Good and Bad Figs
Those sceptical of the literal fulfilment of God’s promises being found in Great Britain and beyond have claimed that “The ‘bad figs’ of whom were Zedekiah and his daughters, were cursed. They were not blessed with an eternal throne (JEREMIAH 24:8-10; JEREMIAH 29:16-17).”
In this article, we strive for a proper understanding of the prophecy given in JEREMIAH 24, concerning the “good figs and the bad figs”. The following points will be answered:
According to the doubters, the good figs did not go to Britain, but were to return to Judah, and the bad figs are not to be identified as the Jews who rejected Jesus Christ. The punishment was clearly aimed at Zedekiah and those remaining in Judah, see JEREMIAH 24:8-10 and chapter 39; 2 CHRONICLES 36; 2 KINGS 25; 2 KINGS 25:26.
These sceptics also claim that Zedekiah and those around him were the “bad figs” and as such placed under a curse. The curse of chapter 24 toward the destruction Zedekiah and the “bad figs” (including, one can safely say, his daughters when the context is viewed) is again forcefully reiterated in chapter 29. The interesting point in this piece, is that the “Throne of David” is specifically targeted as being part of these despised and vile figs (JEREMIAH 29:16-17). Consequently it is unlikely that Zedekiah’s daughters would have continued the royal line in another country (Ireland).
Jehoiachin, who went into captivity earlier (the good figs), was treated with favour, outlived Zedekiah and seems to have had his rule restored in some measure (JEREMIAH 52:31-34; 2 KINGS 25:27-30). We also know that those who went into captivity earlier (the good figs) were allowed to return to Jerusalem at a later date (JEREMIAH 29:10). Christ, of course, seems to have been descended from these “good figs”.
We shall answer these points, in five main topics:
Jechoniah was Josiah’s grandson and reigned for 3 months only
(“he did that which was evil...”) before Nebuchadnezzar deported him and some 10,000 Judahites to Babylon. Jeremiah sees him as part of the “good figs” because HE DID NOT RESIST THE DIVINE PUNISHMENT OF BABYLONIAN EXILE. Jechoniah was dealt with favourably by the Babylonian emperor in the years to come, however, the Word clearly states THAT HIS SEED COULD NO LONGER RULE IN JUDAH:
“Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (JEREMIAH 22:30).
His company, those many Judahites who went to Babylon without resistance, were to become “good figs” in the sense that their offspring WAS TO RETURN TO JERUSALEM AFTER 70 YEARS OF CAPTIVITY under Ezra and Nehemiah. JEREMIAH 24:5-6 clearly shows that Judah was to be their primary destination. It also shows that this group of Judahites would receive a
“HEART TO KNOW ME”
Zedekiah and those around him were likened to “bad figs” (JEREMIAH 24:7), or, as stated in JEREMIAH 29:16-17,
“VILE FIGS THAT CANNOT BE EATEN, THEY ARE SO EVIL”. This is a very strong statement. Let it be noted that this group of people did NOT CONCERN the throne of David as such, but ONLY
“THE KING that sitteth upon the throne of David” (JEREMIAH 29:16). This is important to realise since this prophecy targets King Zedekiah in particular. He was an EVIL MAN, as he RESISTED GOD’S REPEATED WARNINGS and did not surrender to the Babylonians, thus becoming responsible for putting Jerusalem through an intense humanitarian crisis while the city was under siege. Those who remained to dwell in Jerusalem were also compared to “vile figs”, as far as they too, rebelliously resisted accepting God’s judgment.
We agree that the PRIMARY FULFILLMENT of Jeremiah’s forewarning concerning the bad figs were the events which befell Zedekiah and those remaining in Jerusalem. The scriptures referenced by sceptics in the first paragraph of this article, show that Jerusalem suffered the terrible siege, Zedekiah’s sons were slain in his presence before he was blinded and how all the Judahites were removed from the area.
The prophecies about the bad figs seem to point FAR BEYOND the immediate fulfilment in the Babylonian captivity. Carefully note this forewarning for the group likened to bad figs:
“I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will MAKE THEM LIKE VILE FIGS... and I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine and with the pestilence, and WILL DELIVER THEM TO BE REMOVED TO ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE EARTH, TO BE A CURSE, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them; BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT HEARKENED TO MY WORDS... SENT UNTO THEM BY MY SERVANTS THE PROPHETS...” (JEREMIAH 29:17-19).
