Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
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.
And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
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.
And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
3. And now, &c.—appeal of God to themselves, as in Isa 1:18; Mic 6:3. So Jesus Christ, in Mt 21:40, 41, alluding in the very form of expression to this, makes them pass sentence on themselves. God condemns sinners "out of their own mouth" (De 32:6; Job 15:6; Lu 19:22; Ro 3:4).
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. 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.
And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
5. go to—that is, attend to me.
hedge … wall—It had both; a proof of the care of the owner. But now it shall be trodden down by wild beasts (enemies) (Ps 80:12, 13).
And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
6. I will … command—The parable is partly dropped and Jehovah, as in Isa 5:7, is implied to be the Owner: for He alone, not an ordinary husbandman (Mt 21:43; Lu 17:22), could give such a "command."
no rain—antitypically, the heaven-sent teachings of the prophets (Am 8:11). Not accomplished in the Babylonish captivity; for Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah prophesied during or after it. But in gospel times.
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
7. Isaiah here applies the parable. It is no mere human owner, nor a literal vineyard that is meant.
vineyard of the Lord—His only one (Ex 19:5; Am 3:2).
pleasant—"the plant of his delight"; just as the husbandman was at pains to select the sorek, or "choicest vine" (Isa 5:2); so God's election of the Jews.
judgment—justice. The play upon words is striking in the Hebrew, He looked for mishpat, but behold mispat ("bloodshed"); for tsedaqua, but behold tseaqua (the cry that attends anarchy, covetousness, and dissipation, Isa 5:8, 11, 12; compare the cry of the rabble by which justice was overborne in the case of Jesus Christ, Mt 27:23, 24).
Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
Isa 5:8-23. Six Distinct Woes against Crimes.
8. (Le 25:13; Mic 2:2). The jubilee restoration of possessions was intended as a guard against avarice.
till there be no place—left for any one else.
that they may be—rather, and ye be.
the earth—the land.
In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.
9. In mine ears … the Lord—namely, has revealed it, as in Isa 22:14.
desolate—literally, "a desolation," namely, on account of the national sins.
great and fair—houses.
Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.
10. acres—literally, "yokes"; as much as one yoke of oxen could plow in a day.
bath—of wine; seven and a half gallons.
homer … ephah—Eight bushels of seed would yield only three pecks of produce (Eze 45:11). The ephah and bath, one-tenth of an homer.
Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
11. Second Woe—against intemperance.
early—when it was regarded especially shameful to drink (Ac 2:15; 1Th 5:7). Banquets for revelry began earlier than usual (Ec 10:16, 17).
strong drink—Hebrew, sichar, implying intoxication.
continue—drinking all day till evening.
And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.
12. Music was common at ancient feasts (Isa 24:8, 9; Am 6:5, 6).
viol—an instrument with twelve strings [Josephus, Antiquities, 8.10].
tabret—Hebrew, toph, from the use of which in drowning the cries of children sacrificed to Moloch, Tophet received its name. Arabic, duf. A kettle drum, or tambourine.
pipe—flute or flageolet: from a Hebrew root "to bore through"; or else, "to dance" (compare Job 21:11-15).
regard not … Lord—a frequent effect of feasting (Job 1:5; Ps 28:5).
work … operation—in punishing the guilty (Isa 5:19; Isa 10:12).
Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
13. are gone—The prophet sees the future as if it were before his eyes.
no knowledge—because of their foolish recklessness (Isa 5:12; Isa 1:3; Ho 4:6; Lu 19:44).
famished—awful contrast to their luxurious feasts (Isa 5:11, 12).
multitude—plebeians in contradistinction to the "honorable men," or nobles.
thirst—(Ps 107:4, 5). Contrast to their drinking (Isa 5:11). In their deportation and exile, they shall hunger and thirst.
Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
14. hell—the grave; Hebrew, sheol; Greek, hades; "the unseen world of spirits." Not here, "the place of torment." Poetically, it is represented as enlarging itself immensely, in order to receive the countless hosts of Jews, which should perish (Nu 16:30).
their—that is, of the Jewish people.
he that rejoiceth—the drunken reveller in Jerusalem.
And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:
15. (Compare Isa 2:9, 11, 17). All ranks, "mean" and "mighty" alike; so "honorable" and "multitude" (Isa 5:13).
But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.
16. God shall be "exalted" in man's view, because of His manifestation of His "justice" in punishing the guilty.
sanctified—regarded as holy by reason of His "righteous" dealings.
Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.
17. after their manner—literally, "according to their own word," that is, at will. Otherwise, as in their own pasture [Gesenius]: so the Hebrew in Mic 2:12. The lands of the Scenite tent dwellers (Jer 35:7). Arab shepherds in the neighborhood shall roam at large, the whole of Judea being so desolate as to become a vast pasturage.
waste … fat ones—the deserted lands of the rich ("fat," Ps 22:29), then gone into captivity; "strangers," that is, nomad tribes shall make their flocks to feed on [Maurer]. Figuratively, "the lambs" are the pious, "the fat ones" the impious. So tender disciples of Jesus Christ (Joh 21:15) are called "lambs"; being meek, harmless, poor, and persecuted. Compare Eze 39:18, where the fatlings are the rich and great (1Co 1:26, 27). The "strangers" are in this view the "other sheep not of the" the Jewish "fold" (Joh 10:16), the Gentiles whom Jesus Christ shall "bring" to be partakers of the rich privileges (Ro 11:17) which the Jews ("fat ones," Eze 34. 16) fell from. Thus "after their (own) manner" will express that the Christian Church should worship God in freedom, released from legal bondage (Joh 4:23; Ga 5:1).
Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:
18. Third Woe—against obstinate perseverance in sin, as if they wished to provoke divine judgments.
iniquity—guilt, incurring punishment [Maurer].
cords, &c.—cart-rope—Rabbins say, "An evil inclination is at first like a fine hair-string, but the finishing like a cart-rope." The antithesis is between the slender cords of sophistry, like the spider's web (Isa 59:5; Job 8:14), with which one sin draws on another, until they at last bind themselves with great guilt as with a cart-rope. They strain every nerve in sin.
sin—substantive, not a verb: they draw on themselves "sin" and its penalty recklessly.
That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!
19. work—vengeance (Isa 5:12). Language of defiance to God. So Lamech's boast of impunity (Ge 4:23, 24; compare Jer 17:15; 2Pe 3:3, 4).
counsel—God's threatened purpose to punish.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
20. Fourth Woe—against those who confound the distinctions of right and wrong (compare Ro 1:28), "reprobate," Greek, "undiscriminating: the moral perception darkened."
bitter … sweet—sin is bitter (Jer 2:19; 4:18; Ac 8:23; Heb 12:15); though it seem sweet for a time (Pr 9:17, 18). Religion is sweet (Ps 119:103).
Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
21. Fifth Woe—against those who were so "wise in their own eyes" as to think they knew better than the prophet, and therefore rejected his warnings (Isa 29:14, 15).
Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
22, 23. Sixth Woe—against corrupt judges, who, "mighty" in drinking "wine" (a boast still not uncommon), if not in defending their country, obtain the means of self-indulgence by taking bribes ("reward"). The two verses are closely joined [Maurer].
mingle strong drink—not with water, but spices to make it intoxicating (Pr 9:2, 5; So 8:2).
take away the righteousness—set aside the just claims of those having a righteous cause.
Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
24. Literally, "tongue of fire eateth" (Ac 2:3).
flame consumeth the chaff—rather, withered grass falleth before the flame (Mt 3:12).
root … blossom—entire decay, both the hidden source and outward manifestations of prosperity, perishing (Job 18:16; Mal 4:1).
cast away … law—in its spirit, while retaining the letter.
Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
25. anger … kindled—(2Ki 22:13, 17).
hills … tremble—This probably fixes the date of this chapter, as it refers to the earthquake in the days of Uzziah (Am 1:1; Zec 14:5). The earth trembled as if conscious of the presence of God (Jer 4:24; Hab 3:6).
torn—rather, were as dung (Ps 83:10).
For all this, &c.—This burden of the prophet's strains, with dirge-like monotony, is repeated at Isa 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4. With all the past calamities, still heavier judgments are impending; which he specifies in the rest of the chapter (Le 26:14, &c.).
And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:
26. lift … ensign—to call together the hostile nations to execute His judgments on Judea (Isa 10:5-7; 45:1). But for mercy to it, in Isa 11:12; 18:3.
hiss—(Isa 7:18). Bees were drawn out of their hives by the sound of a flute, or hissing, or whistling (Zec 10:8). God will collect the nations round Judea like bees (De 1:44; Ps 118:12).
end of the earth—the widely distant subject races of which the Assyrian army was made up (Isa 22:6). The ulterior fulfilment took place in the siege under Roman Titus. Compare "end of the earth" (De 28:49, &c.). So the pronoun is singular in the Hebrew, for "them," "their," "whose" (him, his, &c.), Isa 5:26-29; referring to some particular nation and person [Horsley].
None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:
27. weary—with long marches (De 25:18).
none … slumber—requiring no rest.
girdle—with which the ancient loose robes used to be girded for action. Ever ready for march or battle.
nor the latchet … broken—The soles were attached to the feet, not by upper leather as with us, but by straps. So securely clad that not even a strap of their sandals gives way, so as to impede their march.
Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:
28. bent—ready for battle.
hoofs … flint—The ancients did not shoe their horses: hence the value of hard hoofs for long marches.
wheels—of their chariots. The Assyrian army abounded in cavalry and chariots (Isa 22:6, 7; 36:8).
Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.
29. roaring—their battle cry.
And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.
30. sorrow, and the light is darkened—Otherwise, distress and light (that is, hope and fear) alternately succeed (as usually occurs in an unsettled state of things), and darkness arises in, &c. [Maurer].
heavens—literally, "clouds," that is, its sky is rather "clouds" than sky. Otherwise from a different Hebrew root, "in its destruction" or ruins. Horsley takes "sea … look unto the land" as a new image taken from mariners in a coasting vessel (such as all ancient vessels were), looking for the nearest land, which the darkness of the storm conceals, so that darkness and distress alone may be said to be visible.