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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Isaiah 5

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The Book of the Prophet Isaiah

Commentary by A. R. FAUSSET

CHAPTER 5

Isa 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 Isa 5:15, 16; Isa 5:1. However, the close of the chapter alludes generally to the still distant invasion of Assyrians in a later reign (compare Isa 5:26; Isa 5:25 ). When the time drew nigh, according to the ordinary prophetic usage, he handles the details more particularly ( Isa 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, Isa 5:2, 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 ( Exd 23:20, 21 32:34 33:14 ).
      vineyard-- ( Isa 3:14 Psa 80:8, &c.). The Jewish covenant-people, separated from the nations for His glory, as the object of His peculiar care ( Mat 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 ( Sgs 6:3 8:11, 12 ), in the words "His vineyard" and "my Beloved" (compare Isa 26:20 61:10, with Sgs 1:4 4:10 ). The transition from "branch" ( Isa 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" ( Gen 49:11 ).
      tower--to watch the vineyard against the depredations of man or beast, and for the use of the owner ( Mat 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" ( Deu 32:32, 33 2Ki 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 Isa 1:18 Mic 6:3. So Jesus Christ, in Mat 21:40, 41, alluding in the very form of expression to this, makes them pass sentence on themselves. God condemns sinners "out of their own mouth" ( Deu 32:6 Job 15:6 Luk 19:22 Rom 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) ( Psa 80:12, 13 ).

      6. I will. . . command--The parable is partly dropped and Jehovah, as in Isa 5:7, is implied to be the Owner: for He alone, not an ordinary husbandman ( Mat 21:43 Luk 17:22 ), could give such a "command."
      no rain--antitypically, the heaven-sent teachings of the prophets ( Amo 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 ( Exd 19:5 Amo 3:2 ).
      pleasant--"the plant of his delight"; just as the husbandman was at pains to select the sorek, or "choicest vine" ( Isa 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, Isa 5:8, 11, 12; compare the cry of the rabble by which justice was overborne in the case of Jesus Christ, Mat 27:23, 24 ).

      Isa 5:8-23. SIX DISTINCT WOES AGAINST CRIMES.

      8. ( Lev 25:13 Mic 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 Isa 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.
      one--only.
      bath--of wine; seven and a half gallons.
      homer. . . ephah--Eight bushels of seed would yield only three pecks of produce ( Eze 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 ( Act 2:15 1Th 5:7 ). Banquets for revelry began earlier than usual ( Ecc 10:16, 17 ).
      strong drink--Hebrew, sichar, implying intoxication.
      continue--drinking all day till evening.

      12. Music was common at ancient feasts ( Isa 24:8, 9 Amo 6:5, 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 Psa 28:5 ).
      work. . . operation--in punishing the guilty ( Isa 5:19 Isa 10:12 ).

      13. are gone--The prophet sees the future as if it were before his eyes.
      no knowledge--because of their foolish recklessness ( Isa 5:12 Isa 1:3 Hsa 4:6 Luk 19:44 ).
      famished--awful contrast to their luxurious feasts ( Isa 5:11, 12 ).
      multitude--plebeians in contradistinction to the "honorable men," or nobles.
      thirst-- ( Psa 107:4, 5 ). Contrast to their drinking ( Isa 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 ( Num 16:30 ).
      their--that is, of the Jewish people.
      he that rejoiceth--the drunken reveIler in Jerusalem.

      15. (Compare Isa 2:9, 11, 17 ). All ranks, "mean" and "mighty" alike; so "honorable" and "multitude" ( Isa 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 Mic 2:12. The lands of the Scenite tent dwellers ( Jer 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," Psa 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 ( Jhn 21:15 ) are called "lambs"; being meek, harmless, poor, and persecuted. Compare Eze 39:18, where the fatlings are the rich and great ( 1Cr 1:26, 27 ). The "strangers" are in this view the "other sheep not of the" the Jewish "fold" ( Jhn 10:16 ), the Gentiles whom Jesus Christ shall "bring" to be partakers of the rich privileges ( Rom 11:17 ) fell from. Thus "after their (own) manner" will express that the Christian Church should worship God in freedom, released from legal bondage ( Jhn 4:23 Gal 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 ( Isa 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.
      vanity--wickedness.
      sin--substantive, not a verb: they draw on themselves "sin" and its penalty recklessly.

      19. work--vengeance ( Isa 5:12 ). Language of defiance to God. So Lamech's boast of impunity ( Gen 4:23, 24; compare Jer 17:15 2Pe 3:3, 4 ).
      counsel--God's threatened purpose to punish.

      20. Fourth Woe--against those who confound the distinctions of right and wrong (compare Rom 1:28 ), "reprobate," Greek, "undiscriminating: the moral perception darkened."
      bitter. . . sweet--sin is bitter ( Jer 2:19 4:18 Act 8:23 Hbr 12:15 ); though it seem sweet for a time ( Pro 9:17, 18 ). Religion is sweet ( Psa 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 ( Isa 29:14, 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 ( Pro 9:2, 5 Sgs 8:2 ).
      take away the righteousness--set aside the just claims of those having a righteous cause.

      24. Literally, "tongue of fire eateth" ( Act 2:3 ).
      flame consumeth the chaff--rather, withered grass falleth before the flame ( Mat 3:12 ).
      root. . . blossom--entire decay, both the hidden source and outward manifestations of prosperity, perishing ( Job 18:16 Mal 4:1 ).
      cast away. . . law--in its spirit, while retaining the letter.

      25. anger. . . kindled-- ( 2Ki 22:13, 17 ).
      hills. . . tremble--This probably fixes the date of this chapter, as it refers to the earthquake in the days of Uzziah ( Amo 1:1 Zec 14:5 ). The earth trembled as if conscious of the presence of God ( Jer 4:24 Hab 3:6 ).
      torn--rather, were as dung ( Psa 83:10 ).
      For all this, &c.--This burden of the prophet's strains, with dirge-like monotony, is repeated at Isa 9:12, 17, 21 10:4. With all the past calamities, still heavier judgments are impending; which he specifies in the rest of the chapter ( Lev 26:14, &c.).

      26. lift. . . ensign--to call together the hostile nations to execute His judgments on Judea ( Isa 10:5-7 45:1 ). But for mercy to it, in Isa 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 ( Zec 10:8 ). God will collect the nations round Judea like bees ( Deu 1:44 Psa 118:12 ).
      end of the earth--the widely distant subject races of which the Assyrian army was made up ( Isa 22:6 ). The ulterior fulfilment took place in the siege under Roman Titus. Compare "end of the earth" ( Deu 28:49, &c.). So the pronoun is singular in the Hebrew, for "them," "their," "whose" (him, his, &c.), Isa 5:26-29; referring to some particular nation and person [HORSLEY].

      27. weary--with long marches ( Deu 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 ( Isa 22:6, 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.

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