What is a Vine?
, VINEYARD. We first read of a vineyard in the history of Noah. Gen 9:20. The cultivation of the vine had attained to some perfection in very early times. In the accounts of Melchizedek, who set bread and wine before Abraham, of Lot, who was drunken, of aged Isaac, when regaled by his sons, in the prophecy of dying Jacob, and in the book of Job, we have the earliest accounts of wine as a common drink. Gen 14:18; Gen 19:32; Gen 27:25; Gen 49:12; Job 1:18; Prov 23:30-31; Isa 5:11. The original home of the Eastern grape-vine (Vitis vinifera) was Armenia and neighboring countries. But Palestine seems scarcely second to any country in the world in adaptation of soil and climate for its culture. Especially is this true of its southern districts. "Here, more than elsewhere in Palestine, are to be seen on the sides of the hills the vineyards, marked by their watch-towers and walls, seated on their ancient terraces, the earliest and latest symbol of Judah. The elevation of the hills and table-lands of Judah is the true climate of the vine. 'He bound his foal to the vine, and his ass's colt to the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.' It was from the Judaean valley of Eshcol, 'the torrent of the cluster,' that the spies cut down the gigantic cluster of grapes. 'A vineyard on a hill of olives,' with the 'fence.' and 'the stones gathered out,' and 'the tower in the midst of it,' is the natural figure which, both in the prophetical and evangelical records, represents the kingdom of Judah." - Stanley. Grapevines were usually propagated by layers. They were sometimes planted beside ridges of stones, upon which they crept, and which afforded a dry and warm exposure for ripening the fruit. Miles of such stone-heaps remain in regions now utterly desert about Beersheba and east of the Jordan. At other times vines were annually trimmed down to a permanent stock, which was fastened to a stake, or a post was erected with a crosspiece, or upon four or more pillars a trellis or arbor was supported, upon which the boughs spread. Very often, however, the Syrian vines are trained upon a perpendicular trellis or framework in straight rows; sometimes upon trees, and particularly the fig tree, whence the proverbial expression, "To repose under one's own vine and fig tree," as an emblem of peace and security. Mic 4:4; Zech 3:10. Vines are found at Hebron trained in this manner, and bearing clusters of ten pounds' weight, or even more. Sometimes they were trained upon the side of the house. Ps 128:3. Vineyards were enclosed with a hedge or a wall, to defend them from the ravages of beasts, to which they were often exposed. A tower was also built as the station of a watchman. Num 22:24; Ps 80:8-13; Prov 24:31; Song 2:15; Matt 21:33. See Tower. The Hebrews devoted as much care to their vineyards as to their agriculture. When Isaiah predicts the invasion of the Assyrians, he declares that the vineyard where there were a thousand vines for a thousand pieces of silver shall be even for briers and thorns. Isa 7:23. When he would represent sorrow, he says, "The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, and all the merry-hearted do sigh." Isa 24:7. So Zechariah, Zech 8:12, foretells future prosperity thus: "The seed shall be prosperous, the vine shall give her fruit." See also Hab 3:17; Mal 3:11. The pruning of the vine is a familiar operation, which we all know to be necessary in order to its fruitfulness. The law which forbade the Israelites to gather the grapes of the first three years, Lev 19:23, gave occasion to the more careful and unsparing use of the pruning-knife; hence the 3'oung stock came to much greater strength. A traveller mentions a custom of the vine-dressers to prune their vines thrice in the year; the first time, in March. When clusters begin to form, they again lop off those twigs which have no fruit; the stock puts out new twigs in April, some of which form clusters, and those which have none are again cut off in May. The vine shoots a third time, and the new branches have a third set of clusters. See John 15:2, in which passage the word "purgeth" may be rendered "pruneth." What remains of the culture of the vine is very simple. Once or twice in the season the plough was run through the vineyard to loosen the earth and free it from weeds; the stones were gathered out, and a proper direction was given to the growing branches. Isa 5:2. The vine-dressers, or keepers of the vineyard, formed a distinct branch of laborers. 2 Kgs 25:12. The regular vintage begins in Syria about the middle of September, and lasts about two months. Lev 26:5; Am 9:13. Ripe clusters, however, are found in Palestine as early as June and July, although the regular vintage begins in September. This difference may arise from the threefold growth of the vine, already mentioned. The first gathered in Canaan is probably meant in Num 13:20. The vintage was celebrated by the Hebrews with still more festivity than the harvest, Isa 16:9, and was sometimes a season of wicked mirth. Jud 9:27. See Grapes.