This passage calls itself דודי שירת “song of my beloved.” דוד may also imply a male “friend.” It is likely that this song was sung by the male friend, the prophet Isaiah, of the aggrieved lover – the bridegroom. His beloved friend owned a vineyard (v 1) and did his all: clearing it of stone, planting it with vines of best quality, building a watch-tower within it, even carving a wine-vat inside it. Despite the beloved’s efforts, expecting that the vines would produce fine grapes, it disappointingly produced wild grapes or “stinking” or “rotten things” instead (v 2).
He then appealed to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah to make a judgement between him and his vineyard (v 3-4). Afterwards he declared that he would remove its wall of protection over it, destroy it himself, and abandon it like a wasteland (vv 5-6). It is identified that the vineyard is the house of Israel and that it belongs to the Lord of hosts who expected justice and righteousness but only saw bloodshed and distress (v 7).
The prophet now denounces the social injustices that are perpetrated in the land. The Lord will punish those who illegally extend their land, robbing the poor of their rightful inheritance (vv 8-10). The Lord will send carousers and those who disregard him to exile and to suffer hunger and thirst (vv 11-13). Their nobles will go to their graves (v 14) and the people will be humbled (v 15), but the Lord of hosts will be exalted by justice and righteousness (v 16). Those who make derisive rejoinders impatiently calling on the Lord to carry out his plans are people whose judgements have been blurred (v 18-20), seeing themselves as wise (v 21); and those who, due to their drunkenness, have perverted justice with a price (vv 22-23). These people will be destroyed for their rejecting and despising the instruction of the Lord of hosts (v 24).
The Lord, in his anger, will punish his own people (v 25) by sending his agent from afar (v 26). This army will come swiftly (v 26) and fully prepared for war (vv 27-28). This army, whose “roaring is like a lion” (v 19, nrsv), will bring total darkness, devastating the land (v 30). THE RHETORICAL UNIT
The major issue in determining the rhetorical unit of the passage is whether the song (vv 1-7) is connected to its following verses. Due to the הוי “woes,” 5:8-24 and 10:1-4 are considered linked together by their concern for social injustices and thus belonging to a unit while 5:25-30 is considered to be separate for its dealing with another theme – war. This may be explained, though, through a process of redaction: the editor(s) combined both sections dealing with social criticism and military action, linking the themes of misbehaviour and punishment through war. And thus dividing the passage should not be divided artificially due to הוי, for the prophet’s speech also contains other literary forms.
This song with its criticism ends the first cycle of social criticisms which is followed by the prophet’s political criticism in 6:1ff. He uses stylistic devices to catch the attention of his audience and employs pathos to emotionally persuade them particularly in his use of הוי which alludes to death. The prophet’s goal is to point to the consequence of their sinful actions – punishment and death.
Isa 5:1-30, then, is one long and well-organized rhetorical unit. And the author pays close attention to both organization and argumentative speech to prove his point convincingly. The prophet’s address may be divided into five parts: 1. Introduction (vv 1-7)
2. Statement of facts (v 8)
3. Confirmation (vv 9-20)
4. Refutation (vv 21-24)
5. Epilogue (vv 25-30)
The introduction (vv 1-7) may also be described as the introductory narrative, providing the hearer or reader a basic outline or reference. The statement of facts (v 8) succinctly states the situation, i.e. the land is spoilt. Although not described and explained in detail, the confirmation (vv 9-20) states the...