PASSOVER, VINEGAR AND YESHUA
by Avram Yehoshua
Yeshua is truly faithful to teach us His way. After studying the passages on the crucifixion, which occur within Passover week, I have come to see that vinegar is not prohibited for Passover week. Three accounts, Mt. 27:48, Mk. 15:36 and Jn. 19:30, speak of Yeshua receiving and drinking wine vinegar (sour wine)1 just before He died, while Luke 23:36 implies that He drank it. This means that vinegar cannot be prohibited for Passover–Feast of Unleavened Bread week because we know that Yeshua never sinned (Jn. 8:46; Heb. 4:15).
While Messiah Yeshua was being crucified for our sins He was twice offered something to drink. The first time, just before they crucified Him, He was offered wine mixed with gall (myrrh), as an act of mercy to deaden His senses. He refused it and they crucified Him (Mt. 27:33-35; Mk. 15:23-24).
The second time, just seconds before His death, He was offered some wine vinegar by a soldier and Yeshua drank it. This is recorded in all four Gospels (Mt. 27:48; Mk. 15:36; Lk. 23:36; Jn. 19:29-30).
The first time is recorded by Matthew and Mark. Yeshua was offered wine with a narcotic in it, immediately before His hands and feet were pierced, but He refused to drink it:
1. Matthew 27:34: ‘They gave him wine2 mingled with gall3 to drink, but when He had tasted it, He would not drink.’ Verse 35 states, ‘Then they crucified Him…’
2. Mark 15:23: ‘Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.’ Verse 24 says, ‘And when they crucified Him…’
All four Gospels record that Yeshua was offered wine vinegar just before His death and He drank it:1. Matthew 27:48: ‘And straightway one of them ran and took a sponge and filled it with wine vinegar4 and put it on a reed and gave Him to drink,’ but others said to leave Him alone and see if Elijah would come to rescue Him (Mt. 27:49). The very next verse speaks of Yeshua crying out with a loud voice and dying (Mt. 27:50).A schematic breakdown of the texts and the words used for wine and wine vinegar (sour wine) are:
2. Mark 15:36: “And one ran and filled a sponge full of wine vinegar and put it on a reed and gave him to drink, saying, ‘Let him alone! Let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’” The next verse is identical to Mt. 27:50: Yeshua cried out with a loud voice and died (Mk. 15:37). Here it would seem that the soldier who gave him the drink was telling the others to leave Yeshua alone (not to mock Him).
3. Luke 23:36-37: “And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him and offering him wine vinegar,5 and saying, ‘If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!’” One of the two being crucified along with Yeshua mocks Him, but the other rebuked him and then asked Yeshua to remember him when He came into His Kingdom. Yeshua said that He would be in Paradise that day with Him (Lk. 23:39-43). Then Luke relates that it had been dark from 12:00 P.M. until 3:00 P.M., and Yeshua cried out with a loud voice, ‘Father! Into Your hands I commit My spirit!’ and ‘He breathed His last’ (Lk. 23:44-46).
4. John 19:29-30: “Now there was set a vessel full of wine vinegar 6 and they filled a sponge with wine vinegar and put it upon hyssop and put it to His mouth. When Yeshua, therefore, had received the wine vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished!’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.’” This text parallels the previous three and specifically confirms that Yeshua drank the wine vinegar. Yeshua dies after He drank the wine vinegar and said, ‘It is finished!’ (v. 30).
Cite Textus Receptus Nestle-Aland Text7 Mt. 27:34 oksos8 wine vinegar and gall–refused oi’nos9 wine and gall–refused Mk. 15:23 oi’nos wine & myrrh–refused oi’nos wine & myrrh–refused Mt. 27:48 oksos10 wine vinegar ‘gave him to drink’ oksos wine vinegar ‘gave him a drink’ Mk. 15:36 oksos wine vinegar ‘gave him to drink’ oksos wine vinegar ‘gave him a drink’ Lk. 23:36 oksos wine vinegar offered to him oksos wine vinegar offered to him Jn. 19:29-30 oksos wine vinegar mentioned oksos wine vinegar mentioned oksos wine vinegar mentioned oksos ‘Jesus…received the wine vinegar’
In every instance, the Textus Receptus and the Nestle-Aland texts are identical for wine and wine vinegar (sour wine; NASB) except for Mt. 27:34 where the Textus Receptus has vinegar (i.e. wine vinegar) and the Nestle-Aland text has wine. From the only other account that has wine (Mk. 15:23) it would seem that the Nestle-Aland Greek text for Matthew should be followed because the Textus Receptus has wine for Mark 15:23. Both accounts (Mt. 27:34; Mk. 15:23) record the same event; Yeshua refused to drink a beverage mixed with myrrh,11 which would have acted as a deadening agent to the senses.
