Wine is a mocker... - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Biblical Wisdom
May 1, 2017

Wine is a mocker...

Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”

In the aftermath of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Prohibition), President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a personal plea to the country to outlaw saloons as a way to reinforce that fact that the danger of wine remains, well, dangerous. Still, states forbid alcohol sales to people less than 18 or 21, depending on the state. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has helped pass laws punishing those caught driving with blood alcohol above certain levels, and the wisdom of having a “designated driver” is widely accepted. The connection between alcohol and sexual assault is well understood.

This proverb depicts wine and strong drink as actors in their own right. Wine mocks; it starts fights; and it makes people foolish. The personification suggests wine’s power to enslave, so that users feel powerless to resist its seduction, or the fighting and foolishness it incites.

“Wine is a mocker.” After the Flood, righteous Noah planted a vineyard and got drunk, lying naked in his tent, out cold, the target of mockery. After escaping from Sodom, Lot’s daughters got him drunk, so that they could use him to get themselves pregnant. Wise Abigail’s foolish husband, Nabal, died after a festive bout of drunkenness.

Solomon elsewhere mocks the folly that follows letting wine take over your life.

“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 (i.e., undiluted with water), when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart 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. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.’ (Proverbs 23:29-35).”

Of course, Proverbs 20:1 is not a full account of wine. It brings happiness (Psalm 104:15), has a place at wedding celebrations (John 2), can deaden pain (Proverbs 31:6-7), and in a world of impure water contributes to health (I Timothy 5:23). However, wine and strong drink as constant companions lead to fighting, self-destructive foolishness, vulnerability to the strong, and shameful misbehavior of all kinds, disqualifying men from being church officers (I Timothy 3:3, 8).

What is the attraction of such dangerous companions? Some just like the feel of the “buzz” they give; others like the social ease they think wine provides; and others enjoy the few hours of forgetting troubles that wine can offer (Proverbs 31:6). But its power to enslave and affect behavior for the worse supports the verdict that those who indulge unrestrainedly are “not wise.”

- Dr. Bill Edgar, Geneva College Board of Trustees Member and Former President