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Jeremiah, Chapter 24
Jeremiah saw the vision of two baskets of figs between the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of Jerusalem (in 597 B.C. and its final destruction in 586 B.C.). Those who had avoided exile and had remained in the land viewed themselves as favored by God, but Jeremiah turns this idea all around.
Under the symbol of the good figs and bad figs is represented the fate of the Jews already gone into captivity with Jeconiah, and of those that remained still in their own country with Zedekiah. It is also indicated that God would deal kindly with the former, but that His wrath would still pursue the latter.
In the close of Chapter 23, we had a general prediction of the utter ruin of Jerusalem, that it should be forsaken and forgotten, and whatever effect it had upon others, we have reason to think it made the prophet himself very downhearted and sad. In this Chapter, the LORD encourages him, by showing him that, although the desolation seemed to be entire, yet not all were treated in the same way, for God knew how to make a distinction, how to separate the precious and the vile. Some had already gone into captivity with Jeconiah; and over them Jeremiah lamented, but God tells him that it would turn out for their good. Others yet remained hardened in their sins, against whom Jeremiah had a righteous indignation; but those, God tells him, would go into captivity, and it would prove to their hurt. To inform Jeremiah of this, and affect him with it, we find: (1). A vision of two baskets of figs, one very good and the other very bad (vs. 1-3). (2). The revelation of this vision, applying the good figs to those that were already sent into captivity for their good (vs. 4-7), (3). The bad figs are those that would later be sent into captivity for their hurt (vs. 8-10).
A Vision of Two Baskets of Figs, One Very Good And the Other Very Bad (Jer. 24:1-3)
Jer. 24:1 The LORD shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the LORD, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon. (KJV)
The LORD shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the LORD . . . the LORD showed me (compare Am.7:1, 4, 7; 8:1).
After that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah . . . the vision is roughly dated to some time after Jehoiachin's deportation (Jer.22:24; 2 Ki.24:12; 2 Chr.36:9-10).
With the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon . . . one thousand artisans were carried to Babylon, both to work for the king there and to deprive Jerusalem of their services (2 Ki.24:16).
*****Figs throughout the Bible have symbolized the people of Israel. Here it is more selective. This is really speaking of the houses of Judah and Benjamin. The Babylonian captivity came about because of the worship of false gods. We will see the two types of figs representing two attitudes toward the punishment God has sent upon them. One certain group of these people of Israel were carried away into Babylon. Jeconiah is the same person as Jehoiachin. Jehoiakim was his father. In every generation there seems to be great trials that come. It is not the trials that make or break a person, but the way that person handles the problems. These figs are in two separate baskets, which indicate the fact they were separated in two different places. Maybe one basket is for those in Babylon and one basket is for those who escaped.
Jer. 24:2 One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad. (KJV)
One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe . . . since the word vision is not actually in the Passage, some think this may not be a vision, but an illustration taken from two literal baskets of figs, such as in: Jer. 1:11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. (KJV) . . . The good figs represent the very best, harvested early, and because these baskets of figs are located in the Temple area, they may have been the firstfruits offered to the LORD. Israel had already been called God's firstfruits (Jer.2:3). The good figs represent Jeconiah and the exiles in Babylon; the bad figs represent Zedekiah and the pigheaded Jews in Judah. They are called good and bad ones later. This prophecy was designed to encourage the hopeless exiles, and to rebuke the people at home, who may have thought they were recipients of God's favor by being left behind.
And the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad . . . the other figs which were very bad, not to be eaten, mean Zedekiah and the remainder of the people carried with him into captivity.
*****Some say that Jeconiah and the people then carried away were wicked enough, why else were they carried away? And being wicked, how are they compared to good figs? (1). Although they were bad, yet they might be somewhat good. These people, for the eleven years continued in their own land, after their brethren were carried away, not only continuing in their former courses, but growing worse and worse. (2). They are not to be called good or bad figs with respect to their manners or quality, but in respect to what God intended to do to them. In other words, to use them as bad figs are used, not fit to be eaten.