If Matthew was thinking of the substance in the wine as bitter, with the Greek naming it gall, the Hebrew word could have been wormwood, which means bitter, and this would fit well with the myrrh that Mark speaks of. The Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament translates wormwood as something bitter,12 not necessarily a specific thing. A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament states that the Greek word kolay χολή (gall in Mt. 27:34) is defined as ‘something bitter.’13 The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says,‘in the O.T. it is also used of other bitter things; for laʿăna, wormwood, Prov. 5:4; Lam. 3:15; hence, some understand the word in Matt. 27:34 to mean myrrh, on account of Mark 15:23.’14
What Matthew calls gall was mostly likely myrrh. C. F. Keil says that ‘Myrrh has its name’ (mor) ‘מֹר from the bitterness of its taste.’15 Alfred Edersheim states that the wine mixed with myrrh was a compassionate act on the part of the women of Jerusalem:‘It was a merciful Jewish practice to give to those led to execution a draught of strong wine mixed with myrrh so as to deaden consciousness (Mass Sem. 2.9; Bemid. R. 10). This charitable office was performed at the cost of, if not by, an association of women in Jerusalem (Sanh. 43a). That draught was offered to Jesus when He reached Golgotha. But having tasted it, and ascertained its character and object, He would not drink it.’16
Just before He was crucified Yeshua was offered wine with a deadening agent in it, but He refused to drink it. At the end of His crucifixion He was given some wine vinegar (sour wine) and He drank it.
The NIV Bible Dictionary speaks of fermentation of apple cider producing cider vinegar in our modern era, but in ‘Bible times’ vinegar came from wine. In relation to Yeshua being crucified it states,“On the cross17 Jesus was offered vinegar (NIV ‘wine’) mixed with gall or with myrrh (Matt 27:34; Mark 15:23) in fulfillment of Psalm 69:21, but he refused it. Later he was offered a mixture of water and vinegar on a sponge (Matt 27:48), a drink very popular among the poor and used by Roman soldiers when in camp.”18
It wasn’t only a favorite drink of the Romans, but also of the Jewish people. It was a fulfillment of prophecy in Psalm 69 that Yeshua drank the wine vinegar, although He would refuse the gall (myrrh):Psalms 69:21: ‘They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.’
Easton’s Bible Dictionary also speaks of the Lord’s drinking of the wine vinegar as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Ps. 69:21 and that sour wine,‘was the common sour wine (posea) daily made use of by the Roman soldiers. They gave it to Christ…to assuage his thirst.’19
The Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary states how the soldier could give the wine vinegar to Yeshua:‘A sponge was filled with this wine vinegar, placed around the tip of a stick and held up to Jesus’ lips so that he could suck the liquid from it.’20
Easton’s Bible Dictionary notes that the common Hebrew word for wine is,yayin, from a root meaning ‘to boil up…to be in a ferment.’ Others derive it from a root meaning ‘to tread out,’ and hence the juice of the grape trodden out. The Greek word for wine is oinos.”21
The New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words says that yayin (wine) in Scripture is,‘fermented wine, which in Bible times contained about seven to ten percent alcohol. In the NT era the rabbis called for dilution of this wine when it was used at the Passover. But fermented wines were drunk at feasts, given as gifts (1 Sa 25:18; 2 Sa 16:1), and used in offerings to God (Ex 29:40; Lev 23:13; Nu 15:7).’22
The Scriptures speak of Yeshua drinking wine vinegar at His crucifixion, therefore, it’s not prohibited for Passover week. My previous interpretation of Ex. 12:15, 19-20 and 13:7, that the prohibition of yeast and sour leavened products included vinegar products, was wrong. Vinegar can be eaten during Passover week. What can’t be eaten are foods made of leaven (yeast), for example, bread or cake.
