Glossary of Bible words defined in Hebrew & Greek: wines, sobriety, getting drunk

Old Testament words (Hebrew, Aramaic)

Yayin: יַיִן n., juice from grapes, with or without later fermentation. Num. 6:3 distinguishes yayin and fermented yayin. Examples of yayin without fermentation: Isa. 16:10; Jer. 40:10,12; 48:33. Nobody is denying yayin was intoxicating (sometimes anyway). Nobody is denying that “wine is a mocker…” (Prov. 20:1) Indeed, Levitical priests who drank at all in God’s house were even threatened with capital punishment. With clear minds, they could distinguish between the holy and the unholy (Lev. 10:9). Jews have long distinguished between yayin and intoxicating yayin. “The difference between that kind of wine, and … the kind of wine G–d will offer the righteous to drink in the world to come, is that the former is liable to intoxicate (those that drink it), whereas the latter causes pure joy (to those who imbibe it).” – Isaiah HaLevi Horovitz (a Polish rabbi and kabbalist c.1565 – 1630 AD) Word forms: Strong’s H3196. See also yayin and oinos in the Temperance Bible Commentary, Appendix C.

Shekhar: שֵׁכָר n., sweet drink, cider with or without later fermentation. Num. 28:7; Deut. 14:26. Num. 6:3 distinguishes between shekhar and fermented shekhar. Word forms: Strong’s H7941, shekar, sekar, shechar. Luke 1:15 borrowed the Hebrew שֵׁכָר shekhar in Greek as σίκερα sikera, and the Septuagint (usually) has σίκερα too. In Latin, Jerome borrowed the Hebrew shekhar as siceram – e.g. Deut. 14:26; 29:6; Judg. 13:4,7,14 – rather than using terms like ‘ebrietas’ (inebriation) as for some other passages – e.g. Prov. 20:1. Arabic has the related word sakar سَكَر.

Pri Hagafen: פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן n., fruit of the vine, grapes (similar to “fruitful vine” Isa. 32:12; Zech. 8:12). When grape juice is consumed, pri hagafen is said within a Hebrew prayer of thanksgiving to the Creator. In the New Testament, the “fruit of the vine” was at the Last Supper (in Greek: gennematos tes ampelou). I cannot see anywhere in the Old Testament itself any mention of the fruit of the vine (or wine or anything like this) said to be required at the Passover or Feast of Unleavened Things! Hananiah (419 B.C.) said the Law’s exclusion of leavened foods at this weeklong feast would likewise exclude leavened drinks (Hananiah, Elephantine Passover letter). Num. 6:3 distinguishes wine from fermented (leavened) wine.

Enab: עֵנָב n., grapes – either fresh or dried (Num. 6:3). Word forms: Strong’s H6025, enav, enabh.

Tirosh: תִּירוֹשׁ n., grapes – fresh (similar to enab) “You shall sow, but not reap; you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil; you shall tread grapes (tirosh), but not drink wine (yayin)” (Mic. 6:15 ESV). Apparently it was unnecessary for Num. 6:3-4 to mention tirosh because it already mentions enab anyway. Certainly tirosh in Isa. 62:8-9 cannot be alcohol – else the penalty would apply for drinking any in the holy places (Lev. 10:9-11). Even those who interpret tirosh as something intoxicating just once in Hos. 4:11 would be unlikely to claim it was always so in all other verses. Word forms: Strong’s H8492, tiros.

Shemar: שֶׁמֶר n., preserved thing. “preserved things” (Isa. 25:6 YLT). Shemar is a rare word. Word forms: Strong’s H8105, shemer, shemarim.

Khamar: חֲמַר (Ezr. 6:9; 7:22), חַמְרָא (Dan. 5:1, 2, 4, 23) n., – juice from grapes, with or without later fermentation. (Khamar ܚܡܪܐ is found in Aramaic vocabulary, and yayin in Hebrew vocabulary. Commentaries also refer to Aramaic as Chaldee or Syriac.) Examples of khamar in Targum Jonathan showing that it is not exclusively alcoholic: וַחֲמַר (Isa. 16:10; Lam. 2:12), חַמְרָא (Jer. 40:10,12). Arabic has the related word khamr خَمْر. Word forms: Strong’s H2562, chamar, hamar, hhamra, hhamer. See also: חֶמֶר Strong’s H2561, chemer, hemer, hhemar (Deut. 32:14).

Ahsis: עָסִיס n., fresh juice (for example fresh juice of pomegranates or other fruits). Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13, Song 8:2. Word forms: Strong’s H6071, asis.

