Inheritance is something nearly all of us have witnessed. From being given a piece of jewelry, a pocketknife, or some other heirloom, to inheriting a piece of land. Even to the less tangible inheritance of a firm foundation in the Lord that brings with it long-lasting benefits.
But how do vineyards and inheritance connect outside of rare occurrences? Why are vineyards such an important form of inheritance in the Bible and even in Jewish tradition?
Join us as we learn more about inheritance and why God has connected vineyards with it.
Vineyards and Inheritance in the Bible
The term ‘vineyard’ in God’s Word is used over 100 times in most translations of the Bible. Further, related terms are similarly frequent, with the term ‘wine,’ for example, being found between 200 to 300 times in most versions. Given these numbers, it appears as if there is a strong biblical importance tied to vineyards, the life-giving properties they possess, and even to their produce.
These numbers provide us with a provenance of importance. However, while this is significant in itself, many of the uses of the term ‘vineyard’ are often closely connected with inheritance in the Bible… and it is this connection that we will explore here.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”—Hebrews 11:8-9
The First Mention of Vineyards in God’s Word
The first mention of vineyards in God’s Word is found in the book of Genesis with Noah.
First mentions in Scripture have a unique importance. Not because subsequent mentions are less valuable, but just as we take care to listen to the Lord when He mentions something repeatedly, we too must take special care with His first mentions.
“And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard.”—Genesis 9:20
After alighting from the ark, the first thing Noah did was offer God a sacrifice. God, in turn, making His promises to Noah, Noah’s children, and all mankind, sealed His covenant promises with the sign of the rainbow.
The second thing we are told Noah did was to begin farming; specifically, planting a vineyard. This of course has a rational importance: Noah and his family required food, and farming would be one way in which to supply it—especially during the period in which the animals they might eat were repopulating. Noah was, in essence, beginning to do what God had told them—to go forth, be fruitful and multiply. He was planting ‘seeds’ into his inheritance.
Interestingly, the first thing we find that Noah did upon receiving a crop from his vineyard was to produce wine and drink it—thus providing the first mention of wine in the Word.
Noah, God’s chosen, drank from the produce of his inheritance—just as those at the wedding feast drank of the wine Jesus made. Thus, Noah became drunk, exposing himself in his tent and bringing forth upon his awakening both a curse and a blessing toward his sons. A curse to the son who had gazed upon him, and instead of covering his father, ridiculed and exposed him to his brothers. A blessing for the two sons who would not gaze upon him, but instead covered their father’s nakedness.
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.”—Proverbs 13:22
In these events, from the planting of the vineyard to the curse and blessing, an inheritance was laid down. A great blessing—increased inheritance—for the two brothers and their offspring who understood honor and respect for their earthly father. A great curse—removal of inheritance—for the brother and his offspring who did not know honor or respect. So it was that the first mentioned vineyard and the inheritance—of blessing and cursing—left by Noah, set forth a convention continued in many parts of God’s Word.
Lessons from Vineyards
Both the Old and New Testament contain many mentions of vineyards. While some are used to teach us about inheritance in the Bible, others provide additional lessons.
Of these, Jesus’ parables featuring vineyards are perhaps the most well-known, yet many non-parable uses of vineyards leave a legacy of inheritance and lessons as well.
In First Kings we find that in Israel there was an evil king named Ahab—husband of Jezebel—who coveted the vineyard of a man named Naboth.
“So Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, ‘Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near, next to my house; and for it I will give you a vineyard better than it. Or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its worth in money.’
“But Naboth said to Ahab, ‘The Lord forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!’”—1 Kings 21:2-3
When Naboth refused Ahab’s offer to buy or trade for the vineyard due to it being his inheritance, the king went to his bed sullen and depressed, prompting his wife to see that Naboth was killed to gain the vineyard for her husband.
As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he went to take possession of the land—despite knowing Jezebel had arranged Naboth’s murder—thus compounding the severity of his crimes. So much so, that God sent Elijah to prophesy of Ahab and Jezebel’s untimely demise.
Certainly, Naboth did die to protect his inheritance, but God did not let those responsible go unpunished. God did not accept murder, nor the theft of inheritance. As a result, Naboth’s vineyard is an example of the inheritance God provides to each of us. The inheritance of our Father that can never be taken from us, because our God is a God of justice, who never lets His children be separated from Him, the eternal inheritance that awaits us, or His promises.
