Problem: On the one hand the Bible speaks against strong drink, claiming it is a “mocker” and arouses “brawling” (Prov. 20:1). On the other hand, Solomon declares here that we should “give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart.” Doesn’t this encourage drinking strong alcoholic beverages?
Solution: The Bible strongly condemns the social abuse of strong drink, but not its medicinal use. This is clearly a medicinal use here, since it was to be given to those who are dying (“perishing”) or in deep pain or shock (“bitter distress” or “misery,” v. 7). Used in this way and for this purpose is not forbidden in Scripture. Indeed, alcohol properly administered has healing power both on the inside of the body (1 Tim. 5:23) and on the outside (Luke 10:34). But to abuse strong drink or engage in drunkenness is forbidden in Scripture (cf. 1 Cor. 5:11; 1 Tim. 3:8).