Israel [is] an empty vine
The people of Israel are often compared to a vine, and such an one from whence fruit might be expected, being planted in a good soil, and well taken care of; see ( Psalms 80:8 ) ( Isaiah 5:1-3 ) ( Jeremiah 2:21 ) ; but proved an "empty vine", empty of fruit; not of temporal good things, for a multitude of such fruit it is afterwards said to have; but of spiritual fruit, of the fruit of grace, and of good works, being destitute of the Spirit of God, and his grace; and, having no spiritual moisture, was incapable of bringing forth good fruit: or, "an emptying vine" F15; that casts its fruit before it is ripe; these people, what fruit they had, they made an ill use of it; even of their temporal good things; they emptied themselves of their wealth and riches, by sending presents, or paying tribute, to foreign princes for their alliance, friendship, and help; or by consuming it on their idols, and in their idolatrous worship. The Targum renders it,
``a spoiled vine F16;''spoiled by their enemies, who robbed them of their wealth and riches, and trampled them under foot. The Septuagint version, and those that follow that, understand it in a sense quite the reverse, rendering it, "a flourishing vine"; putting forth branches, leaves, and fruit; and which the learned Pocock confirms from the use of the word in the Arabic language: but then it follows, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself;
all the good works done by them were not to the praise and glory of God, as fruits of righteousness are, which come by Jesus Christ; but were done to be seen of men, and to gain their applause and esteem, and so were for themselves; and all their temporal good things they abounded with were not made use of in the service of God, and for the promoting of his glory, and of true religion among them; but either consumed on their own lusts, or in the service of idols: or, "the fruit is like unto himself" F17; as was the vine, so was its fruit: the vine was empty, and devoid of goodness, and so the fruit it produced. The Targum is,
``the fruit of their works was the cause of their being carried captive:''according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars:
as the Israelites increased in riches and wealth, their land bringing forth in great abundance, they erected the greater number of altars to their idols, and multiplied their sacrifices to them; this was the ill use they made of what fruit they did produce: according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images;
of richer metal, and more ornamented, and more of them, according to the plenty of good things, corn, and wine, and oil, their land produced; thus abusing the providential goodness of God to such vile purposes!
F15 (qqwb Npg) "vitis evacuans", Drusius, Rivetus, Schmidt; so Stockius, p. 149.
F16 So Calvin.
F17 (wl hwvy yrp) "fructum aequat sibi", Mercerus; "fracture facit similem sibi", Schmidt.