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The Israelites and Beer

There is a great article in the new issue of Biblical Archaeology Review about beer in ancient Israel. The author points out the prevalence of beer in the culture of ancient Israel, and speculates as to why most Bible translations do not use the word beer, but rather "strong drink." He believes that this is due in part to a general snobbishness among academics that causes them to emphasize a culture of wine, but downplay the beer. Here's a sample. If you're interested head on over to BAR and check it out.

"Ancient Israelites, with the possible exception of a few teetotaling Nazirites and their moms, proudly drank beer--and lots of it. Men, women and even children of all social classes drank it. Its consumption in ancient Israel was encouraged, sanctioned and intimately linked with their religion. Even Yahweh, according to the Hebrew Bible, consumed at least half a hin of beer (approximately 2 liters, or a six-pack) per day through the cultic ritual of libation, and he drank even more on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:7-10)." --from "Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?" by Michael M. Homan


Chris said…
You mean they weren't drinking bottled water out there in that hot desert sun?
Suburbanbanshee said…
Well, some of it wasn't strictly beer or wine, because it often meant "anything that'll ferment all mixed up together, including palm hearts". (I know this because I read what may have been an earlier version of this article on the net, or a very similar article.) But "strong drink" isn't probably a good name these days, because it makes us think of distilling (which they didn't have).
Rick said…
He does mention that in his article. Dates, palm hearts, and about anything else that would ferment. He also explains that there were no hops or carbonation in those days so the "beer" would be quite different from what we have today. However, he asserts that grains were the main ingredient in all of these brews, distinguishing them from grape-based fermented drinks that we translate as "wine".

He also gives a recipe for the type of beer someone living in the Ancient Near East might have drunk. My wife saw the recipe in the magazine and said, "Oh no. This is going to be like that time you tried to make mead last year." :)