Isaiah 5:2 Commentaries: He dug it all around, removed its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it And also hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce good grapes, But it produced only worthless ones.
Isaiah 5:2
And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the middle of it, and also made a wine press therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) And he fenced it.—In the “fence” we may recognise the law and institutions of Israel which kept it as a separate people (Eph. Ii. 14); in the “stones” that were gathered out, the removal of the old idolatries that would have hindered the development of the nation’s life; in the “tower” of the vineyard (comp. in a different context Isaiah 1:8), the monarchy and throne of David, or the watch-tower from which the prophets looked forth (Hab. Ii. 1; Isaiah 21:5-8); in the “winepress,” the temple in which the fruits of righteousness were to issue in the wine of joy and adoration (Zechariah 9:17; Ephesians 5:18). It was, we may note, one of the maxims of the Rabbis that the duty of a scribe was “to set a fence around the law” (Pirke Aboth, i. 1). In the last clause of the verse the pleasant song suddenly changes its tone, and the “wild grapes (sour and hard, and not larger than bilberries) are types of deeds of harsh and cruel injustice on which the prophet proceeds to dwell.

Isaiah 5:2. And he fenced it — In this verse the prophet, carrying on the allegory, proceeds to express, in parabolical language, the singular favours which God had bestowed on the Jewish nation, and the peculiar care which he had taken of them. He separated them from other nations, took them into covenant with himself, gave them a variety of laws and ordinances respecting his worship and service, and became, in an especial manner, their protector and governor. Thus he fenced his vineyard; Hebrew, יעזקהו, circumsepsit eam, hedged it round on all sides. In removing the heathen nations, and destroying all the forms of their idolatrous worship, forbidding all idolatry, and all intimate friendship and intermarriages with idolaters, and by giving them plain and ample directions for their whole conduct, lest they should fall by error or mistake, he gathered out the stones thereof — Which otherwise might have marred the land, (2 Kings 3:19,) and injured the vines. In other words, he removed all the hinderances of fruitfulness. In that he formed his church of the posterity of those wise, holy, and faithful men, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and purged and reformed the nation in the wilderness before he established them in Canaan, he might truly be said to plant his vineyard with the choicest vine — Or, as the Hebrew is, the vine of Sorek, alluding to a valley between Ascalon and Gaza, running up eastward into the tribe of Judah, and famous for the best vines, and the richest vineyards. And he built a tower in the midst of it — As edifices, termed towers by the Jews, were erected in vineyards, containing, as Bishop Lowth supposes, “all the offices and implements, and the whole apparatus necessary for the culture of them, and the making of wine;” and, doubtless, also serving for the accommodation and defence of the labourers; and as places of pleasure for the owners of the vineyards; so God provided his church with a most commodious and magnificent temple, furnished with all conveniences for every part of that worship and service which he required his people to perform to him, and affording every requisite accommodation for the residence, support, and comfort of the priests and Levites, while ministering in holy things, and employed in cultivating God’s mystical vineyard; and where he, the Lord of the vineyard, might be peculiarly present, as the protector and consolation of his people, their refuge and strength, and very present help in times of trouble or danger. Thus the Chaldee paraphrast: “I have constituted them the plant of a choice vine, and built my sanctuary in the midst of them.” So also Jerome interprets the clause. He also made a wine-press therein — Hebrew, וגם יקב חצב, which Bishop Lowth properly translates, “And he hewed out also a lake therein;” observing that the word יקבmeans, not the wine-press itself, or calcatorium, (the vessel or place where the grapes were stamped, or trod for the wine, which is expressed by another word,) but “what the Romans called lacus, the lake; the large open place or vessel, which, by a conduit, or spout, received the must (or new wine) from the wine-press.” This place, he thinks, in very hot countries, it was necessary, or very convenient, to have under ground, or in a cave hewed out of the side of a rock, “for coolness; that the heat might not cause too great a fermentation, and sour the must.” Now this lake, made to contain the new wine, may here signify the great altar, made to receive the sacrifices and oblations, as the fruits of the spiritual vineyard. And he looked that it should bring forth grapes — Real, genuine fruit, true, substantial piety and virtue, or godliness and righteousness; and it brought forth wild grapes — Or, rather, poisonous berries, as Bishop Lowth translates באשׁים, the word here used, which does not signify “merely useless, unprofitable grapes, such as wild grapes; but grapes offensive to the smell, noxious, poisonous;” such as those mentioned 2 Kings 4:39-41. For, according to the force and intent of the allegory, “To good grapes ought to be opposed fruit of a dangerous and pernicious quality; as, in the explication of it, to judgment is opposed tyranny, and to righteousness oppression.” See an elegant paraphrase of this part of the parable, Jeremiah 2:21.5:1-7 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.And he fenced it - Margin, 'Made a wall about it.' The word used here is supposed rather to mean "to dig about, to grub," as with a pick-axe or spade. - "Gesenius." It has this signification in Arabic, and in one place in the Jewish Talmud. - "Kimchi." The Vulgate and the Septuagint understands it of making a hedge or fence, probably the first work in preparing a vineyard. And as 'a hedge' is expressly mentioned in Isaiah 5:5, it seems most probable that that is its meaning here.

