John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

9 (Leviticus 10:9)

Verse 9

9.Do not drink wine, nor strong drink. The second cleanness required in the priests is that they should abstain from wine, and strong drink; (188) in which word Jerome says that everything intoxicating is included; and this I admit to be true; but the definition would be more correct, that all liquors espressed from fruits are denoted by it, in whose sweetness there is nearly as much to tempt men as in wine. Even in these days the Orientals compose of dates as well as of other fruits, liquors, which are exceedingly sweet and delicious. The same rule is, therefore, here prescribed for the priests, whilst in the performance of their duties, as for the Nazarites. Both were allowed freely to eat of all the richest foods; but God commanded them to be content with water, because abstinence in drinks very greatly conduces to frugality of living. For few are intemperate in eating, who do not also love wine; besides, an abundance of food generally satisfies the appetite, whilst there is no limit to drinking, where the love of wine prevails. Therefore, abstinence from wines was enjoined upon the priest, not only that they might beware of drunkenness, but that they might be temperate in eating, and not luxuriate in their abundance. But, inasmuch as sobriety is the main point in moderate living, God especially limited His priests in this respect, lest the rigor of their minds, and rectitude, and integrity of judgment, should be impaired by drinking. Hence it appears how great is man’s proneness to all defilements. Wine is very wholesome as one of our means of nutriment; but by the too free use of it many enervate their strength, becloud their understanding, and almost stupify all their senses so as to make themselves inactive. Some, too, degrade themselves into foul and brutish stupidity, or are driven by it to madness. Thus a pleasure, which ought to have incited them to give God thanks, is taken away from them on account of their vicious excess; and not without disgrace, because they know not how to enjoy God’s good gifts in moderation. He afterwards confirms the fact, that He interdicted wine to the priests when exercising their office, that they may distinguish “between clean and unclean,” and be sound and faithful interpreters of the Law. On this score it became them to be abstemious throughout their whole life, because they were always appointed to be masters to instruct the people; but lest immoderate strictness should tend to disgust them, so that they might be less disposed for the willing performance of the rest of their duty, God deemed it sufficient to admonish them by this temporary abstinence, that they should study to be sober at other times. Thus, then, it must be concluded that none are fit to teach who are given to gluttony, which corrupts the soundness of the mind, and destroys its rigor. The comment of Jerome is indeed a childish one, that “A fat belly does not engender a quick understanding:” for many corpulent men are of vigorous and active intellect, and indeed leanness is often the consequence of drinking too much. But those who stuff their bodies will never have sufficient activity of mind to execute the office of teaching. In conclusion, we gather from this passage, as Malachi says, (Malachi 2:7,) that the priests were interpreters of the Law, and messengers of the Lord of hosts, and not dumb masks For though the Law was written, yet God would ever have the living voice to resound in His Church, just as now-a-days preaching is inseparably united with Scripture.

Lorinus, however, in loco, refutes the notion from Tostatus, and so also Willet. It appears to have been of Jewish origin; and the principal arguments against it are, — 1. That it is not mentioned in the Scripture; and 2. That the offenders had been ministering from an early hour in the morning.

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible