The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 20:1 (Proverbs 20:1)

Wine is a mocker; or, scorner, the word ( luts ) being taken up from the last chapter. The liquor is, as it were, personified, as doing what men do under its influence. Thus inebriated persons scoff at what is holy, reject reproof, ridicule all that is serious. Septuagint, ἀκόλαστον οἶνος , "Wine is an undisciplined thing;" Vulgate, Luxuriosa res, vinum. Strong drink is raging; a brawler, Revised Version. Shekar, σίκερα ( Luke 1:15 ), is most frequently employed of any intoxicating drink not made from grapes, e.g. palm wine, mead, etc. The inordinate use of this renders men noisy and boisterous, no longer masters of themselves or restrained by the laws of morality or decency. Septuagint, υβιστικὸν μέθη , "Drunkenness is insolent." Theognis has some sensible lines on this matter—

ος δ ἂν ὑπερβάλλῃ πόσιος μὲτρον οὐκέτι κεῖνος

τῆς αὐτοῦ γλώσσης καρτερὸς οὐδὲ νόου

΄υθεῖται δ ἀπάλαμνα τὰ νήφοσι γίγνεται αἰσχρά

αἰδεῖται δ ἕρδων οὐδὲν ὅταν μεθύη |

τὸ πρὶν ἐὼν σώφρων τότε νήπιος

Whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise . No one who reels under the influence of, is overpowered by, wine is wise ( Isaiah 28:7 ). Septuagint, "Every fool is involved in such." Says a Latin adage—

" Ense cadunt multi, perimit sed crapula plures ."

"More are drowned in the wine cup than in the ocean," say the Germans (comp. Proverbs 23:29 , etc.; Ephesians 5:18 ).

- The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 20:1 (Proverbs 20:1)

Wine the mocker

Intemperance was not so common a vice in biblical times as it has become more recently, nor did the light wines of the East exercise so deleterious an effect as the strong drink that is manufactured in Europe is seen to produce. Therefore all that is said in the Bible against the evil of drunkenness applies with much-increased force to the aggravated intemperance of England today.

I. WINE IS A MOCKER BECAUSE IT ALLURES THE WEAK . It makes great promises. Strong drink is pleasant to the palate. The effect of it on the nervous system is at first agreeably stimulating. In weakness and weariness it seems to give comfortable relief. The associations connected with it are made to be most attractive. It goes with genial companionship, and it appears to favour the flow of good fellowship. In sickness it promises renewed strength; it offers consolation in sorrow; at festive seasons it pretends to heighten the joy and to take its place as a cheering friend of man. Moreover, all these attractive traits am aggravated with the weak. The need of the stimulus is more keenly felt by such persons; the early effects of it are more readily and pleasantly recognized; there is less power of will and judgment to resist its alluring influence.

II. WINE IS A MOCKER BECAUSE IT DECEIVES THE UNWARY . The danger that lurks in the cup is not seen at first, and the sparkling wine looks as innocent as a divine nectar. The evil that it produces comes on by slow and insidious stages. No one thinks of becoming a drunkard on the first day of tasting intoxicating drink. Every victim of the terrible evil of intemperance was once an innocent child, and, whether he began in youth or in later years, every one who has gone to excess commenced with moderate and apparently harmless quantities. Happily, the majority of those who take a little are wise or strong enough not to abandon themselves to the tyranny of drinking habits. But the difficulty is to determine beforehand who will be able to stand and who will not have sufficient strength. Under these circumstances, it is a daring piece of presumption for any one to be quite sure that he will always be so wary as to keep out of the snare that has been fatal to many of his brethren who once stood in exactly the same tree and healthy position in which he is at present. It is far safer not to tempt our own natures, and to guard ourselves against the mockery of wine, by keeping from all use of the strong drink itself.

III. WINE IS A MOCKER BECAUSE IT BRINGS RUIN ON ITS VICTIMS . It has no pity. It hounds its dupes on to destruction, and then it laughs at their late. When once it holds a miserable wretch it will never willingly release him. Too late, he discovers that he is a slave, deceived by what promised to be his best friend, and flung into a dungeon from which, by his unaided powers, he can never effect an escape. There is a peculiar mockery in this fate. The victim is disgraced and degraded. His very human nature is wretched, insulted, almost destroyed. His social position is lost; his business scattered to the winds; his family life broker up and made unutterably wretched; his soul destroyed. This is the work of the wine that sparkles in the cup. We should allow no quarter to so vile a deceiver.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 20:1-5 (Proverbs 20:1-5)

Evils to be avoided


1 . Drunkenness . ( Proverbs 20:1 .) The spirit or demon of wine is spoken of as a personal agent. It leads to frivolity, scoffing, profane and senseless mirth. To be drunk with wine, as St. Paul points out ( Ephesians 5:18 ), is the opposite of being "filled with the Spirit" (see F.W. Robertson's sermon on this subject).

2 . The wrath of kings. ( Proverbs 20:2 ) In those times of absolute rule, the king represented the uncontrollable arbitration of life and death. As in the case of Adonijah, he who provoked the king's wrath sinned against his own soul. What, then, must the wrath of the eternal Sovereign be ( Psalms 90:11 )? To invoke the Divine judgment is a suicidal act.

3 . Contentiousness. ( Proverbs 20:3 .) Quick-flaming anger is the mark of the shallow and foolish heart. The conquest of anger by Christian meekness is one of the chiefest of Christian graces, "Let it pass for a kind of sheepishness to be meek," says Archbishop Leighton; "it is a likeness to him that was as a sheep before his shearers."

4 . Idleness. ( Proverbs 20:4 .) The idle man is unseasonable in his repose, and equally unseasonable in his expectation. To know our time, our opportunity in worldly matters, our day of grace in the affairs of the soul, all depends on this ( Romans 12:11 ; Ephesians 5:15-17 ).

II. THE SAFEGUARD OF PRUDENCE . ( Proverbs 20:5 .) The idea is that, though the project which a man has formed may be difficult to fathom, the prudent man will bring the secret to light. "There is nothing hidden that shall not be made known."

1 . Every department of life has its principles and laws.

2 . These may be ascertained by observation and inquiry.

3 . In some sense or other, all knowledge is power; and that is the best sort of knowledge which arms the mind with force against moral dangers, and places it in constant relation to good.—J.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 20:1 (Proverbs 20:1)

Strong drink: four delusions

That may be said to mock us which first professes to benefit us, and then proceeds to injure and even to destroy us. This is what is done by strong drink. First it cheers and brightens, puts a song into our mouth, makes life seem enviable; then it weakens, obfuscates, deadens, ruins. How many of the children of men has it deceived and betrayed! how many has it robbed of their virtue, their beauty, their strength, their resources, their peace, their reputation, their life, their hope! There are—


1 . That it is necessary to health. In ordinary conditions it has been proved to be wholly needless, if not positively injurious.

2 . That it is reliable as a source of pleasure. It is a fact that the craving for intoxicants and anodynes continually increases, while the pleasure derived therefrom continually declines.

3 . That it renders service in the time of heavy trial. Woe be unto him who tries to drown his sorrow in the intoxicating cup! He is giving up the true for the false, the elevating for the degrading, the life-bestowing for the death-dealing consolation.

4 . That it is a feeble enemy that may be safely disregarded. Very many men and women come into the world with a constitution which makes any intoxicant a source of extreme peril to them; and many more find it to be a foe whose subtlety and strength require all their wisdom and power to master. An underestimate of the force of this temptation accounts for many a buried reputation, for many a lost spirit.


1 . To avoid the use of it altogether, if possible; and thus to be quite safe from its sting.

2 . To use it, when necessary, with the most rigorous carefulness ( Proverbs 31:6 ; 1 Timothy 5:23 ).

3 . To discourage those social usages in which much danger lies.

4 . To act on the principle of Christian generosity ( Romans 14:21 ).—C.

- The Pulpit Commentary