In my previous article on Yeshua and Vinegar I misinterpreted the following texts. I had thought that anything fermented (i.e. vinegar) would fall under the prohibition not to have anything sour tasting because the definition of hamaytz חָמֵץ includes ‘sour,’ but I’ve come to see it means something like sourdough bread:Ex. 12:15: ‘Seven days you must eat unleavened bread (matza), but on the first day you shall remove leaven/yeast si’or שְּׂאֹר from your homes, for whoever eats anything leavened hamaytz חָמֵץ from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.’
Ex. 12:19: ‘Seven days there shall be no leaven/yeast (si’or) found in your homes for whoever eats what is leavened (hamaytz), that person shall be cut off from the Congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native-born of the Land.’
Ex. 12:20: ‘You must not eat anything leavened (hamaytz) in all your dwellings. You must eat unleavened bread (matza).’
Exodus 13:7: “Unleavened bread must be eaten seven days and no leavened bread (hamaytz) shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven/yeast (si’or) be seen among you in all your quarters.”
The verb חָמֵץ hamaytz means, ‘to be sour, to be leavened, of bread’ while the noun means, ‘what is leavened, fermented.’23 HALOT speaks of ‘leavened bread and other food’24 and BDB says, ‘that which is leavened.’25
The Hebrew word si’or שְּׂאֹר means ‘sour (leavened) dough.’26 The Hebrew-Aramaic English Dictionary says it’s ‘yeast, leaven.’27 Both words, hamaytz and si’or, mean the same thing and seem to be used to help emphasize one another—leavened products such as bread.
The Hebrew word for vinegar (hometz חֹמֶץ) comes from the word hamaytz חָמֵץ, but this is where I wrongly added to God’s Word because hometz isn’t meant. Yes, it’s very close in English, and in Hebrew, without the vowel pointing, it’s actually identical in spelling, which further lent itself to my previous interpretation, but the word cannot be used to mean both hamaytz (leaven-yeast) and hometz (wine vinegar). It can only speak of one meaning, not both at the same time. It’s either hometz or hametz.
With the two different words used in the above Scriptures for leaven (hamaytz and si’or) it seemed to me that vinegar (hometz) was to be included, but I’ve come to see through the crucifixion study that vinegar cannot possibly be what God meant in the Exodus passages. The second word in Hebrew only further emphasizes that nothing with yeast in it was to be eaten at Passover. This is particularly true for Ex. 12:15; 19 and 13:7. Hebrew parallelism is ‘not a repetition of the same sound, but a repetition…of the same thought…the placing of two synonymous phrases or sentences side by side’.28 When Ex. 13:7 says that ‘no leavened bread (hamaytz) shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven/yeast (si’or) be seen among you in all your quarters,’ it’s not speaking of two different things, but emphasizing the first thing in a different way. This is also seen in Ex. 12:15, 19.
After I had come to my previous wrong conclusion I found out that there were other Jewish groups that also forbade vinegar for Passover week (e.g. the chasidic group Lubavitch). If not for the crucifixion passages I would still think that vinegar was forbidden, but with Yeshua drinking the wine vinegar (sour wine) I know that my previous interpretation was incorrect. In Hebrew, wine vinegar (hometz) conceptually speaks of bitterness and anger (hamotz), hence, it seemed that it went along with the concept of removing sin (leaven/yeast) from our lives. This only emphasizes to me that noble concepts can be attached to wrong things. An example of this is seen in the Jewish community forbidding the saying of the name Yahveh, and also, in writing God and Lord without the ‘o’ (i.e. G-d; L-rd). They teach that His Name is too holy to say, and that even writing out mere titles like God and Lord show a deplorable irreverence. This concept might ‘sound good’ to some but nowhere in Scripture does God say or desire anything like that. It’s Man trying to be holy, his way.29
Also interesting to note is that Yahveh is very specific about the Nazarite not having any wine vinegar or strong drink vinegar during his Nazarite Vow. Twice in Num. 6:3 God speaks of the Nazarite not having beverages of vinegar, along with prohibiting both wine and strong drink, but nowhere in the Passover accounts is wine vinegar or strong drink vinegar ever mentioned:Numbers 6:3: “he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink neither wine vinegar (sour wine, hometz yayin חֹמֶץ יַיִן) nor vinegar made from strong drink (hometz shay’har חֹמֶץ שֵׁכָר). Neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins.”With God mentioning four beverages, and specifically two vinegar drinks, it would seem that if He didn’t want us eating or drinking things made of vinegar during Passover week that He would have mentioned it in some of the passages pertaining to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. With these two vinegar drinks in the book of Numbers, it’s not as though it wasn’t known in the days when the book of Exodus was written. On the contrary, with wine vinegar and strong drink vinegar not being mentioned in the Passover prohibitions it indirectly affirms that vinegar is alright to have for Passover.
