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The Song of the Unfruitful Vineyard


Let me sing for my beloved

my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard

on a very fertile hill.


He dug it and cleared it of stones,

and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,

and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,

but it yielded wild grapes.



And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem

and people of Judah,

judge between me

and my vineyard.


What more was there to do for my vineyard

that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,

why did it yield wild grapes?



And now I will tell you

what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,

and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,

and it shall be trampled down.


I will make it a waste;

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;

I will also command the clouds

that they rain no rain upon it.



For the vineyard of the L ord of hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,

but saw bloodshed;


but heard a cry!

Social Injustice Denounced


Ah, you who join house to house,

who add field to field,

until there is room for no one but you,

and you are left to live alone

in the midst of the land!


The L ord of hosts has sworn in my hearing:

Surely many houses shall be desolate,

large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.


For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath,

and a homer of seed shall yield a mere ephah.



Ah, you who rise early in the morning

in pursuit of strong drink,

who linger in the evening

to be inflamed by wine,


whose feasts consist of lyre and harp,

tambourine and flute and wine,

but who do not regard the deeds of the L ord,

or see the work of his hands!


Therefore my people go into exile without knowledge;

their nobles are dying of hunger,

and their multitude is parched with thirst.



Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite

and opened its mouth beyond measure;

the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down,

her throng and all who exult in her.


People are bowed down, everyone is brought low,

and the eyes of the haughty are humbled.


But the L ord of hosts is exalted by justice,

and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness.


Then the lambs shall graze as in their pasture,

fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins.



Ah, you who drag iniquity along with cords of falsehood,

who drag sin along as with cart ropes,


who say, “Let him make haste,

let him speed his work

that we may see it;

let the plan of the Holy One of Israel hasten to fulfillment,

that we may know it!”


Ah, you who call evil good

and good evil,

who put darkness for light

and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet

and sweet for bitter!


Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes,

and shrewd in your own sight!


Ah, you who are heroes in drinking wine

and valiant at mixing drink,


who acquit the guilty for a bribe,

and deprive the innocent of their rights!

Foreign Invasion Predicted


Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,

and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,

so their root will become rotten,

and their blossom go up like dust;

for they have rejected the instruction of the L ord of hosts,

and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.



Therefore the anger of the L ord was kindled against his people,

and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them;

the mountains quaked,

and their corpses were like refuse

in the streets.

For all this his anger has not turned away,

and his hand is stretched out still.



He will raise a signal for a nation far away,

and whistle for a people at the ends of the earth;

Here they come, swiftly, speedily!


None of them is weary, none stumbles,

none slumbers or sleeps,

not a loincloth is loose,

not a sandal-thong broken;


their arrows are sharp,

all their bows bent,

their horses’ hoofs seem like flint,

and their wheels like the whirlwind.


Their roaring is like a lion,

like young lions they roar;

they growl and seize their prey,

they carry it off, and no one can rescue.


They will roar over it on that day,

like the roaring of the sea.

And if one look to the land—

only darkness and distress;

and the light grows dark with clouds.


24. Therefore as the flame of fire devoureth the stubble. Lest it should be thought that he has so frequently cried out without good reason, he again shows what grievous and dreadful punishment awaits the nation, and threatens utter destruction to the stubborn, because they did not permit themselves to be brought back to the right path, but obstinately resisted instruction. He employs metaphors exceedingly well adapted to express his meaning, and better fitted to affect their hearts than if he had spoken plainly and without a figure. He begins with a comparison, but immediately slides into a metaphor, attributing a root and branch to the nation as to a tree. Under those two words he includes all the strength, either hidden or visible, that belongs to the nation, and says that the whole will be destroyed; for when the root, which alone gives strength and nourishment to the tree, becomes rotten, it is all over with the tree; and in like manner he threatens that it is all over with the nation, and that its whole strength is wasted and consumed.

