Solomon here gives fair warning against the sin of drunkenness, to confirm what he had said, Prov. 23:20.
I. He cautions all people to keep out of the way of temptations to this sin (Prov. 23:31): Look not thou upon the wine when it is red. Red wine was in Canaan looked upon as the best wine, it is therefore called the blood of the grape. Critics judge of wine, among other indications, by the colour of it; some wine, they say, looks charmingly, looks so well that it even says, “Come and drink me;” it moves itself aright, goes down very smoothly, or perhaps the roughness of it is grateful. It is said of generous strong-bodied wine that it even causes the lips of those that are asleep to speak, Song 7:9. But look not thou upon it. 1. “Be not ruled by sense, but by reason and religion. Covet not that which pleases the eye, in hopes that it will please the taste; but let thy serious thoughts correct the errors of thy senses and convince thee that that which seems delightful is really hurtful, and resolve against it accordingly. Let not the heart walk after the eye, for it is a deceitful guide.” 2. “Be not too bold with the charms of this or any other sin; look not, lest thou lust, lest thou take the forbidden fruit.” Note Those that would be kept from any sin must keep themselves from all the occasions and beginnings of it, and be afraid of coming within the reach of its allurements, lest they be overcome by them.
II. He shows the many pernicious consequences of the sin of drunkenness, for the enforcement of this caution. Take heed of the bait, for fear of the hook: At the last it bites, Prov. 23:32. All sin will be bitterness in the end, and this sin particularly. It bites like a serpent, when the drunkard is made sick by his surfeit, thrown by it into a dropsy or some fatal disease, beggared and ruined in his estate, especially when his conscience is awakened and he cannot reflect upon it without horror and indignation at himself, but worst of all, at last, when the cup of drunkenness shall be turned into a cup of trembling, the cup of the Lord’s wrath, the dregs of which he must be for ever drinking, and shall not have a drop of water to cool his inflamed tongue. To take off the force of the temptation that there is in the pleasure of the sin, foresee the punishment of it, and what it will at last end in if repentance prevent not. In its latter end it bites (so the word is); think therefore what will be in the end thereof. But the inspired writer chooses to specify those pernicious consequences of this sin which are present and sensible.
1. It embroils men in quarrels, makes them quarrel with others, and say and do that which gives others occasion to quarrel with them, Prov. 23:29. He asks, Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who has not, in this world? Many have woe and sorrow, and cannot help it; but drunkards wilfully create woe and sorrow to themselves. Those that have contentions have woe and sorrow; and drunkards are the fools whose lips enter into contention. When the wine is in the wit is out and the passions are up; and thence come drunken scuffles, and drunken frays, and drunken disputes over the cups; many a vexatious ruining law-suit has begun thus. There is babbling, quarrels in word and the exchanging of scurrilous language; yet it rests not there: you shall have wounds without cause, for causes are things which drunkards are in no capacity to judge of, and therefore they deal blows about without the least consideration why or wherefore, and must expect to be in like manner treated themselves. The wounds which men receive in defence of their country and its just rights are their honour; but wounds without cause, received in the service of their lusts, are marks of their infamy. Nay, drunkards wound themselves in a tender part, for they have redness of eyes, symptoms of an inward inflammation; their sight is weakened by it, and their looks are deformed. This comes, (1.) Of drinking long, tarrying long at the wine, and spending that time in drunken company which should be spent in useful business, or in sleep, which should fit for business, Prov. 23:30. O the precious hours which thousands throw away thus, every one of which will be brought into the account at the great day! (2.) Of drinking that which is strong and intoxicating. They go up and down to seek wine that will please them; their great enquiry is, “Where is the best liquor?” They seek mixed wine, which is most palatable, but most heady, so willingly do they sacrifice their reason to please their palate!
2. It makes men impure and insolent, Prov. 23:33. (1.) The eyes grow unruly and behold strange women to lust after them, and so let in adultery into the heart. Est Venus in vinis—Wine is oil to the fire of lust. Thy eyes shall behold strange things (so some read it); when men are drunk the house turns round with them, and every thing looks strange to them, so that them they cannot trust their own eyes. (2.) The tongue also grows unruly and talks extravagantly; by it the heart utters perverse things, things contrary to reason, religion, and common civility, which they would be ashamed to speak if they were sober. What ridiculous incoherent nonsense men will talk when they are drunk who at another time will speak admirably well and to the purpose!
3. It stupefies and besots men, Prov. 23:34. When men are drunk they know not where they are nor what they say and do. (1.) Their heads are giddy, and when they lie down to sleep they are as if they were tossed by the rolling waves of the sea, or upon the top of a mast; hence they complain that their heads swim; their sleep is commonly unquiet and not refreshing, and their dreams are tumultuous. (2.) Their judgments are clouded, and they have no more steadiness and consistency than he that sleeps upon the top of a mast: they drink and forget the law (Prov. 31:5): they err through wine (28:7), and think as extravagantly as they talk. (3.) They are heedless and fearless of danger, and senseless of the rebukes they are under either from God or man. They are in imminent danger of death, of damnation, lie as much exposed as if they slept upon the top of a mast, and yet are secure and sleep on. They fear no peril when the terrors of the Lord are laid before them; nay, they feel no pain when the judgments of God are actually upon them; they cry not when he binds them. Set a drunkard in the stocks, and he is not sensible of the punishment. “They have stricken me, and I was not sick; I felt it not: it made no impression at all upon me.” Drunkenness turns me into stocks and stones; they are scarcely to be reckoned animals; they are dead while they live.
4. Worst of all, the heart is hardened in the sin, and the sinner, notwithstanding all these present mischiefs that attend it, obstinately persist in it, and hates to be reformed: When shall I awake? Much ado he has to shake off the chains of his drunken sleep; he can hardly get clear of the fumes of the wine, though he strives with them, that (being thirsty in the morning) he may return to it again. So perfectly lost is he to all sense of virtue and honour, and so wretchedly is his conscience seared, that he is not ashamed to say, I will seek it yet again. There is no hope; no, they have loved drunkards, and after them they will go, Jer. 2:25. This is adding drunkenness to thirst, and following strong drink; those that do so may read their doom Deut. 29:19, 20, their woe Isa. 5:11; and, if this be the end of the sin, with good reason were we directed to stop at the beginning of it: Look not upon the wine when it is red.