Wine has been an essential product both in secular and religious use for the entire history of the Jews. It has symbolized everything from the blessings of God to distress and sorrow to the wrath of God. In the New Testament it is best known in Jesus’ presentation of it as the New Covenant in His blood in the Passover dinner with His disciples. What is the significance of wine?
The ceremonial use of wine begins in the appointed sacrifices and offerings, feasts and holy
observations. In this capacity, it is called a “drink offering”. The first such drink offering in
scripture is found in Genesis, chapter 35:14. “Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He had
spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.” There is no precedent for this offering and some conclude that it may have stemmed from Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20. Melchizedek is mentioned ten times in the bible, the preponderance in Hebrews. His priesthood is a foundational matter. He was a priest of God. In this capacity, much of his ministry may have been in offering sacrifices which would include drink offerings. This is only a conjecture of course. Still, the act of Jacob does not to appear of his own creation but something that had been handed down to him.
In Exodus 29:40-41, the “drink offering” is described fully as a part of the sin atonement
offerings. It is also mentioned as a part of a offering to confirm a vow28 and as a voluntary
offering (Numbers 15).29 It was not apparently poured out upon the altar of incense30in the
temple, but definitely a part of the Sabbath convocation and the set feasts of Israel including
Passover.31 In Numbers 4:7, jars for the drink offering were placed on the table of the Bread of the Presence.31 These jars were poured out, not on the altar of incense, but with the burnt
sacrifices. Numbers 15 makes it clear that the drink offering was to be poured upon the
the animal sacrifices as they were burnt upon the blazing altar. These are described as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the individual. Quite often this drink offering was poured out at the slaughter and burning of an unblemished lamb.33
Coming back to Passover, it is significant to mention that another name for this most important of all feasts is “The Feast of Redemption”. This comes from Deuteronomy 7:7-8 and 9:26.34 The Egyptian “experience” – from the journey into Egypt to the captivity and slavery of Israel to the “Passover” and exodus from Egypt and to the conquest of the promised land – comprises the single most important period in the history of Israel and has had the greatest impact on the spiritual, cultural, and daily life of the Jews to this day. It is seen as God’s act of redemption. A volume or series of volumes could be written about the influence of the Egyptian “experience” and its impact on both Scripture and God’s people and His plan of redemption. A great percentage of Scripture is based on or relates to Egypt.
This includes the New Testament and particularly Jesus celebration of Passover with His
disciples and the Book of Revelation to name just two key points.35 The introduction of “The
New Covenant” in “Christ’s blood” as He himself describes it pictures the Egyptian moment
when The Lord36 passed over the homes of the Israelites who had the blood of the unblemished lamb (or goat) sprinkled on the doorposts and lentils of the homes in which they took shelter. In the Passover Seder Jesus, taking the second cup of the ceremony, said, “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Luke 22:2037
As the footnote describes, the modern Seder (about 1600 years old) employs up to five cups of wine. In Jesus’ day, it seems only two were employed. There may have been more but we have two for sure. From ancient tradition the first cup handed to the disciples to share was called the cup of deliverance and the second the cup of redemption. How beautifully this fits with Jesus’ interpretation of the Passover in Egypt and the subsequent celebration of the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread as described in scripture as well as with the sin offerings and sacrifices of Israel as prescribed by the Law.38
In Himself, He fulfills all of it in every detail.
28 See Numbers 6 for example as it speaks of the “Nazarite” vow.
29 These offerings are spoken of in terms of the liquid measure called “hins”. A “hin” was roughly a gallon and a half.
30 Exodus 30:9
31 Leviticus 23.
32 See: “Wafers” in the picture reference.
33 Numbers 28:14 and innumerable other passages.
34 See also: Deuteronomy 13:5, 15:15, 21:8, 24:18; II Samuel 7:23; Psalm 111:9 and many more.
35 Author’s note: The pattern of this history including the noted individuals, events and outcome should be studied as a basis of how God’s works in terms of the redemptive plan for His people who may find themselves in the midst of persecution or tribulation. There are several such identical patterns in the scripture and are largely ignored by teachers of prophecy and eschatology who favor their own ideas rather than God’s clear and repeated presentations.
36 Not a “death angel” – see Exodus 12.
37 The synoptic agree that this announcement was made after the meal and after the distribution of the (unleavened) bread Jesus spoke of as “being His body broken for them.” Luke only notes the cup drunk prior to the meal. In later Jewish observation of the Passover, there are four cups of wine drunk at the feast and a fifth left untouched for Elijah”. The ceremony observed by the Jews today stems from the Jerusalem Talmud (c. 200- c. 400 A.D.) completed by Rabbis quite some time after the temple was destroyed by the Romans c.70 A.D.. This document was necessitated by the destruction of the temple and the subsequent inability of the Jews to follow the observations of sacrifice as dictated by the Law.
38 The author recommends a delightful little book entitled, “Feasts and Fasts of Israel” by Aaron Judah Kilgerman, published in 1931 by Emmanuel Neighborhood House. It is out of print, but copies might be found at Amazon.com. Kligerman is a converted Jew and sees all the feasts as relating to Christ.