During his long prophetic ministry, Jeremiah witnessed many historical events in this turbulent time in Judah’s history. The vision described and explained in Jeremiah 24 occurs after Jehoiachin and the cream of Judah have been carried off into exile by the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC.
To those left behind, it would appear that they were the lucky ones. They still had their homes, their way of life, their temple, and their God. Whereas the exiles had been dragged away to be slaves of the latest superpower who conquered their lands and would probably never see their nation and families again. But the vision that the Lord presents Jeremiah of the two baskets of figs shows them how wrong their thinking was.
Two baskets of figs are placed before the temple of the Lord. One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten (v2).
First the Good News – the Lord explains to the prophet that those taken off into exile from Judah will not be forsaken. God will tend them like a gardener and “they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”(v7)
Now the Bad News – as close as the people left behind in Jerusalem were to the temple, they were not close to God. In their complacency, they were exactly like that basket of rotten figs on the steps of the temple. They are the ones who were not worth taking.
History goes on to show that King Zedekiah foolishly surrounded himself with a group of citizens who persuaded him to form an alliance with Egypt and to resist any further submission to Babylon. That policy, brought about the second siege of Jerusalem, the murder of the vast majority of the population, the destruction of the temple, and the reduction of the whole city to a ruin. In the long ran, the ones remaining in Judah would have by far the worst fate. The one and one half year siege they endured was one of the worst in history, the inhabitants even being reduced to cannibalism.
In the second reading from Romans 5:12-21 Paul explains how it is that Jesus can save us all. The Bad News is the sin of one man – Adam brought death, punishment and judgement of all of humanity. But the Good News – the Great News is Christ in his obediently laying down his life has the power to give mercy, grace, forgiveness and life to all who believe.