Joseph the original “Nazarite”

Joseph the original “Nazarite”

Before Jacob died, he blessed his sons including Joseph: “The blessings of your father Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of him who was separate [separate in Hebrew: nazar] from his brothers.” (Gen. 49:26)

“The majority opinion of the rabbis is that Joseph always kept in mind his father and brothers. Some declare that during the 22 years he was away from home he drank no wine (Shab. 139a; Gen. R. 94:25).” (New World Encyclopedia)

Certainly Joseph could not expect to behave wisely if he were to drink and forget the law. (Prov. 31:5) This is true regardless of Joseph technically taking a Nazarite vow or not.

Interestingly this term nazar describing Joseph in Gen. 49:26 is the term used of the Nazarite vow in Numbers 6:1-21. Besides alcoholic wine, Jewish usage of Hebrew clearly shows simple grape juice was also within the meaning of “yayin” wine: “Wine … when the grapes have been crushed and the wine begins to flow, even though it has not descended into the cistern and is still in the wine press.” (Sefer Kedushah, MaAchalot Assurot, Ch. 11, Halacha 11) At the beginning of Num. 6:3, simple unfermented grape juice was clearly a type of wine “yayin” and yet Nazarites could drink none of it. Nazarites can have neither “wine” nor “fermented wine,” and neither “cider” nor “fermented cider.” Besides, at the end of this verse, a Nazarite could have nothing made from fresh grapes nor dried grapes; a Nazarite cannot have the mishra of grapes, which means “secondary wine, which was made by maceration of grapes in water, after the juice had been pressed out to make wine.” (Symon Patrick Commentary) In Num. 6:4, a Nazarite cannot eat anything of the grape vine from seed to skin. This Nazarite passage does not name tirosh (another term for grapes) because its equivalent meaning is already addressed. See the meaning of tirosh, as one “…shall tread grapes (tirosh), but not drink wine (yayin).” (Micah 6:15 ESV) Unfermented grape juice was indeed within the meaning of yayin.

Mounce – even though he does not agree that the Holy Bible endorses teetotalism – nonetheless admits about yayin: “… there are some occasions in which this term refers to unfermented grape juice. When Isaiah says that “no one treads out wine at the presses. (Isa. 16:10), the yayin here must refer to grape juice before it has become fermented (cf. also Jer. 48:33). In Jer. 40:10,12, yayin is a euphemism for freshly harvested grapes.” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 2006, p. 791)

The term nazar also describes a separated vine every seventh year. “The spontaneous growth of thy harvest thou dost not reap, and the grapes of thy separated thing [separated in Hebrew: nazar] thou dost not gather, a year of rest it is to the land.” (Lev. 25:5)

Samson was a famous Nazarite. (Judg. 13:1-25) The angel’s announcement of the birth of John the Baptist is very similar. “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15)

Israelite voices against drinking – but some against living soberly

For what it is worth, the ‘Testament of Judah’ gives some indication of an early Jewish man’s voice against drinking – lest McDurmon or anybody now pretend that living soberly was unknown until very recently (besides the Nazarites). It is said that Judah (Joseph’s brother) addresses the children of Judah: “Be not drunk with wine; for wine turneth the mind away from, the truth, and inspires the passion of lust, and leadeth the eyes into error… But if ye would live soberly do not touch wine at all, lest ye sin in words of outrage, and in fightings and slanders, and transgressions of the commandments of God, and ye perish before your time.” (Testament Of Judah, ch 3)

More importantly, this admonition against touching the drink would have been be influenced by the solid Biblical precepts like this one: “Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted” (Prov. 31:5) Certainly Joseph could not expect to behave wisely if he were to drink and forget the law. This is true regardless of Joseph technically taking a Nazarite vow or not.

Living soberly was indeed practiced in Israel many centuries ago. Yet that is not to deny that some of Jacob’s children rejected sober living also. They should have known better. Isaiah rebuked them: “But they also have erred through wine, And through intoxicating drink are out of the way; The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, They are swallowed up by wine, They are out of the way through intoxicating drink; They err in vision, they stumble in judgment.  For all tables are full of vomit and filth; No place is clean.” (Isa. 28:7-8)

Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?

Stephen asked, “which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?” (Acts 7:52) The scornful priests and prophets did not want to listen to Isaiah rebuking their error. Now if someone desires to live godly in Christ Jesus but does not as yet know he will face persecution, then let him go to church and tell people: “Do not be deceived!” “Bad company corrupts good morals!” “Get sober!” “Stay sober!” “Quit sinning!” “Some do not know God!” “Shame on you!” (Get sober and stay sober: “eknepho” see 1 Cor. 15:33-34 and as Noah sobered-up “eknepho” from the effects of drinking in Gen. 9:24, Septuagint.)

