The state and conduct of the Jewish nation. (1-7) The judgments which would come. (8-23) The executioners of these judgments. (24-30)
Verses 1-7 Christ is God's beloved Son, and our beloved Saviour. The care of the Lord over the church of Israel, is described by the management of a vineyard. The advantages of our situation will be brought into the account another day. He planted it with the choicest vines; gave them a most excellent law, instituted proper ordinances. The temple was a tower, where God gave tokens of his presence. He set up his altar, to which the sacrifices should be brought; all the means of grace are denoted thereby. God expects fruit from those that enjoy privileges. Good purposes and good beginnings are good things, but not enough; there must be vineyard fruit; thoughts and affections, words and actions, agreeable to the Spirit. It brought forth bad fruit. Wild grapes are the fruits of the corrupt nature. Where grace does not work, corruption will. But the wickedness of those that profess religion, and enjoy the means of grace, must be upon the sinners themselves. They shall no longer be a peculiar people. When errors and vice go without check or control, the vineyard is unpruned; then it will soon be grown over with thorns. This is often shown in the departure of God's Spirit from those who have long striven against him, and the removal of his gospel from places which have long been a reproach to it. The explanation is given. It is sad with a soul, when, instead of the grapes of humility, meekness, love, patience, and contempt of the world, for which God looks, there are the wild grapes of pride, passion, discontent, and malice, and contempt of God; instead of the grapes of praying and praising, the wild grapes of cursing and swearing. Let us bring forth fruit with patience, that in the end we may obtain everlasting life.
Verses 8-23 Here is a woe to those who set their hearts on the wealth of the world. Not that it is sinful for those who have a house and a field to purchase another; but the fault is, that they never know when they have enough. Covetousness is idolatry; and while many envy the prosperous, wretched man, the Lord denounces awful woes upon him. How applicable to many among us! God has many ways to empty the most populous cities. Those who set their hearts upon the world, will justly be disappointed. Here is woe to those who dote upon the pleasures and the delights of sense. The use of music is lawful; but when it draws away the heart from God, then it becomes a sin to us. God's judgments have seized them, but they will not disturb themselves in their pleasures. The judgments are declared. Let a man be ever so high, death will bring him low; ever so mean, death will bring him lower. The fruit of these judgments shall be, that God will be glorified as a God of power. Also, as a God that is holy; he shall be owned and declared to be so, in the righteous punishment of proud men. Those are in a woful condition who set up sin, and who exert themselves to gratify their base lusts. They are daring in sin, and walk after their own lusts; it is in scorn that they call God the Holy One of Israel. They confound and overthrow distinctions between good and evil. They prefer their own reasonings to Divine revelations; their own devices to the counsels and commands of God. They deem it prudent and politic to continue profitable sins, and to neglect self-denying duties. Also, how light soever men make of drunkenness, it is a sin which lays open to the wrath and curse of God. Their judges perverted justice. Every sin needs some other to conceal it.
Verses 24-30 Let not any expect to live easily who live wickedly. Sin weakens the strength, the root of a people; it defaces the beauty, the blossoms of a people. When God's word is despised, and his law cast away, what can men expect but that God should utterly abandon them? When God comes forth in wrath, the hills tremble, fear seizes even great men. When God designs the ruin of a provoking people, he can find instruments to be employed in it, as he sent for the Chaldeans, and afterwards the Romans, to destroy the Jews. Those who would not hear the voice of God speaking by his prophets, shall hear the voice of their enemies roaring against them. Let the distressed look which way they will, all appears dismal. If God frowns upon us, how can any creature smile? Let us diligently seek the well-grounded assurance, that when all earthly helps and comforts shall fail, God himself will be the strength of our hearts, and our portion for ever.
Isaiah 5:1-30 . PARABLE OF JEHOVAH'S VINEYARD.
A new prophecy; entire in itself. Probably delivered about the same time as the second and third chapters, in Uzziah's reign. Compare Isaiah 5:15 Isaiah 5:16 with Isaiah 2:17 ; Isaiah 5:1 with Isaiah 3:14 . However, the close of the chapter alludes generally to the still distant invasion of Assyrians in a later reign (compare Isaiah 5:26 with Isaiah 7:18 ; Isaiah 5:25 with Isaiah 9:12 ). When the time drew nigh, according to the ordinary prophetic usage, he handles the details more particularly (Isaiah 7:1-8:22'); namely, the calamities caused by the Syro-Israelitish invasion, and subsequently by the Assyrians whom Ahaz had invited to his help.
