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Isaiah 5:1 Let me sing for my well beloved a song of my beloved about His vineyard- This could be Isaiah's own inspired song, sung to God, summing up how he perceived things. And it is commented upon by God in :3, when the pronouns change and God speaks. But the "well beloved" is consistently Israel (Dt. 33:12; Ps. 127:2; Jer. 11:15; 12:7). Isaiah was perhaps singing this song to Israel, to get them to see their potential, to see themselves from outside of themselves. We need to look at our position before God likewise; for the message of the song is that actually, God has done everything to give us an optimal environment for spiritual fruitfulness. And yet we of course struggle to believe that, preferring to believe that if only we had a different career, home, domestic situation... we would be more fruitful. But God wants our fruitfulness; and He gives us the optimal environment for that.

My beloved had a vineyard on a very fruitful hill- This may follow on from the allusions to the vineyard noted on Is. 4:6, the previous verse. The vineyard was able to bring forth spiritual fruit- Zion is described as a fruitful hill. "Fruitful hill" is a Hebrew phrase also translated "horn of oil". There is the hint that a Messiah / anointed figure could be connected with this vineyard.

Isaiah 5:2 He dug it up-
LXX "fenced it".

Gathered out its stones, planted it with the choicest vine, built a tower in its midst, and also cut out a wine press therein- As noted on :1, God has done everything to give us an optimal environment for spiritual fruitfulness, as He did to Judah at this time. For God wants our fruitfulness; and He gives us the optimal environment for that. Yet the vineyard of Judah was destroyed because they refused to be fruitful, and the Lord's parable of the vineyard clearly alludes to this. And the vineyard has now been given to a new Israel, for whom likewise everything has been done to make it fruitful. The gathering out of the stones means that the land was "good soil", "very fruitful" (:1). The parable of the sower alludes here- and the message is that we are all potentially the good ground. The watchtower and fence meant that it ought not to have been spoilt by others- the fact the vineyard was about to be overrun meant that Judah had removed these things.

This was the situation at Isaiah's time; but God tried again at the restoration, gathering out the stones again (Is. 60:10). But again, Judah didn't respond. And so as the Lord's parable explains, the vineyard was given to others.

He looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes- God acts as if surprised and bitterly disappointed, with so much work apparently in vain. The hewing out the winefat (Mk. 12:1) reflects His confident hope that fruit would be brought forth. He enters fully into our time-space limitations, so that He can legitimately express feelings of disappointment. This helps us understand the eagerness with which He looks to our spiritual response and growth. See on Jer. 2:21.

Isaiah 5:3 Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, please judge between Me and My vineyard-
Note the change of pronouns; see on :1. They were asked to see themselves from outside themselves, and to understand that their lack of spiritual fruit was completely their fault. And thus they would judge themselves.

Isaiah 5:4 What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it?-
God doesn’t force spiritual growth, rather does His Spirit enable the environments for it to occur; in another figure, He does all that could be thought of so that His vineyard brings forth good fruit. We of course may be tempted to doubt this, considering that if only this or that situation in our lives were different, we would be enabled to grow spiritually. But God knows best, and His Spirit works in various ways to provide [by ‘providence’] the best situation for our growth and new creation.  

Why, when I looked for it to yield grapes, did it yield wild grapes?- There even seems at times a difficulty on God's part to understand why the people He had loved could hate Him so much: "Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of thick darkness? Why then do my people say, We will no more come to thee?" (Jer. 2:31); "Why then has this people turned away?" (Jer. 8:5); "Why have they provoked me to anger?" (Jer. 8:19; Jer. 2:14; Jer. 30:6; Is. 5:4; Is. 50:2). "What more could I have done for my vineyard... why did it yield wild grapes?" (Is. 5:1-7). This is so much the anguished cry of bewildered middle age parents as they reflect upon a wayward child. This Divine struggle to understand reflects the extraordinary depth of His love for them; and it warns us in chilling terms as to the pain we can cause God if we spurn His amazing love.

