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Grapevines and Grapes in the Bible: What the Word Says

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There are several mentions of grapes in the Bible. It is incredibly easy to skip over them without a second thought because grapes are just little fruits used to make a strong drink. But when you stop to think about each place they are mentioned and the context of the verses they are found in, grapes actually have some seriously rich meaning and symbolism that give insight into our walks with Christ. 

In this article, we will go through some of the mentions of grapes in the Bible, starting with the Old Testament, then moving on to the New Testament, and explore their context to find deeper meaning. 

image of purple, green and red grapes with the text grapes in the Bible: what the Word says

Grapes in the Bible: Old Testament

“For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison; their clusters are bitter.”

Deuteronomy 32:32 (ESV)

Deuteronomy 32 is the lyrics of a song that God previously commanded Moses to teach to the children of Israel. It was intended to serve as a “witness” for God “against the people of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:19) if they were ever to break their covenant with God. 

This song begins with praising God for His justice and faithfulness and then describes how He cared for the nation of Israel, making it a strong nation, “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young” (verse 11). But despite God’s unfailing care, they neglected Him, instead turning their attention to and idolizing false gods that would never love and care for them as God had. This flagrant disregard of God’s laws provoked Him to rage and jealousy, burning “to the depths of Sheol” (verse 22). He then promised to send curses upon them like plague, arrows of disaster, poison, hunger, wild animals, and violence by the sword. 

It is in this section of the song, where God is filled with anger at his people that he so greatly loved, that the people of the land of Israel are compared to grapes from a vine; the vine being “the vine of Sodom” from the “fields of Gomorrah.” Sodom and Gomorrah were two cities burned because of their wickedness, so it can be assumed already that this is not a compliment to the Israelites (if the rest of the song didn’t already give it away). Deuteronomy 32:32 then says that “their grapes are grapes of poison.” These grapes are from the aforementioned vines, and if it is the people of Israel that are being compared to these poisonous grapes from bad vines, we can conclude that God is saying the land of Israel was producing bad fruit, the Israelites. 

Therefore, one of the meanings of grapes in the Bible is the symbolism of God’s people. We, as Christians, are grapes from the vine of God. We are also vines ourselves, producing our own grapes. Let’s look into that in the next scripture:

“Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 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.”

Isaiah 5:1-2 (ESV)

At first, and without moving on to the next few verses, this just reads like a sad little story. This farmer has a vineyard that he put in a lot of hard work towards, making sure it was on good soil, clearing every stone, planting it with a deliberately picked choice vine, watching over it in his hand-built watchtower, and putting in a wine vat, hoping for it to yield good grapes. But despite all of this effort, it yielded wild grapes, also known as sour grapes. You kind of have to feel sorry for the guy. 

Looking onward, we see in verse 7 that this sad little story has rich symbolism. 

“For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, and outcry!”

Isaiah 5:7 (ESV)

God is the farmer in this story, cultivating his vineyard, representing both Israel’s and Judah’s land on good soil: the promised land. God’s people are his choicest vine that he planted in the vineyard that is these two nations. It was His hope that, as the farmer and cultivator of this land, his vines would produce rich and meaningful fruit. 

However, His people have proven to be a corrupt and unproductive crop, bearing little of substantial value to the Lord. When He came to inspect the harvest from his choice vine, He found that there was not a single cluster of good grapes that could be used to make sweet wine. Instead of obeying Him and treating others justly, his people pursued their own pleasure, behaving uselessly and meaninglessly like sour, wild grapes. 

God’s deep disappointment with His people’s misbehavior is displayed in the vineyard’s destruction. As He determined to leave the vineyard barren and abandoned, He planned to leave Israel and Judah a wasteland. The animals that would eventually tear out the vines represented the invading armies that would eventually tear down both Jerusalem and Judah (2 Kings 24:14).

Once again, grapes in the Bible are meant to symbolize God’s people, as they are covered in His loving grace and mercy, and made to produce good spiritual fruit. But not every passage, such as Job 15, containing grapes are this symbolic and specific to our walks in Christ.

“He will shake off his unripe grape like the vine, and cast off his blossom like the olive tree.”

Job 15:33 (ESV)

In chapter 15 of Job, Eliphaz is accusing Job of not fearing God. Job is in the midst of his suffering at this point, and Eliphaz believes it is due to his lack of fearing God. In this confrontation of friends, is where we find yet another mention of grapes in the Bible, but this time, it is not a symbolism of our relationship to God. The Pulpit Commentary puts it this way: “Blight and untimely cold cause the vine to drop its grapes before they are mature. So the wicked man will be deprived, one by one, of his possessions.” Eliphaz is using this logic, backed by the analogy of grapes on a vine, to express to Job that he is losing everything he has – his family, his home, his livestock – merely as a consequence of his wicked ways (that is, not fearing God). 

