Isaiah 5:4
What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? why, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
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(4) What could have been done more . . .—The prophet cuts off from the people the excuse that they had been unfairly treated, that their Lord was as a hard master, reaping where he had not sown (Matthew 25:24). They had had all the external advantages that were necessary for their growth in holiness, yet they had not used them rightly. (Comp. the striking parallelism of Hebrews 6:4-8.)

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.What could I... - As a man who had done what is described in Isaiah 5:2, would have done all that "could" be done for a vineyard, so God says that he has done all that he could, in the circumstances of the Jews, to make them holy and happy. He had chosen them; had given them his law; had sent them prophets and teachers; had defended them; had come forth in judgment and mercy, and he now appeals "to them" to say what "could" have been done more. This important verse implies that God had done all that he could have done; that is, all that he could consistently do, or all that justice and goodness required him to do, to secure the welfare of his people. It cannot, of course, be meant that he had no physical ability to do anything else, but the expression must be interpreted by a reference to the point in hand; and that is, an appeal to others to determine that he had done all that could be done in the circumstances of the case. In this respect, we may, without impropriety, say, that there is a limit to the power of God. It is impossible to conceive that he "could" have given a law more holy; or that he could append to it more solemn sanctions than the threatening of eternal death; or that he could have offered higher hopes than the prospect of eternal life; or that he could have given a more exalted Redeemer. It has been maintained (see the "Princeton Bib. Repert.," April 1841) that the reference here is to the future, and that the question means, 'what remains now to be done to my vineyard as an expression of displeasure?' or that it is asked with a view to introduce the expression of his purpose to punish his people, stated in Isaiah 5:5. But that the above is the meaning or the passage, or that it refers to what God had actually done, is evident from the following considerations:

(1) He had specified at length Isaiah 5:2 what he had done. He had performed "all" that was usually done to a vineyard; in fencing it, and clearing it of stones, and planting in it the choicest vines, and building a wine-press in it. Without impropriety, it might be said of a man that, whatever wealth he had, or whatever power he had to do "other" things, he "could do nothing more to perfect a vineyard."

(2) It is the meaning which is most naturally suggested by the original. Literally, the Hebrew is, 'What to do more?' עוד מה־לעשׂות mah-la‛ăs'ôth ‛ôd. Coverdale renders this, as it is in our translation, 'What more could have been done for it?' Luther, 'What should one do more to my vineyard, that I have not done for it?' Was sollte man doth mehr thun an meinem Weinberge, das ich nicht gethun babe an illin? Vulgate, Quid est quod debui ultra facere. 'What is there which I ought to do more?' Septuagint, Τί ποιήσω ἔτι Ti poiēsō eti, 'What shall I do yet?' implying that he had done all that he could for it. The Chaldee renders it, 'What good thing - טבא מה mah ṭâbâ' - shall I say that I will do to my people that I have not done for them?' implying that he had done for them all the good which could be spoken of. The Syriac, 'What remains to be done to my vineyard, and I have not done it?' In all these versions, the sense given is substantially the same - that God had done all that could be done to make the expectation that his vineyard would produce fruit, proper. There is no reference in one of these versions to what he "would" do afterward, but the uniform reference is to what he "had" done to make the expectation "reasonable," that his vineyard would produce fruit.

(3) That this is the fair interpretation is apparent further, because, when, in Isaiah 5:5, he says what he "would do," it is entirely different from what he said he "had done." He "had" done all that could be done to make it proper to expect fruit; he now "would" do what would be a proper expression of his displeasure that no fruit had been produced. He would take away its hedge; break down its walls, and lay it waste. But in the interpretation of the passage proposed by the "Princeton Repert.," there is an entire omission of this part of the verse - 'that I have not done in it.' It is not improper, therefore, to use this passage to show that God had done all that could be consistently done for the salvation of man, and the same appeal may now be made to sinners everywhere; and it may be asked, what God "could" have done for their salvation more than has been done? "Could" he have given them a purer law? "Could" he present higher considerations than have been drawn from the hope of an "eternal" heaven, and the fear of an "eternal" hell? Could he have furnished a more full atonement than has been made by the blood of his own Son? The conclusion to which we should come would be in accordance with what is said in the prophet, that God has done "all" for the salvation of sinners that in the circumstances of the case could be done, and that if they are lost, they only will bear the blame.

