Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Jeremiah 24:1-10. The two baskets of figs
The meaning of the vision is given with sufficient clearness in the subsequent verses. Those who had not been carried away in Jehoiachin’s captivity (b.c. 597) contrasted themselves favourably with those who had been thus removed. To them the Lord here says that the real contrast is exactly the reverse. Of the good and evil figs, the latter represent such as have failed to draw any improvement from the fate which has overtaken their brethren, while those who have been carried off to Babylon shall yet be the subjects of God’s love and grace. Both the baskets contained fruit that had been gathered, and whose ripening time was therefore over, but here their likeness ceased. So both classes of the people had had their period of probation, but with results that on the whole differed essentially.
The section may be subdivided as follows.
(i) Jeremiah 24:1-3. After Jehoiachin and the other captives had been taken to Babylon, Jehovah shews Jeremiah two baskets of figs. He bids him describe them and he does so. (ii) Jeremiah 24:4-10. The good figs are the exiles, whom He will restore to their land and to prosperity, because of their loyalty to Him. The evil are Zedekiah and the rest that remain in Palestine, as well as those who have gone to Egypt. This fortune shall be their portion. They shall be scattered throughout the world, and be scorned of all nations, and perish through war, famine, and plague from the land Jehovah gave their fathers.
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.1. For the symbol, as probably indicating not a mental picture but actual baskets to which Jeremiah’s attention was directed, cp. note on Jeremiah 1:11 f. See also the kindred symbol in Amos 8:1.
Nebuchadrezzar] See on Jeremiah 21:2.
Jeconiah] See on Jeremiah 22:24.
smiths] The exact meaning of the Hebrew is unknown.
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.2. the figs that are first ripe] The proper time for gathering figs in Palestine is in August. Certain kinds of trees, however, bear twice in the year, in which case the first crop, ripening in June, are esteemed a special delicacy. See Isaiah 28:4; Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1; Nahum 3:12.
“The bad figs may have been such either from having decayed and thus been reduced to a rotten condition, or as being the fruit of the sycamore, which contains a bitter juice.” Tristram, op. cit. p. 399.
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.
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,4–10. See introd. summary to section.
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.5. so will I regard … for good] as one looks with pleasure on good fruit. Cp. Ezekiel 11:17 ff; Ezekiel 20:37 f. Ezekiel on the other hand condemns (as does Jeremiah) those who remained in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 12:1-28; Ezekiel 17:1-21; Ezekiel 21:25-27; Ezekiel 21:22).
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.6. I will plant them] Cp. Jeremiah 31:27 f., Jeremiah 32:41.
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.7. an heart to know me] They shall be restored in a spiritual sense also, purified in heart by their adversity.
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:8. them that dwell in the land of Egypt] Whether those who accompanied Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:34), or others who during the subsequent reigns also took refuge there, as being a kingdom opposed to the Babylonian power. The Assuan papyri (see Intr. p. xix., note) shew that in b.c. 525 there was a colony which had existed there for a considerable time previously.
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.9. tossed to and fro] See on Jeremiah 15:4. The v. is the substance of Deuteronomy 28:25; Deuteronomy 28:37.
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.10. The fresh captivity shall be preceded by the same horrors as before (see on Jeremiah 15:2). Those who are represented by the evil figs were thus, still dwelling in the land, to be wasted by famine, pestilence, and sword, while the nation should thenceforward have representatives living in disgrace and exile throughout “the kingdoms.”