Isaiah 5:5 Now I will tell you what I will do to My vineyard. I will take away its hedge, and it will be eaten up. I will break down its wall of it, and it will be trampled down-
The Lord’s parable of the vineyard is shot through with allusions to the vineyard parable of Is. 5. When the Lord asks “What will [the owner of the vineyard] do?” (Mk. 12:9), those who picked up the Isaiah 5 allusions would have found the answer in Is. 5:4,5: “What… to do… what I will do”. Ps. 80:12,13 takes the logic further- the fence was removed and wild beasts entered and destroyed the vineyard. We notice that the nations around Judah, especially the Assyrians and Babylonians, are the prototypes for the "beast" system of the last days. The same peoples are in view. God's taking away the hedge was done with a heavy heart- because such a huge amount of His work and concern was to thereby be destroyed. His judgments were not therefore painless to Himself. It was the Babylonians who broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and yet here this is presented as God doing so. We see here the principle of God manifestation; and this is why the Lord Jesus can be spoken of as functioning as God, but this doesn't mean He is God personally, just as the Babylonians were not personally God.

Isaiah 5:6 I will lay it a wasteland. It won’t be pruned nor hoed, but it will grow briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it-
This and the similar prophecy of desolation in Is. 7:23-25 didn't happen at the Assyrian invasion; it was reapplied to the situation after the Babylonian invasion, when the land was intended to rest (Lev. 26:34,43) until Judah repented. But even that program didn't work out, and so the Lord's parable of the vineyard explained that therefore the vineyard was given to a new Israel. Briers and thorns is an allusion to the curse upon the garden of Eden- another reason for understanding Eden as eretz Israel, from whom likewise Israel were to be exiled to the east. Yet "briers and thorns" is a term used by Isaiah about the aggressive, thorny nature of Judah (Is. 9:18; 10:17). Their whole land was to become like them; and so their judgment was but an extension of their own behaviour.

Isaiah 5:7 For the vineyard of Yahweh of Armies is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant-
Ephraim, the ten tribes, were likewise God's "pleasant" child (Jer. 31:20 s.w.). The idea is that He intensely delighted in them; just as the owner of the vineyard had been almost obsessed with his vineyard, it was his pride and joy, and for it to be fruitless was tragic; for it was as if his whole life's passion had come to nothing.

There are many passages where God emphasizes the essential unity of Israel and Judah through the device of parallelism.  This is one of them. "For the vineyard of Yahweh of armies

                is the house of Israel,

                and the men of Judah

His pleasant plant".

And He looked for justice, but, behold, oppression; for righteousness, but, behold, a cry of distress- God planted the vineyard of Israel, just as He creates the environment for the new Israel, because He sought (spiritual) fruit. And that fruit was summed up so often in one word:  "justice" (Is. 5:2,7). The inspiration process uses various puns through which to bring home the subtlety of the difference between true spirituality and fake. Take Is. 5:7: "He looked for justice (mishpat) and found oppression (mishpah), for righteousness (sdaqah) and heard cries of distress (saqah)". The real aim of our life in Christ, our being a Christian, our prayer, our Bible reading, our attendance at meetings, our spirituality- however you want to look at it- the real aim is to develop a character in harmony with that of God, to manifest Him. This means not getting bitter, forgiving others, being quick to overlook, to read the best motives, to be patient with your husband, with your dog, with your cat, to be full of meditation on our peerless Lord Jesus, to love the Father's word as He did... this is what it's really all about. The occasional heights of self-sacrifice and devotion, the complete dedication of one's life and thinking to the things of " the Truth" , our church (or however we want to describe it), this isn't necessarily the same thing as being a really spiritual, Christ-centered person. It often takes new converts a long time to realize this; and the quicker we do so, the better. The essential state of our heart is what God is ultimately interested in. This is why men may perform the same outward actions, but be judged quite differently. Consider how both Cain and Jonah fled from the presence of God; both Peter and Judas denied the Lord; both Samuel and Eli failed to control their apostate sons.

