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When we have been caught doing something wrong, we are all quick to play the Blame Game. [Def: accusations exchanged among people who refuse to accept sole responsibility for some undesirable event.] Kids are great at this. But as adults we just continue the game with a little more sophistication and argumentation. This Blame Game reaction started back in the Garden of Eden with Adam: “That woman you gave me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.” Eve ramped things up with her response: “The serpent deceived me … the devil made me do it.” James warns us against attributing blame for our sin to God Himself: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God.’” Job’s wife takes the cake for blaming God – her counsel to her husband in the midst of his afflictions was just “Curse God and die.” When we find ourselves in situations we don’t like and don’t feel that we deserve, we as well are quick to turn against God and try to lay some element of blame at His feet.

Here in chapter 5 of Isaiah’s prophecy, before he unleashes a string of 6 terrible Woes (v. 8, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22 – categories of sin) uttered in judgment against the unfaithful Israelites, he pauses to give a simple vindication of the righteousness of God in His judgments. Remember how Abraham found God to be a righteous Judge in His destroying of Sodom and Gomorrah. Here God wants to make it plain that the Jews have no bone to pick with Him. God can in no way be blamed for Israel’s apostasy and unfaithfulness.



“Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.”

Van Parunak: By starting the song in this way, Isaiah entices his hearers to listen. They are expecting a ballad of pastoral romance, two lovers romping through the garden together.

Terms of endearment – God loves His people; describing His people = His vineyard

Paradox: that we can refer to our God as the transcendent Holy One of Israel; the great and majestic Lord of the Universe – yet also speak more intimately in terms of intimate friendship and marriage imagery



A. (:1) Prime Location

“My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.”

Real estate – it is all about Location, Location, Location

Canaan = Promised Land

Keil and Delitzsch: The vineyard was situated upon a keren (Preceptaustin: qeren = Hebrew for horn, that which projects) i.e., upon a prominent mountain peak projecting like a horn, and therefore open to the sun on all sides…This mountain horn was ben-shemen (Preceptaustin: “son of fertility” figuratively = richness, plenty, lavish), a child of fatness: the fatness was innate, it belonged to it by nature (shemen is used, as in Isa 28:1, to denote the fertility of a nutritive loamy soil). And the owner of the vineyard spared no attention or trouble.

Not a snow-capped horn like Matterhorn Mountains – but a projection

B. (:2a) Careful Cultivation

1. Preparation of the Soil

“And He dug it all around,”

Laborious work is involved; expenditure of a lot of tedious effort; preparation of the soil; possibly some type of trenches for irrigation system

2. Removal of Impediments

“removed its stones,”

Oswalt: These stones would be piled about the perimeter of the field as a wall to keep out marauding animals. Those left over from the wall could be used later to build a watchtower

Study book of Joshua – look at the all of the enemy nations which the Lord conquered; He wanted the Israelites to completely drive out the pagan idolaters so that they could fully enjoy the Land of Promise; God was giving them the victory; they just needed the faith the take it

Young: The Arabs have a proverb to the effect that 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.

3. Planting the Best Vine

“And planted it with the choicest vine.”

Heb. word for the best species; the best kind

Jer. 2:21 Yet I planted you a choice vine, a completely faithful seed. How then have you turned yourself before Me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?

C. (:2b) Strong Protection

“And He built a tower in the middle of it,”

Where God can keep watch to protect it

D. (:2c) Great Expectations

“And hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce good grapes,”

Two year waiting process before you realize the fruit of all your hard work

Van Parunak: The winepress is a basin hewn from the limestone bedrock in which the grapes are trampled to extract the juice. So confident is he in the harvest that he expects to be able to make his own wine, rather than simply selling his grapes to others. At Gibeon, the winepress is close to the storage caves for the wine. The amorous couple now has a lovely country garden, with the seclusion of a tower, and promise of plenty of wine. The listeners are by now fully engaged.

Young: In the choosing of Israel God did a gracious thing. Upon this people He showered abundant blessings, such as the law and the prophets. To it He clearly made known His ways. . . . What was the result of such a choice?

Privileges of the Jews detailed: Rom. 9:4-5 “who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

E. (:2d) Inexplicable Results

“But it produced only worthless ones.”

Tree is known by its fruit

Motyer: (here and vs. 4) bad fruit means stink fruit

Ex. 7:18 – objects that have a foul odor; evil deeds are so rotten they have a foul smell

“The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul,”

Worthless grapes will be further defined in the 6 woes he proclaims – detailing their specific sins and failures

When the vine owner returns to inspect your fruit, what will He find? Looking for specific types of fruit:

1) Internal Fruit = those character traits that demonstrate conformity to Jesus Christ = the fruit of the Holy Spirit – Gal. 5:22 “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” – not demonstrated by the Israelites; will the Lord find the deeds of the flesh instead? A preoccupation with selfish pursuits; the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life??

2) External Fruit = good works and evangelism to save lost souls as well as edification of the body of Christ – How are we investing our time and our talents and our resources for eternity??


A. (:3-4a) God Invites Evaluation of His Performance – What More Could He Have Done?

“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?”

change in speaker from the prophet to the owner of the Vineyard

Cf. Matt. 21 What should the landowner do?

