The Song of the Vineyard*
1Now let me sing of my friend,
my beloved’s song about his vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside;
2He spaded it, cleared it of stones,
and planted the choicest vines;
Within it he built a watchtower,
and hewed out a wine press.
Then he waited for the crop of grapes,
but it yielded rotten grapes.a
3Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard:
4What more could be done for my vineyard
that I did not do?b
Why, when I waited for the crop of grapes,
did it yield rotten grapes?
5Now, I will let you know
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
Take away its hedge, give it to grazing,
break through its wall, let it be trampled!*
6Yes, I will make it a ruin:
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
but will be overgrown with thorns and briers;
I will command the clouds
not to rain upon it.
7The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
the people of Judah, his cherished plant;
He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed!
for justice, but hark, the outcry!*
Oracles of Reproach*
8* Ah! Those who join house to house,
who connect field with field,
Until no space remains, and you alone dwell
in the midst of the land!c
9In my hearing the LORD of hosts has sworn:d
Many houses shall be in ruins,
houses large and fine, with nobody living there.e
10Ten acres of vineyard
shall yield but one bath,*
And a homer of seed
shall yield but an ephah.
11* Ah! Those who rise early in the morning
in pursuit of strong drink,
inflamed by wine,
12Banqueting on wine with harp and lyre,
timbrel and flute,f
But the deed of the LORD they do not regard,
the work of his hands they do not see!g
13Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of understanding,h
Its nobles starving,
its masses parched with thirst.
14Therefore Sheol enlarges its throat
and opens its mouth beyond measure;i
Down into it go nobility and masses,
tumult and revelry.
15All shall be abased, each one brought low,
and the eyes of the haughty lowered,j
16But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted by judgment,
by justice the Holy God shown holy.k
17Lambs shall graze as at pasture,
young goats shall eat in the ruins of the rich.
18Ah! Those who tug at guilt with cords of perversity,
and at sin as if with cart ropes!
19* Who say, “Let him make haste,
let him speed his work, that we may see it;
On with the plan of the Holy One of Israel!
let it come to pass, that we may know it!”l
20Ah! Those who call evil good, and good evil,
who change darkness to light, and light into darkness,
who change bitter to sweet, and sweet into bitter!m
21Ah! Those who are wise in their own eyes,
prudent in their own view!n
22Ah! Those who are champions at drinking wine,
masters at mixing drink!
23Those who acquit the guilty for bribes,
and deprive the innocent of justice!o
24Therefore, as the tongue of fire licks up stubble,
as dry grass shrivels in the flame,
Their root shall rot
and their blossom scatter like dust;
For they have rejected the instruction of the LORD of hosts,
and scorned the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25* Therefore the wrath of the LORD blazes against his people,
he stretches out his hand to strike them;
The mountains quake,p
their corpses shall be like refuse in the streets.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
his hand is still outstretched.
26He will raise a signal to a far-off nation,
and whistle for it from the ends of the earth.q
Then speedily and promptly they will come.
27None among them is weary, none stumbles,
none will slumber, none will sleep.
None with waist belt loose,
none with sandal thong broken.
28Their arrows are sharp,
and all their bows are bent,
The hooves of their horses like flint,
and their chariot wheels like the whirlwind.
29They roar like the lion,
like young lions, they roar;
They growl and seize the prey,
they carry it off and none can rescue.
30They will growl over it, on that day,
like the growling of the sea,
Look to the land—
darkness closing in,
the light dark with clouds!r
* [5:1–7] Vineyard: although the term is sometimes used in an erotic context (Sg 1:6; 8:12), “vineyard” or “vine” is used more frequently as a metaphor for God’s people (27:2; Ps 80:9, 14, 15; Jer 2:21; 12:10; Ez 17:7; Hos 10:1; Na 2:2). The terms translated “friend” (yadid) and “beloved” (dod) suggest the Lord’s favor (Dt 33:12; 2 Sm 12:25; Ps 127:2) and familial background rather than introducing the piece as a “love song,” as is sometimes suggested. The prophet disguises the real theme (the people’s infidelity) so that the hearers will participate in the unfavorable judgment called for (vv. 3–4). Cf. the reversal of this parable in 27:2–6.
* [5:5–6] Trampled…thorns and briers: this judgment is echoed in the description of the devastated land in 7:23–25.
* [5:7] Judgment…bloodshed…justice…outcry: in Hebrew there is an impressive play on words: mishpat parallels mispah, sedaqah parallels se‘aqah. See also the threefold “waited for” in vv. 2, 4, 7.
* [5:8–24] These verses contain a series of short oracles introduced by the Hebrew particle hoy (“Ah!”), an emphatic exclamation, sometimes translated “Woe!”
* [5:8–10] An oracle against land-grabbers (v. 8); they will be impoverished instead of enriched (vv. 9–10).
* [5:10] Ten acres: a field with ten times the surface area a yoke of oxen could plow in one day. Bath: a liquid measure equal to about twelve gallons. Homer: a dry measure equal to what a donkey can carry, calculated to be about ten bushels. Ephah: a dry measure of about one bushel. So small a harvest is the fruit of the land-grabbers’ greed.
* [5:11–13] An oracle against debauchery and indifference. Strong drink: the Hebrew word shekar means either beer or a type of wine, perhaps date wine, not distilled liquor.
* [5:19] An indication that some, presumably of the ruling class, scoff at Isaiah’s teaching on the Lord’s “plan” and “work” (cf. v. 12; 14:26–27; 28:9–14; 30:10–11).
* [5:25–30] These verses do not suit their present context. Apparently v. 25 was originally the conclusion of the poem of 9:7–20 directed against the Northern Kingdom; cf. the refrain that occurs here and in 9:11, 16, and 20. Verses 26–30 look to an invasion by Assyria and might originally have come immediately after the poem of 9:1–20 plus 5:25. The insertion of chaps. 6–8 may have occasioned the dislocation, as well as that of 10:1–4a, which may have originally belonged with the “reproach” oracles of 5:8–23.
* [5:26–30] This oracle threatens a future judgment, an invasion of the Assyrian army, God’s instrument for punishing Judah (10:5, 15).
g. [5:12] Is 5:19; 10:12; 14:24–27; 19:12, 17; 23:9; 28:21; 30:1.
l. [5:19] Jer 17:15; 2 Pt 3:3–4.
n. [5:21] Prv 3:7; 26:12; Rom 11:25; 12:16.
p. [5:25] Am 1:1; Zec 14:5; cf. Is 9:18a.
q. [5:26] Is 7:18; 11:12; Jer 4:6; 50:2.