The more responsibility you carry the more caution you should exercise about alcohol. If I give a dog a bowl of beer and he gets drunk he staggers around and amuses everyone. If I give a father several cans of beer he will eventually stagger around. If he does it often enough he will deprive his children and his wife of all that they need him to be. When you study drinking in the Bible this concept – that there is greater danger in it for those with greater responsibility – comes up again and again. Solomon said it well in Proverbs 31.4-5. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
The Old Testament contains four separate examples of the folly of kings and princes when it comes to alcohol. I Kings 16 tells us that King Elah of Israel was murdered while drinking himself drunk. This palace coup resulted in Elah's chariot captain, Zimri, becoming the next king. I wonder if Elah would have been able to defend himself if he hadn't been drinking.
Two chapters later we find the story of the Syrian king, Ben-Hadad. His army greatly outnumbered the Israelite army. Ben-Hadad marched to Samaria and demanded the right to search the Jewish kings house and take whatever he wanted. The king of Israel refused. Ben-Hadad, under the influence of alcohol, declared war. And it came to pass, when Benhadad heard this message, as he was drinking, he and the kings in his pavilion, that he said to his servants, Set yourselves in array. …And they went out at noon. But Benhadad was drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings, the thirty and two kings that helped him. In this case a war entered into and fought by men well soused resulted in a stunning defeat for Syria. And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter. I wonder how much different that battle would have turned out if the Syrian leadership wouldn't have been drinking.
King Ahasuerus of Persia made a snap decision to set aside one queen and find another. He made that decision under the influence of alcohol. The heart of the king was merry with wine. (Esther 1.10) In so doing he set on course a series of events that nearly resulted in the destruction of the Jews and did result in the death of his good friend, Haman. I wonder if he would have made the same decision to get rid of Vashti if he had not been drinking.
Amnon, a son of King David and thus a prince in Israel, raped his half-sister Tamar. When Amnon's brother, Absalom found out Absalom arranged Amnon's murder. Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant. (II Samuel 13.28) I wonder if Amnon would have lived longer and if Absalom would have been prevented from becoming a murderer if Amnon had chosen not to drink that night. I wonder how the course of Israel's history might have been changed if it were not for that one night of drinking.
These admonitions are not found alone in the Old Testament. In the New Testament the great John the Baptist was forbidden alcohol in an angelic message brought to his father Zechariah. Pastors likewise are explicitly warned. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry; not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre. (Titus 1.7)
Do you have a place of responsibility? Do others look to you as parent, teacher, boss, or leader? Does someone follow you? Do your decisions carry ramifications? Do you lead an important life? I say again what I have said before: When you combine a high level of responsibility with a beverage so notoriously deceptive perhaps the real question you need to ask yourself is not can you drink – it is should you drink.