Isaiah 5:1-7 (NKJV)
Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:
My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill.
He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.
“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?
And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.”
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.
Today, we look at the first part of Isaiah 5, as the trend of judgment continues. Isaiah 5 can be split into two parts, one of judgment and jury, the other a condemnation following the thematic sentiments of Isaiah 3. Describing the swing from Isaiah 4 to Isaiah 5 as ‘stark’ is somewhat of an understatement. Indeed, I had to do a double take when looking at Isaiah 5 while the impression of Isaiah 4 lasted in my mind. However, if you look beyond the writing style, you can see that it retains the same ideas of God speaking to His people about the way they have acted. Once again, Isaiah is made of collections of prophecies by Isaiah. What this means is that there can be various stylistic differences from piece to piece. Isaiah shifts from proclamation to poetry to prose because of his education. It is perhaps difficult to figure out where different pieces of Isaiah belong and that is why it can be quite difficult to read through Isaiah. Getting into the text proper, God is depicted as the owner of a vineyard, having placed much effort into the care of the vineyard. Isaiah does a brilliant job, even when translated, at conveying this effort; from digging up the vineyard and clearing stones, planting the choicest vines and building a tower complete with a winepress. All that effort done by the owner of the vineyard, and perhaps anyone who heard about the effort put in, expected good grapes to grow. Yet all that came out were wild grapes. The Hebrew word for “wild” here is beushim (םישִׁאֻבְּ), and perhaps is better translated as worthless. The fruit that came out was not good but instead bad. I think based on the previous chapters of Isaiah we know what this parable is trying to refer to. God had tended to the people of Israel and given the greatest effort and made for the best environment. But at the end of the day, the people chose to spawn wicked fruit. God calls for the common sensibilities of Jerusalem and Judah about what He could’ve done better to bring forth good grapes; a rhetorical question in which the answer was most definitely “nothing”. So God, continuing on the metaphor, pronounced destruction of the vineyard. Trampling it down and laying it to waste, reversing all the efforts that had been done to it and removing all good because it took all the effort and produced the worst. Isaiah clarifies simply that the vineyard is the house of Israel and the men of Judah are the plant that was of the choicest vine. They were given so much attention and nourishment, yet instead of justice they produced oppression. We won't continue on to the rest of Isaiah 5 today because it correlates better with the content of Isaiah 3 and the condemnations of excess found there. However, let's address the elephant in the room. Aside from the fantastic use of parable by Isaiah and God, vs. 1 has a very interesting way of referring to God. It is a song dedicated to the author’s “Beloved”. Having looked at the original Hebrew word, it seems that it does translate correctly to ‘beloved’. It is a very intimate way of speaking of God, even for a prophet. Not only that, but the idea of a vineyard has been used in other places as imagery: in the Psalms (Psalm 80) and in the Song of Solomon (Songs of Songs 7:6-9; 8:11-12). This only further adds to the intimacy of the speaking voice here. It is possible here that Isaiah is referencing these very intimate representations of Israel’s relationship with God as a form of irony because of how the relationship has broken down at the hands of Israel and the impending judgment that follows quickly. It is a love song used to get the people to recognise what they have done and respond to God’s questioning; not in the same way of a master-servant or tyrant and subjects, but in the way of two lovers and how one party has wronged the other. Regardless, the intimacy stands in stark contrast with the rest of the message here and emphasises not only the intensity and the impact of the message but also how the message should be interpreted and received. This is not only a message for lesser people but God crying out in anguish and anger.
Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections. Daniel is in the Young Professionals ministry of the Central Christian Church.