Posted by: mattcolvin | December 2, 2011

Slipping metaphor in Isaiah 5

We saw in an earlier post how an literal, non-metaphorical translation of the word υπωπιαζω deepens the meaning of the parable, heightening the comparison between God and an earthly human judge. Something similar occurs in Isaiah 5, the Song of the Vineyard.

The owner threatens a series of punishments to chastise the vineyard for bearing wild grapes instead of good ones. The punishments are listed: removal of the hedge, burning, breaking of the wall, trampling, neglect of pruning and cultivation, abandonment to briers and thorns — all of these being either quite natural results of neglect, or conceivable acts of a frustrated vintner who has become thoroughly disgusted with his plot of ground. But there is one more item in the list: “I will command the clouds, that they rain no rain on it!” Here the reality behind the poetic conceit breaks through: the plaintiff suing his vineyard is unmistakably YHWH, inflicting the punishment of Leviticus 26:19, “I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. (Leviticus 26:19 NKJV) The other punishments of the vineyard may be metaphorical, but withholding rain can be taken quite at face value, for it is not something that humans can do to their vineyards, but only YHWH.

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