The LORD showed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the LORD…
I. CONSIDER THE FIGS GENERALLY. We cannot, of course, say why figs should be chosen rather than another fruit, though the choice can hardly be a mere accident. Some reason probably appeared to the observant of that time which we are without sufficient information to discover. Possibly the goodness of good fruits was more obvious against the badness of bad ones, in the case of the fig than in the case of other fruits. It is to be noticed also that the figure chosen to set forth the difference between the good and the bad in Israel is taken from fruit. It was something presented as the result of growth and in connection with culture. The question was suggested how such a difference should come between the good and the bad. For if trees of the same sort grow in the same soil and have the same attention, and the same external influences, how comes some of the fruit to be very good and some very bad? Notice also the sharpness of the distinction. These fruits were either good or bad. To be excluded from one is to be included in the other. There is no third, no medium class. This exactly agrees with the way of speaking in the New Testament, especially by Jesus himself: e.g. the seed in the good and bad ground, the sheep and goats, the good kinds of fish and the bad ones, the five wise and the five foolish virgins. It is of the first importance to bear in mind that the imperceptible gradations, as we reckon them, count for nothing with God. There are only two kinds of hearts, the good and the bad.
II. CONSIDER THE BLESSINGS ON THAT CLASS IN ISRAEL SET FORTH BY THE GOOD FIGS. Painful external experiences cannot destroy the blessing coming from satisfactory internal character. These people represented by the good figs might say, "If we are indeed as good figs, why make us pass through such pains?" To this it might be answered, in the first place, that it was because of this very goodness that God thus treated them. They were being pruned and cleansed that they might bring forth more fruit. Secondly, when they looked on the fate of those represented by the bad figs, even captivity in a distant land would be seen as a blessing. God bends every word that he here speaks through his prophet so as to form a total of strong consolation and hope.
1. Though these people are called captives of Judah, yet this is only the conventional mode of description. In reality, Jehovah himself sends them into the land of the Chaldeans. So Joseph was made to feel that it was God who had brought him into Egypt.
2. God's eye is upon his people for good. That which God sees to be good he always regards for good. Whosoever has, to him is given more. Note, too, that the people were not merely remembered, as if God had stayed behind in the land of Israel. He was equally in Israel watching over it against the day of his people's return, and in the land of the Chaldeans watching over his faithful ones there.
3. There is to be in due time a restoration. He who sends away can also bring back. The external circumstances of his people are completely under his control. He was speaking to those in whose history was written down all the marvelous things of the Exodus from Egypt.
4. There is to be a Divine building and planting. What others had built God had pulled down, what others had planted he had uprooted. Every plant not of the heavenly Father's planting must be rooted up. All this was done, not for any delight God took in the ruin and the wilderness, but that a nation might be built up in righteousness, and bring forth only good fruit.
5. The giving of a true knowledge of God. God must give this knowledge, for it can only come to a renewed heart. The mere exhibition of God's name and person to the natural man is not enough. There may be very elaborate intellectual conceptions of Deity without the slightest profit or comfort. When the renewed heart begins to know, then God begins to be truly known. His love must not only be set before us, but must be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.
III. THE CURSE ON THOSE SET FORTH BY THE BAD FIGS. There is the greatest possible contrast between the treatment of good fruit and bad fruit. And so there was the greatest possible contrast between the treatment of the people taken to Babylon and the treatment of those remaining at home and nearer home. Upon the surface and at the first aspect it might seem as if these latter had the best of it. And, indeed, there might be no immediate way of making clear the difference. But a difference there assuredly was, and every succeeding year would manifest and emphasize it the more. In the mean time here stood the contrast between the good and bad figs, which would be quite enough for the eye of faith. How the history of the Jewish people justifies the bitter words of vers. 9 and 10! Again and again the Gentile has treated the Jew according to the words of this prophecy, and found in them and similar words a justification of his treatment, not, of course, that the prophecy did really justify the treatment, but God could speak beforehand of the way in which human passions would assuredly work. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Yahweh showed me, and behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of Yahweh, after that Nebuchadnezzar 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.