One basket of figs is not edible, because they are so bad. We know that the punishment that had come on Judah and Benjamin was to cause them to return to God. It seems to me that the basket of good figs learned their lesson well, and repented and came back to God. The basket of figs that were bad did not learn from their experience. They just went further away from God than they had been in the beginning. They are not changed.
Jer. 24:3 Then said the LORD unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil. (KJV)
Then said the LORD unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? . . . what do you see Jeremiah? The question is asked as if to force the symbol as strongly as possible on the prophet’s mind, leaving him to wait until another Word of the LORD should come and reveal its true meaning. We are reminded, as he must have been, of the vision and the question which had first called him to his work as a prophet. Jer. 1:11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. (KJV)
And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil . . . as there are some figs that are ripe sooner than others, and which are always the most desirable and acceptable. And such were they that were presented to the LORD (Mic. 7:1). These good figs indicated those that were carried captive into Babylon with Jeconiah, among whom were some very good men, such as Ezekiel and others. And all this might be said to be so, as compared to those that were at Jerusalem, who were very wicked, and grew worse and worse. And the other basket had very naughty figs that could not be eaten, they were so bad. Nothing is more sweet and juicy, and agreeable to the taste than a sound ripe fig, and especially a first ripe one, and nothing is worse than a naughty rotten one. These bad figs signified the wicked Jews at Jerusalem indulging themselves in all manner of sin.
*****So those who seemed to be the worst, because they were carried captive, were the best. And those who seemed to be the best, by their prosperity, were the worst. This is to be understood in a comparative sense. Although this does not so much display the quality of persons, as the issue of things, with respect unto them. The captivity of the one would issue in their good, and so are compared to good figs. When the sins of the other would bring upon them utter ruin and destruction without recovery, and therefore compared to bad figs that cannot be eaten.
It is well-known that people who are living for God are in a growing process. They become better every day. Dear one, Christianity is a daily walk through life with Jesus as our Leader. The longer we walk, the more like Him we become . . . but on the other hand, sin is the same way. Once a person commits a sin it is much easier to commit the sin again and again, or some sin even worse. Sliding into a lifestyle of sin is easy, you just commit the first sin, the rest is easy . . . it’s like a snowball rolling down a mountain!
Clarification of the Vision (Jer.24:4-7)
Jer. 24:4 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (KJV)
This seems to imply an interval, during which the prophet was left to ponder over the symbols that he had just seen. And at last the word of the LORD came to him and made the meaning clear. So very often, Jeremiah reminds us that the Words are coming directly from the LORD!
Jer. 24:5 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. (KJV)
Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs . . . the object message of verse 2 is explained. Deported Judeans, captive in Babylon, will have good treatment, not death as shown (Jer. 29:5-7, 10). They will be granted privileges as colonists rather than being enslaved as captives.
So will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah . . . this punishment of captivity by the Chaldeans is for the good of the people captured.
Whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good . . . they surrendered to them, knowing this punishment was from God. Had they remained in the worship of false gods they would have soon gone to the point of no return. The LORD got them out of there to cause them to seek His Face again.
*****Jer. 24:4-5. The LORD, the God of Israel; has power to do whatsoever He pleases, and Who is yet in covenant with Israel, and has a kindness for the seed of His servant Jacob. As Jeremiah approved of one of these baskets of figs, so does the LORD approve of those that were carried away captive with Jeconiah, who repented of their sin, and accepted the punishment of their wickedness.
Although Nebuchadnezzar, whom God had sent; carried them away, it was by command from God . . . so that although Nebuchadnezzar carried them, it was God who sent him.
For their good . . . which refers to the last-mentioned words, indicating that God in sending them away intended for their spiritual good, to bring them to repentance, and to acknowledge their sins. It was also was meant for their temporal good, they being only quietly led away, without the miseries of famine, fire and sword, besides carrying away; which those who remained, and were afterwards carried away with Zedekiah went through: or else they may be referred to the former words. I will acknowledge them for their good; meaning He will show them favor, being of the number of those who were not leaders to sin, but led away by the cruel example of others, and who being carried away realized that their sins was that which provoked the LORD, and so willingly accepted the punishment of their sins.
