ISAIAH CHAPTER 5.
The Judgment of Destruction upon Jehovah’s Vineyard.
THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE VINEYARD. — V. I. Now will I sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved, the prophet singing to Jehovah, concerning the Lord, hut at the same time expressing the thoughts of the Lord, touching His vineyard, that of His Church at the time of the prophet. My Well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill, literally, “on the horn, or summit, of a son of oil,” the vineyard being situated on a hill and having most fertile soil; v. 2. and He fenced it, rather, spaded or hoed it thoroughly, and gathered out the stones thereof, which hindered the proper cultivation of the ground, and planted it with the choicest vine, a very fine Oriental variety of grape, called sorek, and built a tower in the midst of it, this being the usual watch-tower, and also made a wine-press therein, the lower trough into which the grape-juice flowed from the wine-press proper; and He looked that it should bring forth grapes, the fruit of the excellent vine which He had planted there, and it brought forth wild grapes, the sour product of the wild vine or of a similar plant. V.3. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, to whom the prophet is specifically addressing himself, appealing to them as to judges in this difficult situation, judge, I pray you, betwixt Me and My vineyard, making their decision on the basis of the facts presented to them, which were visible to even the casual onlooker. V. 4. What could have been done more to My vineyard that I have not done in it? The Lord had shown His people mercy, goodness, and truth in so many ways that He had, as it were, exhausted His love in their behalf. He had not reached the limit of His grace in dealing with them, but matters had certainly reached a stage where they could expect no more at His hand. Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? Surely if the Lord now abandoned this vineyard, the people themselves must admit that they bad fully deserved such treatment, that they had but themselves to blame for their destruction, as the Lord now states. V. 5. And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to My vineyard, the Judge Himself announcing the punishment which He had decided upon: I will take away the hedge thereof, one of thorns and briers being the usual protection of vineyards in the Orient, and it shall be eaten up, and break down the wall thereof, as a second means of keeping out marauders, and it shall be trodden down, the emphatic statement of the original being “for a treading down”; v. 6. and I will lay it waste, for a complete ruin; it shall not be pruned, to remove the superfluous shoots, nor digged, to loosen the ground for the admission of air to the roots; but there shall come up briers and thorns, making the growth of vines of the right and welcome kind impossible; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. V. 7. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah His pleasant plant, literally, “the plant of His pleasure”; and He looked for judgment, that the people would do what is right and good, but behold oppression, the infringement of rights by graft and other forms of wickedness; for righteousness, that is, an outward dealing according to the demands of a righteous conduct, but behold a cry, namely, that of the people who suffer wrong. The explanation of the parable is here briefly indicated. Israel was the vineyard of the Lord, separated by Him from all nations, placed into a rich and fruitful land and endowed with unsurpassed blessings in every respect, among them the nobles of the people, the patriarchs, the kings, the priests, the prophets. The watch-tower of God in the midst of His people was the government of David and of His house. But this vineyard had bitterly disappointed the Lord in His expectations, so that He finally sent His punishment in full measure, not only the Babylonian captivity, but the ultimate overthrow of the Jewish nation and Church in the year 70 A. D. Cp. Ps. 80; Matt. 21, 33-46. Let the Christian Church and all those who profess to be members of the Church take warning, for the Lord searches the reins and hearts and at all times expects true fruits of righteousness from all those who are called after His name.
A SIXFOLD WOE UPON THE JEWISH TRANSGRESSORS. — V. 8. Woe unto them that join house to house, in a greed for wealth which is never satisfied, that lay field to field, their covetousness causing them to add one piece of property to another, till there be no place, no room for any one else, that they, literally, “ye,” for the prophet here turns directly to the Jews, may be placed alone in the midst of the earth, thus violating the statutes both concerning the inheritance of real estate and the year of jubilee, Num. 27, 9-11; Lev. 25, 10-13. V. 9. In mine ears said the Lord of hosts, the great Ruler of the universe Himself making it known to His prophet, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, the beautiful homes of the rich, without inhabitant, as a punishment upon their greed. V. 10. Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, one bucket of wine, about seven and one half gallons, and the seed of an homer, about eight bushels, shall yield an ephah, a little more than three pecks, the land thus producing only about one-tenth of the amount of seed sown in the spring, that is, a starvation harvest. V. 11. Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning that they may follow, eagerly pursue, strong drink, a kind of brandy prepared from dates, apples, pomegranates, honey, and barley; that continue until night, protracting their session of debauchery until the cool of the evening and beyond, till wine inflame them, putting them into a condition where they are ready for all the works of darkness. Note that the moderate use of even intoxicating beverages is not in itself condemned, but every form of excess, as the further description shows. V. 12. And the harp, or zither, and the viol, a guitar-like instrument, the tabret, the tambourine, and pipe, a kind of flute, and wine are in their feasts, of these their banquets consist, this is all they have in mind in planning and executing their drinking-bouts; but they regard not the work of the Lord, they were deaf to the message of Jehovah in nature, in history, especially in the preaching of His prophets, neither consider the operation of His hands, in preparing the punishment of righteousness for all the guilty. V. 13. Therefore My people, as the Lord still affectionately calls them, are gone into captivity, the visitation of the Babylonian captivity being pictured as already taking place, because they have no knowledge, not only because they hardened their hearts against all understanding, but because the calamity, for this reason, also caught them unawares; and their honorable men are famished, literally, “become starvelings,” people suffering hunger, and their multitude dried up with thirst, a vivid description of Israel as it was driven into exile. Such is ever the consequence when the luxury-loving people of this world deliberately exclude the understanding of spiritual things from their hearts. V. 14. Therefore hell, in this case the realm of death in so far as they were subject to punishment in the place reserved for the wicked, hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure, to receive the great number of victims; and their glory, the splendor of their wickedness, and their multitude, and their pomp, the tumult and noise of their drunken shouting, and he that rejoiceth, those finding their enjoyment in the excesses of this world, shall descend into it. Then all the laughter and shouting of the children of this world will be changed to cries of woe, accompanied by weeping and gnashing of teeth. V. 15. And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, men of every rank and station being included in the Lord’s condemnation, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled, so that they are no longer lifted up in pride; v. 16. but the Lord of hosts, He who exerts unlimited authority over the world and all its fortunes, shall be exalted in judgment, the very overthrow of the wicked redounding to His glory, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness, give evidence of His holiness in exercising justice upon the ungodly. V. 17. Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, as on their usual pasturage, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat, the nomad tribes of the desert again occupying the land which had been held by similar people in ancient days. Thus the land of Canaan would become a monument of God’s punitive justice, as a result of Israel’s apostasy. V. 18. Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, their first excuses to themselves being like hair-strings, but their increasing callousness finally causing them boldly to draw their guilt to them as with heavy cords, and sin, as it were, with a cart-rope, they hitch it to them like draft-horses dragging a heavy wagon, laying themselves to the traces with all their might, utterly ignoring the thought of a day of vengeance; v. 19. that say, Let Him make speed and hasten His work that we may see it, that is, the threatened retribution, and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come that we may know it! Their blasphemous mockery is like that of which the Apostle Peter writes, 2 Pet. 3, 3-13, and will surely draw down upon them the punishment of the Lord. And so far as the mockers of our day are concerned, the time will come when they, overcome with terror at the revelation of God’s judgment upon them, will call upon the mountains to fall upon them and to the hills to cover them. V. 20. Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil, thus reversing all principles of true morality; that put darkness for light and light for darkness, particularly in palliating the wickedness of sin, in representing avarice, luxury, the lust of the flesh as harmless faults; that put bitter for sweet, by condemning the godly, the children of God, as enemies of mankind, and sweet for bitter, by glossing over transgression and thus leading men into everlasting destruction. V. 21. Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, arrogant in their self-conceit, an offense which is rebuked also by St. Paul, Rom. 12, 16, and prudent in their own sight, such people being beyond the necessity of learning, their lack of humility causing them to reject all instruction that is brought to their notice, especially the message of the Lord’s servants. V. 22. Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink, champions of dissolute living, selling justice in order to obtain the means to indulge in the service of mammon and luxury; v. 23. which justify the wicked for reward, openly seeking bribes, and, in fulfilling the promises made on the strength of such gifts, take away the righteousness of the righteous from him, deciding against him in court and thus frustrating the ends of justice. Note that all the sins which are here condemned with such harsh words are found in our day and age and will surely be subject to the Lord’s punishment, as in the days of Isaiah. V. 24. Therefore, as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, in a sudden and thorough destruction, so their root, the supposed firm hold of these transgressors, shall be as rottenness, moldy and decayed, and their blossom, their outward prosperous appearance, shall go up as dust, flying away like small particles, because they have cast away the Law of the Lord of hosts, in a deliberate, blasphemous rejection, and despised the Word of the Holy One in Israel, through which He wanted to call them to repentance. V. 25. Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against His people, and He hath stretched forth His hand against them and hath smitten them, the scene again being painted before the eyes of the people, in order to urge them to repentance; and the hills did tremble, under the blow delivered by Jehovah, as from a mighty earthquake, and their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets, lying there as dung, even as it had happened before, 2 Chron. 28, 6. For all this, although the punishment of the Lord has repeatedly gone forth, His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still. So great was the apostasy in Israel that the wrath of the Lord was not yet appeased, especially since the nation showed no signs of true repentance; it was the wrath of the final Judgment. V. 26. And He, in delivering the last great blow, will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, as a signal and invitation for them to attack Israel, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth, the figure being taken from the work of the bee-keeper, who coaxes the bees from their hives by a hissing sound; and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly, most eager to carry out the Lord’s will upon Israel. V. 27. None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep, neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, to retard their movements, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken, all this being descriptive of their tireless activity, their unwearied zeal, and their readiness for battle; v. 28. whose arrows are sharp and all their bows bent, ready to send the arrows to their mark; their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, a most important attribute for a campaign of war carried to such distances, and their wheels like a whirlwind, for their rolling resembled the sound of an advancing tempest; v.29. their roaring shall be like a lion, a fearful battle-cry, they shall roar like young lions, eager for their prey; yea, they shall roar and lay hold of the prey, Israel becoming an easy victim, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it, no one being strong enough to come to Israel’s aid in this emergency laid upon it by the Lord. V. 30. And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea, the surf breaking on the precipitous shore with a fearful thunder; and if one look unto the land, seeking a firm foothold, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof, literally, “darkness - distress and light - night in the clouds of heaven above,” that is, tribulation and relief would change off quickly in the fate of Israel; but the final result would be the blackest night, shutting out all light. That, in brief, is the outline of Israel’s history until the exile, not only the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar, but that of the Romans in the year 70 A. D. as well.