4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Or for rulers to desire strong drink,There are several signs in this passage the strong drink in question is real alcohol, not diluted wine or grape juice:
5 For they will drink and forget what is decreed, And pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
6 Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to him whose life is bitter.
7 Let him drink and forget his poverty And remember his trouble no more. (Prov. 31:4-7 NAU)
- The "wine" in v. 4 is defined as "strong drink" by hendiadys (Hebrew idiom: expressing one idea by means of two different descriptions).
- that it really is "strong" drink is confirmed from the King forgetting his own decree after imbibing (v. 5).
- Other persons are expected to forget their troubles if they partake of this stuff (v. 7)
The inerrantist-driven NAC says much against my interpretation, but can be dismissed because it does so by preaching to the choir, not by evidence and supported argument:
31:4–7 Verses 4–7 advise the king to maintain sobriety in order to carry out the work of establishing justice in the kingdom.3 The queen-mother does not recommend a free beer program for the poor or justify its use as an opiate for the masses; her point is simply that the king must avoid drunkenness in order to reign properly. The comparison to the suffering poor and to their use of alcohol is meant to awaken Lemuel to the duties that go with his class and status rather than to describe some kind of permissible drunkenness.On the contrary, the proverb contains the mandate to "give" strong drink (v. 6).
Garrett, D. A. (2001, c1993). Vol. 14: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (electronic ed.).Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Page 246).Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
The WBC is a bit more realistic:
6–7 The emphasis on royal justice is followed by a rather bold and singular recommendation. Instead of enjoying personal consumption of the royal cellar, the king is to provide a supply of drink for the unfortunate people who need it as a kind of comfort (?) for their misery. This strange command has provoked several hypotheses. On the one hand, it has been considered to be “cynical” and perhaps a later addition; as noted in Note 5.a.*, the command is in the plural. On the other hand, it has been interpreted as providing some relief for the unfortunate. What is to be, as it were, doled out to kings is to be provided generously for afflicted members of the realm, whose comforts are little enough. Even though this can be only a temporary measure, a kind of ancient opium (as well as modern?), it is nonetheless recommended.
Murphy, R. E. (2002). Vol. 22: Word Biblical Commentary : Proverbs.Word Biblical Commentary (Page 241). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
It likely wouldn't have evoked several hypotheses, unless what was being commanded in the passage was something exceptionally difficult for bible believing commentators to reconcile with the rest of the bible. And indeed, that is the case. Paul forbids getting drunk, Ephesians 5:18,
Somebody will say Paul was only addressing the church. That doesn't make sense; Proverbs must also be viewed as God's word to the church no less than Paul's epistles.
Something in the context of Psalm 104 makes it clear that it is God who not only provides wine, but provides it for the sake of making men's hearts merry:
14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the labor of man, So that he may bring forth food from the earth,Furthermore, the context is praising God for what God does, so it is absurd to expect that these words about wine were simply a neutral assertion that mankind makes wine for himself. That wine is no less a positive thing frm the Lord the the grass for the cattle, the vegetation for man, the water for the birds, the trees of Lebanon, or the trees where birds build their homes. All that stuff is positive, not neutral.
15 And wine which makes man's heart glad, So that he may make his face glisten with oil, And food which sustains man's heart.
16 The trees of the LORD drink their fill, The cedars of Lebanon which He planted,
17 Where the birds build their nests, And the stork, whose home is the fir trees.
(Ps. 104:14-17 NAU)