Along with the daily offering, morning and evening, of one lamb, one-tenth of a measure of flour and oil, Israelites were commanded to offer one-fourth of a hin of yayin. Scholars vary on how much, exactly, a hin is, anywhere from 3.5 to 7.5 liters. Offered twice daily, 7 days weekly, 365 days a year… yields between 638.75 and 1368.75 liters, or 168.74 – 361.5 gallons of wine, offered to the Lord. Since drink offerings often accompanied other prescribed and voluntary offerings, that number represents an absolute minimum.

The OT varies in its prescriptions of the uses of agricultural tithes. Several inconsistant prescriptions exist which mix the tithing as being for the support of priests or Levites, sometimes for the sanctuary itself, sometimes for the poor, and sometimes for ritual meals of the tithers themselves at the chosen sanctuary. Deuteronomy 14:22ff states that if “the place that [the Lord] will choose as a dwelling for his name,” (i.e. Jerusalem) is too far for you to go with your tithing, convert it to money and then go to Jerusalem. Once there, spend the money on whatever food and strong drink you want, “and you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together.” This is quite a feast, being 35 days worth of food and strong drink.

Although intoxication was deprecated, alcoholic beverages were valued as part of any celebration. Wine was appreciated for bringing joy and banishing sorrow, and complete abstinence was associated with mourning and turning away from civilization….

Assuming that the farmers invited the Levites and poor to the meals, as required, even if they doubled their normal consumption at the festivals, they could not dispose of all the food involved unless there were as many Levites and poor as there were members of the farmers’ households, which is unlikely.

Jeffrey H. Tigay, The JPS Torah Commentary, on Deuteronomy 14:26

It seems, then, that the Law of Moses prescribed a feast surpassing our own ritual eating at Thanksgiving, which also included alcohol for “rejoicing.” Has anyone ever spent 10% of their annual income on Thanksgiving dinner? Perhaps someone can chime in on whether LDS ever tithed on their home-made wine, as on other tithes which were paid in kind.

7 Replies to “Take your tithing and have a kegger, thus saith the Lord?!”

  1. This isn’t exactly related to your post, but my favorite funny story in the NT is 1 Cor 11 where some of the people are hogging the sacrament wine to the point of getting drunk and other people weren’t able to get any. I just find the exasperated “What?” reproof hilarious, and I can totally hear it in a nice contemporary voice. (Maybe I just have a very bizzare sense of humor.)

    Carry on.

  2. David J. and I had a similar conversation some years ago. It seems to me that I read somewhere that the idea that the wine that Jesus drank was just grape juice was actually started by the Welch’s Grape Juice company to promote their interests. Grape juice is actually a very recent arrival on the scene since it apparently requires pasteurization (?) to prevent it from becoming wine.


  3. I’d note, though, that much of the “wine” in the middle east was closer to grape beer (and was bubbly), not to mention Greek practices in how much water should be added to real wine (usually 4 water to 1 wine or so).

    That makes a much different story from the way we often look at it.

  4. Mogget,
    Is the (?) for spelling or the process?
    Spelling is right.
    Process, killing the yeast normally found on the grapes to keep the grape juice from fermenting.
    One NT scholar explained that one would have to drink ALOT of the watered down wine to really get drink (hence rise up early in the morning…).
    Furthermore, there was a point in time (before chlorine) when having a small part of alcohol in the water helped make the water safe to drink. However, Sunday School teachers and seminary teachers teaching that Jesus only drank grape juice is harmful, untextual, and uncontextual.

  5. If I had known there was such a thing as grape beer, I might have tried it!

    Really, I’d think the whole Lot’s daughters incident would be enough reason to stay away from strong drink. =)

  6. In John 2 at the wedding feast in Cana is proof that wine was not “grape juice” and that wine was not watered down:

    7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
    8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
    9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
    10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

    The governor of the feast is saying that people normally get drunk on the good wine, then they continue to imbibe on bad wine when they’re too drunk to care how it tastes… But Jesus saved the best wine for last, after everybody was well drunk and ready for bad wine.

    People are just straight up lying when they say the wine was watered down or that it was grape juice.

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