Good and Bad Figs

After King Nebuchadnezzar* of Babylon exiled Jehoiachin* son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to Babylon along with the officials of Judah and all the craftsmen and artisans, the Lord gave me this vision. I saw two baskets of figs placed in front of the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem. 2 One basket was filled with fresh, ripe figs, while the other was filled with bad figs that were too rotten to eat. 3 Then the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I replied, “Figs, some very good and some very bad, too rotten to eat.” 4 Then the Lord gave me this message: 5 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: The good figs represent the exiles I sent from Judah to the land of the Babylonians.* 6 I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. 7 I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly. 8 “But the bad figs,” the Lord said, “represent King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, all the people left in Jerusalem, and those who live in Egypt. I will treat them like bad figs, too rotten to eat. 9 I will make them an object of horror and a symbol of evil to every nation on earth. They will be disgraced and mocked, taunted and cursed, wherever I scatter them. 10 And I will send war, famine, and disease until they have vanished from the land of Israel, which I gave to them and their ancestors.” (Jeremiah 24:1-10) NLT

Israel is in a real pickle.

They have completely ruined their relationship with God. The northern Kingdom has been exiled. Judah is on the verge of exile and Jerusalem is about to be totally destroyed by the Babylonians.

In the previous chapters Jeremiah has been throwing down on the idolatry of Judah and her leaders. He has been teeing off on the prophets of Judah for their continuous lying and false prophecy.

Into this context, God gives Jeremiah yet another object lesson. This time he has him identify two baskets of figs. One is full of good figs and the other is full of rotten figs. A little weird if you ask me, but God always has a reason for the things he asks us to do. So Jeremiah plays along.

Much to my surprise and perhaps yours as well, God explains that the good figs represent those in exile and the bad figs represents those who are going to be made symbols of evil.

I didn’t expect God to say that those in exile were the good fruit. Think about it. Did you?

I suspect not. We don’t think of exile as a good thing and yet that is exactly what God is saying. In this case, to be exiled means to be cared for and watched over. It means to be built up and planted deeply. It means to be given a new heart that leads to wholeness. It means that God is going to work with you to make you better. God is going to reshape this remnant in exile into the Israel he has always wanted. They have lost their way and God is going to help them get back on track.

I know it sounds crazy, but exile can be a good thing.

It can mean that God is shaping you into the person he desires. It can mean that God is forming into you a new heart. It can mean that God is making you whole again. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty amazing, even though the context is exile. I feel like I would take some exile to get those benefits. How about you?

Are you in exile right now? Are you experiencing the consequences of your own sin and disobedience? Have you been living separate from God? If so, just remember it isn’t over until it’s over. God is still able to shape you through these challenges and make you better. Matter of fact, Jeremiah seems to tell us that he does his best work in exile. I guess it is because we are ready to listen.


Pastor Daniel