Isaiah 5:1
Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
V.

(1) Now will I sing to my wellbeloved.—Literally, Now let me sing. The chapter bears every mark of being a distinct composition, perhaps the most elaborately finished in the whole of Isaiah. The parable with which it opens has for us the interest of having obviously supplied a starting-point for a later prophet (Jeremiah 2:21), and for our Lord’s teaching in the like parable of Matthew 21:33-41. Here, however, there is the distinctive touch of the irony of the opening verse. The prophet presents himself, as it were, in the character of a minstrel, ready to sing to his hearers one of the love-songs in which their culture delighted (Amos 6:5.) In its language and rhythm it reminds us of the Song of Solomon. The very word “beloved” recalls Song of Solomon 5:1-2; the description of the vineyards, that of Song of Solomon 8:11-13. The probability that the parallelism was intentional is increased by the coincidence of Isaiah 7:23, and Song of Solomon 8:11, which will meet us further on. On this assumption Isaiah’s words have a special interest as showing how early that poem lent itself to a mystical interpretation. One might almost conjecture that the prophet allured the people to listen by music as well as words, and appeared, as Elisha and other prophets had done, with harp or pipe in hand (2Kings 3:15; 1Samuel 10:5; 1Samuel 16:23; Isaiah 30:29). The frequency of such hymns (Isaiah 12, 25, Isaiah 26:1-4) shows, at any rate, that the prophet had received the training of a psalmist. (See Introduction.)

A song of my beloved.—A slightly different reading adopted by some critics gives A song of love. The “beloved” is purposely not named, but appears afterwards as none other than Jehovah. The word, closely connected with the ideal name Jedediah (the beloved of Jehovah; 2Samuel 12:25), occurs in twenty-six passages of Song of Sol., and not elsewhere.

A very fruitful hill.—Literally, a horn, the son of oil. The combination “horn of oil” in 1Samuel 16:1; 1Samuel 16:13, and 1Kings 1:39, suggests the thought that the phrase is equivalent to “the horn of the anointed” (Kay). The term “horn” was a natural synonym for a hill. So we have Matterhorn, Aarhorn, &c., in the Alps. Oil was naturally symbolic of fertility. In Psalm 80:8-16, we have a striking parallel. The “fruitful hill” was Canaan as a whole, with a special reference to Judah and Jerusalem. The “choicest vine”—literally, vine of Sorek (Genesis 49:11; Jeremiah 2:21), bearing a small dark purple grape—pointed back to the fathers of the nation, who, idealised in the retrospect, were as the heroes of faith compared with the then present generation. The picture which forms the parable might almost take its place among the Georgics of Palestine. The vineyard on the hillside could not be ploughed, and therefore the stones had to be taken out by hand. It was fenced against the beasts of the field. There was a tower for a watchman to guard it against the attacks of robbers. (Comp. Virg. Georg. ii. 399-419.) Each part has its own interpretation.

