“They Drank & Were ‘Merry’ with Him”

For those that say drinking alcohol is okay, how much alcohol is too much is the question? Maybe 1, or 2, or even 3, 4, 5… why not 10?

In Genesis 43 we find the story where Joseph’s brothers return to Egypt. What I find most intriguing to me is the very end of the chapter in verse 34. However for the context of the passage let’s start by reading at Genesis 43: 26-34. It reads,

“When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?”  They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.

The ESV Study Bible puts this simply that “Joseph’s feelings for Benjamin result in his being given portions that are five times those given to his brothers.” However I am not as concerned with Joseph’s feelings as much as I am with the issue that is not mentioned in verse 34 in the ESV Bible reads, “Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.” But yet in the NET Bible it reads, “They drank with Joseph until they all became drunk.” Now there is quite a difference between being merry and drunk, isn’t there?

Merry – means cheerful and lively.

Drunk – means affected by alcohol to the extent of losing control of one’s faculties or behavior.

Here I see two questions that need to be addressed.

1. What is the hebrew word here in the text that is translated to merry or drunk?
The Hebrew word that is used here in the text that the ESV translates as “merry” and the NET translates as “drunk” is “shikkaron.” Here is the entry in Brown Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon , p.1016. Hope the Hebrew letters come out OK. You can also check it up in Strongs, if you want. First ,this is the entry for the verb “shikkaron” or “shachaar” or “sjahaar” or however you want to transliterate it into English. (The entry in Strongs is number 7937)

I. [שָׁכַר] vb. be, or beocme, drunk, drunken (NH id., der. spec. and deriv.; Ecclus 40:18, 40:20 שכר strong drink; Ar.sakira be drunken, also be full, sakara fill; As. šikaru; = שֵׁכָר, šikaru, drunken, perhaps also vb. šakâru; Eth.sacra:: Aram. שִׁכְרָא, šakroÀ = שְׁכָר, esp. date-wine (Löw p. 125), cf. škar be drunken, usu. (der. spec.) defle, deform, etc.; from שֵׁכָר, Egypt. tøaÂ-k-av-k-ïra WMM As. u. Eur. 102, Gk. σικερα, Lewy Fremdw, 81);—Qal Pf. 3 pl. שָֽׁכְרוּ Is 29:9; Impf. 3 ms. וַיִּשְׁכָּ֑ר Gn 9:21, 3 mpl. יִשְׁכָּר֑וּן Is 49:26, etc.; Imv. mpl. שִׁכְרוּ Je 25:27 Ct 5:1; Inf. cstr. Hg 1:6; Pt. pass. שְׁכֻרַת Is 51:21 (Ges:§ 130 b Lag:BN 60);—become drunken Gn 9:21 (J), of social drinking 43:34 (J), Ct 5:1, token of plenty Hg 1:6; fig. of nations staggering helplessly under calamity Je 25:27, 51:21(וְלאֹ מִיָּ֑יִן), of Na 3:11; of infatuation Is 29:9 (וְלאֹ יַיִן), of disgrace La 4:21, self-destruction, כֶּעָסִיס דָּמָם יִשׁ׳: Is 49:26. Pi. make drunken: Impf. 3 ms. sf. וַיְשַׁכְּרֵהוּ 2 S 11:13, lit.; fig. 1 s. (sf. of people) וַאֲשַׁכְּרֵם (read וָ׳:) Is 63:6 (subj. י׳:) I made them drunk in my wrath (but MSS Ges Hi Ew Che Kit Marti al. וָאֲשַׁבְּרֵם I brake them in pieces); Pt. fs., of Bab., מְשַׁכֶּרֶת בָּל־הָרֶץ Je 51:7; cf. Inf. abs. שַׁכֵּר Hb 2:15 (i. e. terrorizing nations; read prob. הַשְׁקֵה וְאַף שׁ׳: We Now). Hiph. id.: Pf. 1 s. וְהִשְׁכַּרְתִּ֫י Je 51:27 (subj. י׳:) i.e. make princes helpless, וְהִשְׁכַּרְתִּים v:39; Imv. mpl. sf. הַשְׁכִּירֻהוּ obj. Moab, i.e. make helpless and disgraced 48:26; Impf. 1 s מִדָּם אַשְׁכִּיר חְצַּי Dt 32:42.—Ruben:JQ xi (1889), 446 prop. מַשְׁכִּירוֹת Ho 7:5 for משׁך ידו את. Hithp. Impf. 2 fs. תִּשְׁתַּכָּרִין 1 S 1:14 how long wilt thou make thyself drunken [a drunken spectacle] ?

II. And here is, on the same page 1016 of Brown Driver-Briggs, the entry for the related NOUN, sheechar or sjeehar or however you want to transliterate it. ( (The entry in Strongs is number 7941)

שֵׁכָר n[m.] intoxioating drink, strong drink (Ba:NB § 71);—alw. שׁ׳: abs.; usu. || וַיִן (exc. Psalm 69:13): Is 29:8; usu. condemned, Is 5:11, 5:22, 28:7, 28:7, 28:7, 56:12 (נִסְבְּאָה שׁ׳:), Mi 2:11, 1 S 1:15, Pr 20:1; forbidden to priests on duty Lv 10:9 (P) ; not for princes Pr 31:4; nor Nazirite Nu 6:3, Ju 13:4, 13:7, 13:14, cf. חֹמֶץ שׁ׳: Nu 6:3; שׁוֹתֵי שׁ׳: Psalm 69:13 drunkards; but שׁ׳: as common drink Dt 29:5 (opp. to miraculous), allowable in sacrif. meal 14:26, commended for weak and weary Pr 31:4; נֶסֶךְ שׁ׳: Nu 28:7(P; for יַיִן v:14); v. further Kennedy:Ency. Bib. iv. 5309 f.—On form cf. Lag:M ii. 357; BN 51.

III. And here is, still on the same page 1016, the entry for the adjective, shichar or sjihar : (The entry in Strongs is number 7910)

שִׁכֹּר, שִׁכּוֹר adj. drunken (Ba:NB § 134 b);—abs. שִׁכֹּר 1 S 25:36, שִׁכּוֹר 1 K 16:9 +, f. שִׁכֹּרָה, 1 S 1:13, pl.שִׁכּוֹרִים Jo 1:5, cstr. שִׁכֹּרֵי Is 28:1, 28:3;—drunken: 1 S 25:36, אִישׁ שׁ׳: Je 23:9, שֹׁתֶה שׁ׳: 1 K 16:9 drinking (and) drunken, 20:16; as subst. = drunken one, drunkard Is 28:1, 28:3, Pr 26:9, pl. Jo 1:5 (|| שֹׁתֵי יַיִן); in sim. Is 19:14, Jb 12:25, Psalm 107:27, and (of earth) Is 24:20; f. of drunken woman 1 S 1:13.

If you don not understand, In the simplest of words, Joseph (many claim a type of Christ) found it okay in giving Benjamin 5-times the amount as the rest.  “And they drank and *became drunk* with him.”
From: שׁכר : (verbal infinitive): to inebriate

2. Lastly how much was a Portion?
One glass, one pint, one gallon, one shot? I am not sure what a portion was then, but I do know what they are now, not as if that really matters. A standard serving of wine is 5 floz., A standard serving of beer is 12 floz., A standard serving of liquor is 1.5 floz. Let’s say that a portion was one glass of wine and that Joseph gave everyone one portion = one glass. This would only mean that Benjamin would then had 5 Portions or glasses of 25 oz.’s. How much is too much? This is never rebuked, at least not in Scripture. I’m looking forward to reading your comments for those that leave them and would appreciate your comments if you have any.

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4 Comments on ““They Drank & Were ‘Merry’ with Him””

  1. Rob V says:

    There is always a danger in taking the descriptive and trying to make prescriptions for living from it. Just because Joseph can be seen as a type of Christ does not mean that he was not a sinner.

    It is better to look at imperatives like in Eph. 5:18 – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” and Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”

    I think the Bible is quite clear, alcohol in moderation is a blessing, but it is not ok to drink to the point where you are making foolish decisions, saying foolish things, etc.

    Portion might be irrelevant, their % alcohol content was probably all over the place. Also, they probably grew up drinking wine from childhood so had a higher tolerance.

  2. Josh Ruud says:

    I don’t think it’s unmistakably clear from the text that the portions were the drink…especially after he said serve the FOOD. I’ve only dabbled in Hebrew though so I could be wrong, but context seems to indicate that he had 5 times the food as everyone else.

    The episode with Noah in Genesis 9 came to my mind as a similar situation with a drunk person. It’s not really evident what exactly happened, but from the way Noah’s sons acted, it appears that the Bible doesn’t paint the situation in an extremely positive light. HOWEVER, the Bible never really addresses his drunkenness explicitly. I think that the author’s concern in both passages is broader than simply drinking or getting drunk…so it’s difficult to make any deductions about the definitive rightness or wrongness about the subject. If the Bible were to condemn or condone drinking at every mention, we’d have something to go on.

  3. Kyle says:

    Do we really need to dabble in the “how much is too much?”

  4. just wondering others thoughts on the passage.


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