4. God has done all that could be done for the salvation of sinners, consistently with His justice and goodness. The God of nature is, as it were, amazed at the unnatural fruit of so well-cared a vineyard. What work is there belonging to the office of a master or keeper of the vineyard which I have neglected? How unworthy and inexcusable a crime is it, that you have not only been unfruitful in good works, but also filled with all the fruits of wickedness! What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?.... Or "ought", as the Vulgate Latin: this is generally understood of good things done to it in time past; as what better culture could it have had? what greater privileges, blessings, and advantages, natural, civil, and religious, could have been bestowed on this people? what greater favour could have been shown them, or honour done them? or what of this kind remains to be done for them? they have had everything that could be desired, expected, or enjoyed: though it may be rendered, "what is further or hereafter to be done to my vineyard" (u), and "I have not done in it?" that is, by way of punishment; I have reproved and chastised them, but all in vain; what remains further for me, and which I will do, because of their ingratitude and unfruitfulness? I will utterly destroy them as a nation and church; I will cause their civil and ecclesiastical state to cease. The sense may be gathered from the answer to the question in the following verse Isaiah 5:5,

wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? that is, why have these people acted so ill a part, when such and so many good things have been bestowed upon them; on account of which it might have been reasonably expected they would have behaved in another manner? or rather the words may be rendered, "why have I looked or expected (w) that it should bring forth grapes, seeing it brought forth wild grapes?" why have I been looking for good fruit, when nothing but bad fruit for so long a time has been produced? why have I endured with so much patience and longsuffering? I will bear with them no longer, as follows. The Targum is for the former sense,

"what good have I said to do more to my people, which I have not done to them? and what is this I have said, that they should do good works, and they have done evil works?''

(u) "quid faciendum amplius fuit", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "et quid ultra faciendum erat"; so some in Vatablus, Montanus. (w) "quare expectavi?" Cocceius.

What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
4. (Four lines.) The case for the owner of the vineyard.

What could have been done] lit. What more is there to do (cf. 2 Kings 4:13).

wherefore, when I looked … wild grapes] Lit. why did I look that it should … and it brought forth wild grapes. The co-ordination of clauses assimilates the ending of the second stanza to that of the first. (For other examples of the same order, see Davidson, Synt. § 126, R. 4.)Verse 4. - What could have been done more? Comp. 2 Kings 17:13 and 2 Chronicles 36:15, where God is shown to have done all that was possible to reclaim his people: "Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to the Law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets;" "And the Lord God of their fathers sent unto them by his messengers, rising up early, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, until there was no remedy." "When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged away the bloodguiltinesses of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of sifting." "When," followed by a preterite (equivalent to a fut. exact. as in Isaiah 24:13; Ges. 126, 5), introduces the circumstance, whose previous occurrence would be the condition of all the rest. The force of the future yâdiach ("shall have purged") is regulated by that of the preterite râchatz, as in Isaiah 6:11; for although, when regarded simply by itself, as in Isaiah 10:12, the future tense may suggest the idea of a future prefect, it cannot have the force of such a future. The double purification answers to the two scenes of judgment described in chapter 3. The filth of the daughters of Zion is the moral pollution hidden under their vain and coquettish finery; and the murderous deeds of Jerusalem are the acts of judicial murder committed by its rulers upon the poor and innocent. This filth and these spots of blood the Sovereign Ruler washes and purges away (see 2 Chronicles 4:6), by causing His spirit or His breath to burst in upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, both male and female. This breath is called "the spirit of judgment," because it punishes evil; and "the spirit of sifting," inasmuch as it sweeps or cleans it away. בּער is to be explained, as in Isaiah 6:13, in accordance with Deuteronomy 13:6 (5, Eng. Ver.; "put the evil away") and other passages, such especially as Isaiah 19:13; Isaiah 21:9. The rendering given in the Septuagint and Vulgate, viz., "in the spirit of burning," is founded upon the radical meaning of the verb, which signifies literally to burn up, and hence to clear away or destroy (see Comm. on Job, at Job 31:12, Eng. Tr.). Nevertheless, "burning" in connection with judgment is not definite enough, since every manifestation of divine judgment is a manifestation of fire; but it is not every judgment that has connected with it what is here implied - namely, the salutary object of burning away or, in other words, of winnowing. The "spirit" is in both instances the Spirit of God which pervades the world, not only generating and sustaining life, but also at times destroying and sifting (Isaiah 30:27-28), as it does in the case before us, in which the imperishable glory described in Isaiah 3:5 is so prepared.
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