Wednesday, January 04, 2012

How does the Bible define drunkenness?

The thoughts on this post began with a pastor asking the question, "Would you mind telling me how I as a pastor can know when a member of my flock is guilty of drunkenness?" The Bible-believing Christian must answer this the same way regardless of his or her position on drinking in moderation or abstention. Go to the Bible and find out what it says about drunkenness. We won't find a fine dividing line that we can determine with a breathalyzer. That is a secular and legal approach. In our state we legally define that point with blood alcohol level -- 0.08 blood alcohol concentration (at least while driving).1 BUT the question now before us is how the Bible, our rule of faith and practice, defines it. There we will find guidance. Inspired, inerrant guidance at that!

Please consider the following points from Scripture.

There is a point at which one passes from "drinking wine" to drunkenness; that is, these are two different states. For examples, Genesis 9:21 "And he drank of the wine, and was drunken..." Deuteronomy 29:19 "And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:"

The Bible speaks of "drunken" but also of an exceeding state of that: 1 Samuel 25:36 "And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken" The "very drunken" state is most obvious, but drunken might not be quite as readily observable.

Certain actions, states or physical signs are often associated with drunkenness in the Bible, such as staggering, shaking and vomiting. Psalm 107:27
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. (Cf. Jer. 23:9, Isa. 19:14; Prov. 23:29). [We understand other things can also cause these signs, such as sickness.]

Actions or states unrelated to alcohol sometimes are mistaken for drunkenness. 1 Samuel 1:13 "Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken." (Cf. Acts 2:15)

Drunkenness is associated with loss of control of one's senses or actions. Sometimes "loss of control" can be in a good way -- being controlled by the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;" There are also other figures in the Bible that speak of being "drunk" on something other than wine/strong drink that seem to generally share the meaning of not being in control or possession of one's faculties. (Cf. Job 12:24-25; Lam. 4:21; Rev. 17:2)

Drunkenness is caused by an excess of wine. Compare Eph. 5:18 and I Peter 4:3. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

This may be simplistic. Perhaps it does not draw as exact a line as you may want. But looking at these verses are a starting place for a BIBLICAL definition of drunkenness.

1. I'm not sure if it is proper to say this defines drunkenness legally so much as to say it is the point where driving becomes illegal. For example, I don't think BAC has anything to do with "public intoxication" in Texas, which appears to be at a law officer's discretion.


Anonymous said...

This is an incomplete thought! You had me. You spoke to me spiritually. But then you just quit.... Please pray on this and follow Gods will and complete this thought... God bless you! Please

R. L. Vaughn said...


I apologize for overlooking a response to your comment until now. I do realize the incompleteness of this, but I had to speak from the light I had and go no further. Shall I receive more light, I will return to the subject.

Anonymous said...

If u look at Ecclesiastes 9:7 and 1corinthians 10:31 drinking w proper mature motivation is an ok thing. But we must not let higher leavels of truth be stumbling blocks to babes in christ. We must be built in the spirit seeking him first in all things not a drink in troubled times. Look at eccentric 9:7 in the amplified version it all about a joyful heart not drinking to dround your sarows. But always keep in mind that this walk w christ is individual so one may be convicted by there concance so we musk not go against that. I hope this helps some. Seek him first and he will answer what's right for you at this stage in your walk. And be incorraged by u reading this is mature in its self longing for truth and clarity.

Anonymous said...

U must also consider if we decide to drink what do u drink and were do u do it. If 1cor15:33 says bad company corrupts good caricter than the bar isn't the place to partake. There's alot more to consider than just if its lawful. Now don't get confused w what seem to be stipulations there just to protect ourselves form evil. We are also called to be set apart from this world. The more unlike the world we become the more christ like we become. So we must keep that in mind too. But what is lawful isn't always expedient as the Bible also stated. So even if we pin down the exact amount to drink and what to drink and were to drink it there's still more to consider like are we calls to preach because were not to partake in any wine then and if were decons than we shouldn't partake in much wine as the apostle Paul writes. It all boils down to your level of maturity and understanding of god's truths. And I don't want to sound like I have it all figured out because I don't and I sertinly don't want to cause any one to fall because teachers of the word of God are held to a higher level of accountability. I'm just sharing what I know and were I am w my walk In Seeking the trough. So please reply and correct any thoughts I've placed if need be.

