Parable of the Vineyard
What method did Isaiah employ to communicate with his listeners regarding the state of their relationship with God?
Isaiah captured the attention of his listeners by singing a song (parable) to them (5:1). He probably appeared in the guise of a minstrel at one of the harvest festivals where he sang a song about a vineyard to his listeners.
The song related the story of an individual who planted a vineyard and employed every measure to insure its success (5:2). The individual who planted the vineyard chose a fertile site, carefully cultivated the soil, planted it with the best vine, and made careful provision for harvesting and storing his crop. In light of the careful preparations, the owner of the vineyard had high hopes and expectations for his vineyard. At harvest time however, the vineyard produced only worthless fruit.
Isaiah then asked his listeners what more the farmer could have done to insure the success of his vineyard (5:3-4). Although their response is not recorded, the listeners probably condemned the vineyard. Isaiah then proceeded to inform his listeners of what the farmer was going to do with his vineyard. The farmer was going to abandon and neglect it, the most effective way to destroy a vineyard (5:5-6).
In concluding the parable, Isaiah must have shocked his listeners by identifying the owner of the vineyard as the Lord of hosts and the vineyard as the house of Israel (5:7). God, expecting a harvest of justice and righteousness, found only bloodshed and cries of distress from the victims of injustice and oppression.
Note: This style of parable is described as a “Trojan horse” parable because the speaker disguises his intent until the end of the parable and leads his listeners to pass judgment on themselves. Nathan employed this technique in his rebuke of David (see 2 Samuel 2:1-12).
Practical Consideration: The most effective way to destroy a vineyard is to abandon it.
In the parable of the vineyard, the farmer abandoned the vineyard when it produced only bitter and worthless fruit. Biblical commentator Page H. Kelley comments, “When all divine restraints are removed, the sinner is certain to wreck his own life. One writer has observed that the saddest day in any man’s life is the day when God says to him, ‘Thy will be done!'” This is, indeed, the worst punishment of all.
Judgment on the Wealthy, Proud, and Frivolous
How did Isaiah accentuate the point of his parable?
Isaiah accentuated the point of his parable by uttering six woes, which some have identified as the worthless fruit produced by the vineyard.
First, Isaiah cried out against the greedy (5:8) who amassed lands and houses, consequently reducing many people to poverty. Micah 2:1-2 affirms that dishonest means were used to acquire such properties. Isaiah pronounced God’s judgment on the greedy land-grabbers: their mansions would become desolate and their fields unproductive (5:9-10).
Second, Isaiah cried out against drunkenness (5:11). The men of Judah had an insatiable desire for strong drink which made them unaware of what the Lord was doing in their day (5:12). Isaiah predicted that in the coming judgment these people would become food for the grave (5:13-17).
Third, Isaiah cried out against those who were harnessed to their sin like animals to a cart (5:18). These skeptical individuals challenged God to prove Himself to them by doing mighty works (5:19).
Fourth, Isaiah cried out against those who had lost their moral bearings (Isaiah 5:20 and see also Amos 5:7).
Fifth, Isaiah cried out against those filled with conceit and who esteemed themselves too highly (5:21). Proverbs 3:7 declares, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
Sixth, Isaiah cried out against drunkards who perverted the judicial system of the day (5:22-23). This was a cry against injustice. Isaiah 5:24-25 describe the nature of the judgment that would be experienced by all those mentioned in the woe oracles.
What prediction did Isaiah make following the woe oracles?
Isaiah 5:26-30 contains a vivid description of the coming judgment. Isaiah pictured God whistling to a distant nation (Assyria) which speedily responded to His call to execute judgment upon His people. The Assyrians would eventually destroy the Northern Kingdom and devastate the Southern Kingdom, which would be delivered but go into captivity in Babylon a century later.