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Good Figs and Bad Figs

24 The Lord showed me two baskets of figs sitting before his temple. This happened after King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon deported Jehoiakim’s son, King Jeconiah of Judah. He deported him and the leaders of Judah from Jerusalem, along with the craftsmen and metal workers, and took them to Babylon.[a] One basket had very good-looking figs in it. They looked like those that had ripened early.[b] The other basket had very bad-looking figs in it, so bad they could not be eaten. The Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I answered, “I see figs. The good ones look very good. But the bad ones look very bad, so bad that they cannot be eaten.”

The Lord’s message came to me, “I, the Lord, the God of Israel, say: ‘The exiles of Judah whom I sent away from here to the land of Babylon[c] are like those good figs. I consider them to be good. I will look after their welfare[d] and will restore them to this land. There I will build them up and will not tear them down. I will plant them firmly in the land[e] and will not uproot them.[f] I will give them the desire to acknowledge that I[g] am the Lord. I will be their God and they will be my people. For they will wholeheartedly[h] return to me.’

“I, the Lord, also solemnly assert: ‘King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, and the people who remain in Jerusalem or who have gone to live in Egypt are like those bad figs. I consider them to be just like those bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten.[i] I will bring such disaster on them that all the kingdoms of the earth will be horrified. I will make them an object of reproach, a proverbial example of disaster. I will make them an object of ridicule, an example to be used in curses.[j] That is how they will be remembered wherever I banish them.[k] 10 I will bring war, starvation, and disease[l] on them until they are completely destroyed from the land I gave them and their ancestors.’”[m]


  1. Jeremiah 24:1 sn See 2 Kgs 24:10-17 (especially vv. 14-16). Nebuchadnezzar left behind the poorest people of the land under the puppet king Zedekiah. Jeconiah has already been referred to earlier in 13:18 and 22:25-26. The deportation referred to here occurred in 597 b.c. and included the priest Ezekiel.
  2. Jeremiah 24:2 sn See Isa 28:4 and Hos 9:10.
  3. Jeremiah 24:5 tn Heb “the land of the Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4.
  4. Jeremiah 24:6 tn Heb “I will set my eyes upon them for good.” For the nuance of “good” see Jer 21:10 and Amos 9:4 (in these cases the opposite of harm; see BDB 375 s.v. טוֹבָה 1).
  5. Jeremiah 24:6 tn The words “There” and “firmly in the land” are not in the text but are implicit from the connection and the metaphor. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.
  6. Jeremiah 24:6 sn For these terms see Jer 1:10.
  7. Jeremiah 24:7 tn Heb “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.” For the use of “heart” here referring to “inclinations, resolutions, and determinations of the will,” see BDB 525 s.v. לֵב 4 and compare the usage in 2 Chr 12:14. For the use of “know” to mean “acknowledge,” see BDB 384 s.v. יָדַע Qal.1.f and compare the usage in Jer 39:4. For the construction “know ‘someone’ that he…” = “know that ‘someone’…,” see GKC 365 §117.h and compare the usage in 2 Sam 3:25.
  8. Jeremiah 24:7 tn Heb “with all their heart.”
  9. Jeremiah 24:8 tn Heb “Like the bad figs which cannot be eaten from badness [= because they are so bad], surely [emphatic כִּי, ki] so I regard Zedekiah, king of Judah, and his officials and the remnant of Jerusalem that remains in this land and those who are living in Egypt.” The sentence has been restructured in the translation to conform more to contemporary English style. For the use of נָתַן (natan) meaning “regard” or “treat like,” see BDB 681 s.v. נָתַן 3.c and compare the usage in Ezek 28:6 and Gen 42:30.
  10. Jeremiah 24:9 tn Or “an object of reproach in peoples’ proverbs…an object of ridicule in peoples’ curses.” The alternate translation treats the two pairs, which are each introduced without (ו) vav but are joined by vav, as examples of hendiadys. This is very possible here, but the chain does not contain this pairing in 25:18 and For an example of how the “example used in curses” worked, see Jer 29:22. Sodom and Gomorrah evidently function much that same way (see 23:14; 49:18; 50:40; Deut 29:23; Zeph 2:9).
  11. Jeremiah 24:9 tn Heb “I will make them for a terror, for a disaster, to all the kingdoms of the earth, for a reproach and for a proverb, for a taunt and for a curse, in all the places which I banish them there.” The complex Hebrew sentence has been broken down into equivalent shorter sentences to conform more with contemporary English style.
  12. Jeremiah 24:10 sn See Jer 14:12 and the study note there.
  13. Jeremiah 24:10 tn Heb “fathers.”