Think of how eager the Father and Son have been to find spiritual fruit in us. Through the centuries of His involvement with Israel, God had expected to find the fruit of justice in the vineyard of Israel- but He found only poison berries (Is. 5:4), instead of justice He found abuse and oppression of others (Is. 5:7). And all that despite doing absolutely all He could for that vineyard. But according to Mt. 21:34-38, this didn't stop Him from having a hopeful, fruit-seeking attitude. He sent His servants the prophets to find the fruit- but they were beaten and murdered. He finally sent His Son, reasoning that "surely they will reverence my son" (Mt. 21:37). But they murdered Him. I have suggested elsewhere that this language can only suggest that God in some sense limited His omniscience and omnipotence in order to fully enter into our dimensions; and hence His experience of dashed hope and deep disappointment. Amazing as the Father's hopefulness was, His Son's was even greater. This Father who had had all this experience of simply not getting any fruit, asked His vinedresser (the Lord Jesus) to cut down the tree of Israel, as for the three years of Christ's ministry He had sought fruit from them and not found any; and further, this tree was 'cumbering the ground', taking away nutrients which He could have given to another (Gentile) tree. But His servant argues back with Him; the servant asks to be allowed to dig and dung around the tree; and then, he says, 'You can cut it down, although you asked me to do this job'. This was quite unusual for a servant to talk like this; but it's an insight into the way the Lord Jesus was even more hopeful than His longsuffering Father.


Isaiah 5:8 Woe to those who join house to house, who lay field to field until there is no room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land!-
He repeatedly pronounces “woe” upon them (Is. 3:9; 5:8,11,18,20,21,22; 8:11), and yet in that very context he can exclaim: “Woe is me” in chapter 6; he identified with them to the point of also feeling unworthy and under woe [in this clearly typifying the Lord’s identity with us]. Fields were to return to their original owners at the jubilee, but it seems fields were stolen and the landmarks rearranged, all in disobedience to the Mosaic law.  The idea is as in GNB "Soon there will be no place for anyone else to live, and you alone will live in the land". Effectively the rich were driving the population into exile from the land; and that is what was to happen.

Isaiah 5:9 In my ears Yahweh of Armies says-
The implication is that what Yahweh discreetly and intimately told Isaiah, he was preaching. It seems the Lord Jesus alludes to this in Mt. 10:27 and asks us each one to live in the spirit of prophets like Isaiah: "What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops".

Surely many houses will be desolate, even great and beautiful ones, unoccupied- see on 1 Tim. 4:1. This didn't fully happen in the Assyrian invasion, because Jerusalem was saved, including its houses. But the destruction of the "great houses" of the wealthy is a major theme in Jeremiah, and in the record of Jerusalem's fall to the Babylonians (see on Jer. 5:27; 52:13).

Isaiah 5:10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield an ephah-
Although they had selfishly grabbed land (:8), that land was to become very low yielding. It has been calculated that ten acres of vineyard ought to yield an average of five hundred baths (or four thousand gallons) instead of one bath (eight gallons). If a homer of corn seed yielded only an ephah, then only a tenth of the seed sown was being harvested. It wasn't worth planting them. And this is what all the condemned will realize; that what they so strove for in life will then become worthless. They will throw their silver and gold to the bats (Is. 2:20).

Isaiah 5:11 Woe to those who rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; who stay late into the night, until wine inflames them!-
Israel are criticized for their early morning attitudes (see on Is. 50:4)- in the mornings they fantasized after their neighbours' wives (Jer. 5:8; Hos. 7:6), got up and wanted to get drunk again (Is. 5:11), had unjust thoughts about others (Jer. 21:12; Mic. 2:1). That's quite some emphasis- God was so unhappy with what His people thought about in the mornings. And Zeph. 3:7 is perhaps the most challenging of all- God condemned His people because they rose each morning and cast off all their opportunities (Heb.), despite Him every morning [potentially] revealing His word to them (Zeph. 3:5). They allowed themselves to be simply too busy to see all that God potentially enabled for them every single day. And what about us? God has prepared huge potential achievement for each of us- but we tend to fritter our days away in busyness and poor planning and lack of a self-disciplined life.

