The Six Woes Pronounced on Israel (Isaiah 5:8-30)

1.The End and Ruin the Vineyard Deserved. “And I will make it a desolation (put an end to it). (It) shall not be pruned, and not be dressed, and shall come up thorns and (more) thorns. And I will not command the thick clouds to rain rain upon it” (Heb. 5:6). The Lord puts a sudden and hopeless end to the vineyard by letting it lie in neglect, to run wild, choked with thorns and scorched with drought. The vineyard will be taken over by products of original sin and the curse. Here it is plain who the Lord of the vineyard is, the Lord of the clouds, the Lord of heaven and earth. Blight and drought, which often enough sweep vast areas in our land, come not by chance, but are ordered of the Lord; and it should be evident to anyone who knows Scripture at all, that God, not being mocked, punishes in this way the ingratitude of men for despising Him and His good gifts. So blight and drought also come into the church. There are tares, thorns, and briers, a sign of judgment beginning at the house of God, and a sign of reprobation. For “that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and its cursing near;” so near that it is presently to come, (and the curse causeless shall not come, Prov. 26:2b). In the church world are found, as Romans One reveals today as never before, “sons of Belial, wicked, ungodly men, immoralities, errors, heresies, contentions, quarrels” (Gill). For this the curse would come on Israel. The fulfilment of this came in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; the captivities in Babylonia and Assyria. Its fuller accomplishment came in the rejection of the Jewish nation and its destruction in 70 A.D., the wrath of God coming upon it to the uttermost. (Matt. 22:7Matt. 23:38I Thess. 2:14-16). It has a continued and frequent fulfilment in those churches which have apostatized from the gospel, have quenched the Spirit, and where the glory of the presence of His Spirit has departed. It continues where the gospel has been removed from places which have long been reproached and a scandal to the church. But the loss of the vineyard in any case is no loss to God. For from the very stones of the wilderness He can raise up children to Abraham.

Sin, then, is not restrained, but unchecked develops in increasing tidal waves of wickedness. The volcanoes of iniquity spew out the ruins of decayed civilizations, covering the earth with the muck and miasma of Sodom and Egypt, the only cure for which will be the final great conflagration of the Day of God (II Pet. 3). 

2.The Explanation of the Parable

“For the vineyard of Jehovah Tsebhoath (is) the house of Israel, and the man of Judah a plant of His pleasures; and He hoped for justice, and look! bloodshed! for righteousness, and look! a cry!” (Heb. 5:7). The vineyard of Jehovah, Beth Yisraeli, the man of Judah, a plant of His pleasure—that is election, in this case, national election, in which the national Israel was the hull and chaff of the kernel and seed Israel. The national Israel seemed to be the people of God. Outwardly they appeared to be the elect. This could be and was deceiving, if the shell and hull were taken as the true Israel. Within the entire organism of the nation, the mere shell church was a living hypocrisy. We as believers must be sure we belong to the heart of the wheat. Isaiah writes with a word combination of sight, sound, and sense. It may be imitated in English by, He hoped for Equity, and, look, iniquity! for right and, look, riot! Where praying and praising were looked for there were cursing and swearing. In Christ’s day, the Jews should have embraced the righteousness of Christ, but they shrieked, Crucify him! Away with him! 

3.Six Woes for Six Bad Fruits Produced by the Vineyard

“Woe to those who cause house to touch against house; field against field they bring together, until (there is) no more (place), and ye set them by themselves in the midst of the land” (Heb. 5:8). (a) Woe against covetousness (in the form of greed for worldly wealth). Avaricious grasping punished with sterility (vs. 8-10). Micah expressed the same condemnation against house and land monopoly. “They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and take them away. They defraud a man and his household; the person and his inheritance” (2:2, Berkeley). A man became a land baron and a city boss when he acquired all the houses in an area, owning the whole city, and all the fields, owning the suburbs. Here is the man who set his heart on wealth and cannot get enough of it. The more he gets; the more he has to get. He already has a house, but also a winter house, a summer house, and is wheeling a deal to acquire a main line house and a down town hotel. He does not have time to enjoy what he has; nor time to do any good with it; he is too busy working at getting more and growing rich rapidly. If a man were given the whole of Ireland, he would want the Isle of Man thrown in. If he could monopolize the whole world, he would want to annex the moon. 

