The Bible Wine Tour
Unfortunately, wine's first appearance in Scripture is tainted by human failure. But its second act is an unmitigated story of blessing (Gen. 14:17-24). After Abram pursued enemy kings who had taken his nephew Lot captive, he paid a visit to Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem (later known as Jerusalem), in order to thank God for his victory. Melchizedek brought Abram bread and wine, an act which Christian interpreters have seen as foreshadowing the Eucharist.
Abraham came from a beer culture, say Heskett and Butler. Because of Mesopotamia's climate, wine had to be imported and was therefore a luxury item for the rich. But Canaan's Mediterranean climate made wine an integral part of both Israelite and Canaanite culture. When the Mesopotamian migrant Abraham received wine from Melchizedek, he would have perceived it as a highly valued commodity. It thus served as a fitting precursor to the blessing Mechizedek was about to give.
An offering of wine (and food) similarly precedes Isaac's blessing of Jacob in Genesis 27. Isaac, thinking he was blessing Esau, said: "From the dew of heaven and the richness of the earth, may God always give you abundant harvests of grain and bountiful new wine."
Centuries later, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob moved back to Canaan, a "land flowing with milk and honey" that also a yielded plenteous grapes and abundant wine. In Numbers 13, the Promised Land is described as a well-watered place full of grape clusters so enormous that it took two Israelite spies to carry just one of them back to camp. This image came to epitomize Canaan's agricultural richness.
Because abundance of wine signifies God's blessing, it becomes a key element in the Bible's vision of the good life. It is a divine gift that the Psalmist famously declares "maketh glad the heart of man" (Ps. 104:15, KJV). When Proverbs personifies Wisdom (Prov. 8–9), it uses mixed wine (probably with spices) as an important part of the banquet that Wisdom has prepared for those who respond to her invitation. The "brash" woman Folly, by contrast, offers her guests "stolen water" to drink.
Isaiah 55 echoes Wisdom's invitation in Proverbs. God offers covenant blessing with an invitation to the thirsty: "Is anyone thirsty? … Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it's all free" (Isa. 55:1, NLT).