For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help. Isaiah 5:7
Calling Good Evil and Evil Good
The chapter opens with what has been called “the Song of the Vineyard” (5:1-7). It is a mournful song indeed, as God laments the necessary abandonment of the “garden of His delight,” the people He has cared for so patiently. The image of a well-kept but now abandoned vineyard forcefully drives home the lesson that no generation that produces bloodshed rather than justice can expect to survive. Isaiah then lists a series of woes, formal announcements of impending judgments, on the wicked who monopolize land ownership, live profligate lives, make evil their life’s work, distort good and evil, are self-important, and corrupt justice. God’s anger burns against such persons, and He will bring foreign armies into Judah to judge them.
Key verses. 5:7, 20-21
Personal application: The fruit of right relationship with God is still a right relationship with others.
Fruitfulness. The fruit of the Middle Eastern grapevine grew close to the ground and was one of the land’s three most important products along with olives and grain. Throughout Scripture fruit and fruitfulness serve as metaphors for the visible product of one’s inner character. The clearest expression of the metaphor is found in Gal. 5:22-23, which identifies the fruit God’s spirit produces in the Christian life as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” The parallel in Isaiah is clear. God looked for His people to produce the fruit of justice and righteousness, but instead the society was marked by injustice and crime.
5:4 What more could have been done: When there is a failure in human relationships, we usually expect that both parties bear part of the responsibility. When it comes to the failed relationship between God and His people, the blame falls solely on the people. The Lord did everything He could – from instructing His people to giving them the Promised Land.
4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?
5:8 Till… land: The greedy land barons aimed to control all of the choice land of Israel. God gave the fields, which “shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine” (Lev. 25:23) as a patrimony to all His people (Num. 27:7-11). Deprived of these ancestral lands, Israel’s citizens had become day laborers or slaves on what had formerly been their family inheritance.
8 Woe to those who join house to house; They add field to field, Till there is no place Where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land!
5:12 The harp and the strings: Music was played in ancient Israel both in the worship of the Lord and in times of feasting. Wine was also a part of feasting in biblical times. Here their feasts means “their drinking parties.” Do not regard… consider: The people were oblivious to the reality of the work of God in their midst. The work of the Lord includes justice, entailing punishing the tyrants and saving the oppressed.
12 The harp and the strings, The tambourine and flute, And wine are in their feasts; But they do not regard the work of the Lord, Nor consider the operation of His hands.