Because they have rejected the law of Jehovah of hosts. He does not now enumerate, as formerly, the particular kinds of crime by which they had provoked the wrath of God, but assigns a general cause, namely, contempt of the law of God; for this, as all men know, is the source of everything bad. And it is no small aggravation of their crime that, when the will of God had been made known to them in his law, it was not through ignorance or mistake, but through inveterate malice, that they shook of the yoke of God, and abandoned themselves to every kind of licentiousness; which was nothing else than to reject so kind a Father, and to give themselves up to be the slaves of the devil. Besides, he accuses them of open revolt; as if he had said that it was not in one or a few instances that they were rebellious, but that they might be regarded as treacherous apostates, and had altogether forsaken God.

And loathed the word of the Holy One of Israel. He complains that they not only despised the word of God, but — what is far more shocking — turned away from it, or threw it away in wicked disdain. But if contempt for the law of God is the source, head, and accumulation of all that is evil, there is nothing against which we ought more carefully to guard than that Satan should take away our reverence for it; and if there are any faults to which we are liable, we ought, at least, to allow a remedy to be applied to them, if we do not choose, by wickedly rejecting it, to draw down upon ourselves everlasting destruction.

25. Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled. In this verse the Prophet relates the former punishments which the Jews had already endured, and shows that they are not near an end; but that, on the contrary, heavier judgments await them, if they do not return to the right path. I readily acknowledge that the past tense is frequently employed instead of the future, but the meaning which I have stated will best agree with the context; for there are two things quite distinct from each other, which he lays down, on account of the resolute obstinacy of the people. First, how God perceives their crimes. Secondly, since there are no signs of repentance, he has other scourges within his reach for chastising the people. Thirdly, he describes what those scourges are, and forewarns them that the Assyrians will come at the bidding of the Lord, as soon as he shall express it by merely hissing to them, (verse. 26.)

Such is the connection of what the Prophet states; and hence it ought to be observed that the great body of men, as soon as they have escaped any calamity, forget their chastisements, and no longer regard them as the judgments of God; and that, though experience be the instructor of fools, still they grow hardened by strokes. This insensibility Isaiah sharply rebukes; as if he had said, “Have you so quickly forgotten the calamities under which you lately groaned? Whence came the distressful casting out of dead bodies, but because God had raised his arm against you? And if God has discharged the office of a judge, why do not those recent chastisements induce you to fear him, and to refrain from drawing down a succession of chastisements by new crimes?”

Accordingly, he repeats the term על-כן, (gnal ken,) therefore; as if he had said that those distresses are not accidental, but are manifest tokens of God’s vengeance; and so he expressly says that God was angry with his people; for if the Jews had not fallen from their own rank, their condition would have been happier than that of any other nation. When God’s chosen people, therefore, are treated by him with so much sharpness and severity, it is beyond all doubt that he has been provoked by heinous crimes. At the same time he refutes the false boasting by which the Jews were wont to vaunt and exalt themselves, as if they ought to be exempt from chastisements on the ground of their being God’s peculiar people.

And the mountains trembled. By this comparison the dreadful nature of those punishments to which they were insensible is described in such a manner as to prove more clearly the stupidity of the people. They were more stupid than inanimate objects, if they did not perceive the wrath of God, and the dreadful vengeance which had been inflicted on the kingdom of Israel.

For all these things. He threatens heavier chastisements in future, as we have already said; for although wicked men acknowledge that the Lord has punished them, still they think that they have no right to expect anything more than one or two chastisements. As if therefore nothing worse could befall them, and as if God’s power to punish them had been exhausted, they wrap themselves up in blind indifference. This is the reason why he exclaims that the wrath of God is not yet appeased, and that, although it has inflicted on them many calamities, still it has within its stores many weapons from which they have reason to dread innumerable wounds.

The copulative ו (vau) may be taken as a disjunctive, so as to mean, but, on the contrary, his hand is stretched out still. He refers to what he had formerly said, that the hand of God is stretched out. He tells them that it is not yet drawn back, and that it may yet pursue them, and inflict plagues of the same kind, or even of greater severity. We ought diligently to meditate on these statements, in order to shake off that drowsiness to which the greater part of men are frequently liable, even after having received chastisements.

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