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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Grape

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ענב , the fruit of the vine. There were fine vineyards and excellent grapes in the promised land. The bunch of grapes which was cut in the valley of Eshcol, and was brought upon a staff between two men to the camp of Israel at Kadeshbarnea, Numbers 13:23 , may give us some idea of the largeness of the fruit in that country. It would be easy to produce a great number of witnesses to prove that the grapes in those regions grow to a prodigious size. By Calmet, Scheuchzer, and Harmer, this subject has been exhausted. Doubdan assures us, that in the valley of Eshcol were clusters of grapes to be found of ten or twelve pounds.

Moses, in the law, commanded that when the Israelites gathered their grapes, they should not be careful to pick up those that fell, nor be so exact as to leave none upon the vines: what fell, and what were left behind, the poor had liberty to glean, Leviticus 19:10 ; Deuteronomy 24:21-22 . For the same beneficent purpose the second vintage was reserved: this, in those warm countries, was considerable, though never so good nor so plentiful as the former. The wise son of Sirach says, "I waked up last of all, as one that gleaneth after grape gatherers. By the blessing of the Lord, I profited, and filled my wine-press like a gatherer of grapes," Sir_33:16 . It is frequent in Scripture to describe a total destruction by the similitude of a vine, stripped in such a manner, that there was not a bunch of grapes left for those who came to glean. The prophecy, "He shall wash his clothes in wine, and his garments in the blood of the grape," Genesis 49:11 , means that he shall reside in a country where grapes were in abundance. The vineyards of Engedi and of Sorek, so famous in Scripture, were in the tribe of Judah; and so was the valley of Eshcol, whence the spies brought those extraordinary clusters. "It appears," says Manti, "that the cultivation of the vine was never abandoned in this country. The grapes, which are white, and pretty large, are, however, not much superior in raze to those of Europe. This peculiarity seems to be confined to those in this neighbourhood; for at the distance of only six miles to the south, is the rivulet and valley called Escohol, celebrated in Scripture for its fertility, and for producing very large grapes. In other parts of Syria, also, I have seen grapes of such an extraordinary size, that a bunch of them would be a sufficient burden for one man. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that when the spies, sent by Moses to reconnoitre the promised land, returned to give him an account of its fertility, it required two of them to carry a bunch of grapes, which they brought with them suspended from a pole placed upon their shoulders." Many eye witnesses assure us, that in Palestine the vines, and bunches of grapes, are almost of an incredible size. "At Beidtdjin," says Schultz, a "village near Ptolemais, we took our supper under a large vine, the stem of which was nearly a foot and a half in diameter, the height about thirty feet, and covered with its branches and shoots (for the shoots must be supported) a nut of more than fifty feet long and broad. The bunches of these grapes are so large that they weigh from ten to twelve pounds, and the grapes may be compared to our plums. Such a bunch is cut off and laid on a board, round which they seat themselves, and each helps himself to as many as he pleases." Forster, in his Hebrew Dictionary, (under the word Eshcol,) says, that he knew at Nurnburg, a monk of the name of Acacius, who had resided eight years in Palestine, and had also preached at Hebron, where he had seen bunches of grapes which were as much as two men could conveniently carry.

The wild grapes, באשים , are the fruit of the wild or bastard wine; sour and unpalatable, and good for nothing but to make verjuice. In Isaiah 5:2-4 , the Lord complains that he had planted his people as a choice vine, excellent as that of Sorek; but that its degeneracy had defeated his purpose, and disappointed his hopes: when he expected that it should bring forth choice fruit, it yielded only such as was bad; not merely useless and unprofitable grapes, but clusters offensive and noxious. By the force and intent of the allegory, says Bishop Lowth, "good grapes" ought to be opposed "to fruit of a dangerous and pernicious quality," as, in the application of it, to judgment is opposed tyranny, and to righteousness oppression. Hasselquist is inclined to believe that the prophet here means the solanum incanum, "hoary nightshade," because it is common in Egypt and Palestine, and the Arabian name agrees well with it. The Arabs call it aneb el dib, "wolf's grapes." The prophet could not have found a plant more opposite to the vine than this; for it grows much in the vineyards, and is very pernicious to them. It is likewise a vine. Jeremiah uses the same image, and applies it to the same purpose, in an elegant paraphrase of this part of Isaiah's parable, in his flowing and plaintive manner: "I planted thee a Sorek, a scion perfectly genuine. How then art thou changed, and become to me the degenerate shoot of a strange vine!" Jeremiah 2:21 . From some sort of poisonous fruits of the grape kind, Moses, Deuteronomy 32:32-33 , has taken those strong and highly poetical images with which he has set forth the future corruption and extreme degeneracy of the Israelites, in an allegory which has a near relation, both in its subject and imagery, to this of Isaiah:

"Their vine is from the vine of Sodom, And from the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are grapes of gall;

And their clusters are bitter. Their wine is the poison of dragons, And the deadly venom of aspics."


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Grape'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/g/grape.html. 1831-2.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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