The Fruit of the Vine: Wine at Masada and in the New Testament

The Fruit of the Vine: Wine at Masada and in the New Testament
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The Fruit of the Vine: Wine at Masada and in the New Testament

Author Jo Ann H. Seely

Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe
who created sweet wine, good must from grapevines,
that is pleasing to a person and good for man,
that gladdens the heart and makes the face shine.
It is consolation to mourners, and those of bitter spirit forget their misery.
It is medicine to all who drink it. (to him who drinks it sensibly).
It is heart's joy, gladness, and great delight to its drinkers.
He, our God, created it of old for pleasure,
among the works established from the beginning,
so that all who drink it shall bless God,
and praise the Author of understanding,
who prepared the delicacies of the world,
and formed the sweet things of the earth.

 

This ancient Jewish benediction preserved from the Cairo Genizah is an expanded version of the one sentence blessing required by rabbinic law before wine could be drunk. It extols the virtues of the fruit of the vine, acknowledges the goodness of God as provider, and cautions the overindulgent. The poem also reveals the broad spectrum of life in which ancient peoples partook of wine—from mere pleasure drinking to comfort for those in mourning. Wine was highly valued in antiquity. It was a common table drink, a desirable trade item, a gift to kings, a medical aid, a ritual offering, and part of nearly every aspect of life as it was shared by family, friends, priests, and kings to celebrate happiness and sorrow, worship and covenant. This article will consider the use of wine in ancient Palestine, focusing primarily on its use in the first century A.D.