Isaiah 5:12 The harp, lyre, tambourine, and flute, with wine, are at their feasts; but they don’t respect the work of Yahweh-
The "but" suggests that their usage of these instruments was somehow connected to Yahweh worship, so the "feasts" were those of Yahweh. As Corinth turned the breaking of bread into a drunken orgy partly dedicated to idols, so Judah did the same with Yahweh's feasts, mixing them with idol worship; for musical instruments and drinking wine were not prescribed for the feasts of Yahweh.


Neither have they considered the operation of His hands- They did not regard Yahweh, and so He rejected them by no longer regarding or looking at them (s.w. Lam. 4:16). As Jeremiah so often demonstrates in his prophecy, condemnation was articulated in language which showed it to be but a continuation of attitudes and positions the condemned had already adopted in their lives.

Isaiah 5:13 Therefore My people go into captivity for lack of knowledge. Their honourable men are famished, and their multitudes are parched with thirst-
This doesn't mean that they went into captivity for some intellectual failures in their theology. "Knowledge" is used in the Hebraic sense of relationship. The reasons why they were going into captivity have been listed so far in Isaiah, and they don't include failures in abstract theology. They were all practical reasons. The point was, they had no relationship with Yahweh. But Judah didn't go into captivity in Isaiah's time; the threatened judgment was delayed because at least a minority repented. We marvel at God's eagerness to respond to the slightest signs of genuine repentance, and this is how we should respond to others.

Isaiah 5:14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its desire, and opened its mouth without measure; and their glory, their multitude, their pomp-
This is a similar figure as in Hab. 2:5. The grave enlarged its desire; death, the punishment for sin, is personified as if it were the sinner itself. So the sin is parallel with its punishment; which is a major theme of the prophets. It wasn't that God was judging them by lashing out in anger; their judgment was in fact an extension of their own sin and essential lifestyle. We note that sheol is the punishment for indulging sinful desires; sheol is the grave, death, and not eternal conscious punishment.

And he who rejoices among them, descend into it- The idea may be that this destruction was not just for the wealthy minority, but also for those who admired them. And there we have a challenge to us; for our society is full of people who congratulate opulent, sinful living and dearly wish to be able to live likewise. And that is just as culpable. See on :15.

Isaiah 5:15 So man is brought low, mankind is humbled, and the eyes of the arrogant ones are humbled-
This is a different message to that in :14, which is of death as the punishment for sin. Here, God hopes that His people will be humbled, so that He can be exalted (:16). It was humility which He sought to inculcate by the judgments; and not humility just for its own sake, a few moments of humility before death- but the humility of repentance. The AV says that the "mean man" will be humbled; as noted on :14, those who rejoiced in the opulence of the wealthy and wished to be like that, would be likewise punished.

Isaiah 5:16 but Yahweh of Armies is exalted in justice, and God the Holy One is sanctified in righteousness-
The message was that man would be humbled, and Yahweh exalted. Peter perhaps gives his take on this in saying that we are to allow ourselves to be humbled, so that we may be exalted in due time (1 Pet. 5:6). It is Yahweh who is to be exalted, not us; and yet through identification with His principles, we will be exalted. And so through executing judgment, 'the holy God shows Himself holy by righteousness'. To not punish sin would be unrighteous. And yet it is through that justice that in the grand economy of Divine salvation, we are saved by grace; see on Is. 4:4.

Isaiah 5:17 Then the lambs will graze as in their pasture, and strangers will eat the ruins of the rich-
This is a picture of the restored Kingdom. "Strangers" may refer to repentant Gentiles who would take over the ruins of the homes of the wealthy Jews who had been judged. But it may also have reference to the way in which when Babylon conquered Judah, they took into captivity the wealthy, and the poor masses of the people therefore took possession of their ruined properties. This was Babylonian policy, alluded to several times in Jeremiah.

