Matthew Poole's 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: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.
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.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 now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.I dare make you judges in your own cause, it is so plain and reasonable.
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?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!
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:I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard; he graciously warns them beforehand, that they may have space and invitation to repent, and so to prevent the threatened miseries.
I will take away the hedge thereof, & c.; I will withdraw my presence and protection from them, and give them up into the hands of their enemies.
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.It shall not be pruned nor digged: vine-dressers use to dig up and open the earth about the roots of the vines, for divers good purposes. The meaning is. I will remove my ministers, who used great care and diligence to make you fruitful.
There shall come briers and thorns; I will give you up to your own wicked lusts.
I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it; I will deprive you of all my blessings, which are oft compared to rain, &c.
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.The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant; in whom God formerly delighted to dwell and converse. Compare Proverbs 8:31 Jeremiah 31:20. Behold the cry from the oppressed, crying to men for help, and to God for vengeance.
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!That join house to house, that lay field to field; that add new purchases of houses and lands to their former possessions; not that this was in itself unlawful, but because they did this from an inordinate and insatiable desire of riches, and with the injury of their brethren, as is manifest from the foregoing and following words.
That they may be alone; that they alone may be the lords and owners, all others only their tenants and servants.
In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.In mine ears said the Lord; I heard God speak what I now about to utter. Heb. In the ears of the Lord; may relate either,
1. To the foregoing words; The cry of your sins, and of the oppressed, as come into God’s he hears and sees it, and will certainly punish it.
2. To the following clause, which being of great importance, he ushers in with an oath; I speak it in God’s as well as in yours; I call God to witness the truth of what I say. My houses shall be desolate; the houses you have so greedily coveted shall cast you out, and become desolate.
Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.Ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, to wit, of wine. The bath contained about eight gallons. Thus an acre did yield one gallon.
The seed of an homer shall yield an ephah which was of the same quantity with the bath, only the bath was the measure of liquid things, the ephah of dry and an ephah was the tenth part of an homer, Ezekiel 45:11. So instead of that great increase which that fruitful land commonly yielded, they should lose nine parts of their seed. Thus a fruitful land was made barren for their wickedness, according to God’s threatening, Psalm 107:34; and they had as little comfort in their lands as in their houses; which were the two kinds of their purchases, Isaiah 5:8.
Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!That rise up early in the morning; which was unusual, and scandalous in that case, Ecclesiastes 10:16 Acts 2:15. They made drinking their daily trade and business.
That continue until night; thereby wasting both precious time, and God’s good creatures, and the health of their bodies, as well as of their souls. He useth this word partly to show their folly and misery, because the wine was so far from quenching and satisfying their appetites, that it did indeed inflame and increase them; and partly to prevent the vain excuse of them, who thought themselves innocent because they did not drink to drunkenness, although they cast themselves into an intemperate heat through their excess.
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.They give up themselves wholly to luxury, and that in a very unseasonable time, as it follows.
But they regard not the work of the Lord; what God hath lately done, and is yet doing, and about to do among them; his grievous judgments, partly inflicted, and partly threatened, which required another course of life, even to give themselves to fasting, and prayer, and reformation, that so they might remove the incumbent, and prevent the approaching calamities.
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.Are gone into captivity; either,
1. Are actually gone, which was true of the ten tribes in Hezekiah’s reign, 2 Kings 18:9, under whom this prophecy might be uttered; or,
2. Shall certainly and shortly go, as the two tribes afterward did.
They have no knowledge; no serious consideration of God’s works, and of their own duty and danger. Their honourable men, who thought themselves quite out of reach of famine.
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.Hell; or, the grave, as this word most commonly signifies.
Opened her mouth without measure, to receive those vast numbers which shall die by this famine, or otherwise, as is here implied.
Their glory; their honourable men, as they were called, Isaiah 5:13, being distinguished both here and there from the multitude.
Their pomp; all their glory, shall die with them.
He that rejoiceth; that spendeth all his days in mirth and jollity, and casteth away all cares and fears.
And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:All of them, both high and low, shall be brought to destruction.
But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.Shall be exalted in judgment, by the execution of this just judgment upon his incorrigible enemies.
Shall be sanctified, shall appear to be a holy God,
in righteousness; by his righteous judgments.
Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.Then; when God shall have finished that work of judgment upon the ungodly, he will extend mercy to a remainder. This is very usual in this prophet, in the midst of his threatenings, to insert something for the support of believers.
The lambs; the poor and harmless people, who shall be left in the land when the rich are carried into captivity, as it fell out, 2 Kings 25:12.
Feed after their manner; or, by their fold, as this word is manifestly used, Micah 2:12, the only place of Scripture, except this, in which this word is found. The waste places; the lands left by their owners, who were either slain or carried into captivity.
Of the fat ones; of the rich and great men, so called Psalm 22:29 78:31 Isaiah 10:16.
Strangers; the poor Israelites, who were left to be vine-dressers and husbandmen, 2 Kings 25:12, who are called strangers, because they were so in reference to that land, not being the proper owners of it, nor related to them; as the Israelites of other tribes are called strangers, in opposition to the Levites, as Numbers 1:51, and elsewhere; yea, and the Levites are so called, in opposition to the seed of Aaron, Numbers 16:40.
Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:That draw iniquity; that are not only drawn to sin by the allurements of the world, or by the persuasions of wicked men, being surprised and overtaken by sin, as sometimes good men are, Galatians 6:1, but are active and industrious in drawing sin to themselves, or themselves to sin; that greedily and steadily pursue sill, and the occasions of it, and are not at rest till they have overtaken it; that sin wilfully, and resolvedly, and industriously.
With cords of vanity; or, with cords of lying, as the last word frequently signifies, i.e. with vain and deceitful arguments and pretences, whereby sinners generally draw themselves to sin; among which, one follows in the next verse, to wit, the impunity which they promise to themselves. Or these cords may note the means which they use to accomplish that iniquity which they have devised.
With a cart rope; with all their might, as beasts commonly do that draw carts with ropes.
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!Let him, to wit, God, in whose name thou and other prophets are always reproving and threatening us.
Hasten his work, that we may see it; he only thinks to affright us with bugbears; but he either cannot or will not do us any harm: we do not fear him, let him do his worst; let him begin as soon as he pleaseth. Not that any of the Israelites were so impudent as to use these expressions; but this was the plain language of their actions; they lived as if they were of this opinion; their presumption and security showed their desperate contempt of God, and of all his judgments.
The Holy One of Israel; who by his holiness is engaged to punish us. They scornfully repeated the title usually given by the prophets unto God.
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!That call evil good, and good evil; that take away the difference between good and evil; that justify and approve wicked men and things, and condemn piety, or virtue; or righteous persons. Compare Proverbs 17:15. Thus many call serious godliness, humorous singularity; and justice, morosity; and meekness, stupidity, &c.; as, on the contrary, they call pride, magnanimity; and covetousness, good husbandry. And men are very apt to follow the course of the world in their false judgments of things; which therefore the prophet so severely forbids.
Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!That being puffed up with an opinion of their own wisdom, despise the counsels and instructions of God by his prophets, and prefer their own vain fancies before the judgment of the all-wise God, as appears by the error before mentioned, Isaiah 5:20, that they affirmed that to be evil which God had declared to be good.
Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:That are mighty to drink wine; that can drink much without intoxication, in which they gloried, as too many do at this day.
To mingle, i.e. to drink; the antecedent being put for the consequent, which is usual; for they mingled it in order to drinking.
Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!Justify the wicked for reward; not by mistake or incogitancy, but wilfully for bribes.
Take away the righteousness of the righteous from him, to wit, juridically; they pronounce sentence against him, as if he and his cause were unjust.
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.Their root shall be as rottenness; they shall be like a tree which not only withers in its branches, but dies and rots at the roots, and therefore is past all hopes of recovery. The sense is, They shall be destroyed both root and branch.
Their blossom shall go up as dust; shall vanish (for so the word ascend or go up is oft used, as Exodus 16:14 Job 5:26 Jeremiah 48:15 Ezekiel 11:23,24) as the dust, which is blown away with every wind; or, shall be resolved into dust, and yield no fruit.
They have cast away; which implies disobedience joined with contempt.
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.The hills did tremble; a metaphorical and hyperbolical description of a grievous calamity, familiar in the prophets, as Isaiah 64:1,2 Jer 4:24, and in other authors.
His hand is stretched out still, ready to give you another and a sorer blow. This is not the end, as you vainly imagine, but, if you repent not, the beginning, of your sorrows, and an earnest of further calamities.
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:He will lift up an ensign, to call them together for his service, as generals used to do for the raising of armies, to
the nations from far; either,
1. To the Assyrians, of whom he speaks more particularly Isaiah 10, and that under this same character of a people that come from far, Isaiah 5:29 and who did not long after this prophecy invade Judea, and did much mischief in it. Although that part of the prediction, Isaiah 5:29,
They shall lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it, do not seem to agree to them, nor that invasion; for the Assyrians were forced to retreat with great shame and loss, and the Jews were delivered from them. Or,
2. To the Chaldeans; for even Babylon is called a far country, Isaiah 39:3. And he saith nations, because the Chaldean army was made up of several nations. Will hiss unto them; or, will whistle unto or for them; will gather them together by his word, as shepherds gather their sheep. He intimates how easily and speedily God can do this work. From the ends of the earth; which is not to be understood strictly, but popularly, and with a latitude, from very remote places; although part of the Chaldean army did come from places not very far distant from the end of that part of the world, so far as it was then known.
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:None shall be weary, though their march be long and tedious. As I have called them to this work, so I will strengthen and assist them in it. None shall slumber nor sleep; they shall all be watchful and diligent to take all opportunities and advantages of executing my judgments upon my people.
Neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken; which otherwise would hinder, or at least slacken, them in their march. I will take all impediments out of their way.
Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent; who are every way furnished and ready for my work, waiting only for my command.
Their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, because they shall not be broken or battered by the length or stoutness and ruggedness of the way.
Their wheels like a whirlwind; partly for the swiftness of their march, and partly for the force and violence of their chariots in battle.
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.They shall roar like young lions; which signifies both their cruelty, and their greediness and eagerness to catch and devour the prey.
None; neither the Jews themselves, nor the Egyptians, to whose help they will trust, nor any of their confederates.
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.Like the roaring of the sea; which is violent and frightful.
Darkness and sorrow; darkness, to wit, sorrow: the latter word explains the former, and the particle
and is put expositively, as it is frequently.
The light is darkened in the heavens thereof; when they look up to the heavens, as men in distress usually do, they see no light there; their comforts are wholly eclipsed, and their hopes are like the giving up of the ghost.