The idea of Passover week is not to eat anything that has hamaytz חָמֵץ or si’or שְּׂאֹר in it, meaning, something that has been made from yeast and is leavened, like bread, cake or beer.
Why no leavened bread? Because leaven is seen in this feast as representing pride. Those who are saved by the blood of the Lamb must not be filled with pride, but with the pure, sinless and holy Bread (Matza) from Heaven, Yeshua the Messiah. Bread without yeast (matza) pictures Him and those qualities. That’s why the Apostle Paul could write to the Corinthians:1st Cor. 5:6-8: ‘Your boasting (pride) is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Purge out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump (loaf of bread), just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Passover has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the Feast (Passover), not with old leaven (pride), nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread (matza) of sincerity and truth.’
When we walk for seven days in Passover week (the Feast of Unleavened Bread; Mt. 26:17; Mk. 14:1; Lk. 22:1, 7), eating the unleavened bread as we are commanded to do, we are symbolically and spiritually saying that we are putting off pride and becoming pure like Yeshua, for Yeshua is the Matza of Life and purity. Another way of saying this is that God the Father is making us like His Son.
All the Gospels speak of Yeshua drinking wine vinegar (sour wine) at His crucifixion just before He died. This proves that vinegar and vinegar products are not prohibited during Passover week because we know that Yeshua never sinned, not even in the last seconds of His life because if He had He would not have been a perfect, sinless sacrifice.
The Nazarite restriction of not having any wine vinegar during his vow reinforces that vinegar is allowable during Passover week. This is significant because God doesn’t mention prohibiting wine vinegar and strong drink vinegar during Passover week.
Although the Hebrew characters are the same for leavened products and vinegar products (hamaytz חָמֵץ and hometz חֹמֶץ), the vowel pointing distinguishes them. There’s no mention of any vinegar products being forbidden for Passover. The Hebrew characters can only have one literal meaning per passage, not two, and so, it’s either leavened (yeast) products that God forbids for Passover week or vinegar. It can’t be both meanings as I had given it. Also, there’s no second witness to the interpretation of hamaytz including hometz (vinegar/wine vinegar) as a prohibition for Passover.
1 “The word ‘vinegar’ derives from the Old French vin aigre, meaning ‘sour wine,’” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinegar.
2 The Textus Receptus has ok’sos ὄξος sour wine (wine vinegar), while the Nestle-Aland text has oi’nos οἶνος wine. Mt. 27:34 is the only cite where the two texts differ. It would seem from Mark 15:23, where both Greek texts have wine, that KJV Matthew should also be wine and not (wine) vinegar because they speak of the same event.
3 Gall (something ‘bitter’) was mixed with wine to dull the senses. Myrrh is very bitter and also has a numbing effect in wine. It seems that Matthew calls it by a generic term (gall), while Mark says it was myrrh.
4 ספר הבריתות Hebrew–English Bible (Jerusalem: The Bible Society of Israel, 2006), p. 88. The Hebrew word is hometz חֹמֶץ, wine vinegar (i.e. sour wine).
5 Ibid., p. 144. The Hebrew word is hometz, wine vinegar (i.e. sour wine).
6 Ibid., p. 186. The Hebrew word hometz, wine vinegar (i.e. sour wine) occurs three times in the two verses.
7 From Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novum_Testamentum_Graece: “the designation Novum Testamentum Graece…refers to the Nestle-Aland editions, named after the scholars who led the critical editing work. The text…is currently in its 27th edition, abbreviated NA27. NA27 is used as the basis of most contemporary’ NT ‘translations, as well as being the standard for academic work in’ NT studies.”
