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Bible Dictionaries
Vine, Vineyard

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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The usual Heb. word for ‘vine’ is gephen , used of the grape-vine everywhere except in 2 Kings 4:39 , where gephen sâdeh (lit. ‘field vine’) refers to a wild-gourd vine. Another word, sôrçq ( Isaiah 5:2 , Jeremiah 2:21 ), or sôrçqâh ( Genesis 49:11 ), refers to superior vines with purple grapes.

The vine ( Vitis vinifera ) is supposed to be a native of the shores of the Caspian, but has been cultivated in Palestine from the earliest times, as is witnessed by the extensive remains of ancient vineyards. The climate is peculiarly suited to the grape, which reaches perfection during the prolonged sunshine and the dewy nights of late summer. Vines specially flourish on the hillsides unsuited for cereals ( Jeremiah 31:5 , Amos 9:13 ). Viticulture, which languished for centuries under the Arabs, has recently been revived by the German and Jewish colonies, and millions of imported vines of choice strain have been planted. As in the case of the olive, the culture of the vine needs a peaceful, settled population, as the plants require several years’ care before bearing fruit ( Zephaniah 1:13 ), and constant attention if they are to maintain their excellence; hence to sit under one’s ‘own vine and fig tree’ was a favourite image of peace ( 1 Kings 4:25 , Micah 4:4 , Zechariah 3:10 ). In some districts to-day vines are trained over a trellis at the front door, making a cool summer resort. The Israelites found Palestine ready planted with vineyards ( Deuteronomy 6:11 , Joshua 24:13 , Nehemiah 9:25 ). The steps taken in making a vineyard are described in detail in Isaiah 5:1-30 . The land must be fenced (cf. Psalms 80:12 ), the stones gathered out, the choicest possible plants obtained. A winepress was cut in the rock, and a watch tower ( Isaiah 5:2 , Matthew 21:33 ) was built to guard against intruders. These last included foxes (or jackals) ( Song of Solomon 2:15 ) and boars ( Psalms 80:13 ). In such a tower the owner’s family will probably pass all the grape season; during the vintage a large proportion of the people are to be found living in the vineyards. Every spring the soil between the vines must be dug or ploughed up and the plants pruned ( Leviticus 25:3-4 , Isaiah 5:6 ); neglect of this leads to rapid deterioration of the grapes; only the slothful man could permit his vineyard to be overgrown with ‘thorns and nettles’ and ‘the stone wall thereof to be broken down’ ( Proverbs 24:30-31 ). The clusters of grapes are often enormous (cf. Numbers 13:23 ). When the vintage is over and the leaves turn sere and yellow, the vineyards have a very desolate look ( Isaiah 34:4 ). The failure of the vintage was looked upon as one of God’s terrible punishments ( Psalms 78:47 , Jeremiah 8:13 , Habakkuk 3:17 ), and a successful and prolonged vintage as a sign of blessing ( Leviticus 26:5 ). Of the vast quantities of grapes produced in ancient times a large proportion was, without doubt, converted into dibs (Arab. [Note: Arabic.] ) or grape honey (cf. Heb. dÄ•bash = ‘honey’), a form of thick, intensely sweet grape juice, which is still made in considerable quantities in Syria, but which must have been much more important in the days when cane sugar was unknown. Many references to ‘honey’ probably refer to this product rather than to that of the bee.

Israel is compared to a vine in Ezekiel 15:1-8; Ezekiel 17:1-24 , Isaiah 5:1-30 , and Psalms 80:1-19 . The vine-leaf was a favourite design on Jewish coins. The numerous references to the vine in the NT ( e.g . Matthew 20:1 ff; Matthew 21:28; Matthew 21:33 ff., John 15:1-27 ) point to the continued importance of viticulture in those days.

Vine of Sodom ( Deuteronomy 32:32 ). If the reference is to any particular plant which is very doubtful the most probable is the colocynth ( Citrullus colocynthis ); see Gourd. The apple-sized fruit of the curious ‘osher ( Calotropis procera ) has been suggested; but though this answers well to the description by Josephus ( BJ IV. viii. 4) of the ‘fruits of Sodom’ which vanish into ashes, so substantial a tree, with its cork-like bark and large glossy leaves, could in no sense be called a vine.

E. W. G. Masterman.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Vine, Vineyard'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​v/vine-vineyard.html. 1909.
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