Chapter 23: Beneath the Surface

23:29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?.

23:30 Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.

23:31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!

23:32 In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.

23:33 Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things.

23:34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging.

23:35 "They hit me," you will say, "but I'm not hurt! They beat me, but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?"

      This passage specifically mentions wine, which was overwhelmingly made from grapes in the ancient Near East – but it was also known to be made from dates or pomegranates. Other references in Proverbs to "strong drink" would be understood as speaking of beer. Both beer and wine production and use were well known throughout the ancient world. Distilled liquor was not known in antiquity until the 1st century AD.
      Wine was the most widely used fermented drink in the ancient world – at religious rituals, festive celebrations and in everyday life. Not always mentioned in a negative context, the dangers of excessive use were regularly discussed as inappropriate and unacceptable behavior.
      While there are numerous references to alcoholic beverages in the Bible, there are no clear references to addictive drugs use. Opium was the best known and most widely utilized drug in antiquity. Known in Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Aegean, it may not have been widely known or used in Israel by Solomon's time (10th century BC). Yet, today, a drug addict can readily relate to this whole downward spiral and the terrible feelings of this passage.