Did You Know?
Apart from wine, what kinds of alcoholic beverages were made in Bible times?
▪ “Wine and intoxicating liquor” are frequently mentioned together in the Bible. (Deuteronomy 14:26; Luke 1:15) The term “liquor” should not be understood to mean that these beverages were the product of distillation, since that process was invented centuries later. Alcoholic beverages were made not only from such fruits as grapes, dates, figs, apples, and pomegranates but also from honey.
In fact, the term “intoxicating liquor” could also refer to beer. The Hebrew word translated “intoxicating liquor” is related to an Akkadian word that can refer to the common barley beer of Mesopotamia. That beverage was low in alcohol but potentially intoxicating if drunk in excess. (Proverbs 20:1) Clay models of breweries and paintings of brewers have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. In Babylon, beer was an everyday drink both in palaces and in the homes of the poor. The Philistines enjoyed a similar brew. Throughout Palestine, archaeologists have found jugs equipped with strainer spouts. Those vessels strained the beer, preventing drinkers from swallowing husks of the barley from which it was brewed.
In the apostle Paul’s day, why was it particularly hazardous to sail during certain times of the year?
▪ Because of unfavorable winds, a ship on which the apostle Paul was sailing spent considerable time trying to make its way westward along the coast of Asia Minor. At a certain point, says the Bible account, it became “hazardous to navigate because even the fast of atonement day had already passed.” Paul told his fellow travelers that any attempt to continue the voyage would be accompanied by the risk of loss “not only of the cargo and the boat but also of [their] souls.”—Acts 27:4-10.
The fast of Atonement Day fell in late September or early October. Roman mariners knew that voyages were generally safe from May 27 to September 14. Between this latter date and November 11, sailing was thought uncertain, and from November 11 through March 10, the sea was considered closed to general navigation. One reason, as Paul’s subsequent experience graphically illustrates, was the instability of the weather. (Acts 27:13-44) Sailors faced the risk of violent storms as well as greater difficulty when navigating. Clouds obscured the sun by day and the stars by night. Mist and rain also decreased visibility and hid potential hazards.
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Wooden Egyptian model of beer bottles
Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY
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Roman cargo ship c. 100-200 C.E.
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.