Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Symbolism of Wine > Nation of Israel


In Exodus 15:17 Moses said to God: “You will bring them in and plant them”; here is the incipient concept of something being planted. The psalmist says of God: “You drove out the nations with your hand, but them You planted” (44:2); again there is the symbolic idea of being planted. But what was planted? Or, who was planted?

Psalm 80:8-9 provides the answer: “You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it. You prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land.” The nation God planted was the nation He redeemed from bondage, the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abraham. He calls them “a vine.” To this people God gave a land, and He “planted” them in the land.

In the land the people were unfaithful to the One who planted them. Therefore, God broke down the fences around His vineyard, and strangers and animals ate the fruit (Ps. 80:12-13). Punishment followed unfaithfulness. The psalmist pleads: “Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; look down from heaven and see, and visit this vine, and the vineyard which Your hand has planted, and the branch that You made strong for Yourself” (vs. 14-15).

Israel was the vine God took out of Egypt and planted in the land of Canaan, the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. When judgment came, the psalmist sought mercy based upon the fact that the nation was the vine that God planted and cultivated for Himself. The vineyard of Israel was God’s own vineyard, His and His alone.

The vineyard, the nation, was according to God’s design and purpose. Through Jeremiah God says: “I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality” (2:21). God speaks through Hosea: “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness” (9:10), meaning that Israel was a pleasing and satisfying find. These passages equate Israel with the vine or with God’s vineyard. He is the One who planted them, cared for them, and expected them to live for Him.

Isaiah 5:1-7 is the classic passage identifying Israel with the vineyard. On a very fruitful hill, where He dug and cleared the stones away, God had a vineyard that He planted with “the choicest vine” (v. 2), a vine of unusual and exceptional quality. In the vineyard He “built a tower” and “made a winepress” (v. 2), indicating that He expected a harvest. All that could be done was done. God’s love for the nation, expressed in His care for the vineyard, is obvious. Isaiah observes: “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant” (v. 7).

Instead of bringing forth “good grapes” the vineyard brought forth “wild grapes” (Isa. 5:2, 4), literally, “stinking things.” God asks: “What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it” (v. 4)? God is using the whole process of winemaking, the viticulture of the people, to speak of His relationship to the nation. The message is one the people could understand because it was related to their daily lives. They worked in the vineyards, expecting a good harvest; but at times there was little or no harvest. God had cared for Israel, tending and nurturing them; but the lives of the people had been wild, a stink to their holy God.

In Isaiah 27:1-6 the metaphor of the vineyard is used of Israel in connection with “that day,” the day of final judgment and full salvation, the eschatological day. “In that day” Leviathan (unbelieving opposition) will be destroyed (v. 1), and the Lord will keep His “vineyard of red wine” (v. 2). He will “water it every moment” and “keep it night and day” lest “any hurt it” (v. 3). He will protect and satisfy His people, and outsiders will not disrupt His vineyard.

The final vineyard of the Lord will be universal. It will include all His people. The Lord declares: “Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the earth with fruit” ((Isa. 27:6). Through the cross both Jew and Gentile (“those who come”) will be planted together in God’s vineyard. Because “the middle wall of separation” has been removed, those who were “strangers and foreigners” are now “members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:14, 19).

To be a member of “the household of God” is to be caused by God “to take root in Jacob.” It is to be planted in God’s vineyard. This is grace at work. It is to be made a Jew inwardly, circumcised in the heart by the Spirit (Rom. 2:29). Symbolically, it is to be placed in the vineyard of the Lord.

As God enlarges His vineyard it grows to “fill the face of the earth.” God’s grace will not be defeated. His dominion will be a universal dominion. His vineyard, the vineyard of the redeemed, will finally and fully “blossom and bud”; and the earth will be filled “with fruit” (Isa. 27:6; see: Isa. 3:14; Jer. 12:10; Ezek. 17:1-10; 19:10-14; Zech. 10:6-7; Mk. 12:1-2).

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them” (Amos 9:13-14).

Return to: The Symbolism of Wine; Next Article: Beauty, Love, and Marriage 

 For overview of the website, see: Site Map
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.