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Monday, October 19, 2009

Goodness of the Grape

"The vine said to them,
'Should I cease my new wine,
Which cheers both God and men ...?' "
~ Jotham, Judges 9:13

Goodness of the Grape


Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes. So they went up and spied out the land [of Canaan] ... Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole... And they returned from spying out the land after forty days.
~ Numbers 13:20-21,23,25 (NKJV)

Praise the LORD, my soul! ...
You make wine to cheer human hearts,
olive oil to make faces shine,
and bread to strengthen human hearts.
~ Psalms 104:1,15 (GW)

Here's a thumbnail history of grapes and wine in ancient Israel.

In Israelite culture, the grape and its wine—its blood—symbolized health and wealth, joy and prosperity. Beer was cheap, intoxicating drink produced from common barley, familiar among Egyptians, Philistines, and other peoples. Wine was produced from grapevines which required careful attention, and took up to ten years to produce good grapes—not possible unless one was peaceably settled in the land for an extended time.

Tiyrosh (fresh grape juice, or "new wine") was available only at late summer grape harvest. Yayin (intoxicating wine) was far more than a beverage. It was important to purify water, cleanse wounds, and aid digestion. It was one of the offerings God required to be presented daily at the temple. And while some covenants might be sealed in the blood of an animal, joyful covenants such as betrothals and weddings were sealed with this blood of grapes.

The Bible has numerous mentions of grape harvest as a joyful celebration which crowned the harvest, perhaps comparable to our Thanksgiving. Treading the grapes was accompanied by dancing and music. To this day, it is not uncommon to find Mediterranean region grapes as big as plums, in clusters up to 45 lbs. Many varieties of grapes begin ripening around the beginning of August (others as late as mid-September), with the harvest lasting about forty days.

While the Bible has numerous examples of harmful overindulgence in wine and warnings against drunkenness, the prevailing image is of the vine and all its fruit being representative of God's highest blessing. When the twelve spies returned from their expedition with an enormous cluster of grapes, they demonstrated that the land was not simply adequate, but contained exceedingly abundantly above all what the Israelites might ask or think.

Tomorrow, more about the spies, and about trust.

Father in Heaven, You created only good in the earth. We long for the day when you will eliminate all the havoc our sin has wrought upon Your creation. Even now, please enable us to see Your exceedingly-abundantly-above-all-we-might-ask-or-think blessings.

On a personal note: This is not intended as an argument for drinking wine. I respect the views of Christians who choose to abstain from alcoholic beverages.

Contrasting points-of-view, questions and feedback are invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2009, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
Photo from


  1. Thanks for sharing this, love you my friend.

  2. When Jesus turned water into wine, He turned a necessity (water) into a celebration (wine). God wants to celebrate our relationship with Him and He wants us to be happy (I am not talking about drinking wine here)

  3. Imagine how much labor went into making wine in those days. It astounds me to think of it...and then harvests so plentiful that a party ensued, wherein members of the community also crushed the grapes. Talk about abundant blessing!

    Have a blessed, abundant Monday, everyone. :)

  4. I have always wanted to tread grapes, as you wrote it, jump on, stomp on, dance in...seems like my kind of party.
    ~ Wendy

  5. What a pleasant surprise! I enjoy visiting your site from "my place." In this case, rather circuitously I came via Bob Brault's site. He's undoubtedly one of the best writers blogging, and it says a great deal to me about the quality of your work that someone like him is paying attention. I'd like to stomp grapes, too. I can almost feel them squishing through my toes. Course, no one would or should drink any such beverage when I'm done. Good job, as usual. donkimrey

  6. When I was a kid I liked to jam as many grapes into my mouth as would fit, especially between my cheeks and gums. Then press my mouth with both hands as hard as I could. Juicy!

    Maybe I'll teach my boyz that trick next week, and then share with them a little of what you taught me today... :-)

  7. I love this kind of info!!!! I'm thinking of reading the bible and looking up EVERY word in the dictionary to understand the depth and property of each of the words... We miss out on such blessing because we do not understand the meaning behind the word. Thank you for this beautiful explanation and history of the grape and wine!

  8. This is a lovely meditation on grapes and the vine. Thanks! I like the picture, too.

  9. Ann, tell MikeyAnn she would probably really enjoy William Barclay's commentaries, given her appreiation for word pictures and the like. Kenneth Wuest also has something along that line. Perhaps the best such work is by A. T. Robertson, a professor at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville years ago. I believe it may be entitled Word Pictures in the New Testament. Those books may be out of print now, but they're goo works.

  10. I love how the Lord shows us so much through this humble fruit. Thank you Anne for sharing. My grandmother has a humble vineyard in Europe. She provides the village with the best wine for special occasions.

  11. Denise, love you too.

    Bible Lover, I think it's just like Jesus to make His first miracle one of strictly giving joy.

    Gwen and Wendy, if they have treading of the grapes in heaven (since Jesus said He wouldn't again drink of the vine UNTIL the kingdom), I'll gladly dance in the press with you two--and Denise and Don, too should they care to join.

    Russell, I think your method of crushing grapes has severely limited distribution potential.

    MikeyAnn, there's a free download available from The KJV+ has the Greek & Hebrew definitions linked for EVERY word of text simply by running the mouse over the word. It's a very user-friendly resource I highly recommend. (And see Don's comment.)

    Rosslyn, thank you for your comment. I don't know how today's visitors feel about drinking wine, but I hope everyone who's stopped by can appreciate the biblical significance of the grape and wine regardless.

    Don, thank you for mentioning these resources, and for the info on Bob Brault.

    T. Anne, how blessed you are! I'm guessing you would have mentioned it if you'd ever been present at grape harvest. I'm sure you nonetheless have heard some wonderful stories.


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