“In my ears (is) Jehovah Tsebhaoth. If (the following shall) not (occur, I am not God): many houses shall be (brought) to desolation, great ones and beautiful ones without inhabitant” (Heb. 5:9). God is in the prophet’s ears (Isa. 22:14I Sam. 9:15), so that what he hears is not his own subjective meditations, but is divine revelation; his ears ring with it. The coveting of houses and lands is punished with the loss of both, and their being abandoned, no one to inhabit them. This occurs because of the owners’ having been degraded to poverty, or taken into captivity, or the building trade died, or they themselves died. Nothing but a ghost town remains. Men build mansions, great, or huge, grandly and expensively gotten up, and beautiful ones, the dream homes we all dream of and none of us can afford. These are set in the exclusive land developments of the rich, the accomplishment of which they themselves consider to be the height of virtue; but, in a few years at most these opulent dwellings become bare, empty, uninhabited. Some of these elite environs have become slums, or destitute inner city canyons; or bulldozed off the map, or sacrificed to the demon, City Beltline, or to the dragon, Highway Cloverleaf. These things occur every day, yet “the inward thought of men is that their houses shall continue forever; so they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless, man being in honor abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:11-12). So that he must face the Judge of all when He asks, “then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20). Fools, wrote Matthew Henry, build houses for wise men to live in, and sometimes for no men to live in. 

“For ten yokes (land ploughed with ten yoke of oxen in one day) of vineyard shall produce one bath (of wine), and the seed pf a homer shall produce an ephah” (Heb. 5:10). Here is the condition of things which helped to produce the desolate situation of sterile land and vacant dwellings. So that ten days work produce but a single bath (Ezek. 45:11-14). The harvest would be no more than one tenth of the sowing. The curse is the penalty for covetousness. 

At this fourth month writing, the news media reveals the concern of weather authorities in connection with expected changes for the worse in world weather. Signs indicate the coming of drought, famine, dearth, crop failure, and starvation, causing great suffering (to mention a few areas) to India, Russia (a Communist country which must always depend for its economy and sustenance on capitalism), and the United States. Such occurrences are brought in the providence of God as judgments which desolate whole kingdoms, reducing all ranks of men to abject misery. It is by such divine vengeances that the upper strata of society in their proud feastings, and the meaner sort, in their base revels, descend into hell, “which enlarges itself and opens its mouth without measure” to swallow up its prey of every class of men. These blasting judgments, then, are but the precursors of hell, for in that dreadful place not a drop of water will be afforded to cool the burning tongue of those who in this life fared sumptuously every day. 

(b) Woe Against Rioting, Reveling and Drunkenness (11-17). “Woe to the ones rising early in the morning (that) they may run after strong drink; (so immediately) from after (this, continuing) into the evening (until) wine inflame them” (Heb. 5:11). Isaiah is talking about the people of his nation, the Jews, who, having been scattered among the Gentiles, have learned their reveling, carousing, and drinking habits. Their excess in drinking to drunken stupor continued morning and night, all day and all night. Luther asked, “What would the prophet have said to the Germans for whom natural capacity is insufficient to drain so much drink? Theirs are not feasts of joy but feasts of pigs. It is all right to eat and to drink, but to cultivate drunkenness is evil.” Gill said, “To rise up early in the morning is healthful . . . to rise to do business is commendable; but to spend the day in drunkenness . . . is . . . criminal.” These libertines make drinking their trade and business; they are pros at it. They are always at it, not losing a moment of time at that which is the greatest waste of time. They neglect every other, even necessary business, to abandon themselves in addiction to the flesh and the lust of the heart. Manton it was who said, “When men make a set business of drinking, though they be not grossly distempered, yet THEY ARE DRUNKARDS before God” (emph., RCH). These first two woes, Isaiah warns, shall be punished with captivity (enslavement to sin), hunger, thirst and death. Peter spoke for those delivered from this horrible evil. “For to have been practicing the ways of the Gentiles heretofore is quite enough, indulging in unbridled lusts, in passions, in drinking parties, in carousings, in dissipations and forbidden idolatries” (I Peter 4:3