The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 5:1-7 and presents an interesting challenge in relation to its location in the book of Isaiah. Biblical scholars have long pondered about why these first five chapters of Isaiah are placed BEFORE the call/sending of the prophet in chapter 6. Basically, the challenge is to address the issue of prophecies, such as the prophecy of our text, coming before the prophet is appointed. How does that work? Apart from the usual higher-critical opinions that some redactor was prowling around the text (the easy way out), there are other possibilities that maintain a high view of the text. My personal preference is Isaiah uses these five chapters to set the stage for the reader/hearer. These chapters let us know, clearly, the climate into which Isaiah is called and why the LORD God uses such strong language when He gives Isaiah his prophesying/preaching orders (job description). Another way to speak of this is to say Isaiah is bringing the people (readers/hearers) into the story. Now, they are part of the drama and recognize the reason for the LORD’s instructions to Isaiah as he is called into the prophetic office. The LORD has made His case as He has shown the mess the people of Israel have become.

The LORD has made His case as He has shown the mess the people of Israel have become.

5:1 אָשִׁירָה (a-Shi-rah) root: שׁיר (sheer) Qal: “to sing”

לִידִידִיi (li-di-Di) from: ידיד (yed-eed) “beloved” “for my beloved”

שִׁירַת (shi-Rat) “song”

דּוֹדִי (do-Di) “beloved; loved one”

* “Let me sing for my beloved a song (for) my beloved…”

לְכַרְמוֹ. (le-char-Mo) from: כֶרֶם (keh-rem) “vineyard” “concerning his vineyard”

בְּקֶרֶן. (be-Ke-ren) from: קֶרֶן, (keh-ren) “hill; mountain; horn”

5:2 וַיְעַזְּקֵהוּ (vay-az-ze-Ke-hu) root: עזק (aw-zak) Piel: “to dig; to weed; to dig around; to hoe”

וַיְסַקְּלֵהוּ (vay-sak-ke-Le-hu) root: סקל (saw-kal) Piel: “to clear from stones; to free of stones”

וַיִּטָּעֵהוּ: (vai-yit-ta-E-hu) root: נטע (naw-tah) Qal: “to plant”

שֹׂרֵק (so-Rek) “red grape (of very good quality); choice vine”

מִגְדָּל (mig-Dal) “tower”

יֶקֶב< (Ye-kev) “vat; reservoir for wine”

חָצֵב (cha-Tzev) Qal: “to hew out; to dig”

וַיְקַו: (vay-Kav) root: קוה (kaw-vaw) Piel: “to hope; to wait with hope; to look with anticipation”

עֲנָבִים (a-na-bim) “grapes”

בְּאֻשִׁים (be-u-Shim) “wild grapes; sour grapes”

This imagery is very common in Scripture and very beautiful. The Beloved is Christ/LORD and He has done everything to establish His vineyard (the chosen people) and to protect them as His people. Following the imagery of the rest of Scripture, the very fertile hill is the Promised Land—perhaps even Jerusalem and Mount Zion. The Beloved even planted the best, choicest, etc. Now what?

5:3 יוֹשֵׁב (yo-Shev) Participle used as a noun: “inhabitants; ones who dwell”

שִׁפְטוּ-נָא (shif-tu na) “please judge”

5:4 לַּעֲשׂוֹת (la-a-Sot) root: עשׂה (aw-saw) Qal, infinitive: “to do”

מַדּוּעַ (mad-Du-a) “Why?; On what account?”

קִוֵּיתִי i (kiv-Vei-ti) root: קוה (kaw-vaw) Piel: “to hope; to await; to wait”

The LORD God makes an argument for what He is about to do. What choice does He have?

5:5 מְשׂוּכָּתוֹ. (me-su-ka-To) “hedge of thorns” This kind of hedge was planted around vineyards to protect the vines from wild animals.

לְבָעֵר. (le-va-Er) root: בער (baw-ar) Piel, infinitive: “to graze over; to devour; to consume”

פָּרֹץ (pa-Rotz) Qal: “to break down; to break through”

5:6 וַאֲשִׁיתֵהוּ (va-a-shi-Te-hu) root: שׁית (sheeth) Qal: “to make something; to make; to set”

בָתָה (va-Tah) “destruction; devastation; waste”

יִזָּמֵר (yiz-za-Mer) root: זמר (zaw-mar) Niphal: “to be pruned;”

יֵעָדֵר (ye-a-Der) root: עדר (aw-dar) Niphal: “to be hoed; to be dug”

מֵהַמְטִיר (me-ham-Tir) root: מטר (maw-tar) Hiphil: “To let rain fall; to cause rain to fall; to send rain” “I will cause/command the clouds not to rain upon it”

The Beloved will remove His protection from His people, and they will be conquered/overrun by the enemy and there will be no life-giving relief (rain) coming.

The last verse (7) has an interesting play on words. The word for bloodshed sounds like the word for justice and the word for crying out/outcry sounds like the word for righteous. So close… like good grapes versus wild grapes!

These are obviously sobering words and they are followed by a set of woes. Not very encouraging and it is into this terrible wasteland that God calls/sends His prophet Isaiah in chapter 6. Even that job description sounds depressing… until the last verse, 6:13. “The Holy Seed is in the stump.” The LORD is not yet finished with His vineyard.

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 5:1-7.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 5:1-7.