Famous Sayings: #71 — ‘Eat, Drink, and Be Merry’

July 21, 2017

Let’s eat, drink, and be merry.

eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die, the Bible, famous sayings

Usually, the phrase “Eat, drink, and be merry” might cause one to think of a joyful scene with people dining together. In most cases, it might be used in a positive sense.

The saying may often be used in a hedonistic sense. In that case, one would stretch it out to “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” In that case, people are dining without a care in the world.

The words “Eat, drink, and be merry” are thus often interpreted as “living life to the fullest”. Or if it’s stretched out, it could mean “enjoy life as much as possible because we won’t live forever” (Got Questions). However, the words were originally used to espouse different principles.


Where Did the Words Originate?

The saying is actually an amalgamation of the following Bible verses: Isaiah 22:13, Ecclesiastes 8:15, 1 Corinthians 15:32, and Luke 12:19 (Got Questions). I decided to look up the verses and include extra for more context. The text comes from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

Isaiah 22:12-14

The people of Jerusalem were being warned by a prophet, who is referring to their hypocrisy. The words in question were used to illustrate their flippant nature, for who would say, “Let eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” in the face of an invasion? In the next verse, God said they would be only able to atone for their sins in death (Got Questions).

12 In that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and  wearing sackcloth; 13 and behold, joy and gladness, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

14 The Lord of hosts has revealed himself in my ears: “Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,” says the Lord God of hosts.

Ecclesiastes 8:10-15

In Ecclesiastes 8, the verses 10-13 are shown under the title “Those Who Fear God Will Do Well.” Verses 14-17 appeared under the title “Man Cannot Know God’s Ways.”

10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like ta shadow, because he does not fear before God.

14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

King Solomon is said to have written this book and his message is for people to be happy with their lot in life. Eating and drinking is part of life, but he was not promoting anyone to do it in excess.

Taken with the above verses, he was talking about vanity and how it is important for people to fear God. He was also pointing out how the wicked are vain and do their works so they can be seen and thought of as righteous people. Also, the righteous are often treated as if they are wicked, which is also a type of vanity (Got Questions).

1 Corinthians 15:32

In this chapter, Paul talks about the resurrection of Christ and how important it is to believe in resurrection. His point is if there is no life after death, the work of Christians will be in vain.

32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Luke 12:13-21

The following verses come from the Parable of the Rich Fool.

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

In the “Parable of the Rich Fool,” a man finds that he has more grain than he needs. He thus tears down his barn on makes a larger one to store his grain and foods. He was proud of himself. However, God decided to take that man that night for the man has stored more than he needed.


How Did ‘Eat, Drink, and Be Merry’ Become a Positive Saying?

For the most part, whenever I’ve heard this phrase it was somewhat in the positive sense. It would seem that the Parable of the Rich man illustrates how biblical verses could be twisted or misconstrued.

Over at the historically speaking blog, Elyse Bruce showed a few examples of the modern-day uses of “eat, drink and be merry.” All were positive:

In 1793, George Jacques Danton, a leader of the French Revolution, scratched the words “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die” into the walls of an French eatery known as La Mère Cathérine.

In its June 16, 1896 edition, the Ashburton Guardian printed a story entitled, “Happiest of All.” Near the end of the article, comes this quote:

Happiest, perhaps, of all are they who have been lifted up by Mother Siegel’s remedy and placed where once again they can eat, drink and be merry.  And if all these could be gathered together they would make a greater host than the Greek poet ever dreamed of.

And in 1932, Frederick Philip Stieff published a cookbook entitled Eat, Drink and Be Merry.


So, What Do We Do with This Saying?

I don’t believe I’ve used this saying myself, but it I did, I’m glad to have looked into the context first. Basically, when someone says “eat, drink, and be merry,” it’s a warning. But since the origin of this phrase is the Bible, it carries a deeply spiritual message. While it can be used to tell someone to be happy with their lot it life, for Christians, it’s a call to believe in life after death.


Works Cited

“1 Corinthians 15:12 (ESV).” Biblia.com. Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017. <https://biblia.com/books/esv/1Co15.32>.

Bruce, Elyse. “Eat, Drink And Be Merry.” Historically Speaking. 13 Sept 2010. Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017. Web. <https://idiomation.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/eat-drink-and-be-merry/>.

“Ecclesiastes 8:12-15 (ESV).” Biblia.com. Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017. <https://biblia.com/books/esv/Ec8.10>.

Got Questions Ministries. “Is ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ a biblical concept?” Got Questions? Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017. <https://www.gotquestions.org/eat-drink-and-be-merry.html>.

“Isaiah 22:13 (ESV)” Biblia.com. Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017. <https://biblia.com/books/esv/Is22.13>.

“Luke 12:13-21 (ESV).” Biblia.com. Web. Retrieved 21 July 2017. <https://biblia.com/bible/esv/Luke 12.13%E2%80%9321>.

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