The enemy does not want us to maintain this inheritance, because when we understand the value of inheritance, and our value in turn as the recipients of God’s perfect gifts… we become a threat to the darkness. Because of this, the enemy sends distractions to try to ‘bargain’ our inheritance from us. When that does not work, he sends thieves to try to steal it. But ultimately, the enemy cannot succeed.
While in the natural these attempts to steal our inheritance may appear insurmountable, God has given us His Spirit within us to continually remind us of who we are in HIM—so that we might know our inheritance.
It takes a little faith, and the willingness to ask for God’s glory to rest upon us, but He NEVER fails us. He refreshes us and leads us into our inheritance… the result of our identity.
In the Word, Jesus spoke of vineyards and, as was often the case, He mentioned them in His parables. Parables that teach us about who God is, what we are to do, and of our inheritance that is in Him. Though Jesus gave us many parables, there are still four unique parables Jesus used that included vineyards—two found exclusively in Matthew, one found only in Luke, and another in Mathew, Mark, and Luke.
Of these four parables, it is the first found in Matthew 20 that we will explore here. In this parable, we follow a man who went out to find workers for his vineyard…
This man went out early in the morning and hired men, promising to pay them a denarius for their day’s labor. This man also went out about the third hour (9 a.m.) and agreed to pay them for their time. Then he went out again about the sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours, agreeing that his new hires would be paid a fair wage.
Thus, when the day was done, he told his steward to pay them, starting with the last hired and ending with the first. So the last were paid a denarius, though they worked very little, and the first were paid equally, though they worked much. All the workers receiving the same payment—the same blessing.
This parable has many applications within our lives. Yet, as with the story of Naboth’s inheritance, it can also speak of our inheritance from God…
God has given each of us an inheritance, yet many do not take possession of it until the final hour. Yes, God appreciates and loves those who, from the start, seize their inheritance, yet at first glance all receive the same inheritance for their work. Their loyalty.
We may ask, “Why is the inheritance of someone who decided to receive it a week before their transfer to heaven the same as the one who seized their inheritance over eighty years prior?”
Well, the end may be the same, but with accepting the inheritance from the start, we are able to answer our call to a higher level. We are able to spend our lives knowing the blessing of our inheritance, living as kings and priests instead of slaves or outcasts. That is a blessing that those who waited to receive their inheritance from the Father may not fully know on earth, though God will never deny it to them in Heaven.
It is as with those men that first answered the call to work in the vineyard. They were able to harvest more. They did not know idleness as they fulfilled their destiny, they were assured of their inheritance from the start…
Unfortunately, within the parable, when those who were first called found that the same blessing came to those who had scarcely worked… they were jealous. Offended.
They did not understand the honor of answering the call at the first hour. They did not understand that living your life knowing your inheritance is assured, while also answering your call, is one of the greatest blessings God can bestow.
Remember, the blessing and inheritance of one person is not diminished by another receiving equal portions. For our God is an endless God, His love never runs out, nor do the blessings and inheritance He has for His children.
Israel’s Return to Her Inheritance
“I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them…”—Amos 9:14
Amos 9:14 speaks of a return to inheritance. The return of Israel not only to the Promised Land, but to abundance… the rebuilding and replanting of their inheritance. And the very first thing prophesied for them to replant in Amos 9 are the vineyards of Israel.
In the Word, vineyards depict not only the literal life-giving nature of grapevines, but a spiritual refreshing… a place where life is brought forth in abundance. Thus, for God to have His people return, plant vineyards, and drink the wine speaks of a Godly inheritance. A Godly rebuilding.
Since the time of Amos’ prophecy, God HAS been returning His people to the Promised Land. The inheritance has been returned, and with the help of their Gentile brothers and sisters, God’s prophecies of planting the land—planting vineyards—is also coming to pass in fullness.
Vineyards have been planted and the wine of that produce is flowing. Inheritance is being restored!
One reason God uses vineyards in the Word is to teach us the importance of our inheritance. There is much to learn about inheritance in the Bible.
This inheritance is our heritage in God, and a part of God’s legacy of love. Yet, we can choose to ignore it; reject it. And even when we follow God with all of our heart, we can still behave like the first workers called to the vineyard, believing that by God blessing others there is nothing left for us. Alternatively, we can believe ourselves to be orphans, not worthy of God’s love… not worthy of an inheritance.
The truth is, we are God’s children!
We need to remember that God is not a man that He should lie. That He is a never-changing God. That God promised His children an inheritance, and since we are His children, we have access to that inheritance. We just have to be willing to accept it…
It is time to accept the vineyard of our inheritance.