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.
Verse 1. - Two baskets of figs were set before, etc. (comp. Amos 8:1-3). The description is apparently based on the law of firstfruits (comp. Deuteronomy 26:2), where the "basket" is mentioned, though not the word here used. The baskets were set down in readiness to be examined by the priests, who rigorously rejected all fruit that was not sound. The princes of Judah. A short phrase for all the leading men, whether members of the royal family or heads of the principal families (comp. Jeremiah 27:20). The carpenters and smiths; rather, the craftsmen and smiths ("craftsmen" includes workers in stone and metal as well as wood; the Hebrew word is rendered "smith" in 1 Samuel 13:19).
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.
Verse 2. - Like the figs that are first ripe. The early spring fig was considered a special delicacy (comp. Isaiah 27:4; Hosea 9:10); "ficus praecox," Pliny calls it ('Hist. Nat.,' 15:19, quoted by Trench). Tristram suggests that the "bad figs" were those of a sycamore tree.
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,
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.
Verse 5. - Acknowledge them; or, rather knowledge (notice) of them (as Ruth 2:10, 19).
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.
Verse 6. - I will build them, etc. (comp. Jeremiah 1:10; Jeremiah 12:16). As the next verse shows. it is not merely outward prosperity that is meant, but spiritual regeneration.
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.
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:
Verse 8. - And as the evil figs. (So Jeremiah 29:16.) That dwell in the land of Egypt. Those who had fled thither during the war (comp. Jeremiah 42, 43.); hardly those who had been carried captive to Egypt with Jehoahaz, who would presumably have been of the better sort, such as are symbolized by the good figs.
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.
Verse 9. - And I will deliver them, etc. (see on Jeremiah 15:4, and comp. Jeremiah 29; 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.