Isaiah 5:1. Now will I sing, &c. — Bishop Lowth translates this clause, “Let me sing now a song to my beloved; a song of loves concerning his vineyard.” This is the exordium, a kind of title placed before the song; which song he records, as Moses did his, that it might be a witness for God, and against Israel. The beloved, to whom the prophet addresses the song, is the Lord of the vineyard, as appears by the latter clause of the verse, namely, God, or his Messiah, whom the prophet loved and served, and for whose glory, eclipsed by the barrenness of the vineyard, he was greatly concerned: a song of my beloved — Not devised by me, but inspired by God, which, therefore, it behooveth you to lay deeply to heart: touching his vineyard — The house of Israel, (Isaiah 5:7,) or his church among the Israelites, often, and very properly, called a vineyard, because of God’s singular regard to it, and care and cultivation of it; his delight in it, and expectation of good fruit from it. My beloved hath, &c. — Hebrew, לידידי היה כרם, my beloved hath had a vineyard, namely, for many ages, with which he hath long taken great pains, and on which he hath bestowed much culture; in a very fruitful hill — Hebrew, on a horn, the son of oil, “an expression,” says Bishop Lowth, “highly descriptive and poetical.” According to Kimchi the prophet gives the land of Israel this appellation because of its height and fertility. Accordingly, the bishop renders the phrase, on a high and fruitful hill, observing, that “the parts of animals are, by an easy metaphor, applied to parts of the earth, both in common and poetical language. A promontory is called a cape, or head; the Turks call it a nose; a ridge of rocks, a back, (‘dorsum immane mari summo, a huge back in the deep sea;’ Virg.) Thus a horn is a proper and obvious image for a mountain, or mountainous country.” Hills are places most commodious for vines, and the hills of Canaan being very fertile, the phrase, Song of Solomon of oil, is added to express that circumstance, both because oil includes the idea of fatness, and because oil-olive was one of the most valued productions of that land. Indeed the word horn also is frequently used in Scripture as an emblem of plenty, their wealth consisting very much in their herds, as well as flocks.5:1-7 Christ is God's beloved Son, and our beloved Saviour. The care of the Lord over the church of Israel, is described by the management of a vineyard. The advantages of our situation will be brought into the account another day. He planted it with the choicest vines; gave them a most excellent law, instituted proper ordinances. The temple was a tower, where God gave tokens of his presence. He set up his altar, to which the sacrifices should be brought; all the means of grace are denoted thereby. God expects fruit from those that enjoy privileges. Good purposes and good beginnings are good things, but not enough; there must be vineyard fruit; thoughts and affections, words and actions, agreeable to the Spirit. It brought forth bad fruit. Wild grapes are the fruits of the corrupt nature. Where grace does not work, corruption will. But the wickedness of those that profess religion, and enjoy the means of grace, must be upon the sinners themselves. They shall no longer be a peculiar people. When errors and vice go without check or control, the vineyard is unpruned; then it will soon be grown over with thorns. This is often shown in the departure of God's Spirit from those who have long striven against him, and the removal of his gospel from places which have long been a reproach to it. The explanation is given. It is sad with a soul, when, instead of the grapes of humility, meekness, love, patience, and contempt of the world, for which God looks, there are the wild grapes of pride, passion, discontent, and malice, and contempt of God; instead of the grapes of praying and praising, the wild grapes of cursing and swearing. Let us bring forth fruit with patience, that in the end we may obtain everlasting life.Now will I sing - This is an indication that what follows is poetic, or is adapted to be sung or chanted.

To my well-beloved - The word used here - ידיד yedı̂yd - is a term of endearment. It properly denotes a friend; a favorite; one greatly beloved. It is applied to saints as being the beloved, or the favorites of God, in Psalm 127:2; Deuteronomy 33:12. In this place, it is evidently applied to Yahweh, the God of the Jewish people. As there is some reason to believe that the God of the Jews - the manifested Deity who undertook their deliverance from Egypt, and who was revealed as "their" God under the name of 'the Angel of the covenant' - was the Messiah, so it may be that the prophet here meant to refer to him. It is not, however, to the Messiah "to come." It does not refer to the God incarnate - to Jesus of Nazareth; but to the God of the Jews, in his capacity as their lawgiver and protector in the time of Isaiah; not to him in the capacity of an incarnate Saviour.

A Song of my beloved - Lowth, 'A song of loves,' by a slight change in the Hebrew. The word דוד dôd usually denotes 'an uncle,' a father's brother. But it also means one beloved, a friend, a lover; Sol 1:13-14, Sol 1:16; Sol 2:3, Sol 2:8, Sol 2:9; Sol 4:16. Here it refers to Jehovah, and expresses the tender and affectionate attachment which the prophet had for his character and laws.

Touching his vineyard - The Jewish people are often represented under the image of a vineyard, planted and cultivated by God; see Psalm 80; Jeremiah 2:21; Jeremiah 12:10. Our Saviour also used this beautiful figure to denote the care and attention which God had bestowed on his people; Matthew 21:33 ff; Mark 12:1, following.

My beloved - God.

Hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill - Hebrew 'On a horn of the son of oil.' The word "horn" used here in the Hebrew, denotes the "brow, apex," or sharp point of a hill. The word is thus used in other languages to denote a hill, as in the Swiss words "shreckhorn, buchorn." Thus "Cornwall," in England, is called in the old British tongue "Kernaw," as lessening by degrees, like a horn, running out into promontories, like so many horns; for the Britons called a horn "corn," and in the plural "kern." The term 'horn' is not unfrequently applied to hills. Thus, Pococke tells us (vol. ii. p. 67), that there is a low mountain in Galilee which has both its ends raised in such a manner as to look like two mounts, which are called the 'Horns of Hutin.' Harmer, however, supposes that the term is used here to denote the land of Syria, from its resemblance to the shape ofa horn; Obs. iii. 242. But the idea is, evidently, that the land on which God respresents himself as having planted his vineyard, was like an elevated hill that was adapted eminently to such a culture. It may mean either the "top" of a mountain, or a little mountain, or a "peak" divided from others. The most favorable places for vineyards were on the sides of hills, where they would be exposed to the sun. - Shaw's "Travels," p. 338. Thus Virgil says:

- denique apertos

Bacchus amat colles.

