Isaiah introduces the conflict between Israel and their God while hinting at Israel’s ultimate future restoration in chapters 1-4.
In chapter 5 Isaiah addresses the present condition in Israel, Judah and Jerusalem by presenting a parable and asking the people for a verdict concerning the parable. At the end of the parable Isaiah reveals the meaning of the parable’s metaphors.
The opening phrase “my loved one had a vineyard” includes the Hebrew words yedid and dod (meaning “beloved”) along with a reference to a vineyard. These words in connection with a vineyard are reminiscent of the imagery in the Song of Solomon and in other ancient writings of a love and relationship.
The owner of the vineyard did all he could to prepare for a healthy and abundant harvest:
- Hillside = chose good soil with potential of fertility
- Dug it = plowed, removed weeds, loosened soil
- Cleared stones = prepared soil by clearing hindrances
- Planted choice vines = the best available vines were planted
- Winepress = while the crops grew a winepress was prepared to extract the rich juice that would become the wine
- Watchtower = A wall of protection and watchtower built out of the cleared stones would help keep wild animals out and provide a position of oversight to observe the vineyard
Despite all the work by the owner the crop of grapes were “bad” or “bitter” which is a word that comes from a Hebrew verb that means “to stink.”
After giving the people of Jerusalem and Judah his parable in 5:1-2, the Lord asks the people of Jerusalem and Judah a question through his prophet Jeremiah: Is this my fault? Should the owner blame himself? And, if so, what more could he have done? The answer to these rhetorical questions are no, no and nothing.
So, in Isaiah 5:3-4 the owner of the vineyard explains that he is going to overthrow his worthless vineyard and stop wasting his time.
Then in verses 5-6 Isaiah explains his parable to those too dull to understand:
- The owner is the Lord Almighty
- The vines in the vineyard is Israel, the people of Judah.
- The fruit he desired was justice and righteousness
- The stinking, bitter grapes that Jerusalem produced is bloodshed and oppression.
Things are not fine in Israel nor are things OK in Judah in Isaiah’s day!
(Jesus also told parables including owners and vineyards in Luke 13:6-8; Matthew 20:1-16 ;
Luke 20:9-19 and Mark 12:1-12. Things were not OK in Judah in Jesus' day, either!)