The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Prophecy of Isaias
A song, now, in honour of one that is my good friend; a song about a near kinsman of mine, and the vineyard that he had. This friend, that I love well, had a vineyard in a corner of his ground,✻ all fruitfulness.
He fenced it in, and cleared it of stones, and planted a choice vine there; built a tower, too, in the middle, and set up a wine-press in it. Then he waited for grapes to grow on it, and it bore wild grapes instead.
And now, citizens of Jerusalem, and all you men of Juda, I call upon you to give award between my vineyard and me.
What more could I have done for it? What say you of the wild grapes it bore, instead of the grapes I looked for?
Let me tell you, then, what I mean to do to this vineyard of mine. I mean to rob it of its hedge, so that all can plunder it, to break down its wall, so that it will be trodden under foot.
I mean to make waste-land of it; no more pruning and digging; only briars and thorns will grow there, and I will forbid the clouds to water it.
Alas, it is the house of Israel that the Lord called his vineyard; the men of Juda are the plot he loved so. He looked to find right reason there, and all was treason; to find plain dealing, and he heard only the plaint of the oppressed.
Woe upon you, that must ever be acquiring house after house, field after neighbouring field, till all the world goes wanting! Would you have the whole land to yourselves to live in?
The news of all this has reached me, says the Lord of hosts; see if I do not leave these many houses, these fine great houses of yours, lonely and untenanted.
Wait, till you find ten acres of vine-land yielding but one flagon of wine, thirty bushels of seed-corn yielding but three.
Woe upon you, the men who must be up betimes to go a-drinking, and sit late into the evening, till you are heated with wine!
Still you must have zither and harp, tambour and flute and wine for your entertainment; you give no thought to God’s dealings, to the world his hands have made.
It is this inconsiderateness that has made my people homeless exiles, their nobles starving, and common folk parched with thirst;
that is why the abyss hungers for you, opens its greedy jaws, till all alike, the nobles of Sion and her common sort, that boast and triumph now, go down to its depths.
The low-born must fall, the high-born abate his pride; the eyes of the boaster will be downcast;
doom, by which the Lord of hosts will be exalted, just award, by which the God of holiness will shew holier yet!
There, with his flocks browsing undisturbed, the stranger shall enjoy the rich pastures you left a wilderness.
Woe upon you, that lightly harness yourselves to ill-doing, and draw down upon you, as with a strong rope, its guilt!
What is this, you say, that the Holy One of Israel threatens? Quick, no waiting; let us know the worst, and with all speed!
Woe upon you, the men who call evil good, and good evil; whose darkness is light, whose light darkness; who take bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe upon you, that think yourselves wise, and boast of your own foresight!
Woe upon you, heroes of the tankard, brave hearts round the mixing-bowl,
that take bribes to acquit the guilty, and rob the innocent of his rights!
See how stubble is eaten away by the fire that licks round it, melting away into the heat of the flame; so the root of them will turn to smouldering embers, and the fruit of them will go up like flying ashes; men who reject the law of the God of hosts, who defy every warning from the Holy One of Israel.
That is why the Lord’s anger against his people has been so fierce; that is why his hand has been raised to smite them, so that the mountains trembled at it, and corpses lay unregarded like dung in the streets. But even so his anger is not yet appeased, his hand threatens us still.
And now he will raise up among the distant nations one people to be a signal to the rest;✻ he will whistle it up from the ends of the earth, swiftly and suddenly it will answer his call.
Not a man in those ranks that will faint or lag behind; none grows weary or falls asleep; never a belt is unbuckled, never a shoe-string loosed.
Sharp arrows this people has, and all its bows are ready bent; it has horses with hoofs like flint, and chariot-wheels like the rushing of the storm.
No lion roars so loud; it will roar as lion-cubs do, growling and holding its prey fast, encircling it so that none can bring rescue.
Sounds of dread shall usher in that day, loud as the roaring of the sea; look where you will, all shall be dark with misery; light itself will be darkened by the shadow of its coming.
The Holy Bible