Proverbs 31:6—Does this verse encourage drinking strong alcoholic beverages?

Problem: On the one hand the Bible speaks against strong drink, claiming it is a “mocker” and arouses “brawling” (Prov. 20:1). On the other hand, Solomon declares here that we should “give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart.” Doesn’t this encourage drinking strong alcoholic beverages?

Solution: The Bible strongly condemns the social abuse of strong drink (see comments on 1 Tim. 5:23), but not its medicinal use. This is clearly a medicinal use here, since it was to be given to those who are dying (“perishing”) or in deep pain or shock (“bitter distress” or “misery,” v. 7). Used in this way and for this purpose is not forbidden in Scripture. Indeed, alcohol properly administered has healing power both on the inside of the body (1 Tim. 5:23) and on the outside (Luke 10:34). But to abuse strong drink or engage in drunkenness is forbidden in Scripture (cf. 1 Cor. 5:11; 1 Tim. 3:8).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.