Sobeh: סֹבֶא n., “drink” (Isa. 1:22 YLT). Sobeh is a rare word. Word forms: Strong’s H5435, sobe, sobhe.

Mishra: מִשְׁרָה n., a drink made from leftover macerated grape pulp – soaked in water. It does not simply mean ordinary grape juice. Mishra is a rare word, found in Num. 6:3 “liquor” in KJV. (The same verse also mentions yayin יַיִן – a more common word, both fermented and unfermented.) Word forms: Strong’s H4952, misra, mishrah.

Mesek: מֶסֶךְ n., Ps. 75:8. Word forms: Strong’s H4538, mesekh, misach, mesec, mecek, mesech. See also: Strong’s H4537.

Mimsak: מִמְסָךְ n., Prov. 23:30; Isa. 65:11. Word forms: Strong’s H4469, mamsakh, mamsak, mamcak.

Matstsah: מַצָּה n., something non-fermented, unleavened; a drink or food not affected by any yeast. Example: only unleavened things were allowed for the Passover and Unleavened Feast, and for all of the most holy offerings of the Jews. English translators sometimes say “Feast of Unleavened Bread” but the word לֶחֶם lechem (bread) is not actually in the Hebrew text. So Young’s Literal Translation simply says “feast of unleavened things” (Ex. 23:15, etc.). The meaning of unleavened things applies to the Christian sacrament (1 Cor. 5:7-8). Word forms: Strong’s H4682, massa.

Chometz: חֹמֶץ n., opposite of matstsah; any drink or food after it was affected by yeast so that its sugars have become fermented. Bacteria will then convert any alcohol into acetic acid. Leavened bread (Hos. 7:4) and vinegar (Prov. 10:26) are both called חָמֵץ chametz / חֹמֶץ chometz. (Yeast itself is called שְׂאֹר seor.) During baking, temperatures exceed 60 °C (140 °F) and so the yeast cell dies. Easton’s Bible Dictionary says that ‘in Heb. hamets, properly “ferment.” In Num. 6:3, “vinegar of wine” is more correctly “fermented wine.”’ Num. 6:3 shows the word chometz can be used to describe some types of yayin wine, though certainty not all! Examples of chometz items: leavened bread, alcoholic beer, malt vinegar, alcoholic wine, wine vinegar, alcoholic cider, cider vinegar, rice wine, etc. (The chometz fermentation process is inhibited by high concentrations of sugar, by high temperatures and by low temperatures.) Even though unleavened and leavened breads may both be in peace offerings (Lev. 7:12-13) yet only the unleavened things (Num. 6:17; Lev. 7:12) are applicable for the peace offerings of Nazarites and for peace offerings during the Feast of Unleavened Things (2 Chr. 30:21-22). But the most holy offerings of the Jews used unleavened things exclusively. Word forms: Strong’s H2557, H2558, chomets, hames, hamets.

Nesek: נֶסֶךְ n., poured-offering (Num. 6:17). Examples: water, blood, yayin, shekhar. Word forms: Strong’s H5262, necek, nehsek, naysek. See also: nesak Strong’s H5261.

Achar: אָחַר v., hesitate, to delay from reluctance – as in Gen. 24:56; Ex. 23:29; Eccl. 5:4; Isa. 5:11. In Prov. 23:30, some translations have tarry or linger long. Some look at wine (Prov. 23:31) yet they initially achar (hesitate) to drink it (Prov. 23:30) – being wary of its bad effects (Prov. 23:29). Word forms: Strong’s H309, ahar.

Ashishah: אֲשִׁישָׁה n., raisin cake. 2 Sam. 6:19; 1 Chr. 16:3; Song 2:5; Hos. 3:1. Word forms: Strong’s H809, asisa, eshishah.

New Testament words (Greek)

Oinos: οἶνος n., juice from grapes, with or without later fermentation, like Hebrew yayin. Nobody is disputing that alcoholic wines existed. Do not be drunk (Eph. 5:18). Yet some ancient wines were not even mildly intoxicating. Anybody who wished to avoid all alcoholic wine was able to avoid this type in Biblical times. Wedding of Cana (John 2:1-11); A non-alcoholic type of wine would benefit Timothy’s stomach (1 Tim. 5:23). Septuagint examples of oinos without fermentation: Isa. 16:10; 40:10,12, Jer. 48:33. Even on the cross, Christ refused to accept oinos mixed with a bitter drug (Mark 15:23). Word forms: Strong’s G3631. See also yayin and oinos in the Temperance Bible Commentary, Appendix C. The Greek Septuagint normally translated tirosh as oinos too (e.g. Judg. 9:13; Prov. 3:10; Isa. 62:8; Zech. 9:17).

