What The Bible Says About Drunkenness and Why It's Wrong

The Bible contains a few short passages about getting drunk.

It doesn't say people shouldn't drink; it only says people shouldn't get drunk.

For anyone who needs help overcoming a problem with addiction to alcohol, or any other kind of addiction, apart from seeking medical/professional help, which might obviously be the most important thing, you can visit the self-help article on this website: Conquering Any Kind of Addiction or Craving.

Or for anyone trying to cope with an alcoholic spouse, have a look at another one: Helping an Alcoholic Husband Want to Get Sober.

In the Old Testament, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 20 (CEV)

1It isn't smart to get drunk!
Drinking makes a fool of you
and leads to fights.

Hosea chapter 4 (TEV)

11 The Lord says, "Wine, both old and new, is robbing my people of their senses!"

Proverbs chapter 23 (TEV)

19 Listen, my child, be wise and give serious thought to the way you live. 20 Don't associate with people who drink too much wine or stuff themselves with food. 21 Drunkards and gluttons will be reduced to poverty. If all you do is eat and sleep, you will soon be wearing rags.

29 Show me people who drink too much, who have to try out fancy drinks, and I will show you people who are miserable and sorry for themselves, always causing trouble and always complaining. Their eyes are bloodshot, and they have bruises that could have been avoided.
31 Don't let wine tempt you, even though it is rich red, and it sparkles in the cup, and it goes down smoothly. 32 The next morning you will feel as if you had been bitten by a poisonous snake. 33 Weird sights will appear before your eyes, and you will not be able to think or speak clearly. 34 You will feel as if you were out on the ocean, seasick, swinging high up in the rigging of a tossing ship. 35 "I must have been hit," you will say; "I must have been beaten up, but I don't remember it. Why can't I wake up? I need another drink."

(The passages from the Book of Proverbs are, as the title of the book indicates, proverbial, and thus are meant as wise sayings, sometimes generalisations perhaps, but not meant to be taken as absolute truth.)

A prophet of ancient Israel said:

Isaiah chapter 28 (NLT)

1 Destruction is certain for the city of Samaria - the pride and joy of the drunkards of Israel! 7 Israel is being led by drunks! The priests and prophets reel and stagger from beer and wine. They make stupid mistakes as they carry out their responsibilities.

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible says:

Proverbs chapter 31 (TEV)

1 These are the solemn words which King Lemuel's mother said to him:
2 "You are my own dear son, the answer to my prayers. What shall I tell you?
4 Listen, Lemuel. Kings should not drink wine or have a craving for alcohol. 5 When they drink, they forget the laws and ignore the rights of people in need.
6 Alcohol is for people who are dying, for those who are in misery. 7 Let them drink and forget their poverty and unhappiness."

There are also Bible quotations in the New Testament warning Christians not to get drunk. The whole frame of mind of a Christian should be one in which we don't want to be controlled by some substance that might make us do unchristian things.

The Bible advises Christians:

Ephesians chapter 5 (NLT)

18 Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.
Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.

The Bible says the Holy Spirit is a part of God who will be given to true Christians and will live in them to make them better people.

One of the writers of the letters that were put in the Bible, Paul, instructed and warned groups of Christians:

Galatians chapter 5 (NLT)

16 I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. ....

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, 20 idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin.

Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us:

1 Thessalonians chapter 5 (NLT)

6 ... Stay alert and be sober. 7 Night is the time for sleep and the time when people get drunk. 8 But let us ... think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. 9 For God decided to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 He died for us so that we can live with him forever, whether we are dead or alive at the time of his return.

Some people justify drinking by saying that Jesus turned water into wine so it must be allright. But some understanding of the cultural background/customs of the time and in the area where the miracle happened shows that this was not just a simple case of Jesus encouraging people to enjoy boozing.

From a sermon given at Durham Cathedral:

To run out of wine at a wedding was not a matter of life and death, but it was a major social faux-pas and would subject the family to social disgrace that would long be remembered. Apparently it might even be cause for a lawsuit by a disgruntled guest if he didn't get hospitality appropriate to the value of his wedding gift.

And from The New Testament Commentary: Vol. III--John (1886) by B. W. Johnson:

From some cause, perhaps from a larger number of guests than was expected, the wine gave out.
"None but those who know how sacred in the East is the duty of lavish hospitality, and how passionately the obligation to exercise to the utmost it is felt, can realize the gloom which this incident would have thrown over the occasion, or the misery and mortification it would have caused to the wedded pair. They would have felt it to be, as in the East it is still felt to be, an indelible disgrace."--Farrar.

The Bible commentary also discusses the strength of the alcohol content of the wine in Jesus' day:

It must be borne in mind that among the Greeks and Romans and in Palestine there were three kinds of wine: 1. Fermented wines, which, however, were very unlike our fiery liquors, and contained only a small per cent of alcohol. These were mixed with two or three parts of water. The laws of Zaleucus, the Locrian, put to death anyone who drank unmixed wine, except as medicine. The fermented wine, at first mild, and then diluted with water, was [46] a drink as used, that had no intoxicating power unless used in enormous quantities. 2. New wine, the fresh juice of the grape, like our new cider, not intoxicating. 3. Wines in which, by boiling the unfermented juice of the grape, or by the addition of certain drugs, the process of fermentation was stopped, and which had no intoxicating properties. We cannot surely determine which kind the Savior made here, but we agree with Whedon, who says: "We see no reason for supposing that the wine of the present occasion was that upon which Scripture places its strongest interdict, (Proverbs 20:1; 23:31; Isaiah 22:13,) rather than that eulogized as a blessing (Psalms 104:15; Isaiah 55:1)." Even adopting the view that it was fermented wine, it was totally unlike the fiery and undiluted drinks sold as wines in saloons, used in many families, offered at hotels and wine parties, and even poured out at communion tables.

Articles on Other Websites About the Harmful Effects of Alcohol

The main Bible pages on this site:

Bible Bible Part 1: Bible Quotations, The Holy Spirit, People And Their Stories
Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites
Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians.
Or go directly to the next in the series: Sex And Marriage.
Or if you'd like to find out more about God's Holy Spirit, read: The Life-Changing Power of the Holy Spirit.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials:

Warning Against Believing Everything you Hear or Read

Don't be afraid to question the truth of what a religious authority figure tells you, or even the Bible or other holy books themselves, or certain people's interpretation of them. Nothing to do with religion or the supernatural is so well established in fact it shouldn't be questioned. To find out why caution is a good idea, visit:

The Beauty of the New Testament's Moral Teaching and Other Important Pages on this Website

Are you up to trying the challenges of the New Testament's moral guidelines, and would you like to know more of what it says about the love of Jesus? Here are some links to Bible quotes about the beautiful ideals the New Testament encourages Christians to try to live up to:

There are a lot of pages on this website with quotations from the Old Testament on them. Many of these are unfortunately rather gruesome, since the main theme of the Old Testament is warnings and stories about how it says societies were punished for mass lawless and hurtful behaviour, even to the extent of having war brought on them by God, that seem to have been designed to scare societies where crime and violence were rampant into behaving more ethically. In case there is any misunderstanding, it should be understood that this website does not endorse war as anything other than a last resort. The position of the website owner can be gleaned from the articles:

Fancy some light relief or laughter therapy? Then go to the first of our jokes pages:

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