For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

15:1.  “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,”


15:2.  “Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?”


The Lord’s question is rhetorical, for compared to other trees the wood of the vine is worthless except for fuel.  The vine’s only function is to bear fruit.  But the vine is a symbol of Israel, see e.g., Ps 80:8 where Israel is described as a vine, ”Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt ...” and Isa 5:7, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant,” so that the worthlessness of the wood of the vine declares the inherent worthlessness of Israel compared to the other nations. 


In His sovereign grace God choose Israel to be His special people, not because she had anything to commend her, but because He loved her, as it is written, “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen ...” Dt 7:7-8.


She, however, had failed to fulfill her function: she had not produced any fruit for God’s glory; and a question we would do well to ask ourselves is whether we have produced any fruit for His glory.


15:3.  “Shall the wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon?”


Clearly No was the only honest answer that could be given.

Nothing can be made from its wood, not even a peg upon which to hang something, nor could any other answer be given relative to the same question concerning Israel.


As the fruitless vine is fit only for burning, so Israel, by her base ingratitude in turning from God to idols, had proved herself to be fit only for the same end.


15:4.  “Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned.  Is it meet (fit) for any work?”


One end of God’s vine, Israel, the ten northern tribes, had been “burnt” by Assyria in 722 BC; and the other end, Judah, had been “burnt” by Egypt; and now Jerusalem “the center” was to be destroyed by Babylon.


15:5.  “Behold, when it was whole, it was meet (suitable) for no work: how much less shall it be meet yet for any work, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is burned?”


The spiritual lesson transcends the literal.  When God first choose Israel to be His special people she was of no value, much less has she value now that He has had to cast her aside in judgment.


15:6.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”


As the wood of the vine is worthless except as fuel, so was God about to deliver the inhabitants of Jerusalem up to the fire of His fierce judgment because of their wickedness.


15:7.  “And I will set my face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them; and ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them.”


Those spoken of were the Israelites who had survived Babylon’s first two incursions in 605 and 597 BC.  They had escaped that fire, but they would not escape that which was to come in 586 BC.  Neither did they escape that which came much later in AD 70 at the hand of Rome, nor will they escape the still more terrible judgment that will fall upon them in the coming Great Tribulation.


Foolish Israel who should have known God through His beneficence, would now come to know Him as the great and terrible God Who must punish rebellion.  And so will this present world learn the same lesson in the terrible judgments of the Great Tribulation.


15:8.  “And I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, saith the Lord God.”


“... committed a trespass” is also translated have acted faithlessly: have broken faith: have acted treacherously.  Part of the punishment of their treachery would be that God would cause their land to become a desolation; and so also will the judgments of the Great Tribulation leave this present world a desolate ruin because of similar treachery on the part of its inhabitants.


Relative to this verse The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary makes the following instructive remark, “The Jews were not merely sinners as other nations, but revolters and apostates.  It is one thing to neglect what we know not, but quite another thing to despise what we profess to worship, as the Jews did towards God and the law.”

[Ezekiel 16]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough