This passage is a parable. A teacher may use a parable to aid his hearer to recognize his own sin by separating the hearer from the story; that is to draw them into the story before they realize that they are the one who needs to learn a lesson. Here, Isaiah is speaking on God’s behalf to the men of Judah so that they might see the sin they have committed. He approaches this as a prosecuting attorney of God, prosecuting the listeners…
Here, we have several images in the parable, a vineyard, a song, and the “one I love”. The song is his label for the parable itself, while the one I love refers to the men of Judah, and the vineyard refers to God’s people (men of Judah). This is all cleared up in verse 7, which serves as the climax of the parable. The vineyard is the property of the “Lord God Almighty”. The vineyard serves well in this analogy because a vineyard requires a long term investment before it returns any profit for its owner, and because as a unit the vine represents the productivity of parts connected as a whole organic unit. This is an analogy that is used frequently in both the Old and New Testaments to represent the people of God.
5:2: This verse describes the work that the owner of the vineyard has put into ensuring a good result. He has carefully chosen a fertile hillside for the vineyard; the ideal location for grape production. He has carefully cleared and prepared the land; he has carefully planted only the best variety of grape, built a watchtower for its protection, and prepared a winepress to process the crop. Alas! The crop has turned out to be bad. The owner of the vineyard “looked for a crop of good grapes” has an inherent note of anticipation of success, only to be rewarded by disappointment and loss.
5:3-6: This section opens with Isaiah calling upon the men of Judah to be judges in a court case: Owner v. Vineyard. They are called upon to render a verdict about who caused the failure of the crops. Speaking on behalf of the owner, Isaiah asks what more the owner could have done to prepare the ground, to select the site and the plants, and what more he could have done to protect and nurture the vineyard; and still the vineyard produced only bad fruit. In verses 5-6, attorney Isaiah tells the judges what he proposes to do to the vineyard for its lack of productivity: he will destroy it completely. (This almost sounds like a motion for summary judgment that might be filed in a modern court) Note particularly verse 6 when he says that he will cause the rain not to fall on the vineyard. Of course, this makes it obvious that God is the owner of the vineyard, but more than that, God causing the rain not to fall is a curse under the Law of Moses; a covenant term to be used to punish disobedience. (Lev. 26:19; Deut. 28:23-24)
5:7: The meaning of the parable comes into focus at this point. Notice the parallel between v. 2 “he looked for… but it yielded” and v. 7 “he looked for… but he saw/heard” God built and blessed the Nation in anticipation of good fruit, but the Nation yielded bloodshed and distress; rebellion was what God received in return for His abundant love! The day of reckoning has come. Compare this to Matthew 21:33-46; Hebrews 6:4-6.
Note: This is an “extra” from Sunday Class Notes on Messianic Prophecy. I am posting it today since I have many more lessons than Sundays, and I thought you might enjoy this one from Isaiah 5 that is often left out of Messianic Prophecy lists…