“Adonai said to Aharon, ‘Don’t drink any wine or other intoxicating liquor, neither you nor your sons with you, when you enter the tent of meeting, so that you will not die. This is to be a permanent regulation through all your generations, so that you will distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; and so that you will teach the people of Isra’el all the laws Adonai has told them through Moshe.'”-Leviticus 10:8-11
Verse 8 of Leviticus chapter 10 represents an unprecedented event.
Rather than speaking through Moses which has been the norm up to now, the Lord addresses Aaron directly.
Considering that God speaking to Aaron occurred soon after the death of his two sons Nadav and Avihu, you had better believe Aaron was all ears.
The Lord tells him that he and his sons are NOT to drink “wine” or any other “intoxicating liquor” when they enter the tent of meeting.
There are two new Hebrew words I need to introduce to you here.
The first word is YAYIN.
YAYIN is wine, exactly as we think of wine, in other words fermented grapes with a small amount of alcohol content.
The second word is SHEKAR.
Now SHEKAR refers to hardcore liquor containing a high amount of alcohol content.
It can be wine that has been allowed to ferment much longer, thus making it stronger than regular wine or drinks made from grain such as beers and ales.
The Lord is telling Aaron that he and his sons are to stay away from YAYIN and SHEKAR.
But what must be kept in mind is that this instruction is connected to the priestly duties that are performed when the priests enter the Tabernacle sanctuary.
This is basically an instruction that the priests are to be fully sober when performing their duties before the Lord.
It is not a blanket prohibition from ever drinking any alcohol at all.
How do I know this?
Easy, I know this because much of the Levitical ceremonies and rituals DID INVOLVE the use of wine in very moderate amounts.
One question that is often asked is were Nadav and Avihu drunk when they were officiating before the Lord?
The truth is I don’t know and neither does any other human being on this planet.
To say that Nadav and Avihu were drunk would be to assume something that isn’t clearly stated anywhere in Scripture.
I believe the possibility exists.
The truth is it was the custom of many of the priests of the world’s pagan religions to be thoroughly intoxicated while performing their pagan priestly duties.
So maybe Nadav and Avihu had gotten drunk and because they weren’t thinking straight they entered the Holy of Holies (first infraction here folks!) with the unauthorized strange incense offering by fire.
Having said that, there isn’t any evidence that the Levitical priesthood had a problem with drunkenness.
They may have been guilty of bad judgement at times, but not drunkenness.
Either way, the whole point was that Aaron and his sons were to be clearheaded when performing their duties.
This was important to not only avoid a horrifying death at the hands of the Creator but also because they served an important function for all the people of Israel.
The Lord made it clear in verse 3 what the real problem was with Nadav and Avihu.
‘Through those who are near me I will be consecrated,
and before all the people I will be glorified.’
Priests served as BOTH teachers and officiators over the God-ordained rituals.
And they were especially NEAR to YHVH.
Hence, as representatives of the most Holy God, their actions were being carefully observed and monitored.
Note what verse 10 says is to be their most important duty.
“So that you will distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; and so that you will teach the people of Israel all the laws Adonai has told them through Moshe.”
The Priests carried the awesome responsibility of distinguishing between the holy and common, and between the unclean and clean.
Sometimes this was a simple matter, but sometimes it wasn’t.
In order to avoid the Lord’s wrath due to some frivolous mistake, the utmost in focused concentration was necessary.
Hence, the stern admonition to stay away from wine and any other strong drink.
The takeaway here is pretty clear.
For those who are involved in ministry, whether that ministry is preaching or teaching or whatever, one should obviously not be in an intoxicated stated when serving the Lord.
Now let me conclude by answering the 64,000 dollar question: Does the Bible forbid drinking alcohol in all circumstances?
My answer is no.
In fact, quite the contrary, in the Scriptures YAYIN or wine is portrayed as a gift from God symbolic of joy!
YAYIN served in moderate quantities was considered totally fine at certain ceremonies and occasions to cheer up the mood.
However, getting downright drunk just for the sake of getting high was looked down on, mainly because it affected one’s ability to think properly.
The main lesson to be learned is that for those who are NEAR to the Lord, whether they be the Levitical priests of old times, or modern believers in our times, we are to exercise more prudence than those who are not NEAR to God, because we are being held to a higher standard.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
On Tuesday there was a wedding
at Kanah in the Galil;
and the mother of Yeshua was there.
Yeshua too was invited to the wedding,
along with his talmidim.
The wine ran out, and Yeshua’s mother said to him,
“They have no more wine.”
Yeshua replied, “Mother, why should that concern me?
— or you? My time hasn’t come yet.”
His mother said to the servants,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now six stone water-jars were standing there
for the Jewish ceremonial washings,
each with a capacity of twenty or thirty gallons.
Yeshua told them, “Fill the jars with water,”
and they filled them to the brim.
He said, “Now draw some out, and take it
to the man in charge of the banquet”;
and they took it.
The man in charge tasted the water;
it had now turned into wine!