The Word Made Fresh
1When Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had deported Judah’s King Jeconiah (the son of King Jehoiakim), along with the government officials and the craftsmen and metalworkers from Jerusalem to Babylon, the LORD showed me two baskets of figs which had been placed before the LORD’s temple. 2One basket was filled with fresh, ripe figs. The other contained figs too rotten to eat. 3The LORD asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
“Figs,” I answered. “Some good ones and others so rotten they can’t be eaten.”
4The the LORD said, “I am the LORD, the God of Israel, and I make this proclamation: just as these good figs should be protected, I will protect the exiles from Judea that I sent to Babylon. 5They are the good ones I will bring back to this land. I will strengthen them, not punish them. I will plant them, not uproot them. 7I will give them hearts that know me, the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, and they will return to me whole-heartedly. 8As for the rotten, inedible figs, they are like Zedekiah and his officers and those remaining in Jerusalem as well as those living in Egypt. 9I will make of them an example of horror and evil for all the other kingdoms on the earth. Wherever I disperse them, they will be insulted, mocked, cursed, and disgraced. 10I will put them to the sword and send famine and disease against them until they disappear from the good land that I gave their ancestors.”
1-10: The first exile to Babylon took place around 597 B.C. when King Jeconiah (also called Jehoiachin) surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar. Jeconiah and his officials were taken captive. Zedekiah was placed on the throne, and ruled for 11 years and then rebelled, resulting in the second, more extensive, exile of the population in 586 B.C. This chapter is a word from God through Jeremiah given sometime after the first deportation but before the second one. Surprisingly, God tells Jeremiah that the exiles (Jeconiah and his officials) are to be regarded as the remnant on which God will rebuild Jerusalem. Zedekiah and the people left in Judah are the ones who will suffer God’s continuing wrath until they are utterly removed from the land.
God is loving and forgiving, but up to a point. Once that point is reached God’s wrath may be clearly seen. The cost to us for God’s forbearance is obedience to God’s will.