Although this passage does not have the rich symbolism of the previous two, it still offers insight into the meaning and usage of grapes in the Bible. Grape vines are not only used to symbolize Christians and their relationship with God, but also serve as an analogical tool to help make sense of things, just as Jesus’ parables, like the parable of the fig tree, helped his disciples better understand the kingdom of God. With this knowledge, we are better equipped for stopping to figure out what scriptures that mention grapes mean, rather than letting them sit at a surface level in our minds. 

Let’s dive into one more piece of scripture in the Old Testament:

“But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.”

Jeremiah 31:30 (ESV)

This passage comes after the repeating of a Proverb, which also appears in Ezekiel 18:2, that states “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” However, Jeremiah is saying that only the one that eats the sour grapes will suffer, rather than his children, or anyone else for that matter; “but everyone shall die for his own iniquity.” Both of these verses come in the context of Jeremiah giving a beautifully pleasant description of the restoration of Israel and the new covenant to come; a foreshadowing of Jesus. 

In this new covenant, no one will suffer for a man’s sin except for the man himself. Only the person who “eats sour grapes” will have “his teeth… set on edge,”  – which means to be irritated – not his children’s teeth. The sour grapes are sin, and teeth set on edge is suffering. Only the person who sins will suffer for his sin. 

Grapes, particularly sour grapes, are used again as an analogy towards, or symbol of something else in this verse. 

So far, we have seen grapes used to symbolize the relationship between God and his people and for a simple analogy to aid in understanding. Moving on to the New Testament, we will explore a few more scriptures mentioning grapes. 

Grapes in the Bible: New Testament

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” 

Matthew 7:15-16 (ESV)

In this small section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is warning his disciples of false prophets. After assuring them that they will be able to recognize a false prophet “by their fruits,” Jesus expands on the idea by asking the rhetorical question, “Are grapes gathered from thornbushes.” This leaves us to assume that grapes are a representation of character attributes. Grapes do not come from thorn bushes; good things do not come from a false prophet.

image of Bunches of red wine grapes hang from an old vine in morning light. for the post on grapes in the Bible

Although this passage is specific to the fruit of a false prophet, I think it is important to take the analogy to our own lives as well. Are we producing delicious grapes, or are we a thornbush? 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5 (ESV)

Although this passage does not say anything specifically about grapes, I think it is incredibly important to note when talking about grapes in the Bible. We have already seen how we, as God’s people, are grapes off of God’s vine and a vine ourselves that should be producing good grapes. We have asked ourselves if we are fulfilling that duty or if we are nothing but a thornbush. This scripture shows the clear-cut way to produce those good grapes. We must abide in him, be that good fruit off the vine of Jesus Christ that is cultivated by God, or else we cannot produce good fruit ourselves. By abiding in God’s vine, we are pruned until we produce much fruit, starting with just one single cluster of grapes, striving to become more like Jesus every day. 

Let’s jump to the end of our sanctification process: the second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of the earth.

“And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, ‘Put in our sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.’ So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.” 

Revelation 14:18-20 (ESV)

The ripe clusters of grapes that are being gathered with the sharp sickle and thrown into the great wine press of the wrath of God are not believers. They are clusters of the vine of the earth – much like the vine of Sodom and the fields of Gomorrah – not the vine of God and are, therefore, not ripe with good spiritual fruits but rather ripe with evil and wickedness. They are put into the winepress (wine presses were used in biblical times to squeeze out the blood of grapes to make the strong drink of wine), which represents God’s wrath, and judged for their sin. These grapes grew off the earth’s vine, not God’s vine because they did not abide in Him

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Not only are grapes symbolic of us as believers, but also of unbelievers lost in their sin. Everybody abides in a vine. You are either fruit of the vine of God, made holy before Him, or you are a grape in the clusters of the vine of the earth, pursuing your own pleasure and awaiting God’s judgment. We are inhabitants of the earth, but we are not of the earth. We produce fruit in the land, not fruit of the land. 

Again, these are only a few of many mentions of grapes in the Bible. We have seen grapes represent ourselves as Christians as well as the outpouring of the  Holy Spirit within us, and we have learned that grapes and grape vines are a simple analogy to aid in understanding biblical concepts, similar to Jesus’ parables, such as the fig tree or the rich young ruler. Moving forward, I encourage you to explore the meaning of grapes in other verses, meditating on what they mean for you, a grape off of God’s vine and his choicest vine in his great vineyard. 

You may enjoy this video about grapes in the Bible for deeper study:

This ebook on fruit in the Bible or the amazing ArtzaBox often highlighting the fruit of Israel (this code gives you an automatic 20% off!)

Or one of these recommended resources to dig deeper:

Grape Juice in the Bible: God’s Blessing for His People! by Richard Teachout

The A to Z Guide to Bible Signs and Symbols: Understanding Their Meaning and Significance by Neil Wilson, Nancy Ryken Taylor 

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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