1. to--rather, "concerning" [GESENIUS], that is, in the person of My beloved, as His representative [VITRINGA]. Isaiah gives a hint of the distinction and yet unity of the Divine Persons (compare He with I, Isaiah 5:2 Isaiah 5:3 ).
of my beloved--inspired by Him; or else, a tender song [CASTALIO]. By a slight change of reading "a song of His love" [HOUBIGANT]. "The Beloved" is Jehovah, the Second Person, the "Angel" of God the Father, not in His character as incarnate Messiah, but as God of the Jews ( Exodus 23:20 Exodus 23:21 , 32:34 , 33:14 ).
vineyard--( Isaiah 3:14 , Psalms 80:8 , &c.). The Jewish covenant-people, separated from the nations for His glory, as the object of His peculiar care ( Matthew 20:1 , 21:33 ). Jesus Christ in the "vineyard" of the New Testament Church is the same as the Old Testament Angel of the Jewish covenant.
fruitful hill--literally, "a horn" ("peak," as the Swiss shreckhorn) of the son of oil; poetically, for very fruitful. Suggestive of isolation, security, and a sunny aspect. Isaiah alludes plainly to the Song of Solomon ( Solomon 6:3 , Song of Solomon 8:11 Song of Solomon 8:12 ), in the words "His vineyard" and "my Beloved" (compare Isaiah 26:20 , 61:10 , with Solomon 1:4 , 4:10 ). The transition from "branch" ( Isaiah 4:2 ) to "vineyard" here is not unnatural.
2. fenced--rather, "digged and trenched" the ground to prepare it for planting the vines [MAURER].
choicest vine--Hebrew, sorek; called still in Morocco, serki; the grapes had scarcely perceptible seeds; the Persian kishmish or bedaria, that is, "without seed" ( Genesis 49:11 ).
tower--to watch the vineyard against the depredations of man or beast, and for the use of the owner ( Matthew 21:33 ).
wine-press--including the wine-fat; both hewn, for coolness, out of the rocky undersoil of the vineyard.
wild grapes--The Hebrew expresses offensive putrefaction, answering to the corrupt state of the Jews. Fetid fruit of the wild vine [MAURER], instead of "choicest" grapes. Of the poisonous monk's hood [GESENIUS]. The Arabs call the fruit of the nightshade "wolf grapes" ( Deuteronomy 32:32 Deuteronomy 32:33 , 2 Kings 4:39-41 ). JEROME tries to specify the details of the parable; the "fence," angels; the "stones gathered out," idols; the "tower," the "temple in the midst" of Judea; the "wine-press," the altar.
3. And now, &c.--appeal of God to themselves, as in Isaiah 1:18 , Micah 6:3 . So Jesus Christ, in Matthew 21:40 Matthew 21:41 , alluding in the very form of expression to this, makes them pass sentence on themselves. God condemns sinners "out of their own mouth" ( Deuteronomy 32:6 , Job 15:6 , Luke 19:22 , Romans 3:4 ).
4. God has done all that could be done for the salvation of sinners, consistently with His justice and goodness. The God of nature is, as it were, amazed at the unnatural fruit of so well-cared a vineyard.
5. go to--that is, attend to me.
hedge . . . wall--It had both; a proof of the care of the owner. But now it shall be trodden down by wild beasts (enemies) ( Psalms 80:12 Psalms 80:13 ).
6. I will . . . command--The parable is partly dropped and Jehovah, as in Isaiah 5:7 , is implied to be the Owner: for He alone, not an ordinary husbandman ( Matthew 21:43 , Luke 17:22 ), could give such a "command."
no rain--antitypically, the heaven-sent teachings of the prophets ( Amos 8:11 ). Not accomplished in the Babylonish captivity; for Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah prophesied during or after it. But in gospel times.
7. Isaiah here applies the parable. It is no mere human owner, nor a literal vineyard that is meant.
vineyard of the Lord--His only one ( Exodus 19:5 , Amos 3:2 ).
pleasant--"the plant of his delight"; just as the husbandman was at pains to select the sorek, or "choicest vine" ( Isaiah 5:2 ); so God's election of the Jews.
judgment--justice. The play upon words is striking in the Hebrew, He looked for mishpat, but behold mispat ("bloodshed"); for tsedaqua, but behold tseaqua (the cry that attends anarchy, covetousness, and dissipation, Isaiah 5:8 Isaiah 5:11 Isaiah 5:12 ; compare the cry of the rabble by which justice was overborne in the case of Jesus Christ, Matthew 27:23 Matthew 27:24 ).
Isaiah 5:8-23 . SIX DISTINCT WOES AGAINST CRIMES.
8. ( Leviticus 25:13 , Micah 2:2 ). The jubilee restoration of possessions was intended as a guard against avarice.
till there be no place--left for any one else.
that they may be--rather, and ye be.
the earth--the land.