And gathered out the stones ... - That it might be easily cultivated. This was, of course, a necessary and proper work.

And planted it with the choicest vine - Hebrew, 'With the sorek.' This was a choice species of vine, the grapes of which, the Jewish commentators say, had very small and scarcely perceptible stones, and which, at this day, is called "serki" in Morocco; in Persia, "kishmis." - "Gesenius."

And built a tower - For the sake of watching and defending it. These towers were probably placed so as to overlook the whole vineyard, and were thus posts of observation; compare the note at Isaiah 1:8; see also the note at Matthew 21:33.

And also made a wine-press - A place in which to put the grapes for the purpose of expressing the juice; see the note at Matthew 21:33.

And he looked - He waited in expectation; as a farmer waits patiently for the vines to grow, and to bear grapes.

Wild grapes - The word used here is derived from the verb באשׁ bâ'ash, "to be offensive, to corrupt, to putrify;" and is supposed by Gesenius to mean "monk's-hood," a poisonous herb, offensive in smell, which produces berries like grapes. Such a meaning suits the connection better than the supposition of grapes that were wild or uncultivated. The Vulgate understands it of the weed called "wild vine - labruscas." The Septuagint translates it by "thorns," ἄκανθας akanthas. That there were vines in Judea which produced such poisonous berries, though resembling grapes, is evident; see 2 Kings 4:39-41 : 'And one went out into the fields to gather pot herbs, and he found a field vine, and he gathered from it wild fruit.' Moses also refers to a similar vine; Deuteronomy 32:32-33 : 'For their vine is as the vine of Sodom; their grapes are grapes of gall; their clusters are bitter.' Hasselquist thinks that the prophet here means the "nightshade." The Arabs, says he, call it "wolf-grapes." It grows much in vineyards, and is very pernicious to them. Some poisonous, offensive berries, growing on wild vines, are doubtless intended here.

The general meaning of this parable it is not difficult to understand; compare the notes at Matthew 21:33. Jerome has attempted to follow out the allegory, and explain the particular parts. He says, 'By the metaphor of the vineyard is to be understood the people of the Jews, which he surrounded or enclosed by angels; by gathering out the stones, the removal of idols; by the tower, the temple erected in the midst of Judea; by the wine-press, the altar.' There is no propriety, however, in attempting thus minutely to explain the particular parts of the figure. The general meaning is, that God had chosen the Jewish people; had bestowed great care on them in giving them his law, in defending them, and in providing for them; that he had omitted nothing that was adapted to produce piety, obedience, and happiness, and that they had abused it all, and instead of being obedient, had become exceedingly corrupt.

2. fenced—rather, "digged and trenched" the ground to prepare it for planting the vines [Maurer].

choicest vine—Hebrew, sorek; called still in Morocco, serki; the grapes had scarcely perceptible seeds; the Persian kishmish or bedana, that is, "without seed" (Ge 49:11).

tower—to watch the vineyard against the depredations of man or beast, and for the use of the owner (Mt 21:33).

wine-press—including the wine-fat; both hewn, for coolness, out of the rocky undersoil of the vineyard.

wild grapes—The Hebrew expresses offensive putrefaction, answering to the corrupt state of the Jews. Fetid fruit of the wild vine [Maurer], instead of "choicest" grapes. Of the poisonous monk's hood [Gesenius]. The Arabs call the fruit of the nightshade "wolf grapes" (De 32:32, 33; 2Ki 4:39-41). Jerome tries to specify the details of the parable; the "fence," angels; the "stones gathered out," idols; the "tower," the "temple in the midst" of Judea; the "wine-press," the altar.

Fenced it, that neither men nor beasts might spoil it.

Gathered out the stones thereof; which otherwise would have marred the land; of which see 2 Kings 3:19. The sense is, He removed all hinderances, and gave them all the means of fruitfulness.

