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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Drink, Strong

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stands in the A.V. as the rendering of the Hebrews word שֵׁכָר, shekar' (Graecized σίκερα, Luke 1:15), which, in its etymological sense, applies to any beverage that had intoxicating qualities: it is generally found connected with wine, either as an exhaustive expression for all other liquors (e.g. Judges 13:4; Luke 1:15), or as parallel to it, particularly in poetical passages (e.g. Isaiah 5:11; Micah 2:11); in Numbers 28:7, and Psalms 69:12, however, it stands by itself, and must be regarded as including wine. The Bible itself throws little light upon the nature of the mixtures described under this term. We may infer: from Song of Solomon 8:2 that the Hebrews were in the habit of expressing the juice of other fruits besides the grape for the purpose of making wine: the pomegranate, which is there noticed, was probably one out of many fruits so used. In Isaiah 24:9 there may be a reference to the sweetness of some kind of strong drink. In Numbers 28:7, strong drink is clearly used as equivalent to wine, which was ordered in Exodus 29:40. With regard to the application of the term in later times we have the explicit statement of Jerome (Ep. ad Nepot.), as well as other sources of information, from which we may state that the following beverages were known to the Jews:

1. Beer, which was largely consumed in Egypt under the name of zythus (Herod. 2:77; Diod. Sic. 1:34), and was thence introduced into Palestine (Mishna, Pesach, 3:1). It was made of barley; certain herbs, such as lupin and skirrett, were used as substitutes for hops (Colum. 10:114). The buzah of modern Egypt is made of barley-bread, crumbled in water and left until it has fermented (Lane, 1:131): the Arabians mix it with spices (Burckhardt's Arabia, 1:213), as described in Isaiah 5:22. The Mishna (1.c.) seems to apply the term shekar more especially to a Median drink, probably a kind of beer made in the same manner as the modern buizah; the Edomite chomets, noticed in the same place, was probably another kind of beer, and may have held the same position: among the Jews that bitter beer does among ourselves.

2. Cider, which is noticed in the Mishna (Terum. 11:2) as apple-wine.

3. Honey-wine, of which there were two sorts; one like the οἰνόμελι of the Greeks, which is noticed in the Mishna (Shabb. 20:2; Terum. 11:1) under a Hebraized form of that name, consisting of a mixture of wine, honey, and pepper; the other a decoction of the juice of the grape, termed debash (honey) by the Hebrews; and dibs by the modern Syrians, resembling the ἕψημα of the Greeks and the defrutum of the Romans, and similarly used, being mixed either with wine, milk, or water.

4. Date-wine, which was also manufactured in Egypt (οϊ v νος φοινική Þ ος, Herod. 2:86; 3:20). It was made by mashing the fruit in water in certain proportions (Plin. 14:19, 3). A similar method is, still used in Arabia, except that the fruit is not mashed (Burckhardt's Arabia, 2:264): the palm wine of modern Egypt is the sap of the tree itself, obtained by making an incision into its heart (Wilkinson, 2:174).

5. Various other fruits and vegetables are enumerated by Pliny (14:19) as supplying materials for factitious or home-made wine, such as figs, millet, the carob fruit, etc. It is not improbable that the Hebrews applied raisins to this purpose in the simple manner followed by the Arabians (Burckhardt, 2:377), viz., by putting them in jars of water and burying them in the ground until fermentation takes place. (See WINE).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Drink, Strong'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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