Dionysian Nation

Yahweh takes a vine from Egypt and plants it in the land (Isaiah 5; Psalm 80). He cares for it and cultivates it. He removes all obstacles that would prevent Israel from growing and flourishing in the land, clears the ground, digs a protective furrow around it. He takes the choicest vine, and builds a tower in the middle of it. He lovingly cares for His vineyard. He does all He can do to make the vineyard productive.

The phrase “choice vine” comes from Genesis 49, and is a reference to the royal tribe of Judah; the tower in the midst of the vineyard is the temple. His vineyard is on a “horn, a son of oil,” a phrase that reminds us of the horns of oil that were used to anoint Israel’s kings. There is even a faint echo of the name of David in the Hebrew word “beloved” (which has the same consonants as the name David) and “well-beloved,” which is related to the name Jedidah, given to Solomon in 2 Samuel 12. This is not just a general allegory of Israel’s entry to the land, but more specifically an allegory of Israel’s monarchy and an allegory of the temple.

Yahweh also digs a vat for wine. Yahweh has not only planted a vineyard, but started a wine-making operation. The temple is a house of wine, and the kings set up the wine-making operation in the temple so that Yahweh and His people would enjoy wine feasts together. With the royal vine and the temple, Yahweh has prepared Israel to be the nation that produces wine to delight the nations. Israel is the true Dionysian people, the people of festivity. And not just the nations. The point of Yahweh’s vineyard is to produce wine that will bring delight to Israel, and even to Yahweh Himself. God has given wine, the Bible says, to delight both God and man. God plants Israel, cares for Israel, nurtures Israel, and then waits expectantly for Israel to mature to the point where she provides delightful wine for Him to share.

Israel as vineyard thus points to the role that Israel is supposed to have among the nations. At creation, Adam was placed in a garden God planted, but after the flood, Noah planted himself a vineyard (Genesis 9:20). This is the first vineyard in Scripture, and it shows that the vineyard is the glorified garden, the garden that is planted, by man, after the flood, the new Eden. It is a signal of new creation, of the wine-Sabbath that follows the judgment. Israel is that vineyard, the signal of the Lord’s starting over. After the flood of Babel, Yahweh chose Abram; after the flood of the plagues and exodus, Yahweh planted His vine. Israel is the new creation, the people who bring rest, the new Noachic humanity.


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