8 The Textus Receptus has oksos (KJV ‘vinegar,’ i.e. wine vinegar), but it was most likely wine. The same event is mentioned in the Textus Receptus of Mk. 15:23 and there it’s wine.
9 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 701. “οἶνος, ου, ὁ…a beverage made from fermented juice of the grape, wine…wine mixed with myrrh Mk 15:23.” Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, n.p. “οἶνος, ου m: a fermented beverage made from the juice of grapes…wine.”
10 Bauer, Danker, Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Accordance electronic ed. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), p. 715. “ὄξος, ους, τό…sour wine, wine vinegar, it relieved thirst more effectively than water, and being cheaper than regular wine, it was a favorite beverage of the lower ranks of society and of those in moderate circumstances…esp. of soldiers…Given to Jesus on the cross Mt 27:48; Mk 15:36; Lk 23:36; J 19:29f.”
Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Accordance electronic ed. OakTree Software, 2006), n.p. “ὄξος …vinegar…i.e. the mixture of sour wine or vinegar and water which the Roman soldiers were accustomed to drink: Matt. 27:34…Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36; John 19:29f.”
Greek to English Dictionary and Index to the NIV New Testament: Derived from the Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Accordance electronic ed. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), n.p. “ὄξος, oxos, n. 3955…wine vinegar.” (Wherever ‘n.p.’ is it means, ‘no page’ was given by Accordance.) Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Accordance electronic ed. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), n.p. “ὄξος…a cheap, sour wine…a favorite beverage of poorer people and relatively effective in quenching thirst…sour wine…‘he took a sponge and soaked it with sour wine.’”
11 See p. 1, note 3.
12 Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, authors; M. Richardson, translator, The Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Accordance electronic ed. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), 2:533. לַעֲנָה.
13 Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, n.p. χολη.
14 Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, n.p. χολή.
15 C. F. Keil and Delitzsch F., Commentary on the Old Testament (Accordance electronic ed. 10 vols.; Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), n.p.
16 Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000), p. 880.
17 This is a mistake by the NIV Dictionary as Yeshua hadn’t been crucified yet. They were trying to give Him the wine mixed with myrrh so that when they crucified Him He wouldn’t feel the pain as much (see the accounts of Mt. 27:33-35; Mk. 15:23-24).
18 NIV Bible Dictionary, Vinegar’ (Accordance electronic ed. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), n.p. Heb. homets, Gr.oxos (oksos).
19 Easton’s Bible Dictionary, ‘Vinegar’ (Accordance electronic ed. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), n.p. ‘Vinegar: Heb. hometz, Gr. oxos…sour wine.’
20 Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger, editors, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), n.p.
21 Easton’s Bible Dictionary, ‘Wine,’ n.p.
22 New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words, ‘Wine’ (Accordance electronic ed. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), n.p.
23 Benjamin Davidson, The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), pp. 264-265. Page 695. Si’or: leaven.
24 Koehler, HALOT, 1:329. חָמֵץ.
25 Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius, Hebrew and English Lexicon (Abridged; Accordance electronic ed. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), n.p. חמץ. Forbidden ‘at Passover, in all sacrifices; exceptions are ’לֶחֶם ח of peace-offering and the wave-loaves.’
26 Koehler, HALOT, 3:1301. שְׂאֹר.
27 Hebrew-Aramaic to English Dictionary and Index to the NIV Old Testament: Derived from the Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance, n.p. שׂאר.
28 David Bivin and Roy Blizzard, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2001), p. 89.
29 Here are some cites where God is addressed as Yahveh: Ex. 3:16, 18; 5:2; 6:2-3, 8; 12:12; 14:30; 15:1-3, 11-13, 18, 21, 26; 20:2; Lev. 18:2, 4, 5, 7, 21, 30; 19:2, 3, 4, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 25, 28, 30, 31, 34, 36, 37; 2nd Sam. 22:32; 1st Kings 18:21-39; Isaiah 47:4; 48:1, 2, 16, 17; Jer. 7:4, 10, 12, 14; Ezk. 20:5, 7, 19, 30, 33, 42, 44; 25:3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17; Rev. 14:12. Here are two places where Yahveh says that Israelis should or would use His Name: Is. 48:20; Jer. 31:23.
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