Bacchus loves open hills;' "Georg." ii. 113. The phrase, "son of oil," is used in accordance with the Jewish custom, where "son" means descendant, relative, etc.; see the note at Matthew 1:1. Here it means that it was so fertile that it might be called the very "son of oil," or fatness, that is, fertility. The image is poetic, and very beautiful; denoting that God had planted his people in circumstances where he had a right to expect great growth in attachment to him. It was not owing to any want of care on his part, that they were not distinguished for piety. The Chaldee renders this verse, 'The prophet said, I will sing now to Israel, who is compared to a vineyard, the seed of Abraham my beloved: a song of my beloved to his vineyard.'

CHAPTER 5

Isa 5:1-30. Parable of Jehovah's Vineyard.

A new prophecy; entire in itself. Probably delivered about the same time as the second and third chapters, in Uzziah's reign. Compare Isa 5:15, 16 with Isa 2:17; and Isa 5:1 with Isa 3:14. However, the close of the chapter alludes generally to the still distant invasion of Assyrians in a later reign (compare Isa 5:26 with Isa 7:18; and Isa 5:25 with Isa 9:12). When the time drew nigh, according to the ordinary prophetic usage, he handles the details more particularly (Isa 7:1-8:22); namely, the calamities caused by the Syro-Israelitish invasion, and subsequently by the Assyrians whom Ahaz had invited to his help.

1. to—rather, "concerning" [Gesenius], that is, in the person of My beloved, as His representative [Vitringa]. Isaiah gives a hint of the distinction and yet unity of the Divine Persons (compare He with I, Isa 5:2, 3).

of my beloved—inspired by Him; or else, a tender song [Castalio]. By a slight change of reading "a song of His love" [Houbigant]. "The Beloved" is Jehovah, the Second Person, the "Angel" of God the Father, not in His character as incarnate Messiah, but as God of the Jews (Ex 23:20, 21; 32:34; 33:14).

vineyard—(Isa 3:14; Ps 80:8, &c.). The Jewish covenant-people, separated from the nations for His glory, as the object of His peculiar care (Mt 20:1; 21:33). Jesus Christ in the "vineyard" of the New Testament Church is the same as the Old Testament Angel of the Jewish covenant.

fruitful hill—literally, "a horn" ("peak," as the Swiss shreckhorn) of the son of oil; poetically, for very fruitful. Suggestive of isolation, security, and a sunny aspect. Isaiah alludes plainly to the Song of Solomon (So 6:3; 8:11, 12), in the words "His vineyard" and "my Beloved" (compare Isa 26:20; 61:10, with So 1:4; 4:10). The transition from "branch" (Isa 4:2) to "vineyard" here is not unnatural.Israel God’s vineyard; his mercies, and their unfruitfulness; should be laid waste, Isaiah 5:1-7. Judgments upon covetousness, Isaiah 5:8-10; upon drunkards, and the lascivious, Isaiah 5:11,12. The great misery of the Jews, Isaiah 5:13-17. Judgments on impiety, scoffers at God’s threatenings, those who corrupt the notions of good and ill, strong drinkers, and unjust judges, Isaiah 5:18-23. God’s anger and the Chaldeans’ army against them, Isaiah 5:24-30.

Now will I sing; I will record it, to be a witness for God, and against you, as Moses did his song, Deu 31:19 32:1.

To my Well-beloved; to the Lord of the vineyard, as appears by the last clause of the verse; to God or Christ, whom I love and serve, and for whose glory, eclipsed by you, I am greatly concerned.

A song of my Beloved; not devised by me, not the effect of my envy or passion; but inspired by God, which therefore it behoveth you to lay to heart.

His vineyard; his church, oft and very fitly called a vineyard, because of God’s singular respect to it, and care of it, and his delight in it, and expectation of good fruit from it, &c.

In a very fruitful hill; hills being places most commodious for vines: see Psalm 80:10. Heb. in a horn (which may signify either,

1. The figure or shape of the land of Canaan, which resembles a horn; or,

2. The height and hilliness of that land, as horns are the highest parts of beasts; or,

3. The goodliness and excellency of it, as a horn, when it is ascribed to a man, signifies his glory and dignity, as Job 16:1,5 Psa 89:17,24, &c.) the son of oil, which, by a vulgar Hebraism, notes an oily or a fat soil.