Built a tower, for the residence of the keepers, that they might be obliged and encouraged to watch over it with more diligence. And he fenced it,.... With good and wholesome laws, which distinguished them, and kept them separate from other nations; also with his almighty power and providence; especially at the three yearly festivals, when all their males appeared before God at Jerusalem:

and gathered out the stones thereof; the Heathens, the seven nations that inhabited the land of Canaan, compared to stones for their hardness and stupidity, and for their worshipping of idols of stone; see Psalm 80:8.

and planted it with the choicest vine; the seed of Abraham, Joshua, and Caleb, who fully followed the Lord, and the people of Israel with them, who first entered into the land of Canaan, and inhabited it; such having fallen in the wilderness, who murmured and rebelled against God, Jeremiah 2:21.

and built a tower in the midst of it; in which watchmen stood to keep the vineyard, that nothing entered into it that might hurt it; this may be understood of the city of Jerusalem, or the fortress of Zion, or the temple; so Aben Ezra, the house of God on Mount Moriah; and the Targum,

"and I built my sanctuary in the midst of them:''

and also made a winepress therein; to tread the grapes in; this the Targum explains by the altar, paraphrasing the words,

"and also my altar I gave to make an atonement for their sins;''

so Aben Ezra; though Kimchi interprets it of the prophets, who taught the people the law, that their works might be good, and stirred them up and exhorted them to the performance of them.

And he looked that it should bring forth grapes; this "looking" and "expecting", here ascribed to God, is not to be taken properly, but figuratively, after the manner of men, for from such a well formed government, from such an excellent constitution, from a people enjoying such advantages, it might have been reasonably expected, according to a human and rational judgment of things, that the fruits of righteousness and holiness, at least of common justice and equity, would have been brought forth by them; which are meant by "grapes", the fruit of the vine, see Isaiah 5:7.

and it brought forth wild grapes; bad grapes; corrupt, rotten, stinking ones, as the word (s) used signifies; these, by a transposition of letters, are in the Misnah (t) called which word signifies a kind of bad grapes, and a small sort: evil works are meant by them, see Isaiah 5:7 the Targum is,

"I commanded them to do good works before me, and they have done evil works.''

(s) The Septuagint render it "thorns". (t) Maaserot c. 1. sect. 2. Vid. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.

And he dug it, and removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine, {d} and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress in it: and he expected that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth {e} wild grapes.

(d) He spared no diligence or cost.

(e) In Isa 5:7 he declares what they were.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. (Six lines.) The situation was all that could be desired: and labour had not been spared. Note the resemblances in Matthew 21:33 ff.; Mark 12:1 ff. fenced it] digged it (R.V. marg.). The word is not found elsewhere, but the meaning is certain. gathered out the stones thereof] In Heb. a single word: lit “stoned it” (ch. Isaiah 62:10). The phrase “stone a field,” for “clear it of stones,” is said to be common in some parts of England. the choicest vine] A technical name (collective) for the finest sort of grapes grown in Syria. The word occurs again in Jeremiah 2:21; the corresponding noun of unity (fem.) in Genesis 49:11. built a tower] for the watchers; not a mere hut, as in Isaiah 1:8.

and also … winepress] yea, and hewed out a winefat (ὑπολήνιον, Mark 12:1). The yeqeb is the receptacle (here cut out of the rock) into which the juice flows from the winepress (gath). (Cf. Joel 3:13; Proverbs 3:10; Nehemiah 13:15, &c.) The emphasis on this clause calls attention to the owner’s confident expectation of a return for his outlay.