9. In mine ears . . . the Lord--namely, has revealed it, as in Isaiah 22:14 .
desolate--literally, "a desolation," namely, on account of the national sins.
great and fair--houses.
10. acres--literally, "yokes"; as much as one yoke of oxen could plow in a day.
bath--of wine; seven and a half gallons.
homer . . . ephah--Eight bushels of seed would yield only three pecks of produce ( Ezekiel 45:11 ). The ephah and bath, one-tenth of an homer.
11. Second Woe--against intemperance.
early--when it was regarded especially shameful to drink ( Acts 2:15 , 1 Thessalonians 5:7 ). Banquets for revelry began earlier than usual ( Ecclesiastes 10:16 Ecclesiastes 10:17 ).
strong drink--Hebrew, sichar, implying intoxication.
continue--drinking all day till evening.
12. Music was common at ancient feasts ( Isaiah 24:8 Isaiah 24:9 , Amos 6:5 Amos 6:6 ).
viol--an instrument with twelve strings [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 8.10].
tabret--Hebrew, toph, from the use of which in drowning the cries of children sacrificed to Moloch, Tophet received its name. Arabic, duf. A kettle drum, or tambourine.
pipe--flute or flageolet: from a Hebrew root "to bore through"; or else, "to dance" (compare Job 21:11-15 ).
regard not . . . Lord--a frequent effect of feasting ( Job 1:5 , Psalms 28:5 ).
work . . . operation--in punishing the guilty ( Isaiah 5:19 , Isaiah 10:12 ).
13. are gone--The prophet sees the future as if it were before his eyes.
no knowledge--because of their foolish recklessness ( Isaiah 5:12 , Isaiah 1:3 , Hosea 4:6 , Luke 19:44 ).
famished--awful contrast to their luxurious feasts ( Isaiah 5:11 Isaiah 5:12 ).
multitude--plebeians in contradistinction to the "honorable men," or nobles.
thirst--( Psalms 107:4 Psalms 107:5 ). Contrast to their drinking ( Isaiah 5:11 ). In their deportation and exile, they shall hunger and thirst.
14. hell--the grave; Hebrew, sheol; Greek, hades; "the unseen world of spirits." Not here, "the place of torment." Poetically, it is represented as enlarging itself immensely, in order to receive the countless hosts of Jews, which should perish ( Numbers 16:30 ).
their--that is, of the Jewish people.
he that rejoiceth--the drunken reveIler in Jerusalem.
15. (Compare Isaiah 2:9 Isaiah 2:11 Isaiah 2:17 ). All ranks, "mean" and "mighty" alike; so "honorable" and "multitude" ( Isaiah 5:13 ).
16. God shall be "exalted" in man's view, because of His manifestation of His "justice" in punishing the guilty.
sanctified--regarded as holy by reason of His "righteous" dealings.
17. after their manner--literally, "according to their own word," that is, at will. Otherwise, as in their own pasture [GESENIUS]: so the Hebrew in Micah 2:12 . The lands of the Scenite tent dwellers ( Jeremiah 35:7 ). Arab shepherds in the neighborhood shall roam at large, the whole of Judea being so desolate as to become a vast pasturage.
waste . . . fat ones--the deserted lands of the rich ("fat," Psalms 22:29 ), then gone into captivity; "strangers," that is, nomad tribes shall make their flocks to feed on [MAURER]. Figuratively, "the lambs" are the pious, "the fat ones" the impious. So tender disciples of Jesus Christ ( John 21:15 ) are called "lambs"; being meek, harmless, poor, and persecuted. Compare Ezekiel 39:18 , where the fatlings are the rich and great ( 1 Corinthians 1:26 1 Corinthians 1:27 ). The "strangers" are in this view the "other sheep not of the" the Jewish "fold" ( John 10:16 ), the Gentiles whom Jesus Christ shall "bring" to be partakers of the rich privileges ( Romans 11:17 ) fell from. Thus "after their (own) manner" will express that the Christian Church should worship God in freedom, released from legal bondage ( John 4:23 , Galatians 5:1 ).
18. Third Woe--against obstinate perseverance in sin, as if they wished to provoke divine judgments.
iniquity--guilt, incurring punishment [MAURER].
cords, &c.--cart-rope--Rabbins say, "An evil inclination is at first like a fine hair-string, but the finishing like a cart-rope." The antithesis is between the slender cords of sophistry, like the spider's web ( Isaiah 59:5 , Job 8:14 ), with which one sin draws on another, until they at last bind themselves with great guilt as with a cart-rope. They strain every nerve in sin.
sin--substantive, not a verb: they draw on themselves "sin" and its penalty recklessly.
