Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Jeremiah 24

Verses 1-10

The Two Baskets of Figs - Zedekiah And Jerusalem Are Fated To Destruction And Exile (Jeremiah 24:1-10).

The subsection opened with a report concerning the future of Zedekiah and Jerusalem, and it now closes with the same, the two forming an inclusio for the subsection. Jeremiah is shown two baskets of figs by YHWH, one containing good figs and the other bad figs. The good figs represent the cream of the people who had been carried off to Babylon (including Daniel and Ezekiel among others). The bad figs represent Zedekiah and those who had remained behind in Jerusalem. The good figs would one day be restored to the land and built up there, and would once again become His people with Him being their God. But the bad figs would be gathered up by Nebuchadrezzar and scattered among the kingdoms to become a reproach wherever they were found, and prior to that would first suffer sword, famine and pestilence. In other words for Zedekiah and his ilk there was to be no future.

Jeremiah 24:1

‘YHWH showed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of YHWH, after Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the craftsmen and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon.’

The chapter commences with YHWH showing Jeremiah two baskets of figs which had been set before the Temple of YHWH, indicating either that they were being brought before YHWH for Him to pass judgment on them, or that they were an offering to YHWH, either as a firstfruit or a tithe (a remnant). Compare Amos 8:1-2. This took place after Nebuchadrezzar had carried Jehoiachin, together with the princes of Judah (the tribal and clan leaders) and the cream of the people away to Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-17).

The inclusion of craftsmen of all kinds was an indication that these exiles were more than hostages. Nebuchadrezzar was stripping Jerusalem of all who could have contributed to its being built up again into a strong city, and at the same time assuring himself of a constant stream of craftsmen for his own building projects. Many would in fact settle in Babylon and not want to return.

Jeremiah 24:2

‘One basket had very good figs, like the figs that are first-ripe, and the other basket had very bad figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.’

Of the baskets of figs one contained very good figs, like first ripe figs (signifying the very best, compare Isaiah 28:4; Hosea 9:10). and one contained very bad figs, which were so bad that they could not be stomached. This may suggest that they had been brought before YHWH to be tested, or it may be saying that what Jerusalem is now offering to YHWH is fruit that has gone off, in contrast with what it had previously offered, fruit which had potential.

Jeremiah 24:3

‘Then YHWH said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “Figs; the good figs, very good; and the bad, very bad, which cannot be eaten, they are so bad.”

YHWH then asked what Jeremiah saw, and Jeremiah described the two baskets of figs, indicating that one basket contained very good figs and the other very bad figs, so bad that they could not be stomached. (The repetition is made in order to emphasise the important facts). We do not know whether the baskets were simply seen in vision, or whether they were baskets of firstfruits or summer fruits brought as an offering to YWHW which He used to bring an object lesson to Jeremiah (compare the widow’s two mites in Mark 12:41-44). If the latter it may have been intended to indicate two different attitudes revealed by the offerings, with some bringing their very best (like Abel) and others treating YHWH with contempt by bringing rubbish because they did not want to ‘waste’ good fruit..

Jeremiah 24:4-5

‘And the word of YHWH came to me, saying, “Thus says YHWH, 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.”

YHWH then revealed to him that the good figs represented the captives from Judah who had been ‘sent by Him’ out of ‘this place’ (Judah and Jerusalem) into the land of the Chaldeans, and that He now intended to ‘regard’ them as good (even though on the whole they were not) and had therefore done it with their ‘good’ in mind. This was why He regarded them as being like the good figs. (They were at that stage at least partially responding to Ezekiel’s ministry, no doubt helped by the fact that Daniel was governor of Babylonia).

Jeremiah 24:6

“For I will set my eyes on 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.”

For YHWH assured Jeremiah that He intended good towards these people, and had ‘set His eyes on them for good’, and would therefore eventually bring them back again to the land of Judah, and rather than pulling them down, would build them, and instead of plucking them up, would plant them. Compare for these ideas Jeremiah 1:10; Jeremiah 12:14-17; Jeremiah 18:7-9; Jeremiah 31:27-28. In other words as a result of His sovereign activity they would be restored to the land and would begin to prosper and be established.

Jeremiah 24:7

“And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am YHWH, and they will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with their whole heart.”

And what was more He would give them a heart to know Him, and to really appreciate that He really was YHWH, so that they would be His people and He would be their God (compare Jeremiah 31:33-34; Hosea 2:23). There would be a full restoration of the covenant, and they would return to Him with their whole heart. And as we know from later records this was on the whole what happened. They became established in the land once again and did experience revival a number of times, so that at times they did genuinely respond to God with all their hearts. This then resulted finally in their being prepared by John the Baptist for the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, with continually among them a strong godly remnant (consider all those mentioned in respect of the birth of Jesus). It finally came into full fruition in the true company of believers after Pentecost.

Jeremiah 24:8

“And as the bad figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so bad, surely thus says YHWH, So will I give up Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt,”

But with the bad, inedible figs it was to be a very different story. They represented Zedekiah and his clique, together with others both in Jerusalem and in Egypt, who would be ‘given up’ because they were unacceptable. They would not be a part of the restoration. Notice that Egypt was seen to have done them no good.

We know very little about settlers in Egypt from Judah around this time, but Egypt had always regularly welcomed refugees from Canaan (they considered that they had a paternal interest in it seeing it as basically their colony), and the Egyptians employed Jewish mercenaries. Thus refugees who were pro-Egyptian sympathisers from both Israel and Judah would probably have fled there at various times during the regular invasions that took place from the north and have found a welcome there. Some would also have gone there with Jehoahaz who would certainly have been accompanied by courtiers and servants in 609 B.C. (2 Kings 23:34). And other refugees would probably have followed when Jehoiakim became Nebuchadrezzar's vassal around 603 BC, and then when Nebuchadrezzar invaded Judah in 598/7 BC.

Jeremiah 24:9

“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 where I shall drive them.”

And these bad figs would be ‘tossed to and fro’ among all the kingdoms of the world (compare Jeremiah 15:4; Jeremiah 29:17-18), with nowhere to call their home, becoming recipients of bad treatment (evil) and as well as becoming a reproach, a living illustration, a taunt and a curse in all the places where YHWH drove them (compare Leviticus 26:36; Deuteronomy 28:37; Deuteronomy 28:65-67; Isaiah 43:28). So even those in Egypt would not find safety or full acceptance. This is in fact a good general overall description of the history of the Jews in general because of their insularity.

Jeremiah 24:10

“And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, until they are consumed from off the land which I gave to them and to their fathers.”

But meanwhile he would send among them His judgments, sword, famine and pestilence (compare Jeremiah 14:12; Ezekiel 14:21), until they were finally consumed off the land which YHWH had given to them and their fathers, a privilege which they had abused. Thus the final fate of those remaining in Judah under Zedekiah was fixed, and it was not a hopeful one. The future would demonstrate what a motley lot they were.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 24". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.