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The meaning of Vine in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)


1. Hebrew Words:

(1) gephen, usually the cultivated grape vine. In Numbers 6:4; Judges 13:14 we have gephen ha-yayin, literally, "vine of wine," translated "grape vine" (Numbers) and "vine," margin "grape vine" (Jgs); II Kings 4:39, gephen sadheh English Versions of the Bible "wild vine"; Deuteronomy 32:32, gephen cedhom, "vine of Sodom."

(2) soreq, in Isaiah 5:2, "choicest vine"; soreq, in Jeremiah 2:21, "noble vine"; soreqah, in Genesis 49:11, "choice vine"; compare SOREK, VALLEY OF (which see). The Hebrew is supposed to indicate dark grapes and, according to rabbinical tradition, they were unusually sweet and almost, if not quite, stoneless.

(3) nazir, in Leviticus 25:5, Leviticus 25:11, "undressed vine," the King James Version "vine undressed," margin "separation." This may mean an unpruned vine and be a reference to the uncut locks of a Nazirite, but it is equally probable that nazir should be batsir, "vintage."

For the blossom we have peraq (Isaiah 18:5), "blossom"; nitstsah, either the blossom or half-formed clusters of grapes (Genesis 40:10; Isaiah 18:5); cemadhar, "sweet-scented blossom" (Song of Solomon 2:13, Song of Solomon 2:15; Song of Solomon 7:12).

For grapes we have commonly: 'enabh (a word common to all Semitic languages) (Genesis 40:10; Deuteronomy 32:14; Isaiah 5:2, etc.); dam 'anabhim, literally, "blood of grapes," i.e. wine (Genesis 49:11); bocer, "the unripe grape" (Isaiah 18:5, "ripening grape," the King James Version "sour grape"; Job 15:33, "unripe grapes"; Jeremiah 31:29 f.; Ezekiel 18:2, "sour grapes"); be'ushim "wild grapes" (Isaiah 5:2, Isaiah 5:4; see GRAPES, WILD); 'eshkol, a "cluster" of ripe grapes (Genesis 40:10; Song of Solomon 7:8 f.; Habakkuk 3:17, etc.; compare ESHCOL (which see)); qartsannim, usually supposed to be the kernels of grapes (Numbers 6:4).

2. Greek and Latin:

In Greek we have ampelos, "vine" (Matthew 26:29, etc.), staphule (Sirach 39:26, "blood of grapes"; Matthew 7:16, "grapes," etc.), and botrus (Revelation 14:18), "cluster of the vine." In the Latin of 2 Esdras vinea is "vine" in 5:23 ("vineyard" in 16:30,43); botrus (9:21) and racemus (16:30) are "cluster"; acinium (9:21) and uva (16:26) are "a grape."

3. Antiquity and Importance:

Palestine appears to have been a vine-growing country from the earliest historic times. The countless wine presses found in and around centers of early civilization witness to this. It is probable that the grape was largely cultivated as a source of sugar: the juice expressed in the "wine press" was reduced by boiling to a liquid of treacle-like consistency known as "grape honey," or in Hebrew debhash (Arabic, dibs). This is doubtless the "honey" of many Old Testament references, and before the days of cane sugar was the chief source of sugar. The whole Old Testament witnesses to how greatly Palestine depended upon the vine and its products. Men rejoiced in wine also as one of God's best gifts (Judges 9:13; Psalms 104:15). But the Nazirite might eat nothing of the vine "from the kernels even to the husk" (Numbers 6:4; Judges 13:14).

The land promised to the children of Israel was one of "vines and fig trees and pomegranates" (Deuteronomy 8:8); they inherited vineyards which they had not planted (Deuteronomy 6:11; Joshua 24:13; Nehemiah 9:25). Jacob's blessing on Judah had much reference to the suitability of his special part of the land to the vine (Genesis 49:11). When the leading people were carried captive the poor were left as vine dressers (II Kings 25:12; Jeremiah 52:16), lest the whole land should lapse into uncultivated wilderness. On the promised return this humble duty was, however, to fall to the "sons of the alien" (Isaiah 61:5 the King James Version).

4. Its Cultivation:

The mountain regions of Judea and Samaria, often little suited to cereals, have always proved highly adapted to vine culture. The stones must first be gathered out and utilized for the construction of a protecting wall or of terraces or as the bases of towers (Isaiah 5:2; Matthew 21:33). Every ancient vineyard had its wine press cut in a sheet of rock appearing at the surface. As a rule the vinestocks lie along the ground, many of the fruit-bearing branches falling over the terraces (compare Genesis 49:22); in some districts the end of the vine-stock is raised by means of a cleft stick a foot or more above the surface; exceptionally the vine branches climb into trees, and before a dwelling-house they are sometimes supported upon poles to form a bower (compare I Kings 4:25, etc.).

The cultivation of the vine requires constant care or the fruit will very soon degenerate. After the rains the loosely made walls require to have breaches repaired; the ground must be plowed or harrowed and cleared of weeds—contrast with this the vineyard of the sluggard (Proverbs 24:30-31); in the early spring the plants must be pruned by cutting off dead and fruitless branches (Leviticus 25:3-4; Isaiah 5:6) which are gathered and burned (John 15:6). As the grapes ripen they must be watched to keep off jackals and foxes (Song of Solomon 2:15), and in some districts even wild boars (Psalms 80:13). The watchman is stationed in one of the towers and overlooks a considerable area. When the grape season comes, the whole family of the owner frequently take their residence in a booth constructed upon one of the larger towers and remain there until the grapes are practically finished. It is a time of special happiness (compare Isaiah 16:10). The gleanings are left to the poor of the village or town (Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 24:21; Judges 8:2; Isaiah 17:6; Isaiah 24:13; Jeremiah 49:9; Micah 7:1). In the late summer the vineyards are a beautiful mass of green, as contrasted with the dried-up parched land around, but in the autumn the leaves are sere and yellow (Isaiah 34:4), and the place desolate.

5. Vine of Sodom:

The expression "vine of Sodom" (Deuteronomy 32:32) has been supposed, especially because of the description in Josephus (BJ, IV, viii, 4), to refer to the colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis), but it is far more probable that it means "a vine whose juices and fruits were not fresh and healthy, but tainted by the corruption of which Sodom was the type" (Driver, Commentary on Deuteronomy).


Figurative: Every man "under his vine and under his fig-tree" (I Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10) was a sign of national peace and prosperity. To plant vineyards and eat the fruit thereof implied long and settled habitation (II Kings 19:29; Psalms 107:37; Isaiah 37:30; Isaiah 65:21; Jeremiah 31:5; Ezekiel 28:26; Amos 9:14); to plant and not eat the fruit was a misfortune (Deuteronomy 20:6; compare I Corinthians 9:7) and might be a sign of God's displeasure (Deuteronomy 28:30; Zephaniah 1:13; Amos 5:11). Not to plant vines might be a sign of deliberate avoidance of permanent habitation (Jeremiah 35:7). A successful and prolonged vintage showed God's blessing (Leviticus 26:5), and a fruitful wife is compared to a vine (Psalms 128:3); a failure of the vine was a sign of God's wrath (Psalms 78:47; Jeremiah 8:13; Joel 1:7); it might be a test of faith in Him (Habakkuk 3:17). Joseph "is a fruitful bough, .... his branches run over the wall" (Genesis 49:22). Israel is a vine (Isaiah 5:1-5) brought out of Egypt (Psalms 80:8 f.; Jeremiah 2:21; Jeremiah 12:10; compare Ezekiel 15:2, Ezekiel 15:6; Ezekiel 17:6). At a later period vine leaves or grape clusters figure prominently on Jewish coins or in architecture.

Three of our Lord's parables are connected with vineyards (Matthew 20:1 ff.; Matthew 21:28, Matthew 21:33 ff.), and He has made the vine ever sacred in Christian symbolism by His teaching regarding the true vine (John 15).

E. W. G. Masterman

See more on the meaning of Vine in the Bible:
Vine {Easton's Bible Dictionary}

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