1-3 | Parable of the Good and Rotten Figs
4-7 | Good Figs: the exiles in Babylon
8-10 | Rotten Figs: those left behind
God has used parables throughout time to express His planned actions and to teach concepts to His people. From Abraham offering up Isaac to the teachings of Jesus and after Him through the writings of the apostles.1 Here Jeremiah uses a parable in a vision to express what God was going to do.
Jeremiah begins this chapter with a historical reference to the people being carried away into exile. Then he shares the vision he had from the Lord concerning two baskets of figs, one filled with very good figs and the other with very bad figs.
God promises to build up and plant them the people taken into captivity in Babylon. It is interesting that God promises to build them up and to plant them. The Babylonians tore down and destroyed Jerusalem and plucked out the “best” of the people in their eyes and carried them away to Babylon. God promises to reverse their condition.
God then promises to cause those that remain, including Zedekiah, the Babylonian appointed governor, and those who fled to Egypt and elsewhere, would be abandoned by God and would be a reproach to the place they inhabit. Additionally, God promises to destroy the land promised to the people with sword, famine, and pestilence.
Consider these excerpts from Deuteronomy 28 and I Kings 8.
Deuteronomy 28:47-52 NASB “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.
49 “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, 50 a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young. 51 “Moreover, it shall eat the offspring of your herd and the produce of your ground until you are destroyed, who also leaves you no grain, new wine, or oil, nor the increase of your herd or the young of your flock until they have caused you to perish. 52 “It shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land which the LORD your God has given you.
I Kings 8:46-51 NASB “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; 47 if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly’; 48 if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to You toward their land which You have given to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your name; 49 then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Your dwelling place, and maintain their cause, 50 and forgive Your people who have sinned against You and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are Your people and Your inheritance which You have brought forth from Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace)
This is not something that should have surprised the people. Of course, we do know from just reading the Old Testament, not all of the people had access to the Torah (the first five books of the OT). In fact, during the time of the kings, the Torah scroll was found in the temple and then read to Josiah and he was moved and set about to reform the southern kingdom (II Kings 22-23). Apparently it had been lost for years.
How about you? Do you have a Bible? How often do you read it? If you don’t ever read it, you will never know how to live to honor God. I’m not talking about following rituals or rules (that’s religion) but about developing a relationship with God who is personal and close at hand, wanting to have a relationship with you. Pick up the Book and get to know Him.
Heavenly Father, King of the Universe. Lord You have given us Your Word in which You promise good to those who follow Your design and calamity to those who fight against You and seek to fulfill their own desires. We pray that Your Spirit would help us understand and remember Your word and lead us in the way we should go so that we might not sin against You and so that we can live to honor You. Thank You for Your love and Your Son, Jesus. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 – Lockyer, Herbert. All the Parables of the Bible: A Study and Analysis of the More Than 250 Parables in Scripture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988. Print.