The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Isaiah 5

Isa 5:1

I WILL SING FOR THE ONE I LOVE...: Resemblances to Song of Songs: vineyard, beloved.

VINEYARD: Israel as the vineyard of God: Psa 80; Isa 1:8; 3:14; Jer 2:21; Eze 15:1-8; and in NT Mat 21:33-44; Joh 15:1-6.

A FERTILE HILLSIDE: Lit, "the horn of a son of oil". "Horn of oil" points to anointing of David in 1Sa 16:13. ("Horn" may sig the peak of a hill: BDB. "Oil" may ref olive trees. "David", of course, sig "beloved".)

Isa 5:2

HE DUG IT: Or "fenced it" (AV). "Truly God did fence Israel in -- with high mountains in Lebanon, desert in the Negeb, the Great Sea to the west, and the deep Jordan valley to the east" (WIsa 121,122).

CLEARED IT OF STONES: The nations of Canaan.

A WATCHTOWER: Contrasts markedly with the flimsy booth which describes Jerusalem in its later helplessness (Isa 1:8). The prophets of Israel are described as "watchmen" (Jer 6:17: Isa 52:8; 62:6,7; Eze 3:17-21; 33:2-9).

WINEPRESS: The temple and altar, with their sacrifices producing the "wine" of poured-out blood.

IT YIELDED ONLY BAD FRUIT: "Bad" = lit, rotten or putrid. What a ct with "the Branch of the Lord, beautiful and glorious" (Isa 4:2).

Isa 5:3

Vv 3,4: Good soil, cleared field, good vines... what could have gone wrong?!

JUDGE: An unconscious judgment of one's own actions: ie Nathan with David (2Sa 12), and prophet and Ahab (1Ki 20:35-43).

Isa 5:5

I WILL BREAK DOWN ITS WALL: Not just allowing it to deteriorate slowly and naturally, but rather a great and sudden destruction!

Isa 5:6

NEITHER PRUNED: No longer chastened, because illegitimate (Heb 12:8)!

BRIERS AND THORNS: Emblems of the curse: Gen 3:18; Isa 32:13. Nations = thorns in side (Num 33:56; Jos 23:12-14). Thorns = human nature (Heb 6:8n), choking the word of God.

I WILL COMMAND THE CLOUDS NOT TO RAIN ON IT: The owner of the vineyard has the power to withhold the rain (Lev 25:21: Isa 55:10,11).

IT WILL BE TRAMPLED: Jerusalem will be trodden down: Luk 21:24; Mat 23:36-39.

Isa 5:7

JUSTICE... BLOODSHED: Play on words: "mishpat... mispach".

RIGHTEOUSNESS... CRIES OF DISTRESS: "Tsedaqah... tsa'aqah". The "cry": "Crucify him!" (Mat 27:21-23).

Isa 5:8

The LM forbade land-acquisition as a means to achieving wealth (Num 36:7; Mic 2:1,2; Amo 2:7; 4:1,9; 5:11); the land was to be redeemed, thus returning to its original owners (Lev 25:23).

YOU LIVE ALONE IN THE LAND: "Placed alone in the midst of the earth" (KJV): Their lands and possessions were the center of the "world" for them!

Isa 5:10

ONLY A BATH: Prob 1/500 of expected harvest!

ONLY AN EPHAH OF GRAIN: About 10% of what was sown!

Isa 5:11

Vv 11,12: Scathing denunciations of alcoholism made respectable: Isa 28:1-9; Joe 1:5; Amo 2:8; 4:1; 6:6; Hos 4:11; 7:5; Pro 31:4,5; 20:1; 23:29-32.

Isa 5:12

HARPS... LYRES...: Were the instruments of temple worship prostituted to drunken orgies? Cp Amo 6:5,6; 1Sa 10:5.

Isa 5:13

MY PEOPLE: And this is the ground of their condemnation... that they ARE God's people! See Amo 3:2.

FOR LACK OF UNDERSTANDING: // Hos 4:6; Isa 1:3. Cp Luk 19:44: "because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you".

THEIR MEN OF RANK WILL DIE OF HUNGER: A picture of previously rich self-indulgent revelers made haggard by privation.

THEIR MASSES WILL BE PARCHED WITH THIRST: Those who had had too much wine (vv 11,12) now have not enough water! Cp generally Luk 21:34. Also, a thirst for the word of God (Isa 55:1; Psa 63:1).

Isa 5:14

GRAVE (SHEOL): Cp Isa 14:9-11. There will be no limit to the number of dead! The grave, or earth, opening up its "mouth" suggests the fate of Korah and his fellow-rebels (Num 16:30-33).

Isa 5:15

// Isa 2:17-21.

Isa 5:16

THE LORD ALMIGHTY WILL BE EXALTED: God will be "sanctified" by those who approach him: cp Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:3).

