Summary: In Isaiah judgment will come on the whole vineyard; in Jesus’ story it is ready to come on a single vine. But the point is the same. Fruitlessness will bring judgment.

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Isaiah 5:1-7 The Song of the Vineyard

10/1/00e D. Marion Clark


There have been some moving ballads of love gone bad in the annals of music. Here are just a few examples:

I Flushed You from the Toilets of My Heart.

I Would Have Wrote You A Letter, but I Couldn't Spell Yuck

I've Been Flushed from the Bathroom Of Your Heart

If I Can't Be Number One in Your Life, Then Number Two on You

My John Deere Was Breaking Your Field, While Your Dear John Was Breakg My Heart

My Wife Ran Off with My Best Friend, and I Sure Do Miss Him

Oh, I’ve Got Hair Oil On My Ears & My Glasses Are Slipping Down, but Baby I Can

See through You

She Got the Gold Mine and I Got the Shaft

You Done Tore Out My Heart and Stomped That Sucker Flat

You Were Only a Splinter As I Slid Down the Banister of Life

Classic songs, no doubt, but none still match Isaiah’s original hit, “You Were a Bunch of Sour Grapes in My Vineyard of Love.” Let’s look at this great song of heartbreak.

Lov’n Care 1,2

The song begins wonderfully. It has all the makings of beautiful love song.

I will sing for the one I love

a song about his vineyard:

My loved one had a vineyard

on a fertile hillside.

2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones

and planted it with the choicest vines.

He built a watchtower in it

and cut out a winepress as well.

Isaiah sings of the love his friend showed to his lover. The vineyard is a metaphor for the friend’s true-love. His friend gives the best care possible for his loved one as expressed in the care for the vineyard. It is planted on a fertile hillside, i.e. planted in the best location possible on a hillside where it would receive plenty of sunlight and in fertile soil.

The friend digs up and clears the field of stones. His labor is both diligent and arduous. He carefully turns the soil over. Clearing the field of stones was no small work. E. J. Young refers to an Arab proverb about the rockiness of the Palestinian land. When God created the world an angel flew over it carrying a bag of stones under each arm. As he flew over Palestine, one bag broke so that half of all the stones in the world are in Palestine.

The vines that he plants are of the best variety. Having the best field and the best plants, he then builds a watchtower for watchmen to permanently oversee the well-being of the vineyard. Being confident then that he will have excellent fruit, he prepares a place to press the grapes and collect the juice. This also is arduous work, as the wine vat (what the Hebrew term actually denotes) was most likely carved out of stone.

Noth’n in Return

The friend spares nothing for his vineyard – neither money, nor attention, nor labor. But, unfortunately, he gets nothing in return.

Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,

but it yielded only bad fruit.

What a bummer! He gives to his sweetheart everything that would make her fulfilled and she rejects him and wastes all that he had labored for. You know the song is not going in a good direction now.

The friend speaks now and he calls on witnesses to hear his story and judge between him and his vineyard, i.e. his lover.

3 “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah,

judge between me and my vineyard.

He asks two questions:

4 What more could have been done for my vineyard

than I have done for it?

The obvious answer is “nothing.”

When I looked for good grapes,

why did it yield only bad?

There is no good reason.


The vineyard is clearly guilty of willful rebellion. It refuses to yield fruit. The next step is judgment.

5 Now I will tell you

what I am going to do to my vineyard:

I will take away its hedge,

and it will be destroyed;

I will break down its wall,

and it will be trampled.

6 I will make it a wasteland,

neither pruned nor cultivated,

and briers and thorns will grow there.

I will command the clouds

not to rain on it.”

This is like listening to the embittered Survivor reject who spouted a venomous attack on one of the remaining Survivors. The friend – and it now clearly evident that he is God – will not simply sit at a bar and drown his sorrows in a beer. He will punish.

First, he will remove the double layer of protection that he build around the vineyard, so that animals may come in and trample it. Second, he will no longer cultivate and prune the land, but let briers and thorns infest the ground. Third, (and this is how we know he is God), he will command the clouds to withhold its rainfall on that spot.

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