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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words


Kerem (כֶּרֶם, Strong's #3754), “vineyard.” This Hebrew word is related to other Semitic languages (Akkadian, karmu; Arabic, karm). The word is evenly distributed throughout the Old Testament and is used 92 times. The first occurrence is in Gen. 9:20.

Isaiah gives a vivid description of the work involved in the preparation, planting, and cultivation of a “vineyard” (Isa. 5:1-7). The “vineyard” was located on the slopes of a hill (Isa. 5:1). The soil was cleared of stones before the tender vines were planted (Isa. 5:2). A watchtower provided visibility over the “vineyard” (Isa. 5:2), and a winevat and place for crushing the grapes were hewn out of the rock (Isa. 5:2). When all the preparations were finished, the “vineyard” was ready and in a few years it was expected to produce crops. In the meantime the kerem required regular pruning (Lev. 25:3-4). The time between planting and the first crop was of sufficient import as to free the owner from military duty: “And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it?” (Deut. 20:6).

The harvest time was a period of hard work and great rejoicing. The enjoyment of the “vineyard” was a blessing of God: “And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them” (Isa. 65:21). The failure of the “vineyard” to produce or the transfer of ownership of one’s “vineyard” was viewed as God’s judgment: “Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them” (Amos 5:11; cf. Deut. 28:30).

The words “vineyard” and “olive grove’ (zayit) are often found together in the biblical text. These furnished the two major permanent agricultural activities in ancient Israel, as both required much work and time before the crops came in. God promised that the ownership of the “vineyards” and orchards of the Canaanites was to go to His people as a blessing from Him (Deut. 6:11-12). God’s judgment to Israel extended to the “vineyards.” The rejoicing in the “vineyard” would cease (Isa. 16:10) and the carefully cultivated “vineyard” would be turned into a thicket with thorns and briers (cf. Isa. 32:12- 13). The “vineyard” would be reduced to a hiding place of wild animals and a grazing place for goats and wild donkeys (Isa. 32:14). The postexilic hope lay in God’s blessings on the agricultural activity of His people: “And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them” (Amos 9:14).

The “vineyards” were located mainly in the hill country and in the low-lying hill country. The Bible mentions the “vineyard” at Timnath (Judg. 14:5), Jezreel (1 Kings 21:1), the hill country of Samaria (Jer. 31:5), and even at Engedi (Song of Sol. 1:14).

The metaphorical use of kerem allows the prophet Isaiah to draw an analogy between the “vineyard” and Israel: “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel …” (Isa. 5:7). It has also been suggested that the “vineyard” in the Song of Solomon is better understood metaphorically as “person”: “Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept” (Song of Sol. 1:6).

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Vinyard'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. 1940.

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