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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
The original word (Shemarim) thus rendered is generally understood to denote the lees or dregs of wine. But this cannot be the meaning of the term in , where, we think, it must refer to some rich preserves appropriate to the feast of which that text speaks. The verse may be rendered thus:—'And Jehovah of hosts shall make to all peoples in this mountain a feast of fat things, a feast of preserves, of the richest fatness, of preserves well refined.' Considerable diversity of opinion has obtained among Biblical critics in regard to both the literal meaning and prophetic bearing of this text. The most usual interpretation supposes a reference to wines on the lees; but there are strong objections to this view, the most obvious of which is, that it is exceedingly inappropriate. There is no mention of wine in the original, but simply of dregs; and interpreters have been forced to suppose a reference to the former, from a conviction that the latter was altogether inapt. The mention of dregs does not naturally call up the idea of wine which has been drawn from them. We agree with the great majority of interpreters, that a signal blessing is here referred to; but we cannot agree with those who suppose that wine drawn off from dregs is made the emblem of that blessing. Such wine would evidently not answer the purpose. It was not the best wine. We regard it as indicating something excellent in its kind, and the best of its kind. It seems to refer to some rich preserves made from grapes or other fruits.
It is difficult to say how these preserves were prepared. 'In the East grapes enter very largely into the provisions at an entertainment. Thus Norden was treated by the Aga of Assaoun with coffee, and some bunches of grapes of an excellent taste.' It is probable, however, that some solid preparation of the dried grape is here intended. The very best grapes were anciently, and still are, employed to make such preparations in Palestine. The finest grapes in that country grow in the vineyards around Hebron. 'The produce of these vineyards,' says Professor Robinson, 'is celebrated throughout Palestine. No wine, however, nor 'Arak is made from them, except by the Jews, and this is not in great quantity. The wine is good. The finest grapes are dried as raisins; and the rest, being trodden and pressed, the juice is boiled down to a syrup, which, under the name of Dibs, is much used by all classes, wherever vineyards are found, as a condiment with their food. It resembles thin molasses, but is more pleasant to the taste.' The fact here stated regarding the use made of the finest grapes, supplies us with an article worthy of the feast mentioned in the text. Buckingham mentions the following facts:—'By way of dessert, some walnuts and dried figs were afterwards served to us, besides a very curious article, probably resembling the dried wine of the ancients, which they are said to have preserved in cakes. They were of the size of a cucumber, and were made out of the fermented juice of the grape formed into a jelly, and in this state wound round a central thread of the kernel of walnuts; the pieces of the nuts thus forming a support for the outer coat of jelly, which became harder as it dried, and would keep, it is said, fresh and good for many months, forming a welcome treat at all times, and being particularly well adapted for sick or delicate persons, who might require some grateful provisions capable of being carried in a small compass, and without risk of injury on a journey.'
After a full consideration of the subject, we conclude that the shemárim of this text was a solid article, different from grape-cake, as not being pressed in any particular form, and different from dried grapes, as being refined and prepared for being served up at a sumptuous entertainment.
Neither of the other passages (, ), where the word under discussion occurs, is invested with special interest. The wine was separated from the lees, sometimes at least, by being drawn off from one vessel to another, as appears from , which Bishop Lowth renders thus:—
'Moab hath been at ease from his youth,
And he hath settled upon his lees;
Nor hath he been drawn off from vessel to vessel,
Neither hath he gone into captivity:
Therefore his taste remaineth in him,
And his flavor is not changed.'
Moab is here represented as spending a life of quiet indifference, living undisturbed in sin. Such, too, was the situation of those of whom Jehovah says (), 'I will punish the men that are settled on their lees;' that is, those who disregarded his admonitions, and prosecuted their sinful courses, unmoved by his threatenings.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Lees'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/l/lees.html.