1. Hebrew Words:
(1) gephen, usually the cultivated grape vine. In Nu 6:4; Jud 13:14 we have gephen ha-yayin, literally, "vine of wine," translated "grape vine" (Numbers) and "vine," margin "grape vine" (Jgs); 2Ki 4:39, gephen sadheh English Versions of the Bible "wild vine"; De 32:32, gephen cedhom, "vine of Sodom."
(2) soreq, in Isa 5:2, "choicest vine"; soreq, in Jer 2:21, "noble vine"; soreqah, in Ge 49:11, "choice vine"; compare SOREK, VALLEY OF (which see). The Hebrew is supposed to indicate dark grapes and, according to rabbinical tradition, they were unusually sweet and almost, if not quite, stoneless.
(3) nazir, in Le 25:5,11, "undressed vine," the King James Version "vine undressed," margin "separation." This may mean an unpruned vine and be a reference to the uncut locks of a Nazirite, but it is equally probable that nazir should be batsir, "vintage."
For the blossom we have peraq (Isa 18:5), "blossom"; nitstsah, either the blossom or half-formed clusters of grapes (Ge 40:10; Isa 18:5); cemadhar, "sweet-scented blossom" (So 2:13,15; 7:12).
2. Greek and Latin:
In Greek we have ampelos, "vine" (Mt 26:29, etc.), staphule (Sirach 39:26, "blood of grapes"; Mt 7:16, "grapes," etc.), and botrus (Re 14:18), "cluster of the vine." In the Latin of 2 Esdras vinea is "vine" in 5:23 ("vineyard" in 16:30,43); botrus (9:21) and racemus (16:30) are "cluster"; acinium (9:21) and uva (16:26) are "a grape."
3. Antiquity and Importance:
Palestine appears to have been a vine-growing country from the earliest historic times. The countless wine presses found in and around centers of early civilization witness to this. It is probable that the grape was largely cultivated as a source of sugar: the juice expressed in the "wine press" was reduced by boiling to a liquid of treacle-like consistency known as "grape honey," or in Hebrew debhash (Arabic, dibs). This is doubtless the "honey" of many Old Testament references, and before the days of cane sugar was the chief source of sugar. The whole Old Testament witnesses to how greatly Palestine depended upon the vine and its products. Men rejoiced in wine also as one of God’s best gifts (Jud 9:13; Ps 104:15). But the Nazirite might eat nothing of the vine "from the kernels even to the husk" (Nu 6:4; Jud 13:14).
The land promised to the children of Israel was one of "vines and fig trees and pomegranates" (De 8:8); they inherited vineyards which they had not planted (De 6:11; Jos 24:13; Ne 9:25). Jacob’s blessing on Judah had much reference to the suitability of his special part of the land to the vine (Ge 49:11). When the leading people were carried captive the poor were left as vine dressers (2Ki 25:12; Jer 52:16), lest the whole land should lapse into uncultivated wilderness. On the promised return this humble duty was, however, to fall to the "sons of the alien" (Isa 61:5 the King James Version).
4. Its Cultivation:
The mountain regions of Judea and Samaria, often little suited to cereals, have always proved highly adapted to vine culture. The stones must first be gathered out and utilized for the construction of a protecting wall or of terraces or as the bases of towers (Isa 5:2; Mt 21:33). Every ancient vineyard had its wine press cut in a sheet of rock appearing at the surface. As a rule the vinestocks lie along the ground, many of the fruit-bearing branches falling over the terraces (compare Ge 49:22); in some districts the end of the vine-stock is raised by means of a cleft stick a foot or more above the surface; exceptionally the vine branches climb into trees, and before a dwelling-house they are sometimes supported upon poles to form a bower (compare 1Ki 4:25, etc.).
5. Vine of Sodom:
The expression "vine of Sodom" (De 32:32) has been supposed, especially because of the description in Josephus (BJ, IV, viii, 4), to refer to the colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis), but it is far more probable that it means "a vine whose juices and fruits were not fresh and healthy, but tainted by the corruption of which Sodom was the type" (Driver, Commentary on Deuteronomy).
See SODOM, VINE OF.
Three of our Lord’s parables are connected with vineyards (Mt 20:1 ff; 21:28,33 ), and He has made the vine ever sacred in Christian symbolism by His teaching regarding the true vine (Joh 15).