Do you feel like having a drink?

    Nadab and Abihu

Leviticus 10, 1-11: And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered strange fire before Jehovah, which He had not commanded them. And fire went out from Jehovah and consumed them, and they died before Jehovah. And Moses said to Aaron, This is what Jehovah has spoken, saying: By those who come near Me I will be honored as holy, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron kept still. And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. So they went near and carried them out of the camp by their tunics, as Moses had spoken. And Moses said to Aaron, and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, that you not die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which Jehovah has kindled. You shall not go out from the door of the tent of meeting, lest you die; for the anointing oil of Jehovah is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses. And Jehovah spoke to Aaron, saying: Do not drink wine or strong drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, that you not die. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, to make a distinction between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and to teach the children of Israel all the statutes which Jehovah has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.

   It is a grisly story, isn't it? You may wonder why such a cruel punishment for an "improperly made bonfire"? What, in fact, did those priest commit? As I have probably said several times, the Bible usually provides its own interpretation and it is not any different in this case. Immediately after that God spoke to Aaron (the father of those priests and the high priest of the Israeli community), giving him an answer as to what exactly the "strange fire" had been.

Leviticus 10, 9: Do not drink wine or strong drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, that you not die. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations,

   The reason for the "cremation" of those priests was the fact that they appeared drunk before God. They did not contemplate over God's holiness, having no awe of God. What an "ordinary" Israelite would probably have got away with, the priests of the Most High did not. And what perhaps these priests would have got away with, Moses would probably not. As God said:

Leviticus 10, 3: And Moses said to Aaron, This is what Jehovah has spoken, saying: By those who come near Me I will be honored as holy, and before all the people I will be glorified.

   It is marvellous to be close to God, however, we must be aware of who God is! The closer we want to be to God the purer (holier) we must be. I do not want to make a detailed explanation now, it will probably come in a separate article about holiness.

   The same rule God had given to the priests was repeated by Him some centuries later:

Ezekiel 44, 21: No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court.

   Let's look at similar instructions for somebody who wished to "separate themselves to God" for some time.

Numbers 6, 2-4: Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When either a man or woman makes an extraordinary vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself unto Jehovah, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from strong drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or dried. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced from the grapevine, from seed to skin.

   Non-biblical teachings rid us not only of dread but also of awe of God. How many of us have true awe of God? Who of us clearly and fully realizes that we "serve" the living God, who is "consuming fire".

Hebrews 12, 28-29: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.

   I think we also should realize that all who have believed have been called priests:

1 Peter 2, 9: But you are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His possession, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

   Since God once said that the commandment to avoid alcohol is binding on priests (when they want to "meet God") forever, we should take it seriously, too. It is not that we are forbidden to drink wine or any other alcoholic beverage, but we should not appear drunk before God. I know that God is very merciful and probably would not char us like the sons of Aaron, but let's think it over, please! It is somewhat unimaginable for me that somebody would ask me for a prayer by phone and I, inebriated, would babble something, ordering diseases or demons in in the name of Jesus from Nazareth to leave the person. Would it not be an offence to God?

   Generally, man is not subject to any ban on wine or other alcohol. Let's look at what God said to be done with the "tithe".

Deuteronomy 14, 26: And you shall spend that money for whatever your soul desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or strong drink, for whatever your soul desires; you shall eat there before Jehovah your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.

  The psalmist says that wine is from God for us to enjoy ourselves.

Psalms 104, 15: and wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man's heart.

   However, as usual, nothing should be overdone. Proverbs warn us:

Prowerbs 21, 17: He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.

Prowerbs 23, 20-21: Do not be among those who are heavy drinkers of wine, or among gluttons for flesh; for the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty, and slumber shall clothe a man with rags.

Prowerbs 23, 31-35: Do not look upon the wine when it is red, when it gives off bubbles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things and your heart will speak perversities. Yes, you shall be as one who lies down in the middle of the sea, or as one who lies upon the top of a mast, saying: They struck me, but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When I awake, I will ask for more; to do it again.

Isaiah 5, 11-12: Woe to those who rise up early in the morning to pursue strong drink; remaining until the evening while wine inflames them! And the lute, and the harp, the tambourine, and pipe, and wine, are at their feasts; but they do not regard the work of Jehovah, neither do they give attention to the work of His hands.

Isaiah 28, 7-10: But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink have gone astray. The priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink; they are swallowed up by wine; they have gone astray through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and excrement; no place is clean. To whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand the message? Those weaned from the milk and removed from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, there a little;

   The last passage shows that excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages can change our way of speaking and behaving, bring about addiction and make us forget God, as we would not be able any longer to accept and understand His word...

   God does not forbid his servants from drinking alcohol, they only should not get drunk.

 Ephesians 5, 18: And do not be drunk with wine, in which is debauchery; but be filled by the Spirit,

 1 Timothy 3, 8: Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money,

   The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

 1 Timothy 5, 23: No longer drink only water, but use a little wine on account of your stomach and your frequent infirmities.

   Wine is included in the commemoration of Jesus' crucifixion.

Matthew 26, 26-29: And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is My body. Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink all of it. For this is My blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not at all drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.

Luke 22, 19-20: And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.


    Initially, I intended only to explain why Aaron's sons had died but now, as I can see, it has turned into a biblical treatise on the theme of alcohol.  We have found that God does not forbid us to drink alcohol, rather, He forbids drunkenness. Stricter rules are in place for God's servants; priests must not come drunk into God's presence (That was why Aaron's sons lost their lives.) The Bible is very down-to-earth in warning us against the consequences of alcohol abuse (poverty, addiction, debasement in behaviour, lost interest in God's matters etc.) The aim of this article was not to "outlaw" alcohol, rather, to present the biblical attitude to it.


Libor Diviš - author of this article and this website

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