Notice how people react when told these things. Some people would repent. But others would speak evil of you as Amos found: “But you gave the Nazirites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets saying, ‘Do not prophesy!’” (Amos 2:12) Nonetheless, whether they listen or whether they refuse to listen (for they are a rebellious house) – still the Scripture states: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:1-2)

I came across a new definition of sin… “Not only is it incorrect, biblically speaking, to forbid others to drink beer, wine, and/or strong liquor in general, it is downright sinful. One may even need to look into the possibility of whether forbidding enjoyment of alcohol is as sinful as the opposite extreme–drunkenness itself–if not more so.” (Joel McDurmon, Note to the Reader, p. xiv, What Would Jesus Drink? 2011)

The satisfaction of Joseph’s brothers, not drunkenness

Never be drunk (Eph. 5:18). Did Joseph and his brothers behave properly when they went to his house at noon? They ate and drank once he told the servants to serve the bread. Remember Joseph had behaved in a godly way when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. It is important that the Hebrew term shakar in Gen. 43:34 ought to be understood in the same way as Hag. 1:6 where a scarcity of water meant people did not have “sufficient” to drink. However, shakar is sometimes used of somebody intoxicated (1 Sam. 1:14) – not always. In Gen. 43:34, it simply means Joseph’s brothers previously had non-sufficient provisions for their needs. Moreover, 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. I would first demand stronger support for a suggestion the “nazarite” Joseph wanted anybody to disregard Ephesians 5:18 before I would conclude that he did disregard it. For argument’s sake suppose Joseph had disregarded this principle. Then somebody should have corrected him in the same way Eli corrected Hanna when he supposed she was drunk: “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” (1 Sam. 1:14) In the resurrection, the King of Kings would not eat and drink the fruit of the vine with Joseph if he had not obeyed Eph. 5:18 and 1 Cor. 5:11. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? … But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person.” (1 Cor. 5:6,11)

Therefore, nobody should think the Corinthian Christians were getting intoxicated (at all) – even in the sacrament (!) – nor being gluttonous. Otherwise I would not expect Paul to reply merely, “Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?” (1 Cor. 11:22) The English term gluttony would not be an appropriate description. Rather, some Corinthians were simply inconsiderate of other Christians on a lower income.

This is how several translations have rendered 1 Cor. 11:21 because the context does not support the idea of intoxication in this passage:

“For, in eating it, every one takes first his own supper; and one, indeed, is hungry, and another is filled.” (Living Oracles New Testament)

“for in eating every one strives to take his own supper first, and while one is hungry, another is surfeited.” (Mace)

“for every one at eating taketh first his own supper, so one indeed is hungry and another is plentifully fed.” (Charles Thomson version)

“each one for the own supper takes before in the to eat, and one indeed is hungry, one but is filled.” (Emphatic Diaglott – Benjamin Wilson)

Be sober and be vigilant! – Old and New Testament penalties for hypocrites

Be sober and be vigilant! (1 Pet. 5:8) The Old and New Testaments both address strong penalties for hypocrites (Heb. 10:29), lest any Christian “begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards”, lest any Christian forgets the law of Christ, lest any Christian “live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men” rather than being “sober perfectly” in hope of the grace to be received once Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Pet. 4:2; 1:13).

The penalty in the Old Testament: “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.” (Deut. 21:18-21)

The penalty in the New Testament: “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect… But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 24:44,48-51)

To conclude, “All Israel should hear and fear” (Deut. 21:11) – yes, beyond all Joseph’s family in Egypt, and beyond all their 75 relatives that Pharaoh asked to come to Egypt, still all Israel should hear and fear the Lord, all Israel: including Dinah, all Joseph’s sisters-in-law and Asher’s daughter Serah, all the Kenites, all the Rechabites (Jer. 35:8) forever, all their wives, their sons, and their daughters, all the people of Pharaoh’s house, all Egypt, all people who will ever descend from Abraham and all people who will not descend from Abraham – all nations forever should “hear and fear” the Son of Man who shall suddenly come in His glory! In Him all the nations on Earth are blessed.

His kingdom extends to all nations: “from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.” He will judge over all who are still alive and besides this “all who are in the graves will hear His voice” too (John 5:28). Yes! “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” (Matt. 25:32)

Long ago Zechariah prophesied of the extent of Christ’s kingdom: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’” (Zech. 9:9-10)

Hallelujah – No more drinking parties! The Lord comes – Hallelujah!

“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles–when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Pet. 4:1-5)

P.S. Joseph’s many relatives tallied 66, 70, 75…

Tally 66: Gen. 46:8-26 names the descendants of Israel; it names the descendants of Jacob and his twelve sons who went to Egypt. Joseph went there earlier than his brothers. They “meant evil” against Joseph – for they should have known better than to sell their brother as a slave – even before Moses rebuked this crime: “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.” (Ex. 21:16) The sum of 66 names counted the names of the 12 patriarchs and their living male offspring (inclusive of Joseph – and his two sons in the Masoretic text). This sum did not count the wives of Joseph’s brothers.

Tally 70: Then the more inclusive sum of 70 (Gen. 46:27) was for all the house of Jacob living in Egypt. It included Jacob himself and his living wives Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah. (Still this sum of 70 still included Joseph – and his two sons in the Masoretic text. But it appears the Septuagint’s 75 includes more generations of Joseph’s family within the family of Jacob living in Egypt.)

Tally 75: In Acts 7:14, Stephen stated: “Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people.” However, Steven’s figure of 75 would be calculated for a specific reason. (So Stephen would calculate 75 regardless of using either the Masoretic text or the Septuagint.) He calculated 75 by adjusting 66 and noting the details of Pharaoh’s mandate. In Gen. 45:18-19, Pharaoh specifically stated whom Joseph should summon to reside in Egypt: Joseph’s brothers, their wives, little ones, and Joseph’s father. But Pharaoh did not explicitly include Joseph’s step-mothers, half-sister, etc. If Stephen estimated that Pharaoh and Joseph had summoned 11 sisters-in-law for Joseph’s 11 brothers, then Stephen would calculate 75 (66 living male offspring of Jacob – 1 Joseph – 2 offspring of Joseph + 11 sisters-in-law + 1 Jacob).

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