Isa 5:17

LAMBS WILL FEED...: (1) The poorer and more devout of Israel (the "lambs"), who had been dispossessed by wealthy and unscrupulous landlords, are one day to find themselves better off -- thanks to a redistribution of property by Hezekiah in his year of Jubilee (Isa 29:19,20; 37:30,31; 61:1-4). Cp idea, Zep 3:11-13. Or... (2) As in the mg, "strangers" will eat..." [one letter change in Heb]: the invading Assyrians (Isa 1:7); or, even, Gentile believers who supplant the Jews (Mat 21:41,43; cp Rom 11:17, etc).

Isa 5:18

THOSE WHO DRAW SIN ALONG WITH CORDS OF DECEIT, AND WICKEDNESS AS WITH CART ROPES: "An idol called Iniquity, or alternatively Sin, is set up on a cart. Its devotees attach ropes, and dutifully draw it in procession like a Hindu juggernaut. Very probably there is allusion here to the idolatries introduced by king Ahaz, the outstanding one of which was an Assyrian deity (2Ki 16:10)" (WIsa 127).

Cp more modern religious processions at festival times.

Cp the same situation, describing the plight of Assyrian idols at the time of Sennacherib's retreat from Jerusalem (Isa 46:1,2). So devotion to false gods is a "yoke of bondage" (Gal 5:1)! But those who are "yoked" to sin may call upon Christ to bear their burdens (Mat 11:29,30).

Isa 5:19

LET GOD HURRY, LET HIM HASTEN HIS WORK: The constant complaining question spoken against every prophet: 'But WHEN is this going to happen?' See Amo 5:18; 6:3; Jer 17:15; Eze 11:2,3; 12:22,23,27; Zep 1:12; Mal 2:17;3:1; Mat 24:48; Luk 17:20; 2Pe 3:3,4. In response to this complaint, Isaiah named his son "Maher [hurry] -- shalal -- hash [chuwsh] -- baz" (Isa 8:3), and promised that God would "hasten" His work: Isa 46:12,13; 60:22; 35:4.

Isa 5:20

"Human judgment almost invariably makes the wrong choice, the wrong assessment, swinging to the wrong extreme, making the wrong decision... In every generation men dedicate themselves with avidity to the worship of Mammon, and call it their greatest good... Isaiah found himself in the midst of experienced influential men who through folly or willfulness were turning God's laws upside down. Woe unto them! When a man is self-afflicted with this kind of twisted outlook on life there is no hope for him... One of the greatest curses of modern time is this double-speak. It has poisoned every aspect of human relations. A mighty military machine is called Defense. An aggressive political campaign is called a Peace Movement. Wholesale criticism and disparagement of the Word of God is paraded under the respectable name of Scholarship, whilst those who try to be honest with Holy Scripture are reckoned stupid or in darkness. A pseudo-science of psychology is called into being to give a flamboyant sanction to self-indulgence and all kinds of immorality. Thus sin is blithely abolished" (WIsa 129).

Isa 5:21

WISE IN THEIR OWN EYES: // Pro 3:7; 26:12. The cynical political maneuvering of men like Shebna, who thought they could outsmart their enemies -- and had no need of the God of Israel: cp Isa 28:9...; 29:14,15; 30:1,2; 31:1,2.

Isa 5:22

Vv 22,23: 'Woe to those who are "heroic" in their drinking exploits, but who are cowards at standing up for the rights of the poor!'

Isa 5:24

"The figure of an irresistible wall of flame roaring with a loud crackle through a field of stubble and a pile of winnowed chaff" (WIsa 130). The worthless "vine" of Isa 5:1-7 is fit for nothing but burning. Cp generally Hos 9:16; Amo 2:9; Luk 3:17; Mar 11:20.

Isa 5:25

THE MOUNTAINS SHAKE: The earthquake of Uzziah's day?


Isa 5:26

HE LIFTS UP A BANNER: An ensign -- lifted up by Sennacherib -- to rally a considerable confederacy of Gentile enemies of Israel (ie Psa 83).

Isa 5:27

"Although these vv provide the first vivid picture of Assyrian invasion... not a few of the phrases seem to be esp selected to suggest angels of the Lord in action, invisibly in control of the entire ambitious project from start to finish: None weary or stumbling; they neither slumber nor sleep (cp Psa 121:4); and sharp arrows (Deu 32;23), and chariot wheels like a whirlwind (cp Psa 83:13; Nah 1:3; Eze 10:13) all strongly suggest the cherubim chariots of God; the roaring like a lion (Joe 3:16; Hos 5:14; 11:10), and none able to deliver (Psa 50:22; Deu 32:39) alike imply irresistible divine power at work" (WIsa 132). Later the divine nature of this invasion is made very plain: Isa 8:7; 10:5,6,15.

Isa 5:30

ROARING OF THE SEA: In v 29, the roar of "lions"; here (v 30), the roar of the "sea". So also these 2 figures of speech in Rev 10:3; 1:15 -- describing the Heavenly Voice!

DARKNESS: Impl an eclipse or mighty storm (Isa 13:10; 24:23). Similar language in Joe 2:2,10; 3:15; Zec 14:6; Amo 5:18,20; 8:9; Zep 1:14-17.

DISTRESS: "Aphoria" in LXX: perplexity (cp sw Luk 21:25), where "sea and waves" roar also! Description of LD!

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