THE BASIS FOR SOVEREIGN BLESSING OR CURSING CANNOT BE HUMANLY DISCERNED
At some point we must bow down before God’s sovereignty and acknowledge that God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts. He acts according to His good pleasure in ways that we cannot comprehend. Why does He choose some vessels to bless and others to curse? While our salvation is conditioned on our repentance and faith – those are not the initiating actions that determine our destiny. Instead God has set in motion before Creation, before we were born, the operation of His grace in the hearts and lives of those whom He chooses to draw to Himself.
THE BASIS FOR SOVEREIGN BLESSING OR CURSING CANNOT BE HUMANLY DISCERNED
I. (:1-3) THE OBJECT LESSON — TWO BASKETS OF FIGS – RIPE AND ROTTEN
A. (:1a) Context = Post Captivity
“After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the officials of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths from Jerusalem and had brought them to Babylon,”
Parunak: The vision takes place just after the deportation of Jeconiah to Babylon, the second of the three great deportations. Those who escaped the second deportation thought of the exiles as under God’s curse, and themselves as particularly blessed. This sort of reasoning may have informed Zed’s original question in 21; in spite of all Jer’s warnings, he was still hoping for deliverance, because (after all), he hadn’t been taken away captive. The message is that God’s blessing will be on those who are in the second deportation; but those in the third are under his curse.
B. (:1b-2) The Vision
“the LORD showed me: behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of the LORD! One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs; and the other basket had very bad figs, which could not be eaten due to rottenness.”
Constable: Jeremiah saw two baskets of figs in the temple courtyard (cf. Jeremiah 1:11-16; Amos 7:1-9; Amos 8:1-3). This is where people brought their offerings, so these two baskets may have contained two offerings, perhaps first-fruit offerings. It is impossible to determine if Jeremiah saw this scene in a vision or in actuality. As a message his account of his experience resembles a parable.
C. (:3) The Perception
“Then the LORD said to me, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’
And I said, ‘Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad figs, very bad, which cannot be eaten due to rottenness.’”
Parunak: Out of this mass of detail, one feature impresses itself on Jer’s mind: the difference in quality between the two classes of figs. One of the containers was a worthy sacrifice, the finest of the figs. The other was utterly unworthy as an offering to the Lord.
II. (:4-7) THE MEANING —
(:4) “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,”
A. (:5-7) Meaning of the Ripe (Good) Figs
1. (:5) Divine Favor on Jews in Captivity in Babylon
“Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans.’”
2. (:6) Physical Restoration
“For I will set My eyes on them for good,
and I will bring them again to this land;
and I will build them up and not overthrow them,
and I will plant them and not pluck them up.”
Parunak: Promise to build and plant in the land —
a) Is it fulfilled in the restoration under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah? Note the promises that this restoration will be permanent: “build and not pull down; plant and not pluck up.” Though some of the Jews did return at the end of the captivity, they wre scattered again under Rome in 70 and 132 AD. Thus the restoration cannot fulfill this promise.
b) Is it abrogated when the Jews reject the Messiah? But note that this promise is already in spite of their sin, not because of their piety. It is not a conditional reward for merit, but an unconditional gift of grace. In fact, part of the gift (next section) is a heart of submission. If this promise can be abrogated, so can any of God’s promises.
c) Seems best to take this as a promise of a future residence of the Jews in “this land,” the land of Israel.
Thompson: The verbs build up (bana), plant (nata’), tear down (haras), and uproot (natas) are first met in 1:10 and repeatedly mentioned in the book (cf. 12:14-17; 31:27-28). They cover the double themes of judgment and restoration, which according to Jeremiah’s call were to be at the heart of his preaching. It was his great grief that the bulk of his preaching was about judgment. His references to renewal, by comparison, are few.
3. (:7) Spiritual Restoration
a. New Heart
“And I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD;”
b. New Identity
“and they will be My people, and I will be their God,”
c. New Loyalty
“for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”
Constable: This change in the people only occurred partially during the Exile (cf. Jeremiah 29:4-7; 2 Kings 25:27-30). We believe that final fulfillment is yet future when Jesus Christ returns (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-32; Matthew 24:29-31).
Wiersbe: The people who returned to the land after the Captivity were by no means perfect, but they had learned to trust the true and living God and not to worship idols. If the Captivity did nothing else, it purged the Jewish people of idolatry.
B. (:8-10) Meaning of the Rotten (Bad) Figs
1. (:8) Divine Abandonment on Jewish Leaders and Remnant Remaining in Land or in Egypt
“’But like the bad figs which cannot be eaten due to rottenness’ — indeed, thus says the LORD—‘so I will abandon Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials, and the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and the ones who dwell in the land of Egypt.’”
Feinberg: Jeremiah did not mean that those in exile were intrinsically better than the remnant in Judah but that the purpose of God in his unmerited favor promised them a bright future. . .
A number of scholars suggest that those living in Egypt were Jews who were deported with Jehoahaz to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco (cf. 2 Kings 23:31-34). Others suggest that they were emigrants who were opposed to the Babylonian domination of Judah or fled to Egypt at the first approach of Nebuchadnezzar. Another proposal is that they were fugitives from Judah who went to Egypt during various wars.
2. (:9) Divine Curse
“And I will make them a terror and an evil for all the kingdoms of the earth, as a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse in all places where I shall scatter them.”
Dyer: Several times in the Book of Jer. the prophet predicted that the people would be cursed, ridiculed, and/or reproached and that others would be horrified at their desolate condition: cf. 25:9, 18; 26:6; 29:18; 42:18; 44:8, 12, 22. Also note 48:39; 49:13, 17; 51:37, about other countries.
3. (:10) Divine Destruction
“And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence upon them until they are destroyed from the land which I gave to them and their forefathers.”
Kidner: The natural reaction to the fate of the captives deported in 597, and to the good fortune of those who were left behind, was to see the former as God’s throw-outs, the bad figs; and to see the rest as his men of promise, the good figs that were worth keeping. But, as ever, God’s thoughts and plans were not at all what men imagined.