«And the nesekh (libation offering) thereof shall be the fourth-hin for the one keves: baKodesh (i.e., the Mizbe'ach) shalt thou cause the nesekh shekhar to be poured out unto Hashem.» ‭‭Bamidbar‬ ‭28:7‬ ‭OJB‬‬

«And thou shalt spend that kesef for whatsoever thy nefesh desireth after, for cattle, or for sheep, or for yayin, or for shekhar (fermented drink), or for whatsoever thy nefesh desireth; and thou shalt eat there before Hashem Eloheicha, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,» ‭‭Devarim‬ ‭14:26‬ ‭OJB‬‬

«(5) Ye have not eaten lechem, neither have ye drunk yayin or shekhar; that ye might have da'as that Ani Hashem Eloheicha.» ‭‭Devarim‬ ‭29:6‬ ‭OJB‬‬

Some examples from Orthodox Jewish Bible that in other translations defined a "shekhar" as a "strong drink".

What does this literally mean and where does the origin of the word come from?


The word shekhar (שֵׁכָר) appears in cognate languages:

  1. Akkadian: šikaru
  2. Aramaic: שִׁכְרָא
  3. Arabic: saccar

In all of the languages the the meaning is similar; intoxicating (i.e. alcoholic) beverage. In both Hebrew and Arabic the word has noun, verb and adjectival forms. This commonality across numerous languages would indicate that in OT Hebrew the word is either a very old loan word or developed in Hebrew from a previous language (such as the hypothetical Proto-Semitic). Consequently, any further attempt to break the word into some other base forms is probably futile.

Shekhar is not necessarily grape wine. In the cognate languages it can refer to palm wine or beverages fermented from other sources of sugars.

  • What is shugar on Akkadian, Aramic and Arabic? – Богуслав Павлишинець Jan 27 '19 at 6:40
  • @БогуславПавлишинець the same word, šikaru, with slightly different vocalizations, means "alcoholic drink" in all four languages, Akkadian Aramaic, Arabic and Hebrew. This seems to indicate that the word got to these languages from some common ancestor language, at least Akkadian. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jan 27 '19 at 6:46
  • Why you don't answer me? I don't know this languages and only want to know something – Богуслав Павлишинець Jan 27 '19 at 6:49
  • @БогуславПавлишинець I think that I don't understand your question. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jan 27 '19 at 6:50
  • How will english "shugar" be in Hebrew Arabic Akkadian and Aramic? I – Богуслав Павлишинець Jan 27 '19 at 6:55

According to the Sifre,1 שֵׁכָר (shekhar) refers to יין חי (yayin chai), “raw (unmixed) wine,” while יַיִן (yayin) by itself refers to יין מזוג (yayin mazug), “diluted wine.”

Sifre 23a on Num. 6:3: רבי אלעזר הקפר אומר יין זה מזוג שכר זה חי


1 a Jewish Midrash halakha commentary on the Book of Numbers
2 Sifre, commentary on Num. 6:3, Folio 23a


Sifre deBe Rav (ספרי דבי רב). Ed. Friedmann, Meir (Ish Shalom). Vienna: Holzwarth, 1864.

  • 1
    The Sifre is a halachic midrash. It's purpose is not to explain the simple meaning of the text or present etymology, but to derive halacha. In this context the sages would often use different usages or forms to denote different halachic cases, without linguistic evidence that would be considered convincing today. Your answer should note however that the Sifre brings Numbers 28 as a proof text that has some significant strength. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jan 26 '19 at 18:18

screen shot from Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible

Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible


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