Jer. 24:6 For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up. (KJV)
I will set mine eyes upon them for good . . . the LORD’S all-seeing Eyes of wisdom and grace will be set on them to bring good things to them. He would take care of them in the furnace of affliction (Isa.48:10), that they were not lost, but made better. He would watch over them, protect and defend them. He would deliver them out of their troubles, and bring them into their own land; as follows.
I will bring them again to this land . . . the land of Judea, and city of Jerusalem, where Jeremiah now was, and saw this vision. This was accomplished when the seventy years' captivity was ended.
I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up: . . . referring to the building of houses, and planting of vineyards; indicating that they and their families would be built up and continue. They would be a habitation for God (Ps.132:5), and the vineyard of the LORD of hosts (Isa.5:7), of His planting, and which would remain. This will be fully accomplished in the latter day, although it had in part a fulfilment upon the Jews' return from captivity.
*****The meaning of these symbolic expressions is, I will prosper them, and provide for them. We read: 2 Ki. 25:27-28 And it came to pass in the seven and thirtieth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, that Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the year that he began to reign did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of prison; 28 And he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon; (KJV) . . . This prophecy was also fulfilled in Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Mordecai and others, who are thought to be carried away with Jeconiah; or the prophecy may be understood of the posterity of those who were at this time carried away.
Jer. 24:5-6. Jeremiah says that God had sent them away into captivity for their good. The LORD promises to watch over them and eventually restore (a remnant) of them to their land. That their restoration to the land does not refer to the return under Ezra and Nehemiah is clear from the final words and not pluck them up. Clearly they have been plucked up again. The reference is to their restoration during the Millennium when they shall return unto me with their whole heart (vs. 7). The bad figs represented Zedekiah and those who remained in Jerusalem and finally went down to Egypt in defiance of God's Word.
Jer. 24:7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart. (KJV)
And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD . . . the term know me is here (as in many other texts) and is understood as faith, love, obedience, all those motions of the soul which wisely would follow a right understanding of God in men's knowledge.
And they shall be my people, and I will be their God . . . I will fulfil what I have promised them, so they shall do what is their duty to me. For when or after that they shall return to me; not pretending, not hypocritical, not deceptively, not partially, but with their whole heart. Mat. 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. (KJV) . . . This is promised as an effect of special grace of the LORD.
Although this prophecy has provisional application for the returning exiles in the sixth century B.C., it looks far beyond to Israel’s ultimate regathering under the terms of the new covenant.
For they shall return unto me with their whole heart . . . they are brand new creatures. God has created a new heart within them (Eze.11:19). This is a total spiritual renewal within them. It is like the Christians experiencing the new spiritual birth (2 Cor.5:17; Eph.4:24; Col.3:10). God wants to fellowship with mankind. He wants to be their God. His Holiness will not allow Him to fellowship with them, unless they turn to Him with their whole heart. The curse is gone and the blessings of God are upon them.
*****Verses 6-7: The LORD’S transformation of His people’s hearts would heal Israel’s heart problem (Jer.17:1, 9), and break the pattern of sin and disobedience that had plagued their history.
While it is true that a remnant returned to Judah (in 538 B.C.), this Promise had greater implications in regard to the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12), the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7), and New Covenant (Jer. 31). Covenants in the day of Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom. Compare the following:
Jer. 32:41 Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. (KJV)
Jer. 33:7 And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. (KJV)
32:41; 33:7). Their conversion (verse 7), from idolatry to the One TRUE God is expressed in language which, in its fullness, applies to the complete conversion in the final Kingdom after the present dispersion. Rom. 11:1-5 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. 5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (KJV) Rom. 11:25-27 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. (KJV)
Bad Figs Would Be Sent Into Captivity (Jer. 24:8-10)
Here follows a clear meaning of the evil figs, and an application of them to the wicked Jews.
