OT Encounters: Good Versus Wild Grapes

By Jeff Pulse –

The Old Testament text for this Sunday, October 8, 2017, comes from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 5:1-7. The first thing to discuss is the location of this text. Exegetes have long pondered why these first five chapters of Isaiah are placed BEFORE the call/sending of Isaiah in chapter 6. Basically, the challenge is to address the issue of prophecies, such as our text, coming before the prophet is appointed. How does that work? Apart from the usual higher-critical mumble jumble that some redactor was prowling around the text, there are some other possibilities. My personal preference is that Isaiah uses these five chapters to set the stage for the reader/hearer. These chapters let us know clearly the climate into which Isaiah is called and why the LORD God uses such strong language when He gives Isaiah his prophesying/preaching orders. Another way to talk about it is that Isaiah is bringing the people (readers/hearers) into the story. Now, they are part of the drama as God has made His case for Isaiah’s job description. And what a case; what a mess!

5:1 liydiydiy –for my beloved

   Dodiy—beloved “Let me sing for my beloved a song (for) my beloved concerning his vineyard.”

      Lekarmo—concerning his vineyard—root: kerem

5:2 wayazeqhu—root: azaq—piel form but difficult to translate. Most go with; “to dig; dig about; hoe”

       Saqal—another piel: “to clear of stones”

       Nata—qal form: “to plant”

      Soreq—a species of grapes; specifically red and highly prized. Thus, “choice vines.”

       Wayiven migdal—“and he built a tower”

       Yeqev hcatsev—“a wine vat he hewed out/dug out.”

This imagery is very common to Scripture and is very beautiful. The Beloved is Christ/LORD, and He has done everything to establish His vineyard (the chosen people) and protect them as His people. Following the imagery of the rest of Scripture, the very fertile hill is the Promised Land—perhaps even Jerusalem and Mt Zion. The Beloved even planted the best, choicest vines, and instead of grapes, it yields wild grapes—rebellion, unfaithfulness, idolatry, apathy, etc. Now what?

5:3 shiphtu-na  –“Please judge”

5:4 qiwiythiy—root: qawah—piel: “hope; wait; eagerly await”

The LORD God makes argument for what He is about to do. What choice does He have?

5:5 mesukatho—“hedge of thorns.” This is planted around the vineyards to protect the vines from wild animals.

       Levaer—root: vaar—piel: “to graze over, consume (also used for consuming with fire)

     Parots—“to break down; break through.” The wall kept out animals and other enemies.

5:6 shayath—“to make something”

       Bathah—“devastation; waste”

       Yizamer—root: zamar—niphal: “to be pruned”

       Adar—niphal: “to be hoed”

       Mehamtir—root: matar—hiphil: “to let rain fall; send rain”

“I will cause /command the clouds not to rain rain upon it.”

The Beloved will remove His protection from His people and they will be conquered/overrun by the enemy, and there will be no life-giving relief (rain) coming.

The last verse (7) has an interesting play on words. The word for bloodshed sounds like the word for justice, and the word for crying out/outcry sounds like the word for righteous. So close—like good grapes versus wild grapes.

These are sobering words, and they are followed by a set of woes. They aren’t very encouraging, unless, of course, you see that God calls/sends His prophet Isaiah into this terrible wasteland in chapter 6. Even that job description sounds depressing, until the last verse, 6:13: “The Holy Seed is in the stump.” The LORD is not yet finished with His vineyard.