These prophecies were NOT JUST fulfilled in the deportation under Nebuchadnezzar. It is important to understand that “good and bad figs” MIXED as they grew in the land of the Chaldeans. The character of both can be traced further in the Bible. Judge for yourself the scriptures relating to the character of the “bad figs”:
- The bad figs seemed to be unrepentant of their sins, JEREMIAH 44:7-10:
“Therefore now thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, to leave you none to remain; In that ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, that ye might cut yourselves off, They are NOT HUMBLED EVEN UNTO THIS DAY, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers.”
- The bad figs were punished because of idolatry and therefore shall be an
“execration, and an ASTONISHMENT, a CURSE and a REPROACH”(JEREMIAH 44:12).
- The bad figs were
“A REBELLIOUS GENERATION!”(JEREMIAH 44:16-17)
- Some of the bad figs obviously survived and came back and MIXED WITH THE INHABITANTS OF THE LAND or the poor that had remained there (JEREMIAH 44:27-28).
- Since other bad figs were also taken to Babylon, we find the same character again in Ezra and Nehemiah when the remnant returned to Jerusalem:
- They DID NOT SEPERATE THEMSELVES from the people of the land (EZRA 9:1-2).
- Nehemiah, seeing the devastation of Jerusalem and his people, gained permission to go and help the children of Judah (NEHEMIAH 1:2-4; NEHEMIAH 2:3).
“...their nobles would NOT PUT THEIR NECKS to the work of their Lord”(NEHEMIAH 3:5).
- They were TRAITORS amongst the people of Judah! (NEHEMIAH 6:18)
- They INTERMARRIED with other nations (NEHEMIAH 13:23-25).
In summary, the “bad figs” were not completely driven out of Judah under Nebuchadnezzar, as the poor people were allowed to stay (see JEREMIAH 39:10). Only 42,000 of the people who were taken captive to Babylon returned to rebuild Jerusalem. These people may have been from the first and second captivity (the “good figs”) or from the third captivity. This also means that the “good figs” and the remaining poor people (the “bad figs”) would be mixed together. THE BAD FIGS SEEMED TO KEEP HAVING A NEGATIVE INFLUENCE ON THE PROJECTS IN JUDAH.
Seeing all this evidence, HOW can it be ruled out that such an attitude PREVAILED amongst some of the Jews up to the time of Jesus Christ? Interestingly, the “SCRIBES AND PHARISEES” in Jerusalem were the Lord’s most dangerous enemies, like the “bad figs” they were selfish, rebellious and REJECTED THE SON OF GOD MANIFESTING GOD’S GLORY IN THEIR MIDST AND WARNING THE PEOPLE. Is this the reason why Jesus Christ “cursed the fig tree” (MARK 11:13ff) and gave the following parable (LUKE 13:6ff):
“... A certain man had a FIG TREE planted in his vineyard; and he came and SOUGHT FRUIT THEREON, AND FOUND NONE... Then said he, Behold, these THREE YEARS I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground.” Surely the Jews listening to Jesus at this time ASSOCIATED SUCH PARABLES WITH THE PROPHECIES given through Jeremiah about the “bad figs”, knowing that the fig tree was a symbol for national Judah.
Is it possible that the complete fulfilment of the punishment on the “bad figs” indeed only occurred many years later, when the Romans drove out the remaining Jews from Jerusalem and Palestine in the year 70 A.D.? Daniel, when prophesying of their return to Judah, prophesied that:
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” Well, when it came to crucifying their Saviour, certainly that was finishing the transgression. What could be added after that?. They came back for a very troubled time. Only a few were prepared to give everything for Jesus.
Before leaving this point, a necessary comment: God did curse ALL ISRAEL as they were taken from their land. This includes both the “good figs” and the “bad figs” – they were all cursed.
“Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; THEREFORE THE CURSE IS UPON US, and the oath that is written in the Law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him” (DANIEL 9:11).
Yes, the Bible says that in the reign of Zedekiah, “ALL THE PEOPLE THAT DWELLETH IN THIS CITY and... your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity” would fall under the ‘bad fig’ curse. However, “all the people that dwelleth” DOES NOT MEAN “every single individual person without exception” For there were exceptions...
The first exception was Jeremiah, the very prophet through whom these words were spoken. He tried to “convert” these people, tried to get out of Jerusalem (without success), tried to bring the people to repentance. We do not detect any of those traits in him that led God to curse the “bad figs”. Others of good character who supported him, such as Ebed-Melech (JEREMIAH 39:18) or Baruch (JEREMIAH 45:5) were expressly cleared of the “curse” that would befall the “bad figs”.