Isaiah 5:18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, and wickedness as with cart rope-
The idea may be that they were dragging after them a load of sin by cords. But the original is unclear, and the allusion may be to a rope maker, introducing new material to the rope he is making ever longer. The sense would be that sin “is at the beginning like a fine hair-string, but at the finishing like a thick cart-rope". Sin is progressive; unless there is a sense of repentance, it becomes an ever downward spiral.

Isaiah 5:19 who say, Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come, that we may know it!-
There was clearly opposition to Isaiah's prophecies. The idea of judgment coming would have been mocked in these kinds of words. But we wonder whether this is really a verbatim quotation from these people; or whether God read their thoughts as effectively saying this, and as being the real implication of their positions. For there is no evidence that Judah abandoned Yahweh; rather did they claim obedience and loyalty to Him, although they claimed the same about their idols whom they worshipped in His Name.

God was not deaf to their words, or the implications of their thoughts and actions. He in fact heard their mocking 'prayer', because He later says that He will "hasten His work" (Is. 60:22 s.w.). Likewise their invitation for the word or "counsel" of God to "draw near and come" was fulfilled- when Yahweh did draw near to them in judgment (s.w. Is. 46:13; 57:3).

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet-
As noted on :19, we wonder whether this is really a verbatim quotation from these people; or whether God read their thoughts as effectively saying this, and as being the real implication of their positions. For there is no evidence that Judah consciously advocated doing evil in the name of good; rather did they claim obedience and loyalty to Him, although they claimed the same about their idols whom they worshipped in His Name.

Isaiah 5:21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!-
Their wisdom came from themselves and not from God's word. There may be an allusion to Prov. 3:7 "Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Fear Yahweh, and depart from evil". It is being wise in our own eyes which precludes repentance; and it is recognition of our own unwisdom which provokes repentance.

Isaiah 5:22 Woe to those who are mighty to drink wine, and champions at mixing strong drink-
This alcoholism was apparently incorporated into their perverted keeping of the feasts of Yahweh (see on :12). They turned those feasts into the crude drinking games of many bars today- whoever can drink the most is the mightiest.

Isaiah 5:23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice for the innocent!-
God will not justify the wicked (Ex. 23:7); and He hates those who do so (Prov. 17:15 cp. 24:24; Is. 5:23). But God justifies sinners, "the wicked", by grace. This paradox serves to highlight yet more the grace in "justification by grace". The fact the judiciary was so corrupt is again an indication that the reforms of the kings in Isaiah's time (see on Is. 1:1) were not very far reaching. The mass unspirituality of the leadership therefore reveals all the more how courageous were kings like Hezekiah in trying to reform things.

Isaiah 5:24 Therefore as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as the dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust-
The fire of judgment is likened to a tongue; and "the tongue is a fire" (James 3:5). Their judgment was to be an extension of their own actions and words. As their tongue had devoured others (:23), so the tongue of fire was to devour them. The fact is, by our words we will be condemned and by our use of words we will be counted as righteous. The importance of our words cannot be overstressed. Judah were condemned  “because their tongue and their words are against the Lord” (Is. 3:8). All their idolatry, perversion etc. was summarized in their words. Again and again, Isaiah and the prophets say that the reason for Israel’s condemnation was their words, even those they said under their breath- “your tongue has muttered perverseness” (Is. 59:3). “Their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue” (Hos. 7:16). “The inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins” (Mic. 6:12,13). Truly  “death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Prov. 18:21).

Because they have rejected the law of Yahweh of Armies, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel- Again we see evidence for major opposition to Isaiah's prophecies from the leadership (:23). They would not have consciously stated their rejection of the law; but God sees to the essence, to the implication of attitudes and thoughts. See on :19,20.