brought forth wild grapes] Cf. Jeremiah 2:21.Verse 2. - He fenced it. So the LXX., the Vulgate, Aben Ezra, Jarchi, Rosenmüller, Lowth, Kay. Gesenius, Knobel, and Mr. Cheyne prefer to translate, "he dug it over;" while the Revisers of 1885 have suggested, "he made a trench about it." The word occurs only in this place, and has no cognates in Hebrew. And gathered out the stones (comp. Isaiah 62:10). In the stony soil of Palestine, to collect the surface stones into heaps, or build them into walls, is of primary necessity for the improvement of the land. Conversely the stones were put back, and scattered over the land, by those who wished to "mar" it (2 Kings 3:19, 25). Planted it with the choicest vine (comp. Genesis 49:11; Jeremiah 2:21). The sorek seems to have been a particular kind of vine, reckoned superior to others. The etymology of the word indicates that it was of a deep red color. Built a tower (comp. Matthew 21:33). Towers had to be built in gardens, orchards, and vineyards, that watch might be kept from them against thieves and marauders (see 1 Kings 17:9; 1 Kings 18:8; 2 Chronicles 26:10; 2 Chronicles 27:4, etc.). Made a wine-press; literally, dug a winepress. The excavation was made to contain a vat, above which was the "press," worked by men, who wrung the liquor out of a great bag containing the grapes. (See the Egyptian rock-paintings, passim, where the operation is represented repeatedly.) It brought forth wild grapes. The natural, not the cultivated fruit, a worthless product. "In that day will the sprout of Jehovah become an ornament and glory, and the fruit of the land pride and splendour for the redeemed of Israel." The four epithets of glory, which are here grouped in pairs, strengthen our expectation, that now that the mass of Israel has been swept away, together with the objects of its worthless pride, we shall find a description of what will become an object of well-grounded pride to the "escaped of Israel," i.e., to the remnant that has survived the judgment, and been saved from destruction. But with this interpretation of the promise it is impossible that it can be the church of the future itself, which is here called the "sprout of Jehovah" and "fruit of the land," as Luzzatto and Malbim suppose; and equally impossible, with such an antithesis between what is promised and what is abolished, that the "sprout of Jehovah" and "fruit of the earth" should signify the harvest blessings bestowed by Jehovah, or the rich produce of the land. For although the expression zemach Jehovah (sprout of Jehovah) may unquestionably be used to signify this, as in Genesis 2:9 and Psalm 104:14 (cf., Isaiah 61:11), and fruitfulness of the land is a standing accompaniment of the eschatological promises (e.g., Isaiah 30:23., compare the conclusion of Joel and Amos), and it was also foretold that the fruitful fields of Israel would become a glory in the sight of the nations (Ezekiel 34:29; Malachi 3:12; cf., Joel 2:17); yet this earthly material good, of which, moreover, there was no lack in the time of Uzziah and Jotham, was altogether unsuitable to set forth such a contrast as would surpass and outshine the worldly glory existing before. But even granting what Hofmann adduces in support of this view - namely, that the natural God-given blessings of the field do form a fitting antithesis to the studied works of art of which men had hitherto been proud - there is still truth in the remark of Rosenmller, that "the magnificence of the whole passage is at variance with such an interpretation." Only compare Isaiah 28:5, where Jehovah Himself is described in the same manner, as the glory and ornament of the remnant of Israel. But if the "sprout of Jehovah" is neither the redeemed remnant itself, nor the fruit of the field, it must be the name of the Messiah. And it is in this sense that it has been understood by the Targum, and by such modern commentators as Rosenmller, Hengstenberg, Steudel, Umbreit, Caspari, Drechsler, and others. The great King of the future is called zemach, ἀνατολή in the sense of Hebrews 7:14, viz., as a shoot springing out of the human, Davidic, earthly soil - a shoot which Jehovah had planted in the earth, and would cause to break through and spring forth as the pride of His congregation, which was waiting for this heavenly child. It is He again who is designated in the parallel clause as the "fruit of the land" (or lit., fruit of the earth), as being the fruit which the land of Israel, and consequently the earth itself, would produce, just as in Ezekiel 17:5 Zedekiah is called a "seed of the earth." The reasons already adduced to show that "the sprout of Jehovah" cannot refer to the blessings of the field, apply with equal force to "the fruit of the earth." This also relates to the Messiah Himself, regarded as the fruit in which all the growth and bloom of this earthly history would eventually reach its promised and divinely appointed conclusion. The use of this double epithet to denote "the coming One" can only be accounted for, without anticipating the New Testament standpoint,

(Note: From a New Testament point of view we might say that the "sprout of Jehovah" or "fruit of the earth" was the grain of wheat which redeeming love sowed in the earth on Good Friday; the grain of wheat which began to break through the ground and grow towards heaven on Easter Sunday; the grain of wheat whose golden blade ascended heavenwards on Ascension Day; the grain of wheat whose myriad-fold ear bent down to the earth on the day of Pentecost, and poured out the grains, from which the holy church not only was born, but still continues to be born. But such thoughts as these lie outside the historico-grammatical meaning.)

from the desire to depict His double-sided origin. He would come, on the one hand, from Jehovah; but, on the other hand, from the earth, inasmuch as He would spring from Israel. We have here the passage, on the basis of which zemach (the sprout of "Branch") was adopted by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:5 and Jeremiah 33:15) and Zechariah (Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12) as a proper name for the Messiah, and upon which Matthew, by combining this proper name zemach (sprout) with nezer (Isaiah 11:1, cf., Isaiah 53:2), rests his affirmation, that according to the Old Testament prophecies the future Messiah was to be called a Nazarene. It is undoubtedly strange that this epithet should be introduced so entirely without preparation even by Isaiah, who coined it first. In fact, the whole passage relating to the Messiah stands quite alone in this cycle of prophecies in chapters 1-6. But the book of Isaiah is a complete and connected work. What the prophet indicates merely in outline here, he carries out more fully in the cycle of prophecies which follows in chapters 7-12; and there the enigma, which he leaves as an enigma in the passage before us, receives the fullest solution. Without dwelling any further upon the man of the future, described in this enigmatically symbolical way, the prophet hurries on to a more precise description of the church of the future.

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