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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Jeremiah 24

 

 

Verse 1

JEREMIAH 24

TWO BASKETS OF FIGS

The approximate date of this vision is shortly after the deportation of Jeconiah and the nobles and craftsmen to Babylon following the first capture of Jerusalem by Babylon in 597 B.C.

Keil considered the vision recounted here as symbolical of "the future of Judah's people."[1] Jamieson stated the purpose of the chapter a little more fully. "This chapter was designed to encourage the despairing exiles, and to reprove the people left in Jerusalem, who prided themselves as superior and more highly favored than the exiles."[2] The ones remaining in Judah had appropriated all of the possessions left behind by the exiles; and they were no doubt congratulating themselves on how lucky they were. The approximate date of this vision is shortly after the deportation of This little parable of the two baskets of figs was designed to show them how wrong they were.

Jeremiah 24:1-3

"Jehovah showed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of Jehovah, after that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiachim, king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, and the craftsmen and smiths from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon. One basket had very good figs, like figs that are first-ripe; and the other basket had very bad figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad. Then said Jehovah unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs very good; and the bad, very bad, that cannot be eaten, they are so bad."

"Baskets of figs set before the temple ..." (Jeremiah 24:1) The great lesson here, which is missed by many of the commentators, has nothing whatever to do with "first-fruits"[3] The lesson that thunders from the parable is that "proximity to the temple" is no sign whatever of the holiness or acceptability of the people living in the vicinity of the Jewish temple. The people in Jerusalem were close to the temple, all right, but they were not close to God! They were exactly like that basket of rotten figs on the very steps of the temple.

"The king ... the princes ... the craftsmen and smiths ..." (Jeremiah 24:1). The cream of the nation had already been deported. All of the skilled artisans and craftsmen and presumably all of the people with special skills. The meaning of "smiths" is uncertain; but the general import of the verse is plain enough. Both Ezekiel and Daniel were also in that first group of captives. See 2 Kings 24:10-17 of the Biblical record of who went to Babylon. The teaching of the parable is that the people left in Judah were inferior to the captives who went to Babylon. Barnes stated that, "Those left behind were not worth taking."[4]

This estimate proved to be correct. Zedekiah surrounded himself with a group of citizens who persuaded him to form an alliance with Egypt and to resist any further submission to Babylon. That policy, of course, brought on the second siege of Jerusalem, the murder of the vast majority of the population, the destruction of the temple, and the reduction of the whole city to a ruin. In the long ran, the ones remaining in Judah would have by far the worst fate. The one and one half year siege they endured was one of the worst in history, the inhabitants even being reduced to cannibalism.

"The good figs ... the bad figs ..." (Jeremiah 24:2-3) It seems that so simple a vision should not need much comment; but commentators always find something to write about. We are told that the good figs came from the early crop of a variety that produced two or three crops a year, the first one being far superior to the other two. The bad figs were described as "rotten" by Harrison, and probably the "sycamore fig" by Smith. That variety needed to be pricked during the ripening process; and the failure to provide that treatment made the figs inedible!

This little parable is very much like that of the basket of summer fruit in Amos 8:1-3. We refer the reader to our exegesis of that parable in Vol. 1 of the Minor Prophets Series.


Verse 4

THE PARABLE EXPLAINED

"And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so will I regard the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans, for good. 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. And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am Jehovah: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God; for they shall return unto me with their whole heart."

The captivity in Babylon, in some ways, was like the long sojourn of the children of Jacob in Egypt which also ended in the captivity of the nation. In the days of Judah, the son of Jacob, there was grave danger of the Israelites becoming amalgamated with the citizens of Canaan; but God transferred them to Egypt where the whole nation was despised and where any amalgamation with Egypt was virtually impossible. Their sojourn in Egypt kept them segregated and enabled them to develop into a powerful people. So here, the captivity in Babylon would finally eradicate idolatry from the preference of the Hebrew people. This and many other things were meant by the Lord's word that he was sending Israel into Babylon "for good."

"Green spoke of the exiles thus: They were the hope of true religion in the future; they had endured the shock of deportation; they had been stripped of their false securities; they were undergoing the discipline of Divine love. Some of them would respond to their suffering in a right spirit and return to God with their whole heart."[5]

It is sad indeed that the subsequent history of the returnees did not exhibit such desirable results in all of the people. Ash's comment on this is accurate.

"Post-exilic sources from Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi show that the real situation was something less than the expectation mentioned here."[6]

Despite this truth, however, there were indeed those who waited for the kingdom of God; and, in the fullness of time, Mary would wrap her babe in swaddling clothes; and the Redeemer of Mankind would be cradled in a manger in Bethlehem! From people like Mary and Joseph, and Zacharias and Elizabeth, and Simeon, and Anna, and Nathaniel, and Zacchaeus, the holy Apostles, and that handful of 120 people in the upper room on Pentecost, from people like that and a few others, the New Israel of God was formed; and the kingdom of heaven on earth was launched when the Word of the Lord went forth from Jerusalem on Pentecost! Without the hard discipline of the Baylonian captivity, not even this humble beginning could ever have been achieved.


Verse 8

REGARDING THE BAD FIGS

"And as the bad figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad, surely thus saith Jehovah, So will I give up Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in the land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt, I will even give them up to be tossed to and fro among all the kingdoms of the earth for evil; to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them. 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."

"The bad figs ..." (Jeremiah 24:8) These are identified here as Zedekiah the king of Judah and his princes, along with all of the rest of the people who remained behind in Judah after the deportation of the first wave of captives. Note also that even the Jews who had fled to Egypt or other nations are also included among the bad figs. Only the people who suffered the discipline of the captivity would be used by God in his future plans for Israel, and not all of them, but only those who with a whole heart would repent and turn to the true God.

"Green's word on the bad figs: They were the self-righteous remainder of the people in Jerusalem and Judah who had a spirit of arrogant superiority, scorn for their less fortunate countrymen in captivity, and a superstitious reliance on such sanctified shams as the inviolability of Jerusalem and the Temple, and a trust in the efficacy of empty, formalistic worship."[7]

These verses, of course, prophecy another invasion and destruction of Jerusalem, which indeed came to pass about a decade after the first invasion. There would be other captives to join their countrymen in Babylon; and the Jews would be totally rooted out of the land that God had given to them and to their fathers.

"Among all the kingdoms of the earth ..." (Jeremiah 24:9) This is a reiteration of the Mosaic curse of Deuteronomy 28:25,37, the fulfillment of which is witnessed by a Jewish settlement in practically every city on the face of the earth.

There is, of course, far more in this prophecy than the transport of Jews to Babylon. "The prophecy of Jeremiah 24:10 was partly fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, but more so in the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans under Vespasian and Titus in A.D. 70."[8] It was upon that occasion that the status of racial Israel, already long reduced, was at last terminated, as regards any racial consideration whatever having any bearing whatever upon who is saved or not saved.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jeremiah 24:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/jeremiah-24.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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