Jeremiah 24


This chapter has the simple title, ‘Two Baskets of Figs’. God says that He will keep His promise to return His people to the land. He does so with the sign of GOOD FIGS and BAD FIGS. All dates are approximate, the first verse tells us when this was, ‘shortly after Jehoiachin and others were carried into Babylon’.

So, this would have been about 597 B.C.

It seems that this chapter was intended to encourage the people in exile. Those who were left behind in Judah felt that they were highly favoured and therefore felt proud of their position. They were taking the possessions off those who had been taken away and were probably thinking that they were the lucky ones. This little parable of the Two Baskets of Figs would show them how wrong they were.

Good figs

God is sending Judah to Babylon for her own good, not just for the sake of it. And it worked for good. Why? Because in captivity many turned back to God. They saw what it was all about. They gave up the idols and never returned to them when they returned to their homeland. Ezra tells this well. Captivity was certainly to purify Israel and it did. When they returned they were prepared to serve God. In captivity, they built a synagogue.

‘After Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the officials, the skilled workers and the artisans of Judah were carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the LORD showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the LORD.’ Jeremiah 24:1

Selected people had already been taken into captivity in 606 B.C. Ezekiel and Daniel had been taken away in the first group of captives. Now the cream of the nation, i.e., craftsmen and others, are going to be taken away, please read 2 Kings 24:10-17 to see who went to Babylon on this occasion. The teaching of this parable seems to be that it was the people who were left in Judah that were inferior to those taken into Babylon.

One scholar says, ‘Those left behind were not worth taking.’ This seems to be true. Zedekiah surrounded himself with a group of people who wanted to make an alliance with Egypt so that they had the strength to counter-attack any further assault from Babylon. This brought about the second siege of Jerusalem. This is when many people were murdered, the temple was destroyed, and the city was completely ruined. So those who remained in Judah were worse off than those taken at the first siege of Jerusalem. The final siege lasted one and a half years and was one of the worst in history. So bad was this that the people of Judah were killing and eating their own children.

‘One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten. Then the LORD asked me, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘Figs,’ I answered. ‘The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.’ Jeremiah 24:2-3

The first crop of figs came from an early crop, considered to be the best. The bad figs were considered ‘rotten’, so bad that they couldn’t be eaten. This little parable is pretty much the same as that of the basket of summer fruit in Arnos 8:1-3.

‘Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.’ Jeremiah 24:4-7

The captivity in Babylon was similar to the many years that Jacob’s children spent in Egypt. They became strong as a nation in Egypt because they were kept separate from other nations. A similar thing would happen in Babylon. Away from their own country, which they missed so much, they began to see God again. They put away idols.

It is, however, sad that when they did eventually return to their homeland that they began to think of themselves first, rather than God. For instance, they were happy to build good houses for themselves, whilst the temple remained in ruins. I guess man has never changed since God created him. It was God who was going to do it all. I will build. I will plant. I will guide you back. I will provide for you. They will have a heart and know that I am the Lord.

Bad figs

I will send sword, famine and plague against them. Those who are so evil, God will not deliver them over to good.

‘But like the bad figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,’ says the LORD, ‘so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt. I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, a curse and an object of ridicule, wherever I banish them. I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their ancestors.’ Jeremiah 24:8-10

The bad figs are considered in these verses. Verse 8 tells us that these poor figs identify with Zedekiah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem. We note that even those who fled to Egypt were considered poor figs.

I will send sword, famine and plague, which refers to the third deportation. So, at this stage let us recap the three deportations.

606 B.C. This is when Daniel and the princes, the high-ups, were taken into captivity.

597 B.C. This is the first siege that we have been considering.

586 B.C. This is the second and final siege referred to in verse 10 of this chapter when God will send sword, famine and plague, often referred to as the Fall of Jerusalem.

Read Jeremiah 52 and his Book of Lamentations.

Go To Jeremiah 25



"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."