Thursday, June 17, 2021

Two Baskets of Figs


Week 24 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 24; 2 Kings 24:10-20


Chapters 21-24 complete a narrative of the end of what scholars call the Davidic dynasty. This ending is God’s judgment on the sins of Judah. Present judgment and future restoration are God’s conjoined messages for His people. In order to preserve this plan, part of God’s provision allows for the most godly and faithful remnant to be taken into exile in Babylon. Daniel, the prophet, is part of this exile.

“The primary young leaders taken into exile with Daniel are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”[1] (See Daniel 9:2-5) Most believe this happens about 605 BC in the first exile. Ezekiel is likely taken in the second exile in 597 BC. Many of these exiles are taken from Judah to be protected, as they will be God’s resources for Israel’s rebuilding. They will be God’s faithful ones to keep God before the people. (See Daniel 1:1-7)

“Daniel and Ezekiel were the only prophets to conduct their entire ministries while in captivity.”[2] Taken into captivity as a teenager, Daniel brings God’s message to the “Jewish community during their seventy years of Babylonian exile.”[3] With a vision of hope, Daniel “challenged them to hold to their heritage as God’s chosen people.”[4] Despite the dire circumstances of exile, “The Jews were an insignificant people in the world’s eyes, but in reality they were defended by the very power of heaven.”[5]

Daniel’s belief in God’s sovereignty is foundational for the return of the exiles to rebuild Jerusalem. Continuing long after Jeremiah’s ministry ends, the transformation of the exiles into a spiritually refreshed people is necessary. Being a non-conformist, Daniel and others are key leaders in preparing the people to have hope in a time of chaos and uncertainty. 


The timeline is thirty or more years into Jeremiah’s ministry, after the first deportation 605 BC, and somewhere in between the second exiles leaving (597 BC) and the fall of Jerusalem (587 BC). Chapter 24 is another of Jeremiah’s object lessons that uses two baskets of figs to present a message.

Agriculturally, to know about figs helps us understand this lesson. “The long growing season in the land of Israel makes it possible foe figs to ripen two times a year. The first figs produce the sweetest crop.”[6]

These “choice figs symbolized the first exiles that had been already carried away to Babylon.”[7] Another other interesting note is “figs appear in the Bible some sixty times, usually representing peace and security.”[8] However, “these two baskets of figs are placed in front of the temple.”[9] Likely this may have been during the second harvest of figs, allowing for some distinction between good and bad figs.  “This may have been during the autumn festival called First Fruits”[10] (Dt.26:1-11)

Jehoiakim is taken to Babylon, and soon Zedekiah will be appointed king of Judah. This signifies the final stage of Judah’s fall. We know from 2 Kings 24:10-20 that along with the exiles, Nebuchadnezzar took treasures from the temple and the palace. The good figs are good and the bad figs, bad. The good figs represent the remnant, those who have been exiled to Babylon. The best is taken to Babylon.

Hope comes with God’s message for the remnant, those exiled to Babylon. His promise of restoration comes in the form of a new heart. “Then I will give them a 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 to Me with their whole heart.” (v 7). All this doom and destruction comes because of their unrepentant hearts, but the core truth is that God has a plan of transformation. With this preservation of the remnant will come a change of heart, a change in the inner nature. The Hebrew for “know” is yada which is a knowledge beyond intellectual knowing. It refers to an experiential knowledge, a relational knowing. To return with their “whole heart” means a complete and total commitment. “The promises of God are based on His unchanging character.”[11]

The bad figs, the rotten figs refer to Zedekiah, the uncle of Jeconiah and second son of Jehoiakim, and to those who remain to the end. In verse 9 we see the trouble that will come to them. They will be disgraced and become a parable that should be easy to remember. These leftovers will be objects of ridicule and mocked. This will be their end.


Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. [God] does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. Galatians 3:15-18 NKJV

Finding him faithful and obedient, God makes a covenant with Abram, long before God calls him Abraham. In fact, God’s changeless promise comes over 400 years before He gives the law to Moses. This promise is not between Abraham and God; this binding promise is between God and God (see Genesis 15:12-18). Many translations use the word Abraham’s “descendants” but this translates to the Hebrew word for “seed”. In its collective meaning of a people, the faithful remnant of Abraham’s descendants will fulfill God’s promise, while its singular meaning refers to Christ, the Promised Seed. God’s changeless promise endures forever.

God’s faithfulness affirms the necessary Promised Seed, for humanity can never save itself. The law given to Moses is not replaced by Christ, rather serves as a tutor to bring us to Christ, for humanity can never completely keep the law. Believers experience Abraham’s seed in Christ, the Changeless Promise representing unmeasured grace, and stand as a collective people of Abraham’s seed confessing one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God. 

Jesus, Chosen One, grace falls gently over me like a cool stream in a dry and rocky land. In You I find no contradictions. Like a gentle breeze on a summer’s day, You bring my soul relief. In You I find gentleness. Great is Your faithfulness to a sinner who flounders and falls, who loses sight of hope and holds on to hurt, who must surrender but resists submission. Yet, Eternal Seed, You choose me! 


Consider the following thought and reflect: We may assume we are blessed when life goes well and cursed when it does not. But trouble is a blessing when it makes us stronger, and prosperity is a curse if it entices us away from God. If you are facing trouble, ask God to help you grow stronger for him. If things are going your way, ask God to help you use your prosperity for him.[12]

Donna Oswalt

[1] Shepherd’s Notes Jeremiah and Lamentations

[2] Blackaby Study Notes Daniel

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Quest Study Bible Jeremiah Chapter 24

[7] Ibid

[8] Walking the Ancient Paths Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser, Walter C; p289

[9] Ibid

[10] Blackaby Study Bible

[11] Walking the Ancient Paths Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser, Walter C; p291

[12] Chronological Life Application Study Bible Jeremiah Chapter 24

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