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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Symbolism of Wine > The Judgment of God


In both the Old and New Testaments all aspects of the viticulture of Palestine are used to depict God’s anger and judgment. His wrath is expressed in terms of the vineyard being destroyed, of the people being without wine, of drinking the cup of wine in His hand, and of His treading the winepress in judgment.

At times the Lord’s anger is spoken of as the vine failing. God warns His people that disobedience will result in their planting vineyards and tending them, but that they would “neither drink of the wine (yayin) nor gather the grapes” (Deut. 28:39). Concerning judgment of Egypt, the psalmist writes: “He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land. He struck their vines also, and their fig trees” (Ps. 105:31-32). In Isaiah 32:10 He simply says that “the vintage will fail.” God says that a nation “has laid waste My vine” (Joel 1:7) and the vine has dried up (v. 12). Moab also experiences loss in the vineyard (Isa. 16:8-11; Jer. 48:12, 26, 33).

God’s judgment is severe and full. God will not merely abandon His vineyard, He will actively dismantle it. Concerning the judgment of Israel, God states in Isaiah 5:5-6:

And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rainno rain upon it.

The vineyard will become a place of “briers and thorns.” It will be “trampled down” and made a “waste.” Through Ezekiel the Lord speaks of the outcast vine that is “thrown into the fire for fuel” and says: “so I will give up the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will set My face against them.” He continues: “they will go out from one fire, but another fire shall devour them” (15:1-8; see: 19:10-14).

At times God’s judgment is spoken of as the people being without wine. According to Hosea, God will take away the “new wine” (tirosh) (2:9) and will destroy the vines (2:12); the “new wine” (tirosh) will fail and “the threshing floor and the winepress shall not feed them” (9:2). In Joel the “drinkers of wine” wail because the wine is cut off (1:5). The “new wine” (tirosh) fails (1:10); therefore, he says a second time that the vinedressers are to wail (1:11). In Micah, the Lord says: “You shall sow, but not reap; you shall tread the olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil, and make sweet wine (tirosh) but not drink wine (yayin)” (6:15; see: Zeph. 1:13). In judgment God takes away the grain, the oil, and the wine. When “Babylon the great” is judged in the future, the “merchants of the earth” will “weep and mourn” for they cannot buy her “wine” (oinos) anymore, or the other merchandise that she has had in the past (Rev. 18:1-2, 11-13). God’s judgment will cause those judged to be deprived of wine.

The failure of the vineyard and the loss of wine clearly indicate God’s judgment in Isaiah 24:7-13, probably the end-time judgment. And in this passage the three main Hebrew words for fermented drink are used, perhaps indicating that all types of drink will be lost or that the three words are very similar.

The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No more do they drink wine (tirosh) with singing; strong drink (shekar) is bitter to those who drink it. The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter. There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine (yayin); all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished. Desolation is left in the city; the gates are battered into ruins. For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.

God has a cup of wine and it is His judgment. The psalmist declares: “God is the Judge: He puts one down and exalts another. For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine (yayin) is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down” (75:7-8; see: Ps. 60:3). The cup is “fully mixed,” meaning that it is a potent cup.

Other prophets speak in a similar manner. Habakkuk writes: “The cup of the Lord’s right hand will be turned against you” (2:16). Isaiah says: “Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem. You who have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and drained it out” (5:17). God tells Jeremiah: “Take this wine (yayin) cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it” (25:15); the nations are names (vs. 17-26). To these nations God says: “Drink, be drunk, and vomit!” (v. 27). God says to those who refuse to drink: “You shall certainly drink!” (v. 28; see: 49:12; 51:7, 57; Hab. 2:16). There is no way to escape God’s judgment. He causes the one for whom the cup is prepared to drink it.

Other passages in the Old Testament associate the “cup” or “bottle” with judgment: Jer. 13:12-14; 49:12-13; Lam. 4:21; Ezek. 23:32-34; Hab. 2:16; Zech. 12:2. The Apocalypse speaks of “the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation” (14:10) and of “the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath” (16:19). Just as God’s cup of wrath can be consumed in judgment, so God can withdraw the cup from the hands so that no one will drink from it (Isa. 51:21-23).

Judgment is also equated with the winepress in both Testaments. What can be added to this statement in Isaiah?

Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, He who is splendid in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like his who treads in the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me; I trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; their lifeblood spattered on My garments, and stained all My apparel. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption had come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought Me salvation, and My wrath upheld Me. I trampled down the peoples in My anger; I made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth” (Isa. 63:1-6).

After the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah declares: “The Lord has trampled underfoot all my mighty men in my midst; He has called an assembly against me to crush my young men; the Lord trampled as in a winepress the virgin daughter of Judah” (Lam. 1:15). In the New Testament John speaks of the One called Faithful and True on the white horse who “treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15). Earlier he speaks of “the great winepress” of God’s wrath (14:19). As the grapes are pressed, so God presses the wicked in His anger and judgment.

You have shown your people hard things;
You have made us drink the wine of confusion.
Ps. 60:3

Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow—for their wickedness is great (Joel 3:12-13).

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