Now will I sing to my well beloved,.... These are the words of the Prophet Isaiah, being about to represent the state and condition of the people of Israel by way of parable, which he calls a song, and which he determines to sing to his beloved, and calls upon himself to do it; by whom he means either God the Father, whom he loved with all his heart and soul; or Christ, who is often called the beloved of his people, especially in the book of Solomon's song; or else the people of Israel, whom the prophet had a great affection for, being his own people; but it seems best to understand it of God or Christ:

a song of my beloved; which was inspired by him, or related to him, and was made for his honour and glory; or "a song of my uncle" (q), for another word is used here than what is in the preceding clause, and is rendered "uncle" elsewhere, see Leviticus 25:49 and may design King Amaziah; for, according to tradition, Amoz, the father of Isaiah, was brother to Amaziah king of Judah, and so consequently Amaziah must be uncle to Isaiah; and this might be a song of his composing, or in which he was concerned, being king of Judah, the subject of this song, as follows:

touching his vineyard; not his uncle's, though it is true of him, but his well beloved's, God or Christ; the people of Israel, and house of Judah, are meant, comparable to a vineyard, as appears from Isaiah 5:7 being separated and distinguished from the rest of the nations of the world, for the use, service, and glory of God.

My beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill; or, "in a horn, the son of oil" (r); which designs the land of Israel, which was higher than other lands; and was, as some observe, in the form of a horn, longer than it was broad, and a very fruitful country, a land of olive oil, a land flowing with milk and honey, Deuteronomy 8:7. The Targum is,

"the prophet said, I will sing now to Israel, who is like unto a vineyard, the seed of Abraham, my beloved, a song of my beloved, concerning his vineyard. My people, my beloved Israel, I gave to them an inheritance in a high mountain, in a fat land.''

(q) "canticum patruelis mei", V. L. (r) "in cornu, filio olei", V. L.

Now will {a} I sing to my {b} wellbeloved a song of my beloved concerning his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a {c} vineyard in a very fruitful hill:

(a) The prophet by this song sets before the people's eyes their ingratitude and God's mercy.

(b) That is, to God.

(c) Meaning that he had planted his Church in a place most plentiful and abundant.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. (Four lines.) The first half of the verse contains the preamble, the second is the commencement of the poem.

Now will I sing … vineyard] Translate:—

I would sing of my Friend,

My Friend’s song about his vineyard.

The A.V. has the merit, however, of distinguishing the two closely related words used for friend (“wellbeloved” and “beloved”). The difference probably has only a metrical value. Isaiah does not mean as yet to excite curiosity as to who the “Friend” is, only he cannot, even in a parable, divest himself of the consciousness that he represents the interests of Another.

A vineyard had my Friend

On a fertile peak.

a very fruitful hill] lit. “a horn, the son of fatness.” “Apertos Bacchus amat colles” (Verg. Georg. ii. 113). The land of Palestine is no doubt meant, but it is a mistake to allegorise the details of the imagery. This use of the word “horn” for “hill” is not found elsewhere in the O. T., but has many parallels in-Arabic as well as other languages (cf. “Schreckhorn,” &c.). It is chosen here for the sake of the assonance with the word for “vineyard.”

1–7. The Parable of the Vineyard and its Application

One of the finest exhibitions of rhetorical skill and power which the book contains. The prophet appears in the guise of a minstrel before an assemblage of his countrymen, and proceeds to recite the unfortunate experience of a “friend” of his with his vineyard. The simple story, told in light popular verse, disarms the suspicions of the crowd, and the singer, having secured their sympathy, demands a verdict on the course which a man might be expected to pursue with so refractory a vineyard as this (Isaiah 5:3). The answer was so obvious that the people, like our Lord’s hearers on a similar occasion (Matthew 21:41), had practically assented to their own condemnation before they clearly perceived the drift of the discourse. But from this point onwards the parable becomes more and more transparent, till at last the prophet, with a sudden change of rhythm (see on Isaiah 5:6), throws off all disguise and drives home the lesson of the whole in the crashing lines of Isaiah 5:7.