Oinon neon: οἶνον νέον, new wine. Matt. 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38. The Septuagint has οἶνον νέον “new wine” in Isa. 49:26 for Hebrew ahsis, fresh juice.

Oinopotēs: οἰνοπότης n., a drinker of oinos. A false accusation is recorded in Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34. Christ denied this false accusation, and He also forbids Christians to behave like unbelievers (Matt. 24:48-51; Luke 12:45-46). John and Jesus both preached, saying to repent, because the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). Word forms: Strong’s G3630. Compare the term hudropoteō ὑδροποτέω in 1 Tim. 5:23 meaning a drinker of water. Oinopotēs is a different word than methusos drunkard as in 1 Cor. 5:11; 6:10.

Paroinos: πάροινος n., to be near to oinos. 1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7. Church leaders “near the drink” are ignoring this rule, but certainly Christ Himself would not ignore it! Word forms: Strong’s G3943.

Oinophlugia: οἰνοφλυγία n., 1 Pet. 4:3. Word forms: Strong’s G3632.

Methusos: μέθυσος n., drunkard in 1 Cor. 5:11; 6:10. Septuagint: Prov. 23:21; 26:9. Word forms: Strong’s G3183.

Methuo: μεθύω v., to eat/drink to satisfy one’s hunger/thirst, for example by drinking water (Hag. 1:6 in Sept.) or by another beverage. It only sometimes means to be intoxicated. The Greek translation methuo in Genesis 43:34 should be understood in light of Jeremiah 31:25 which contrasts methuo with hunger peinao. In the New Testament, 1 Cor. 11:21 likewise contrasts methuo with hunger peinao. So I would understand methuo in John 2:10 in the same way as Jer. 31:25 and 1 Cor. 11:21 – even though at other times it may indicate an intoxicated person (Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21). Word forms: Strong’s G3184, methyo.

Nēphō: νήφω v., to be nephalistic, “to be free from the influence of intoxicants.” (“Sober”, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). 1 Thess. 5:6, 8; 2 Tim. 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8. In 1 Thess. 5:6, to be getting drunk (present participle) and to be drunk are both contrasted with “to be sober.” Word forms: Strong’s G3525. Nephalism is also mentioned by Josephus, Philo, Xenophon (“nēphalioi” Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 3.12.2; “nēphein” Philo, Drunkenness, 37.151; “nēphontas” Xenophon, Cyropaedia 7.5.)

Nēphaleos: νηφαλέος adj., nephalistic, “of drink, unmixed with wine… sober … of persons” (Liddell and Scott Lexicon). 1 Tim. 3:2, 11; Tit. 2:2. Word forms: Strong’s G3524, nephalios.

Ananēphō: ἀνανήφω v., to sober back up. 2 Tim. 2:26. Word forms: Strong’s G366.

Eknēphō: ἐκνήφω v., to sober up and quit drinking. 1 Cor. 15:34. Septuagint: Gen. 9:24; 1 Sam. 25:37; Joel 1:5. Word forms: Strong’s G1594.

Sikera: σίκερα n., cider; sweet drink, with or without later fermentation. As the angel Gabriel declared, John the Baptist was never to drink any cider (Luke 1:15). Word forms: Strong’s G4608, sikera. The term came from Hebrew shekhar שֵׁכָר in Num. 6:3 about the Nazarites drinking neither cider nor fermented cider.

Gennēmatos tēs ampelou: γενήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου fruit of the vine, like Hebrew pri hagafen. The fruit of the vine was at the Last Supper (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18) while the term oinos wine is not stated.

Gleukous: γλεύκους n., sweet juice, like Hebrew ahsis translated into Greek as γλυκασμόν (Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13) or like Hebrew yayin (Job 32:19). In Acts 2:13 gleukous is said sarcastically. Josephus used the term gleukos γλεῦκος when grape juice was strained directly after squeezed for the king’s cup (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 2.5.2, referring to Gen. 40:11). Word forms: Strong’s G1098, gleukos. The related term glukus γλυκύς (sweet) is found in Jam. 3:11-12; Rev. 10:9-10.

Oxos: ὄξος n., vinegar, like the Hebrew chometz (Ps. 69:21). Oxos is only intoxicating if mixed with a poisonous drug to make it so. Christ only accepted vinegar oxos when nothing was mixed with it (Matt. 27:48; Mark 15:36; John 19:29-30). Word forms: Strong’s G3690.

