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Isaiah 5:2 ESV

He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes..

In the above song/imagery most of the symbols used are clear what they mean and represent but the symbol of stones in the whole song/prophecy seem to be a little bit complicated.

What do the stones represent in the in Isaiah's song?

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Each element in a parable, being a short story, is indispensable to the plot, but may or may not have metaphoric significance. Let us treat these two aspects separately.

Plot Element: Stones

In the parable of Isa 5, the clearing of stones had a dual function:

  • To remove impediments to growing plants in unhindered soil
  • To use the stones to create a wall around the vineyard which both delineated the extent of the master's ownership and offer protection from intruders (whether human or animal)

For an example of the opposite process to make a piece of land useless for agriculture, see 2 Kings 3:19 where stones are thrown on a field to ruin it.

Metaphoric Significance of Stones

It is not essential that each and every noun in a parable have significance. Do the stones have significance or the clearing of stones have significance?

Commentators are divided about this. Elsewhere, stone represents the kingdom of Jesus (Dan 2:34, 41-45); but stone can also represent false gods and idolatry (Rev 9:20, Deut 28:36, 64, 2 Kings 19:18, Eze 20:32, Dan 5:4, etc). For example ellicot says this:

in the “stones” that were gathered out, the removal of the old idolatries that would have hindered the development of the nation’s life; in the “tower” of the vineyard (comp. in a different context Isaiah 1:8), the monarchy and throne of David, or the watch-tower from which the prophets looked forth (Hab. Ii. 1; Isaiah 21:5-8);

Benson has a different view:

gathered out the stones thereof — Which otherwise might have marred the land, (2 Kings 3:19,) and injured the vines. In other words, he removed all the hinderances of fruitfulness. In that he formed his church of the posterity of those wise, holy, and faithful men, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and purged and reformed the nation in the wilderness before he established them in Canaan, he might truly be said to plant his vineyard with the choicest vine

We could continue speculating but the safest is to allow the parable in Isa 5 to explain itself:

  • V4: What more could I have done for My vineyard than I already did for it?
  • V7: the vineyard represents the house of Israel
  • V7: the men of Israel are represented by the vines
  • V4, 8-20: the sour grapes represent Israel's sinful behavior
  • V5: the wall represented God's protection which he will tear down and allow people to trample the vineyard

Thus, according to the parable itself, only a few elements of the story have direct spiritual significance: the wine press is not mentioned, the watchtower is not mentioned, etc.

However, according to the above explanation, the wall around the vineyard representing God's protection, made from the stone found in the original field, represents God's divine protection which will exist only so long as Israel remained loyal to God. In the absence of such loyalty, the wall is removed and the field is trampled (compared Luke 21:24).

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  • Great answer +1
    – Marshall
    Sep 25 at 4:18
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The phrase translated as 'cleared it of stones' is not the Hebrew noun, 'even, which means stone, but the verb yesaqqelen, which comes from the verb saqal, meaning, to stone someone. E.g. to kill them by throwing rocks at them.

Here, the reverse is meant, e.g. to make the land fertile by removing the rocks in the soil. These rocks (large rocks) would then be used to build a wall around the vineyard and even a watchtower within it.

In terms of what the action of removing the rocks represents, it corresponds to making the field ready to accept seeds that will grow. E.g.

Matt 13.5-6:

And other seed fell on the rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up at once because it did not have any depth of soil. But when the sun rose it was scorched, and because it did not have enough root, it withered. [LEB]

Thus the rocks in the soil impede the seed from producing a good harvest. Spiritually they would correspond to hardness of heart or areas of our lives where the seed (the word) cannot penetrate:

Eze 36.26-27

And I will give a new heart to you, and a new spirit I will give into your inner parts, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. And I will give my spirit into your inner parts, and I will make it so that you will go in my rules, and my regulations you will remember, and you will do them. [LEB]

Thus the removal of the rocks from the soil represents making someone ready to accept the word in their heart. The fact that they (Israel) chose not to do so even though they were made ready to accept the word is the complaint of this passage.

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Isaiah 62:10

Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.

Removing the stones is a routine for clearing the space. It has no special significance.

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