A gracEmail subscriber asks, “In Deuteronomy 14:26, the King James Version and American Standard Version use ‘strong drink,’ while the New King James and other versions say ‘similar drink.’ Should the English translation say ‘strong drink’ with all that implies?”
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This passage describes payment of the annual tithe which the Israelites were required to dedicate to God. It pictures a festive occasion of feasting and gaity. If one lived too far from the Holy Place to bring the actual produce, he was to sell one-tenth of the harvest and bring the money instead. This verse says “You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep or wine, or strong drink . . . and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household” (NASB). The next verse suggests inviting a Levite, who had no land inheritance, to join in the banquet (Deut. 14:27). God apparently enjoys a well-behaved party (John 2:1-11).
Most standard English versions have “strong drink.” The Hebrew word is shechar, which means “strong drink” and refers to a wide variety of inebriating beverages known in the ancient world. The Greek word for shechar is sikera from which comes the English word “cider.” Even if someone used “similar drink” to translate shechar in this verse, it still says “wine or similar drink,” that is, drink similar to wine.
Jesus made wine by his first miracle, and he instituted a cup of wine as the “remembrance” of his atoning blood (John 2:1-11; Matt. 26:27-29). All of God’s creation is good, if used properly and with gratitude to him (1 Tim. 4:4-5). On the other hand, the Bible clearly prohibits drunkenness, warns against the deceitful evils of alcohol, and requires moderation in both Old and New Testaments (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35; Gal. 5:21; Rom. 13:13).
Some Christians conscientiously practice complete abstinence from alcohol while others conscientiously practice moderation. The New Testament allows room for both opinions; believers who differ on this are neither to judge nor to despise each other for it (Rom. 14:1-23).