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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.


17. And the lambs shall feed after their manner. Some render it according to their measure, or, in proportion to their capacity, but it means in the usual manner. There are various ways of explaining this verse; but we ought first of all to observe that the Prophet intended to bring consolation to the godly, who trembled at hearing the dreadful judgments of God; for the more powerfully a man is under the influence of religion, the more does he feel the presence of the hand of God, and the more is he impressed by the apprehension of his judgment. In short, fear and reverence for God cause us to be deeply moved by everything that is presented to us in his name.

Accordingly, after having heard such dreadful threatenings, they must have fainted, if this consolation had not been added as a seasoning, to give them a taste of the mercy of God. It is customary with the prophets always to pay attention to the godly, and to support their minds. “Although, therefore,” says Isaiah, “it may seem as if God were about to destroy the whole nation, still he will show himself to be a faithful shepherd to his lambs, and will feed them in his usual manner.”

This is one object; but it was also the intention of the Prophet to repress the haughtiness of the nobles, who oppressed with unjust tyranny the godly and poor, and yet boasted that they were the Church of God. He reminds them, therefore, that it is an idle and false boasting, when they assume the designation of God’s flock; for they are goats, not lambs. Not only will God have it in his power to feed his flock, when the goats have been cut off, but it will never fare well with the lambs till they have been separated from the goats.

And the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat. There is a still greater diversity here among commentators; but I consider the true meaning to be, that the children of God, banished and treated as foreigners for a time, will regain their lost rights, and will then obtain those places which have been laid waste, or reduced to desolation by the fat ones, that is, by the proud and cruel men who had seized their property. For he calls the children of God strangers who would be exiles for a time, and by waste places, or forsaken places, he means those possessions which they had relinquished, and which others had seized. He refers to a custom well known and exceedingly common, which is, that if any one possess fields or houses, he keeps his hand, as it were, stretched over them, so that no one will venture to touch a clod; but if he forsake them they are seized. The people, therefore, had forsaken the possessions from which they had been expelled, so far as to despair of being ever able to regain them; so that they might justly be called forsaken places, with respect to themselves, and forsaken places of the fat ones, because they had been possessed by the mighty and powerful. We may, indeed, view the expression more simply as denoting forsaken fat places, but it is more probable that by the fat ones are meant tyrants.

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