Pharmakeia: φαρμακεία n., (Gal. 5:20) drug. “(Eng., ‘pharmacy,’ etc.) primarily signified ‘the use of medicine, drugs, spells;’ then, ‘poisoning;’ then, ‘sorcery,’ (“Sorcery”, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Word forms: Strong’s G5331. Pharmakos: φάρμακος (Rev. 9:21; 18:23). People are deceived by taking drugs. Pharmakos “an adjective signifying ‘devoted to magical arts,’ is used as a noun, ‘a sorcerer,’ especially one who uses drugs, potions, spells, enchantments…” (“Sorcerer”, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Word forms: Strong’s G5333.

Zumoō: ζυμόω v., to make leavened. Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:21; 1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9. Consider the parable of leaven secretly hidden within flour (Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:21). This parable’s leaven represents the contamination (hypocrisy, malice, and wickedness) secretly hidden within good flour in the Kingdom of Heaven. Beware how one man’s lawless hypocrisy contaminates many other people (Matt. 16:12; Luke 12:1; 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9). For example a contaminator professes to be a Christian brother, even though he refuses to sober up (1 Cor. 5:9-11; 15:33-34). Compare the leaven to other parables saying the Kingdom of Heaven includes bad fish or tares. (Conversely, Hag. 2:12-13 means that a little bit of something holy does not “reverse contaminate” to make other things become holy. Yet some commentators have mistaken the leaven of the parable in Matt. 13:33.) Word forms: Strong’s G2220, zymoō.

Zymē: ζύμη n., leaven. Word forms: Strong’s G2219, zume. The Septuagint in Ex. 12:15 has ζύμην for both yeast itself (seor in Hebrew) and ferment (chometz in Hebrew). Before quickly jumping to incorrect conclusions about ἄρτος artos (bread) in 1 Cor. 10:16, remember bread is not always leavened (see bread unleavened ἄρτους ἀζύμους Ex. 29:2 in Septuagint). Twelve times the Gospels and 1 Corinthians refer to the Lord’s ποτήριον “cup” (Matt. 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17,20; 1 Cor. 10:16, 21, 25-28). Suppose what if these verses had instead mentioned wine (oinos)? Yet again before quickly jumping to conclusions, we should remember wine (oinos) is not always fermented/leavened (Isa. 16:10 in Septuagint) – but only sometimes.

Azumos: ἄζυμος adj., unleavened. Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:1, 12; Luke 22:1, 7; Acts 12:3; 20:6; 1 Cor. 5:7-8. Word forms: Strong’s G106. The Latin Vulgate borrowed the Greek term as azymos. English translators sometimes say “Feast of Unleavened Bread” but the word ἄρτος artos (bread) is not actually with it in the Greek text, so Young’s Literal Translation simply says “unleavened food” (Luke 22:1, etc.).

Pneuma: πνεῦμα n., spirit (Eph. 5:18). This word had no dual meaning of alcoholic spirits (e.g. rum, vodka) – unlike today’s English term spirit. Rather, the Holy Spirit Himself is like breath. (See John 3:8; 20:22.) Word forms: Strong’s G4151.

Potos: πότος n., any type of party (1 Pet. 4:3). In the Septuagint the word is sometimes used in a good sense (Job 8:11 of water), but sometimes in a bad sense (Prov. 23:30). Word forms: Strong’s G4224. Compare: potamos ποταμός, river. See also in Hebrew vocabulary: mishteh מִשְׁתֶּה.

Asōtia: ἀσωτία n., no salvation. Do not misunderstand the English term “excess” of KJV. All the New Testament references have alcohol in the context – Eph. 5:18; Tit. 1:6; 1 Pet. 4:3. Word forms: Strong’s G810.

Askos: ἀσκός n., Matt. 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37-38. Word forms: Strong’s G779. See also in Hebrew vocabulary: chemeth, nod, nebel.

Sōphronōs: σωφρόνως adv., Tit. 2:12. Word forms: Strong’s G4996.

Sōphroneō: σωφρονέω v., Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35; Rom. 12:3; 2 Cor. 5:13; Tit. 2:6; 1 Pet. 4:7. Word forms: Strong’s G4993. (1 Pet. 4:7 has both sōphroneō and nephō.)

Sōphronizō: σωφρονίζω v., Tit. 2:4. Word forms: Strong’s G4994.

Sōphrōn: σώφρων adj., 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8; 2:2, 5. Word forms: Strong’s G4998. (1 Tim. 3:2 and Tit. 2:2 have both nēphaleos and sōphrōn.)

Egkrateia: ἐγκράτεια n., Acts 24:25; Gal. 5:23; 2 Pet. 1:6. Word forms: Strong’s G1466.

Kōmos: κῶμος n., Rom. 13:13. Word forms: Strong’s G2970.

Kraipalē: κραιπάλη n., (Luke 21:34) headache from drinking. Word forms: Strong’s G2897.

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