The Parable of the Vineyard: An Exegesis of Isaiah 5:1–8 -- By: T. Furman Hewitt

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 09:1 (Fall 1991)
Article: The Parable of the Vineyard: An Exegesis of Isaiah 5:1–8
Author: T. Furman Hewitt


The Parable of the Vineyard:
An Exegesis of Isaiah 5:1–8

T. Furman Hewitt

Professor of Christian Ethics
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Tell us a story,” my children would plead as I put them to bed. When I agreed to do so, they would sit up in bed, hugging their knees, letting their active imaginations run away with the words of my tales. Now I know that their demands for a story were, in part, a last-ditched effort to prolong bed-time. But the desire for stories was also representative of a fact of human nature—-we understand and convey truth through the medium of stories. Although one might not realize it by listening to the average theological lecture or sermon, we have right brains as well as left. It is the right brain which sees the world in terms of images, feelings and perceptions. It is the right brain which is the door through which larger and grander mysteries insert themselves. Religious truth is taught most readily through stories.

Humankind needs theological stories because human beings are fundamentally interpersonal and because, if the Christian God’s promise is true, then humankind is fundamentally related to God as person.1

The recognition that religious truth is most easily conveyed through stories is reflected in the Synoptic Gospels where Jesus’ most characteristic method of teaching is the parable—-a metaphor or story “drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.”2

Jesus was not the first or only person to use parables, however.3 The rabbis of Jesus’ day made extensive use of similes, metaphors, and stories. The same is true of the writers of the Old Testament. The prophets, in particular, found vivid metaphors and parables useful tools for goading hearers into an awareness and decision that they might not make if merely ridiculed or castigated. The parable offered a way for the hearers to be allowed to judge themselves—-clearly a more effective and long-lasting form of judgement. One of the most well-known of such parables is Nathan’s story, told to King David, of a rich man who seized and slaughtered his neighbor’s only ewe lamb for a feast. David, in judging the rich man as guilty, in effect judged himself for his conduct in taking Bathsheba from her husband Uriah (II Sam. 12:1–7).

In Isaiah 5:1–7 we have an equally powerful...

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