This prophetic message came to Jeremiah after Nebuchadnezzar had taken King Jehoiachin (Coniah, Jeconiah, cf. Jeremiah 22:24) and many of the other royal counselors, craftsmen, and smiths (or artisans) captive to Babylon in597 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar was particularly interested in these types of people because he could employ them in his government and extensive building projects. The people taken captive at this time constituted the cream of the country"s leadership (cf. 2 Kings 24:14-15).
"After the exile of Jehoiachin and the leading citizens of Judah ( 2 Kings 24:10-17), those who remained seem to have been full of optimism for the future. The new king Zedekiah even became involved in a conspiracy with the surrounding peoples for further rebellion against Babylon (ch27). The false prophets spoke of a quick return of the exiles from Babylon (ch28). Jeremiah saw that the attitude of the king and his supporters in Judah was wrong. True, there would be a new day for Judah and the people of God, but the future lay with the exiles and not with Zedekiah and his supporters." [Note: Thompson, p507.]
Jeremiah saw two baskets of figs in the temple courtyard (cf. Jeremiah 1:11-16; Amos 7:1-9; Amos 8:1-3). This is where people brought their offerings, so these two baskets may have contained two offerings, perhaps first-fruit offerings. It is impossible to determine if Jeremiah saw this scene in a vision or in actuality. As a message his account of his experience resembles a parable.
In one basket there were very good figs, like the highly valued figs that matured in June (cf. Isaiah 28:4; Hosea 9:10), and in the other there were such bad figs that no one could eat them. In Jeremiah"s day it was not uncommon for people to bring less than the best to the Lord. Jeremiah explained to the Lord what he saw, in answer to the Lord"s question.
The Lord explained that He would regard the people that had gone into exile with Jehoiachin as good, like the good figs.
He would watch over them and return them to the Promised Land. He would cause them to flourish, like a building under construction or a plant that grows. No one would tear them down or uproot them (cf. Jeremiah 1:10; Jeremiah 12:14-17; Jeremiah 18:7-9; Jeremiah 31:27-28).
God would give them a heart to know Him because, as Yahweh, He could do that. They would resume the covenant relationship as Chosen People with God, because the people would repent and return to God wholeheartedly.
This change in the people only occurred partially during the Exile (cf. Jeremiah 29:4-7; 2 Kings 25:27-30). We believe that final fulfillment is yet future when Jesus Christ returns (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-32; Matthew 24:29-31). [Note: Feinberg, p529; Dyer, " Jeremiah," p1160.]
The bad figs corresponded to King Zedekiah, his administrators, the people who remained in Jerusalem and Judah, and the Judahites who had already fled to Egypt for safety.
"We are not told when people fled to Egypt, but those of Proverbs -Egyptian sympathies may have settled there when Jehoahaz was taken there in609 B.C. ( 2 Kings 23:34) or when Jehoiakim became Nebuchadrezzar"s vassal (cf603 B.C.) or even when Nebuchadrezzar invaded Judah in598/7 B.C." [Note: Thompson, pp508-9.]
They would become an object of terror and a source of evil for the other kingdoms of the earth. They would become objects of criticism, ridicule, cursing, and a proverb-about what unfaithfulness to the covenant can result in-wherever they would go (cf. Jeremiah 19:8).
The Lord would send war and its accompanying disasters-famine and disease-on those of them still in the land, until they perished (cf. Jeremiah 21:7). Initial fulfillment came in586 B.C. (cf. Deuteronomy 28:25; Deuteronomy 28:37), and an even more extensive one followed in A.D70 (cf. Matthew 23:38).
"The natural reaction to the fate of the captives deported in597, and to the good fortune of those who were left behind, was to see the former as God"s throw-outs, the bad figs; and to see the rest as his men of promise, the good figs that were worth keeping. But, as ever, God"s thoughts and plans were not at all what men imagined." [Note: Kidner, p93.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 24". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany