Ancient Israelites, with the possible exception of a few teetotaling Nazirites and their moms, proudly drank beer—and lots of it. Men, women and even children of all social classes drank it. Its consumption in ancient Israel was encouraged, sanctioned and intimately linked with their religion. Even Yahweh, according to the Hebrew Bible, consumed at least half a hin of beer (approximately 2 liters, or a six-pack) per day through the cultic ritual of libation, and he drank even more on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:7–10). People who were sad were advised to drink beer to temporarily erase their troubles (Proverbs 31:6). Yet the Biblical authors also called for moderation. Several passages condemn those who consumed too much beer (Isaiah 5:11, 28:7; Proverbs 20:1, 31:4). The absence of beer defines a melancholy situation, according to Isaiah 24:9. Beer was a staple in the Israelite diet, just as it was throughout the ancient Near East.
We suspect this discovery would not be news to Martin Luther, who was himself both a professor of Old Testament and an avid beer drinker. Nor would C. S. Lewis be surprised, and it confirms the common sense of John Wesley, who recommended ale drinking to his working-class converts as a wholesome alternative to the demon Gin.
The claim, along with a description of the brew, which was sans hops of course, as they were a later European addition to the brewing wort, is to be found in the September/October issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
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