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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.


7. Truly the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts is the house of Israel. Hitherto he spoke figuratively; now he shows what is the design of this song. Formerly he had threatened judgment against the Jews; now he shows that they are not only guilty, but are also held to be convicted persons; for they could not be ignorant of the benefits which they had received from God.

Thou broughtest a vine from Egypt, says the Psalmist, and, having driven out the nations, plantedst it. (Psalm 80:8.)

Their ingratitude was plain and manifest.

Isaiah does not illustrate every part of the metaphor; nor was it necessary; for it was enough to point out what was its object. The whole nation was the vineyard; the individual men were the plants. Thus he accuses the whole body of the nation, and then every individual; so that no man could escape the universal condemnation, as if no part of the expostulation had been addressed to himself. Why the nation is called a vineyard is plain enough; for the Lord chose it, and admitted it to the covenant of grace and of eternal salvation, and bestowed on it innumerable blessings. The planting is the commencement, and the dressing of it follows. That nation was adopted, and in various respects was the object of Divine care; for the adoption would have been of no avail, if the Lord had not continually adorned and enriched it by his blessings.

The same doctrine ought to be inculcated on us at the present day. Christ affirms that he is the vine, (John 15:1,) and that, having been ingrafted into this vine, we are placed under the care of the Father; for God is pleased to perform towards us the office of a husbandman, and continually bestows those favors which he reproachfully asserts that he had granted to his ancient people. We need not wonder, therefore, if he is greatly enraged when he bestows his labor uselessly and to no purpose. Hence that threatening,

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he will cut off,
and cast into the fire. (John 15:2,6.) 7878     In our Author’s quotation the 2d and 6th verses are inaccurately blended. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he will take away. (John 15:2.) If a man abide not in me, he shall be cast out, and wither as a branch; and men shall gather it, and cast it into the fire, and it shall be burned. (John 15:6.) We follow the Author’s version. — Ed.

He looked for judgment. He begins without a metaphor to relate how wickedly the Jews had degenerated, among whom equity and justice was despised, and every kind of injustice and violence abounded. The words contain an elegant play of language, (paronomasia,) for those which have nearly the same sound have an opposite meaning. משפט (mishpat) denotes judgment; משפח (mishpach) denotes conspiracy or oppression; צדקה (tzedakah) denotes righteousness; צעקה (tzeakah) denotes the cry and complaint of those who are oppressed by violence and injustice; sounds which are not wont to be heard where every man receives what is his own. He mentions two things which the Lord chiefly demands from his people as the genuine fruits of the fear of God; for although piety comes first in order, yet there is no inconsistency in taking the description of it from the duties of the second table. They are justly charged with having despised God, on the ground of having acted cruelly towards men; for where cruelty reigns, religion is extinguished.

Let us now understand that the same things are addressed to us; for as that nation was planted, so were we. We should call to remembrance what Paul says, that we were like wild olive-plants, but that they were the true and natural olive-tree. (Romans 11:24. 7979     In the original text the reference reads: (Rom. xi. 25.) which I assume was a typographical error. — fj. ) since we who were strangers have been ingrafted into the true olive-tree, the Lord has cultivated and adorned us with unceasing care. But what kind of fruits do we bring forth? Assuredly they are not only useless, but even bitter. So much the greater is the ingratitude for which we ought to be condemned, for the blessings which he has bestowed and heaped on us are far more abundant. And justly does this expostulation apply to us, for violence and injustice abound everywhere. But since the general doctrine did not strike their minds so powerfully, the Prophet described chiefly these two kinds of wickedness; that he might point out with the finger, as it were, how far that nation was from the fruit which a good vineyard ought to have yielded.

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