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Isaiah: Chapter 5

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Text view alone


Let me sing for my beloved my love‐song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 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. 4 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. 6 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 LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry! 8 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! 9 The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing: Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. 10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield a mere ephah. a Compare Gk:Meaning of Heb uncertain


Ah, you who rise early in the morning in pursuit of strong drink, who linger in the evening to be inflamed by wine, 12 whose feasts consist of lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine, but who do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands! 13 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 b Q Ms: MT lacks shame and her multitude go down, her throng and all who exult in her. 15 People are bowed down, everyone is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled. 16 But the LORD of hosts is exalted by justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness. 17 Then the lambs shall graze as in their pasture, fatlings and kids c The Heb bath, homer, and ephah are measures of quantity shall feed among the ruins.


Ah, you who drag iniquity along with cords of falsehood, who drag sin along as with cart ropes, 19 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!” 20 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! 21 Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes, and shrewd in your own sight! 22 Ah, you who are heroes in drinking wine and valiant at mixing drink, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of their rights! 24 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 LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.


Therefore the anger of the LORD 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! 27 None of them is weary, none stumbles, none slumbers or sleeps, not a loincloth is loose, not a sandal‐thong broken; 28 their arrows are sharp, all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs seem like flint, and their wheels like the whirlwind. 29 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. 30 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.


d Compare Gk:Meaning of Heb uncertain

a Q Ms: MT lacks shame

a The Heb bath, homer, and ephah are measures of quantity

Text Commentary view alone

5.1–7 : The love song about the vineyard.

The prophet composes and sings the song for his friend, identified in v. 7 as the LORD. The genre of the love song is used as a parable with an explanation (cf. 2 Sam 12.1–14 ) and also a poeticized form of judgment saying with indictment (vv. 1–4 ) and verdict (vv. 5–6 ). Vineyard can serve as a metaphor for lover in Ugaritic and biblical poetry (Song 1.6,14; 2.15; 4.12,16; 8.11–12 ). The vineyard is identified in v. 7 as Israel (cf. 1.8; 3.14; 27.2–6 ); a closely related metaphor is Israel as the vine (Ps 80.8–16; Jer 2.21; Hos 10.1 ).

5–6 :

The verdict reflects a type of treaty and covenant curse (see also 5.10; 65.21; cf. Deut 28.30,39; Am 5.11 ). The curse on the vineyard will be reversed in 27.2–6 .

6 :

Briers and thorns, a frequently occurring motif in Isaiah, connoting infertility of the land, ecological degradation, with a moral dimension ( 7.23–25; 9.18; 10.17; 27.2–5; 32.12–13 ).

7 :

In Hebrew there is a double word play: “mishpat” (justice) and “mishpah” (bloodshed), and “tsedaqah” (righteousness) and “tse\aqah” (a cry).

5.8–24 : Seven woes.

A series of seven short poems ( 5.8–10, 11–17, 18–19, 20, 21, 22–24; 10.1–4 ), each beginning with “Woe” (here translated Ah). Some commentators hold that 10.1–4 has fallen out of the lead position in the series and has been attached to the poem on divine anger. “Woe” sayings are often presented in a series (e.g., Am 5.18–6.8; Hab 2.6–19 ).

8–10 :

The first saying targets the ruling class, whose policies undermine the livelihood of the subsistence farmer by enclosing or confiscating patrimonial land, leading to the formation of large estates. This is a frequent concern of eighth‐century BCE prophecy (e.g., Mic 2.1–2; cf. 1 Kings 21 ).

10 :

Bath, a liquid measure of approximately 6 gal; homer, a donkey‐load, about 6.5 bu; ephah, one tenth of a homer (Ezek 45.11 ).

11–17 :

This second poem has been greatly expanded.

11 :

Addiction to strong drink is frequently denounced in the prophets (Isa 28.7–8; Hos 4.11; 7.5; Am 4.1; Mic 2.11 ) and wisdom literature (Prov 21.17; 23.19–21,29–35 ).

12 :

While not in itself reprehensible, musical entertainment is denounced as an aspect of effete urban living (cf. Am 6.1,4–7 ). The deeds, work or plan and agenda of God is a central motif in Isaiah ( 5.19; 10.12; 14.24–27; 19.12,17; 23.9; 28.21; 30.1 ).

14–17 :

An addition to the “Woe” saying, perhaps a fragment of a judgment saying against Jerusalem.

14 :

A fuller description of Sheol, the underworld, will appear in 14.4–20 .

15–16 :

Cf. 2.9,11,17 .

17 :

A common motif in Isaiah: The city goes back to nature ( 13.19–22; 34.8–17 ).

18–19 :

Bearing the burden of sin is represented vividly as dragging along a large and recalcitrant animal; cf. the opposite image in Hos 11.4.

19 :

In Isaiah the opposition is often quoted. The sarcastic rejoinder of those addressed by the prophet appears to quote the prophet's own terms back to him.

20 :

This fourth saying condemns the moral sophistry of the opposition.

21 :

Their wisdom, based on education in the wisdom tradition of Israel, is counterfeit (cf. Jer 8.8–9 ).

22–24 :

The self‐indulgent leadership is guilty of the worst crime, perverting the judicial system by accepting bribes ( 1.23; Mic 3.11; cf. Ex 23.8; Deut 16.19 ). Judgment, under the metaphor of fire, will follow rejection of the moral guidance provided by divine instruction (Heb “torah”) and the prophetic word.

5.25 : A displaced stanza.

This stanza of the poem about divine anger, identified by the refrain for all this his anger has not turned away …, should probably follow 9.8–10.4 . It provides the clearest allusion to earthquake, perhaps the earthquake mentioned in Am 1.2 and Zech 14.5 during the reigns of Uzziah and Jeroboam II, also attested in the archaeological record at Hazor and elsewhere. Assyrian records attest to a major earthquake on June 15, 763 BCE.

5.26–30 : The threat of a double blow:

earthquake followed by military assault; cf. 9.18–10.4 and Am 9.1–4 .

26 :

The God of Israel summons Assyria to punish Israel; cf. 7.18–20; 8.7; 10.5–6 . A precise itinerary is given in 10.27b–32 , probably referring to the campaign of Sennacherib in 701 BCE. A signal, for assembling troops (Jer 6.1 ).

29 :

Their roaring is like a lion, references to lions are common in Isaiah, perhaps dependent in part on Amos (Am 1.2; 3.4,8; 5.19 ). Palestine continued to be a habitat for lions down to the Middle Ages.

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