Jer. 24:8 And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the LORD, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt: (KJV)
Surely thus saith the LORD, so will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah . . . Zedekiah was then the reigning king of Judah, Jeconiah's father's brother, whom the king of Babylon had made king in his stead, and changed his name from Mattaniah to Zedekiah (2 Ki. 24:17). The LORD threatens to give him up to ruin and destruction, or to deliver into the hands of the enemy.
And his princes, and the residue of them, that remain in this land . . . the rest of the inhabitants of Jerusalem that stayed in the land of Judea and were not carried captive.
And them that dwell in the land of Egypt . . . who had fled there for safety on the invasion of their land and besieging their city. All these are like the bad figs, very evil, and are threatened to be delivered into the hands of their enemies, although they might think themselves safe and secure where they were.
It seems that Zedekiah was the uncle of Nebuchadnezzar. He was very evil. He was the leader of those that the basket of bad figs represented. They were a rebellious group who would not tolerate the chastisement of the LORD. They had not repented of their evil. Some had fled to Egypt to keep from being captured and they were included in this evil group.
Jer. 24:9 And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them. (KJV)
Jeconiah (vs.1) and the captives with him were only carried into Babylon. But these would be scattered one from another into the several parts of the world. Jeconiah was carried captive for their good, and it resulted in that (Jer.27:20; 28:4; 29:2). But the bad figs were carried away for their hurt, to the injury of their persons and properties, and having no effect on them for the good of their souls. Although this might begin to be fulfilled by the seventy years' captivity in Babylon (Isa. 23:15, 17; 25:11-12; Jer.29:10; Dan.9:2; Zec.7:5), it had a more complete fulfilment in the destruction of this people by the Romans. To which these and the following words seem more particularly to refer.
Deu. 28:25 The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. (KJV)
Deu. 28:37-46 And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee. 38 Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it. 39 Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. 40 Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit. 41 Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity. 42 All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume. 43 The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. 44 He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail. 45 Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:
46 And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever. (KJV)
*****The bad figs would be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them (Eze.4:13). Their names would be used as a proverb for their riches wickedly gotten, their deceptiveness and falsehood. And they are under the curse of God, and the reproach of man, as they are to this day.
They did not repent and the curse was not removed from them (Jer.15:4). This is a quote of the covenant curse of Deuteronomy 28:25, 37-46 above and: Jer. 29:18 And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them: (KJV) Jer. 29:22 And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire; (KJV)
They would be scattered to many different countries. The lands where they lived would look down on them as someone not given the same rights as other people. The sentence of banishing them to many lands is punishment from God. They would be thought of as outcasts wherever they went. Secular history gives us the accurate fulfillment of this prophecy which Jeremiah faithfully delivered to his people.
Jer. 24:10 And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers. (KJV)
And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them . . . meaning not in other lands, where they would be driven, but while they were in their own land, where many would die. And those that escaped these dreadful judgments would be carried captive. The Targum is, "I will send those that kill with the sword, etc.''
Till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers . . . none of them would be left there to inhabit it, which is now the situation. And too, it is a worsening of their calamity and punishment, that they are no more the inhabitants of that good land, which was God's gift to them, and to their fathers before them.
The bad figs will not live in the Promised Land any longer. God will drive them out. The sword would cause them to run for safety somewhere else. The famine would send them away in search of food to survive. The plague was like locusts that devoured everything in its way. We must remember that all of this was sent on them by God to drive them out of the land. May we learn from Jeremiah and the prophets that the LORD is indeed the Almighty God, and He shall do what He has promised to do. God cannot lie!
*****There is no doubt that this prophecy had its accomplishment in the men of that generation . . . yet, because we read not of any such remarkable difference between those of Jeconiah's captivity and those of Zedekiah's, it is very possible that this has a typical reference to the last destruction of the Jews by the Romans, in which those of them that believed were taken care of, but those that continued stubborn and determined in their unbelief were driven into all countries for a taunt and a curse, and that they remain to this day.
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