Anonymous said...

We also must consider what wine was in Biblical days. It wasn't what it is today were man has added sugars and different ways to inhance the alcohol content greatly. Because Paul warns us on not partaking in strong drink. So I just thought I'd add those thoughts to the other comments made.

Anonymous said...

the bible also states to give those who are about to perish and those who are troubled strong drink,so they may forget their wows

Anonymous said...

Deuteronomy 14:26 says regarding the Feast of Tithes to buy "oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice." I do not think it is a question whether alcohol in biblical times was less strong than modern alcohol or not, clearly drunkenness was possible and frequent. And in my opinion the Bible and Jesus clearly condone drinking alcohol in moderation, but never drunkenness.
My question is ... what is the difference between drinking while rejoicing, and drunkenness? As others have stated, we will not find a BAC level to reference in the Bible. :) I agree with others, I think this is something we should seek God first. God is always working to grow us and he puts the Holy Spirit in our hearts so we don't need to be consumed with legalism, but we should seek the Holy Spirit's direction in all things. But here's a "rule-of-thumb" I apply to myself regarding alcohol ... If you ever feel ashamed or convicted with how much you drink or drank, you had too much. And then I learn from that. And what the Lord convicts us about may change over time as we continue to grow in our walk.

shaun smith said...

I believe if we are of the House Hold of Faith,Jesus Chirst. We need to ask ourselves some questions, one why do I drink,at one time I drink to get drunk,and then I started to justify myself with these words. I need it to calm my nerves, to relax. But the Holy Spirit being to deal with me,and tell me, Jesus died on the cross for all of those things u go through and deal with.Give it to Him in Faith and Believe that He Will. When I drink or smoke,I was telling God Jehovah, that. Your Sons death and resurrection was not good enoughfor me,and I need additional help,which made that a idol god. The Holy Spirit also enlightened me,that who is better to calm you,then He who made the nerves. May God Bless u all

MJ Phillips said...


Although I agree with much of what you wrote, how much did you have to drink when you wrote your post? Your spelling and grammar are horrible. ;)

Anonymous said...

So u think if a person knows how to speak or write. They r better then other,well sir if u agree with what was said. Then does it matter about grammar. Just as long as their is understanding to better the people in information and do God's Will. O yea,do u think it's the Will of God to agree with someone,then try to put them down. Hmmm.... may God bless you in humbleness!

Anonymous said...

To MJ Phillips, it is unkind to criticize the written comment of anyone and that saddened me for you to do that. As Gods children we should not belittle another. I understood clearly what the person you are referring too very well. Some people may not have achieved well in school and may have a a disability to learning or he could have been rushed to express his feelings in words,it doesn't matter. But I ask God to bless the person your referred to because his comment was heart felt and meaningful and well presented and I respect his contribution. Thank you

Anonymous said...

So often in the bible there is a physical connection to spirituality. The drunkenness that relates to drinking too much alcohol is obvious. This is not good or God's way. The drunkenness in the spiritual sense relates to what we have put in our hearts that we set our sights on or get to wrapped up in ourselves, or anti-spiritual habits that resist the forming of good character. God urges us to be alert in mind and be aware of our surroundings, to not fall into the intoxicating thoughts that we all are prone too, because of what we set our hearts on that will bring us nothing but misery. We are told to set our hearts on the kingdom of God, therefore our thoughts will always be focused and sober. If we are prone to excess, drinking, eating or over indulgence on any worldly charm whether it be physical or not, taxes the spirit. Moderation is the key, don't let anything or anyone beside God control you. If it does, you become dull, slow and useless, just like a DRUNK

Anonymous said...

Also remember, THE BODY IS A TEMPLE.
Excess alcohol destroys your body. Overtime, too much will eventually kill you. If we treat our bodies as temples, intaking enough alcohol to make us physically hurt (hungover) is a violation of that principle.

Anonymous said...

If we say "our body is a temple" then it is also true that we shouldn't be going to McDonalds, over eating, etc. Making sure that everything that touches or goes into our bodies should be pure and the best. We should be exercising regularly, etc. Unless we are doing that, we have do business condemning another's freedom.