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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(only in the plural שְׁמָרַים, shemarim', from שָׁמִר, to keep [Jeremiah 48:11; Zephaniah 1:12; rendered "wines on the lees" in Isaiah 25:6; "dregs" in Psalms 75:8]; Sept. τρυγίαι; Vulgate faeces). The Hebrew term שֶׁמֶר, shemer (the presumed singular form of the above), bears the radical sense of preservation, and was applied to "lees" from the custom of allowing the wine to stand on the lees in order that its color and body might be better preserved; hence the expression "wine on the lees," as meaning a generous, full-bodied liquor (Isaiah 25:6; see Henderson, ad loc.). The wine in this state remained, of course, undisturbed in its cask, and became thick and syrupy; hence the proverb "to settle upon one's lees," to express the sloth, indifference, and gross stupidity of the ungodly (Jeremiah 48:11; Zephaniah 1:12). Before the wine was consumed it was necessary to strain off the lees; such wine was then termed "well refined" (Isaiah 25:6). To drink the lees or "dregs" was an expression for the endurance of extreme punishment (Psalms 75:8). An ingenious writer in Kitto's Cyclopaedia (s.v. Shemarim) thinks that some kind of preserves from grapes are meant in Isaiah 25:6, as the etymology of the word suggests; but this supposition, although it clears the passage from some difficulties, is opposed to the usage of the term in the other places. (See WINE).

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

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Leeser, Isaac
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