To postulate that the royal daughters would of a necessity also have been part of this group CANNOT BE SUSTAINED FROM SCRIPTURE AT ANY POINT. We neither know the daughters' age nor their possible reasons for remaining in Jerusalem (they might have been very young and been kept back by somebody else). What we can say is that they survived where the rest of the royal house is destroyed, and that they seem to be found wherever we find Jeremiah. From this information we cannot jump to the conclusion that they were bad figs... If anything, they would seem to have avoided the curse entirely for whatever reason, possibly because of who they were (i.e. the only ones capable of continuing the royal house, who the Lord was to use to continue the eternal throne of David), or because they were protected by the promise of protection and deliverance given to Jeremiah AND HIS REMNANT, of which they were a part. To conclude, we can say that to curse and dispose of the princesses would work contrary to what the Lord wanted to do and appears unlikely. It would seem odd that the Lord would go to all the trouble of calling Jeremiah and giving him his commission if it were impossible to fulfil.
5. "If Jeremiah and His Company Were Not Part of the Bad Figs, What Does the Scripture Say They Were to Do?"
The Word says that Jeremiah escaped the judgment of the “bad figs”:
“But Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, took all the remnant of Judah, that were returned from all nations, whither they had been driven, to dwell in the land of Judah; Even men, and women, and children, and the king’s daughters, and every person that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah” (JEREMIAH 43:5-6). This was discussed in great detail in “What Happened to Jeremiah and his Company”.
It is clear that some of those in this band did escape from Egypt as in JEREMIAH 44:14 it states:
“So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: FOR NONE SHALL RETURN BUT SUCH AS SHALL ESCAPE.”
Those who were in Egypt but who still did not hearken to Jeremiah’s warnings were to be destroyed, but those who stayed with Jeremiah and did not want to return would escape – BUT NOT TO JUDAH. God had promised Jeremiah that He would be with him in a time of great affliction and would take him into a land which he did not know. See JEREMIAH 15:11-14:
“The LORD said, Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction… And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies INTO A LAND WHICH THOU KNOWEST NOT…”
As we have shown in “The Promise of David’s Enduring Throne”, God intended on continuing David’s succession indefinitely. Zedekiah’s daughters were now the only relatives able to carry on his line. In fact, they did so with the help of Jeremiah, whose mission it was to “build and to plant”, but outside of Judah. The Bible does not tell us exactly what happened after they fled to Egypt but we have non-biblical resources that help us to put those pieces together. (See article “What Happened to Jeremiah and his Company?”).
Going to the riddle in EZEKIEL 17, we read at the end of the chapter the following:
“And all his fugitives with all his bands shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward all winds: and ye shall know that I the LORD have spoken it. Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent…” (EZEKIEL 17:21-22).
Were the king’s daughters to enable the fulfilment of this prophecy? Where was the seed with which Jeremiah must “build and plant”? (JEREMIAH 1:10) God says here that He is going to scatter those that remain toward all winds and that He is also going to take “a young twig” (a feminine word in Hebrew), a “tender one” (also hinting at a woman) from the “high cedar”, representing the royal family (EZEKIEL 17:3), and plant her again (as a queen of Israel). To repeat again – God is going to take a young twig from the Royal Family and plant it again. Isn’t that an amazing prophecy! This would enable the conclusion of Jeremiah’s mission!
We have established that the GOOD FIGS were those who followed king Jehoiachim in surrendering to the Babylonians, and that they were to be used for rebuilding Jerusalem. We have also seen that the BAD FIGS were those who due to their REBELLIOUS CHARACTER resisted God's punishment, following King Zedekiah. Very clearly, the prophecies about this group point to the events of captivity and return, but also much further, even unto the time of Jesus Christ. JEREMIAH AND THE ROYAL REMNANT, however, can in no way be seen as part of this separation of "good and bad figs". The riddle in EZEKIEL 17 gives the clue to the future of the Davidic line after the removal of King Zedekiah, and SHOW THAT A RE-PLANTING OF THE ROYAL SEED HAD TO TAKE PLACE.
J. H. Allen, Judah’s Sceptre & Joseph’s Birthright, pp.169-182 “The Tearing Down and Rooting Out”. (Entered according to the Act of Congress in the year 1902. In the office of the Librarian of Congress, Washington, D.C. Copyright 1917 by Beauchamp, A. A.)
Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1927).