Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Today – in the 26th lesson of this study – we find ourselves in the 24th chapter of the book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: A Separate Unit
This 24th chapter is a separate unit. It’s not tied to what precedes or what follows, as far as the flow of thought is concerned.
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Separate from What Precedes
In the chapters before this chapter we had Zedekiah – the last king of Judah, in his last months as king – asking Jeremiah for help. We then heard the response that God gave to that request.
But in Jeremiah 24 right here, we’ll see that we’re now in the days that followed the exile of the king who immediately preceded Zedekiah – that is, Jeconiah. So, we take a step back of about maybe 10 years or so as we come out of Jeremiah 23 and enter Jeremiah 24.
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Separate from What Follows
And then in the chapter that follows Jeremiah 24 –that is, Jeremiah 25 – we go even farther back chronologically into the reign of King Jehoiakim and in his fourth year as king. And there we’ll see next time that God is going to punish Babylon after 70 years of letting them win and conquer.
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Conclusion
So, both the timeframe and the content of the chapters that come before and after Jeremiah 24 are different than the timeframe and content of Jeremiah 24 itself. And so, it seems to be a self-contained unit – that certainly has tie-ins with the rest of the book generally – but which doesn’t really share a continuous unit of text with what comes before or after it.
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Overview
Now, what we’re going to see in Jeremiah 24 is as follows. Jeremiah is shown two baskets of figs in front of the Temple. That takes the first two verses of this chapter.
Then in the remaining eight verses, God will explain this vision of the two baskets of figs.
That’s it. The structure is pretty simple. The text is pretty short.
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Vision of Fig Baskets
So, let’s begin by considering the vision of the two baskets of figs in Jeremiah 24:1-2.
KJV Jeremiah 24:1 ¶ 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.
2 One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are [first/early] ripe:
and the other basket had very [naughty/bad] figs, which could not be eaten, they were so [bad/rotten].
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: It’s a Vision
The first thing to notice is that we’re not told explicitly that this is a vision. And yet I think it’s best to consider this a vision. It seems that this scenario of two baskets sitting right in front of the Temple in Jerusalem was created just for Jeremiah’s instruction and through him for the instruction of Jerusalem. Why would these two baskets be sitting in front of the Temple? Maybe as an offering, you might think. But, if that were the case and this weren’t a vision, who would put a pile of rotten figs in a basket to offer them at the Temple? So, I think it’s best to interpret this as a vision from the Lord for Jeremiah that’s outside of time and space and rather within the realm of the mind.
Add to that this word in the text – “shewed”. That Hebrew word, raah, is also used in Jeremiah 1:11 where God shows Jeremiah the rod of the almond tree. It’s used in Jeremiah 1:13 in regard to God showing Jeremiah the boiling pot. So, the point is that this term is used in other contexts where God apparently is showing Jeremiah a vision in his mind for the purpose of teaching him something.
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: The Setting
The other thing to note in these two verses is the setting. We’re given the time frame – “after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah”. So, these things happened sometime after Jeconiah was exiled, which would mean that they likely happened when Zedekiah was king – but early in his decade-long reign.
Let us consider some background for this timeframe described here.
2 Kings 24:8 says “Jehoiachin [another one of Jeconiah’s names] was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months [Not a very long reign]. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.”
The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 36:9 says about the same thing with one important addition – Jeconiah was evil: “Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign [some manuscripts say “eighteen” instead of “eight”, which is likely the correct reading], and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem [so, the author of kings rounds off this king’s reign to the month, while the author of Chronicles gives both the months and the days]: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.
And because Jeconiah did evil in God’s eyes, the Lord sent Nebuchadnezzar to fight against Jerusalem. That resulted then in what’s related in 2 Kings 24:12: “And Jehoiachin [a.k.a. Jeconiah] the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his [Nebuchadnezzar’s] reign.”
And just to give us a picture of the utter disaster this would have been on this society, I want to continue quoting 2 Kings 24:13-16:
And he [Nebuchadnezzar] carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. 14 And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.
By the way, this is what King Zedekiah then inherited. I don’t want to sound harsh, but the reality is that he was left to rule over a bunch of talent-less, untrained, unskilled poor people. All the mighty and noble and skilled people were taken.
15 And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives
So, we weren’t told about wives yet, but here they are. Jeconiah did indeed have wives.
and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he [Nebu.] into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.”
So, you can tell that the author of kings wanted us to know very well that all the “desirables” in that society were taken away at this point. Everyone who knew how to do something well was removed from Jerusalem. And again what was left was a group of poor peasants. This would have been devastating to that society. And that was undoubtedly what Nebuchadnezzar intended.
And I’ve mentioned this in a previous lesson, but I do think the following additional consideration is helpful to note. I’ll read Esther 2:5-6 to give us some additional context as far as the timeframe is concerned relating to Jeconiah’s exile. “¶ Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; 6 Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.”
So, old Mordecai – the relative of Esther – was one person among these skilled people who was exiled in the days of Jeconiah.
And lastly, we won’t turn to it, but the prophet Ezekiel was also apparently exiled with Jeconiah, according to Ezekiel 1:2.
So, this is the setting of this vision of the two baskets of figs. It happens probably not very long after king Jeconiah was exiled along with all sorts of skilled and talented people.
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: Explaining the Vision
So, now let’s move on from the vision itself to the explanation of the vision. To read the explanation see explaining the vision.
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: The Good Figs
Now, the Lord describes what the good figs mean next in Jeremiah 24:5-7. See the good figs for the explanation of that section.
Jeremiah 24 Commentary: The Bad Figs
Well, that’s all very positive. But now God returns to those bad figs in Jeremiah 24:8-10.
8 ¶ And [as/like] the [evil/bad] figs, which cannot be eaten, [because] they are so [evil/bad/rotten]; [surely/indeed] thus saith the LORD,
So will I [give/abandon] 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:
9 And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth [for/and this will cause them to be] their [hurt/an example that will cause terror], to be a[n object of] reproach and a proverb[ial example of destruction], [a taunt/an object of ridicule] and a[n example to be used in] curse[s], in all places whither I shall drive them.
10 And I will send [the sword/war], [the famine/starvation], and [the pestilence/disease], among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers.
So, these awful things will happen to king Zedekiah and all those like him who refused to surrender to Babylon. And I don’t know if you caught it, but this includes those who will flee to Egypt. That’s what the end of Jeremiah 24:8 says.
And so I’ll explain what I think that’s referring to. When Babylon finally does come and overtake Jerusalem, they do actually leave a small group of the poorest in the land of Judah. That group is attacked and taken hostage by one of the king’s relatives. But they’re delivered from that guy only to be taken – with their full permission, it seems – to Egypt. And God makes it clear that he didn’t want them to go to Egypt. He wanted them to stay in Judah.
And that’s an interesting progression. First, God wants the people to repent and if they do, then he’ll withhold judgement. Then he’s given them enough time so he tells them all to clear out of Judah and surrender to Babylon and go there. Many don’t and most of them die. But some live. And then God wants that small group to stay in Judah and not go to Egypt. But they disobey and go to Egypt.
At any rate, that’s the reference to “them that dwell in the land of Egypt.”
And that’s Jeremiah 24 – the Two Baskets of Figs