The idea of Israel as the Lord’s vineyard probably originated with Isaiah. (Cf. ch. Isaiah 3:14, Isaiah 27:2 ff.; Jeremiah 2:21; Jeremiah 12:10 f.; Psalm 80:8 ff.; Matthew 20:1 ff; Matthew 21:33 ff. and parallels.)Verses 1-7. - ISRAEL REBUKED BY THE PARABLE OF A VINEYARD. This chapter stands in a certain sense alone, neither closely connected with what precedes nor with what follows, excepting that it breathes throughout a tone of denunciation. There is also a want of connection between its parts, the allegory of the first section being succeeded by a series of rebukes for sins, expressed in the plainest language, and the rebukes being followed by a threat of punishment, also expressed with plainness. The resemblance of the parable with which the chapter opens to one of those delivered by our Lord, and recorded in the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16), has been frequently noticed. Verse 1. - Now will I sing to my Well-beloved. The prophet sings to Jehovah a song concerning his vineyard. The song consists of eight lines, beginning with "My Well-beloved," and ending with "wild grapes." It is in a lively, dancing measure, very unlike the general style of Isaiah's poetry. The name "Well-beloved" seems to be taken by the prophet from the Song of Songs, where it occurs above twenty times. It well expresses the feeling of a loving soul towards its Creator and Redeemer. A song of my Well-beloved. Bishop Lowth translates "A song of loves," and Mr. Cheyne "A love-song;" but this requires an alteration of the text, and is unsatisfactory from the fact that the song which follows is not a "love-song." May we not understand the words to mean "a song concerning my Well-beloved in respect of his vineyard?" Touching his vineyard. Israel is compared to a "vine" in the Psalms (Psalm 80:8-16), and the Church of God to a "garden" in Canticles (Song of Solomon 4:12; Song of Solomon 5:1); perhaps also to a "vineyard" in the same book (Song of Solomon 8:12). Isaiah may have had this last passage in his mind. My Beloved hath a vineyard; rather, had a vineyard (ἀμπελὼν ἑγενήθη τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ, LXX.). In a very fruitful hill. So the passage is generally understood, since keren, horn, is used for a height by the Arabs (as also by the Germans, e.g. Matterhorn, Wetterhorn, Aarhorn, etc.), and "son of oil" is a not unlikely Orientalism for "rich" or "fruitful." With the "hill" of this passage compare the "mountain" of Isaiah 2:2, both passages indicating that the Church of God is set on aft eminence, and "cannot be hid" (Matthew 5:14). When war shall thus unsparingly have swept away the men of Zion, a most unnatural effect will ensue, namely, that women will go in search of husbands, and not men in search of wives. "And seven women lay hold of one man in that day, saying, We will eat our won bread, and wear our own clothes; only let thy name be named upon us, take away our reproach." The division of the chapters is a wrong one here, as this v. is the closing v. of the prophecy against the women, and the closing portion of the whole address does not begin till Isaiah 4:2. The present pride of the daughters of Zion, every one of whom now thought herself the greatest as the wife of such and such a man, and for whom many men were now the suitors, would end in this unnatural self-humiliation, that seven of them would offer themselves to the same man, the first man who presented himself, and even renounce the ordinary legal claim upon their husband for clothing and food (Exodus 21:10). It would be quite sufficient for them to be allowed to bear his name ("let thy name be named upon us:" the name is put upon the thing named, as giving it its distinctness and character), if he would only take away their reproach (namely, the reproach of being unmarried, Isaiah 54:4, as in Genesis 30:23, of being childless) by letting them be called his wives. The number seven (seven women to one man) may be explained on the ground that there is a bad seven as well as a holy one (e.g., Matthew 12:45).

In Isaiah 4:1 the threat denounced against the women of Jerusalem is brought to a close. It is the side-piece to the threat denounced against the national rulers. And these two scenes of judgment were only parts of the general judgment about to fall upon Jerusalem and Judah, as a state or national community. And this again was merely a portion, viz., the central group of the picture of a far more comprehensive judgment, which was about to fall upon everything lofty and exalted on the earth. Jerusalem, therefore, stands here as the centre and focus of the great judgment-day. It was in Jerusalem that the ungodly glory which was ripe for judgment was concentrated; and it was in Jerusalem also that the light of the true and final glory would concentrate itself. To this promise, with which the address returns to its starting-point, the prophet now passes on without any further introduction. In fact it needed no introduction, for the judgment in itself was the medium of salvation. When Jerusalem was judged, it would be sifted; and by being sifted, it would be rescued, pardoned, glorified. The prophet proceeds in this sense to speak of what would happen in that day, and describes the one great day of God at the end of time (not a day of four-and-twenty hours any more than the seven days of creation were), according to its general character, as opening with judgment, but issuing in salvation.

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