19. work--vengeance ( Isaiah 5:12 ). Language of defiance to God. So Lamech's boast of impunity ( Genesis 4:23 Genesis 4:24 ; compare Jeremiah 17:15 , 2 Peter 3:3 2 Peter 3:4 ).
counsel--God's threatened purpose to punish.
20. Fourth Woe--against those who confound the distinctions of right and wrong (compare Romans 1:28 ), "reprobate," Greek, "undiscriminating: the moral perception darkened."
bitter . . . sweet--sin is bitter ( Jeremiah 2:19 , 4:18 , Acts 8:23 , Hebrews 12:15 ); though it seem sweet for a time ( Proverbs 9:17 Proverbs 9:18 ). Religion is sweet ( Psalms 119:103 ).
21. Fifth Woe--against those who were so "wise in their own eyes" as to think they knew better than the prophet, and therefore rejected his warnings ( Isaiah 29:14 Isaiah 29:15 ).
22, 23. Sixth Woe--against corrupt judges, who, "mighty" in drinking "wine" (a boast still not uncommon), if not in defending their country, obtain the means of self-indulgence by taking bribes ("reward"). The two verses are closely joined [MAURER].
mingle strong drink--not with water, but spices to make it intoxicating ( Proverbs 9:2 Proverbs 9:5 , Solomon 8:2 ).
take away the righteousness--set aside the just claims of those having a righteous cause.
24. Literally, "tongue of fire eateth" ( Acts 2:3 ).
flame consumeth the chaff--rather, withered grass falleth before the flame ( Matthew 3:12 ).
root . . . blossom--entire decay, both the hidden source and outward manifestations of prosperity, perishing ( Job 18:16 , Malachi 4:1 ).
cast away . . . law--in its spirit, while retaining the letter.
25. anger . . . kindled--( 2 Kings 22:13 2 Kings 22:17 ).
hills . . . tremble--This probably fixes the date of this chapter, as it refers to the earthquake in the days of Uzziah ( Amos 1:1 , Zechariah 14:5 ). The earth trembled as if conscious of the presence of God ( Jeremiah 4:24 , Habakkuk 3:6 ).
torn--rather, were as dung ( Psalms 83:10 ).
For all this, &c.--This burden of the prophet's strains, with dirge-like monotony, is repeated at Isaiah 9:12 Isaiah 9:17 Isaiah 9:21 , 10:4 . With all the past calamities, still heavier judgments are impending; which he specifies in the rest of the chapter ( Leviticus 26:14 , &c.).
26. lift . . . ensign--to call together the hostile nations to execute His judgments on Judea ( Isaiah 10:5-7 , 45:1 ). But for mercy to it, in Isaiah 11:12 , 18:3 .
hiss--(compare 7:18). Bees were drawn out of their hives by the sound of a flute, or hissing, or whistling ( Zechariah 10:8 ). God will collect the nations round Judea like bees ( Deuteronomy 1:44 , Psalms 118:12 ).
end of the earth--the widely distant subject races of which the Assyrian army was made up ( Isaiah 22:6 ). The ulterior fulfilment took place in the siege under Roman Titus. Compare "end of the earth" ( Deuteronomy 28:49 , &c.). So the pronoun is singular in the Hebrew, for "them," "their," "whose" (him, his, &c.), Isaiah 5:26-29 ; referring to some particular nation and person [HORSLEY].
27. weary--with long marches ( Deuteronomy 25:18 ).
none . . . slumber--requiring no rest.
girdle--with which the ancient loose robes used to be girded for action. Ever ready for march or battle.
nor the latchet . . . broken--The soles were attached to the feet, not by upper leather as with us, but by straps. So securely clad that not even a strap of their sandals gives way, so as to impede their march.
28. bent--ready for battle.
hoofs . . . flint--The ancients did not shoe their horses: hence the value of hard hoofs for long marches.
wheels--of their chariots. The Assyrian army abounded in cavalry and chariots ( Isaiah 22:6 Isaiah 22:7 , 36:8 ).
29. roaring--their battle cry.
30. sorrow, and the light is darkened--Otherwise, distress and light (that is, hope and fear) alternately succeed (as usually occurs in an unsettled state of things), and darkness arises in, &c. [MAURER].
heavens--literally "clouds," that is, its sky is rather "clouds" than sky. Otherwise from a different Hebrew root, "in its destruction" or ruins. HORSLEY takes "sea . . . look unto the land" as a new image taken from mariners in a coasting vessel (such as all ancient vessels were), looking for the nearest land, which the darkness of the storm conceals, so that darkness and distress alone may be said to be visible.