Proverbs. The Alcoholic Fool.

Key Notes: Classic description of the binge. Alcoholism and ethnic tendencies.

Although wine is well-spoken of as a pleasure in the Old Testament (Isa 65:8), alcohol in Proverbs is for the dying. The passage in Prov. 23 describes classic signs of the intoxicated person: hallucinations, unsteady gait, loss of memory, loss of pain sensation, and addiction.

"Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise." (Prov. 20:1)

"Whoever loves pleasure will suffer want; whoever loves wine and oil will not be rich." (Prov. 21:17)

"Do not be among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe them with rags." (Prov. 23:20–21)

" Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger late over wine, those who keep trying mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. 'They struck me,' you will say, 'but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink'.” (Prov. 23:29–35)

"Like an archer who wounds everybody is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard." (Prov. 26:10)

"It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink; or else they will drink and forget what has been decreed, and will pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more." (Prov. 31:4–7)


We do not usually think of the alcohol abuser as a fool except when drunk. But no one ever started drinking with the intention of becoming disabled and foolish. The foolishness begins usually early in life. The reasons for alcoholism are numerous:

*a genetic predisposition. Alcoholism is much more prevalent among the Irish than among Jews.
*a culture, such as the tavern, that one grows up in;
*a chemical that unlocks a "better self" that is popular, funny, a good talker, fighter and lover;
*a drug that enables the person to act without restraint;
*an urge to hurt others or destroy oneself.

It is an argument for total abstinence because the risk of alcoholism is about 30% of all imbibers and devastating in some ethnic groups--American Indians, Russians, and Irish, for example. A family history of alcoholism should warn the uninvolved family members to avoid the plague, ruinous to children, marriages and family life.