God invites us to check out His Track Record; He will be found to have been Faithful and True

Specifically makes it clear that he is addressing the southern kingdom

Van Parunak: Like Nathan’s parable to David (2 Sam 12), this one does not immediately point to the people’s sin, but starts as a curious story to which anyone might want to pay attention, and seduces the people into proclaiming judgment on their own sin. An important key to this strategy is the threefold repetition of the Hebrew particle נא , which marks a statement or request as polite or respectful. It indicates that the speaker respects the higher status of the one who is addressed. The particle appears at v. 1 “now,” v. 3 “I pray you,” and v. 5 “now, go to.” This deferential attitude captures the people’s attention, and makes the impact of the accusation, when finally it falls in v. 7, even more striking.

Other Scriptural examples where God Defuses the Blame Game:

Gen. 18:25 – complaint of Abraham upon finding out the impending judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah: “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”

Job 40:1-2 – complaint of Job about the severity of his undeserved trials – “Then the Lord said to Job, ‘Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.’ Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?’”

Is. 45:9-11 “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker – an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands?’”

Rom. 2:1 “Therefore you have not excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”

The very conscience which allows you to judge others should cause you to look inward and acknowledge your own guilt before a holy God

Rom. 3:19 “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God”

Plenty of guilt to go around

Rom. 9:14-29 “What shall we say then? [in light of God’s sovereign elective choice demonstrated in the distinction between Jacob and Esau – determined before they were even born] There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! . . . You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?’”

B. (:4b) God Invites Evaluation of His Expectations – Is He Wrong to Expect Good Fruit?

“Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?”

God asks rhetorical questions – not because He needs answers, but He wants to wake up His people to realize their sinful condition; effect is to shut the mouths of men who have no response or comeback

What more could God have done to produce good fruit in our lives? Especially an indictment of those from Christian homes – born into such privilege – Remember: greater light and greater privilege brings greater accountability:

– John 3:16 – what more could God the Father and God the Son give in their love for us?

– Ephes. 1:3 “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” – fairly comprehensive provision

– 2 Pet. 1:3-4 “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

– Way of escape from any temptation – 1 Cor. 10:13

– Privilege of Answered Prayer

– Sufficiency of Jesus Christ – book of Colossians

Application: Parents experience frustration when they have nurtured children and tried to bring them up to follow the Lord, but they rebel and act the fool

Difference: every parent must admit that there is more that they could have done to be a more faithful parent; yet there is consolation from this story that even perfect parenting cannot always ensure a godly product


A. Exercising Right of Ownership

“So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:”

We are so quick to try to tell God what He should be doing; what He is doing wrong; why our lot in life is so harsh and unfair

  • He is the Creator; we are the creatures

  • He is the Potter; we are the clay

  • It is His vineyard!

B. Exposing it to Complete Neglect (in contrast to Careful Cultivation)

1. Exposing it to Devastation

a. No more hedge of protection

“I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;”

Van Parunak: The hedge consists of the briars that he piles on top of the stone wall, to keep small animals from eating the grapes.

b. No more wall of protection

“I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.”

Probably parallel statement rather than referring to a double wall??

Or the wall constructed by piled up stones that would offer protection against animals

c. Complete Devastation

“And I will lay it waste;”

Cf. Matt. 21:33ff – Lord used same imagery of the vineyard = common symbol for the Jewish nation; Jesus was clearly referring back to this passage in Is. 5 – but has a different theme in mind

2. Exposing it to Powerful Enemies

“It will not be pruned or hoed, But briars and thorns will come up.”

Cf. Gen. 3:18 where these environmental obstacles are part of the curse on man’s labor associated with the Fall

Just leave sinners to their own devices without any protection and nurturing and the outcome is inevitable

3. Exposing it to Denial of Nourishment

“I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”

Clear indication that we are not dealing here with just a human owner of an ordinary vineyard

Comparison to Ps. 80:8-16

Hos. 5:15 “I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”


A. Identification of the Vineyard

“For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,”

Hard to imagine that the people could have been so thick headed that they needed this simplistic explanation; but the prophet leaves nothing to their own interpretation or twisted thinking; he drives home the singular point – which is characteristic of the parable motif

B. Identification of the Choice Plant

“And the men of Judah His delightful plant.”

C. Inexplicable Lack of Justice and Righteousness

1. Inexplicable Lack of Justice (1:23; 3:14)

“Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;”

Motyer: Justice is the righting of wrongs while bloodshed is the inflicting of wrongs. Righteousness is right living and right relationships while to cry (scream) indicates wrong relationships and the anguish of the oppressed.

PreceptAustin: Justice {mishpat} …bloodshed {mispach} …righteousness {tsedaqah} …cry {tsa’aqah} – The double play on words emphasizes the point that Jehovah’s judgment would bring the opposite of what Israel and Judah were expecting. Why? Because they had not met Jehovah’s expectations – He expected justice but they committed bloodshed. He expected righteousness but in their oppression by their enemies they cried for help. This clear prophetic warning was not heeded but ignored.

2. Inexplicable Lack of Righteousness

“For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.”

MacArthur: The English words “equity . . . iniquity . . . right . . . riot” illustrate the effective play on words in the underlying Heb. behind v. 7.

Young: The assonance would seem to point to the fact that the worthless grapes bore at least an outward resemblance to the good ones. In appearance at least the nation seemed to be the people of God. . . . May we who belong to the church ever examine our hearts that there be no such hypocrisy within us, but rather may our lives bring forth the fruits of that righteousness which comes from God alone!


In 1 John, one of the key characteristics of a genuine believer is that he should take ownership of his own sins

John 15 – Jesus presents Himself as the True Vine – contrasts with false vine of Israel

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Ezekiel 15 – Jerusalem described as a useless vine that bears no fruit and ends up just being burned