Binge Drinking With Noah and Satan


We all know that Noah was chosen by God to rebuild life after an apocalyptic flood. What gets less attention is that Genesis also tells how Noah planted a vineyard and used those grapes to get smashed. In a midrash, the sages trot out an unexpected character to warn about the dangers of such drinking: Satan.

As they tell it, Satan slaughters a lamb, a lion, a monkey, and a pig over Noah’s vineyard, and proceeds to “water” it with the beasts’ blood. They explain that Satan’s butchery of those particular animals in that particular order was symbolic of successive stages of intoxication:

A single drink makes one “meek” as a lamb; 2 drinks makes one feel mighty as a lion; 3 or 4 causes one to act like a monkey, “hopping about, dancing, giggling, and uttering obscenities in public;” and any additional drinks make wallow in waste like a pig.

The Sages use this midrash to stress that there is a big difference between drinking for a blessing and getting drunk. And they make it no secret which course of action is preferable. (Hint: It’s not the one that involves Satan.)

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