Isaiah 5:25 Therefore Yahweh’s anger burns against His people, and He has stretched out His hand against them, and has struck them. The mountains tremble, and their dead bodies are as refuse in the midst of the streets-
The past tenses are used because the threatened judgment was so certain. But in fact, it did not come at Isaiah's time- because there was at least some penitence, and much intercession from the faithful remnant. "The mountains" may refer to the hills of Jerusalem surrounding Zion; the bodies in the streets recalls Jeremiah's lamentations of what happened when Babylon sacked Jerusalem. The intended application to the Assyrians didn't happen, because there was some repentance; but the words were rescheduled to the Babylonians.

For all this, His anger is not turned away, but His hand is still stretched out- Because God's judgment had not achieved its end result, which was Judah's repentance. His hand was stretched out still, both in the sense of judgment, and in seeking to save through eliciting repentance.

Isaiah 5:26 He will lift up a banner for the nations from far, and He will whistle for them from the end of the land. Behold, they will come speedily and swiftly-
Clearly enough, the bronze serpent lifted up on the “standard” or pole  was a symbol of Christ crucified. But time and again throughout Isaiah, we read that a “standard” or ensign will be “lifted up” in order to gather people together to it (Is. 5:26; 13:2; 11:12; 18:3; 62:10). This was the idea of an ensign lifted up. Thus our common response to the cross of Christ should be to gather together unto Him there. And we need to take note that several of those Isaiah passages are speaking about what shall happen in the last days, when divided Israel will unite on the basis of their acceptance of the crucified Jesus. In this context, the nations are being summoned to judge Israel. And yet Isaiah also uses the figure for gathering sinners to the ensign or standard pole of Zion. The intention was that the surrounding nations would be judged and yet some would repent, and become part of a restored Kingdom of God in Judah. But Hezekiah precluded this from happening by getting friendly with the Babylonians and surrounding nations, and his sons worshipped their gods rather than bringing them to the God of Israel.

Isaiah 5:27 None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the belt of their waist be untied, nor the latches of their shoes be broken-
LXX "They shall not hunger nor be weary". The language here is that of God Himself and His faithful people (Is. 40:28,31; Ps. 121:4). As will be noted on :28, God's manifestations have similar characteristics; be they through His own people, or through wicked people He uses to perform His judgments. He is totally in control; there is no radical evil in the cosmos.


Isaiah 5:28 whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent. Their horses’ hoofs will be like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind-
They would be a manifestation of the cherubim chariot. Ezekiel uses the same idea. The cherubim would be manifest in both Judah's attackers and in God's people. God was totally in control of the whole tragedy. See on :27.

Isaiah 5:29 Their roaring will be like a lioness, they will roar like young lions. Yes, they shall roar and seize their prey and carry it off, and there will be no one to deliver-
The initial application was to the lions of Assyria; but due to repentance and intercession, that was averted. And yet lions were also a symbol of the Babylonians, who did carry off Judah into captivity. God acted as a lion to Judah through those lions (Hos. 5:14), manifested through them. God was their deliverer, as so often stated later in Isaiah; but they refused to accept Him as such, and so there was none to deliver. The princes of Judah are also likened to young lions (Ez. 19:3-6); it was their lion like behaviour in abusing their people which led to the young lions coming upon Judah. Again, judgment is articulated in terms of the sins which have brought them. Sin is its own judgment. The lions here in Is. 5:29,30 clearly represent the Babylonians and Assyrians; but the prophetic hope was that the young lion would be tamed and live in Zion (Is. 11:7). The vision was of Judah's enemies being judged and repenting, and coming to live in the restored Kingdom.

Isaiah 5:30 They will roar against them in that day like the roaring of the sea. If one looks to the land behold, darkness and distress. The light is darkened in its clouds-
LXX "as the sound of the swelling sea; and they shall look to the land, and, behold, there shall be thick darkness in their perplexity". The Lord seems to apply these ideas to the situation in Israel in the last days (Lk. 21:26), just as the light being turned to darkness happened at His crucifixion (cp. Am. 8:9). What could have happened at the hands of the Assyrians was averted by repentance; but the prophetic word came true in later judgments upon Judah, and will come finally true in the last days.