God has had enough
Song of the groom’s best man1
Let me sing a song for my buddy.
A song about his love for a vineyard.
My buddy had a vineyard
On a lovely fertile hill.
And planted premium vines.
He protected it with a lookout tower
And chiseled himself a wine vat.
He expected tasty grapes,
But sour grapes are all he got.
3My friend appeals to the jury:
Citizens of Israel and Judah.
Consider his complaint about the vineyard:
4What more could I have done for my vineyard?
I did everything I could.
I expected delicious grapes,
But I got sour grapes instead.
5So, this is what I plan to do.
I’ll take my problem to the vineyard.
I’ll tear out the thornbush hedges.
I’ll destroy every bit of that fence.
I’ll tear down the stone-block wall.
I’ll let animals trample the vines.
6I’ll let the field grow wild.
I won’t weed it. I won’t prune it.
I’ll let thorns and briars take it.
I’ll tell the clouds to keep their rain.
We’ll not need it for the vines.”
Bad harvest from Israel, Judah7
This vineyard belongs to the LORD of all.
Israel and Judah are the vineyard.
They’re the field of vines God planted.
He expected juicy grapes of justice.
He got bloody grapes of wrath.
He expected a harvest of goodness.
He harvested cries of violence.
Who build your houses bigger and bigger
And buy the land where others lived.
In the end, you’ll be alone.
The LORD of everyone told me this:
Many mansions will be leveled.
Other homes large and lovely
Will have no one living in them.
Will produce three cases of wine.
A dozen sacks of seed
Will get you half a sack of grain.
11Too bad for those who wake up early
Looking for some booze,
And who spend their days chugging wine
Till they’re hammered, drunk and wasted.
12They have music at their parties.
Lyres, harps, and tambourines,
And flutes along with wine.
They don’t see what the LORD is doing.
They’re not paying attention to him.
13So, my people won’t see it coming
When they’re sent away in exile,
With their leaders dying of hunger
And the masses dying of thirst.
The ground is hungry for bodies14
The grave  is growling in its stomach
As it opens a cavernous mouth.
In a measureless gulp it swallows Jerusalem,
The elegant, the party, the drunks.
Everyone is humbled.
Even the proud will drop their heads,
Eyes anchored to the ground.
16This is the day of justice.
It honors the LORD of all.
It shows that he’s the Holy God
Who chooses to do what’s right.
17Lambs will graze
In unplowed fields.
Fattened sheep and young goats
Pasture among the ruins.
18Too bad for sinful people
Who take sin wherever they go,
Hauled in carts of evil
Pulled with cords of lies.
19They mock the Holy One himself.
“He’ll do something?” they say.
“Then let him get it done
So we can see what he can do.”
When bad is good and sour is sweet20
Yes, it’s too bad for those of you
Who say evil is good and good is evil,
Black is white and white is black,
Sour is sweet and sweet is sour.
You think you’re clever.
22You’re famous as a wine snob,
Champion chugger of mixed drinks.
23You declare guilty people innocent
If the bribe is satisfactory.
But your judgment is a robbery
Of the rights of innocent people.
24Tongues of fire will lick up straw.
Hay will crumble in flames.
Roots in of the field will rot away.
Blossoms will flame to dust.
That’s for refusing to listen to God.
Ignoring Israel’s Holy One.
Invaders arrive in good shape25
The LORD grew angry at his people
And he punished them for what they did.
He struck them and the mountains shook,
Bodies littered streets like trash.
Yet his anger lingers.
He’s ready to strike again.
A shout to the ends of the earth.
Here they come quickly,
Right on time.
27They don’t arrive tired.
They’re not stumbling or sleepy.
Their clothes aren’t ragged,
Sandals not broken from the march.
28Their arrows are sharpened,
Bows ready to shoot.
Horses stride on hoofs of rock,
Chariots glide on whirlwind wheels.
29They charge with the roar of a lion,
A young lion’s roar.
They growl as they capture their prey.
They carry it off
And no one will get in their way.
30They will roar when it’s done,
Like the roar of the sea.
Then when anyone looks at the land left behind
They’ll see destruction, distress, and darkness
And clouds that blacken the sky.
The lyrics of the first six verses read like a parable about a husband and his wife, who is presented as his vineyard. The poet appears to be a friend of the husband, who’s presenting a complaint about the woman.
In 930 BC, Israel split in two. This happened after King Solomon’s son and successor, Rehoboam, threatened to make life harder on the citizens than his dad had done. Solomon had taxed heavily, and he drafted people to work on government building projects like the Jerusalem Temple and his palace and walls for cities. See 1 Kings 12. The northern tribes, on the spot, seceded from the southern tribes and took with them the name of Israel. The southern nation became Judah, using the name of the dominate southern tribe.
Even a relatively weak 10-acre vineyard today will produce a thousand cases of wine or more. There are 12 bottles of wine in a case. In ancient Hebrew terms, the amount of wine produced is one bath. That’s about six gallons or 21 liters. A standard bottle of wine today is 750 milliliters, which is about a quart.
The Hebrew measurements are a homer (5 bushels/220 liters, which is about 600 pounds/270 kg of wheat) and an ephah (about 20 pounds/9 kg).
This may refer to Assyrian invaders coming from what is now Iraq. They erased the northern Jewish nation of Israel from the political map (721 BC). A century and a half later, Babylonian invaders did the same to the southern Jewish nation of Judah (586 BC). Invaders exiled the Jews from their homeland each time. Jews from Israel did not seem to return as large group. They became known as the Lost Tribes of Israel. But Jews from Judah began returning in the mid-500s BC to rebuild their nation.
Literally, Sheol, a word Old Testament writers used to describe the place of the dead. It is a kind of underworld where the dead are cut off from the living—and from God—and there is no coming back.
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