The vine was of great importance in the religion of Israel. It was used as a symbol of the religious life of Israel itself, and a carving of a bunch of grapes often adorned the front exterior of the synagogue. The symbolism was based upon passages such as Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5:1-5 where Israel is God’s vine. The importance of the vine is why the Pharisees took the point so angrily when Jesus told the story of the wicked tenants in the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-41, 45-46). As the fulfilment of all that Israel should be to God, Jesus was the true vine (John 15:5-7).

The vine was also important because it brought out teaching about right and wrong usage. Wine was one of the good things that God gave (Gen 27:28; Jud 9:13) and as such was to be offered back to him in thanksgiving (Exod 29:40). If a farmer lived too far from the central sanctuary to deliver the wine tithe, it was to be sold and used to buy something to thank God for (Deu 14:22-26).

Wine was however to be abstained from for disciplinary purposes. A Nazirite took no fruit of the vine at all (Num 6:3). John the Baptist took no wine (Lk 1:15), and it was forbidden for priests (Lev 10:5-9) when they went into the presence of God. Wine could be used for good (Gen 14:18, Psa 104:15; Ecc 10:19) or for evil (Gen 9:21; Isa 5:11; 28:7). It was merely the behavioural excesses associated with wine drinking that were condemned in the Bible and not the drinking of wine itself (Rom 13:13; 1 Cor 11:21; 1 Tim 3:8; Tit 2:3).

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