Jeremiah 22–26: Good Figs & Bad Figs

Read the Bible in 2011–2021* ◊ Week 17: Friday

Thus says the LORD, “Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on David’s throne, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place. For if you men will indeed perform this thing, then kings will enter the gates of this house, sitting in David’s place on his throne, riding in chariots and on horses, even the king himself and his servants and his people. But if you will not obey these words, I swear by Myself,” declares the LORD, “that this house will become a desolation.”’”
Jeremiah 22:1–5

Friday’s Bible reading is Jeremiah 22–26. Ask God to open your eyes as you read His Word, to help you understand and know Him as the Lord who exercises loving­kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; the LORD who delights in these things.

The prophets are like a clean, stiff wind. Their words blows away our hedging and rationalization and reveal to us who God is and what He expects from us. You will find within them judgment and restoration for Israel, Judah, and the nations. You will find loss and hope. You will find mourning and gladness. You will find prophecy spanning their times to the end times.

You will find people whose lives, despite their power and wealth, are warnings that God will judge, and you will find people of courage and faithfulness whose lives are examples that serve to encourage us to be faithful to God.

Remember Jeremiah began prophesying in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah and continued until the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah. These are the years of their reigns:

640–609 Josiah
609 Jehoahaz (Josiah’s son, aka Joahaz/Shallam:  3 months)
609–597  Jehoiakim (Josiah’s son, aka Eliakim)
597 Jehoiachin (Jehoiakim’s son, aka Coniah/Jeconiah: 3 months)
597–586 Zedekiah (Josiah’s son, aka Mattaniah)

The numbers count down as the years go by because they are dates during the B.C. (Before Christ) era. Historical background to the reigns of these kings is found in 2 Kings 22 and the following chapters as well as in 2 Chronicles 34 and the following chapters. To help a bit more with the timeline of the chapters you’re reading, here are the main divisions Gleason Archer1 gives for the book:

Jeremiah 1:1–20:18
Prophecies under Josiah and Jehoiakim

Jeremiah 21:1–39:18
Later prophecies under Jehoiakim and Zedekiah

Jeremiah 40:1–45:5
Prophecies after the fall of Jerusalem

Jeremiah 46:1–51:64
Prophecies against the heathen nations

Jeremiah 52:1–34
Historical appendix (events of the fall and captivity of Judah)

Jeremiah prophesies about Shallam, Jehoiakim, and Coniah in chapter 22. Derek Kidner calls this chapter A sad parade of kings, and writes:

“Brought together in one passage, these contemporary comments from God on each successor to King Josiah in turn drive home to us the necessity — and the miracle — of the perfect King to come.”2

Chapter 23 Kidner labels, A people misruled and mistaught,3 and contains a prophecy of Messiah, the perfect King, in 23:5–6.

Jeremiah 24 has one of the many object lessons God uses within the book as illustrations of what He sees, and what He will do:

After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the officials of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths from Jerusalem and had brought them to Babylon, the LORD showed me: behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of the LORD! One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, and the other basket had very bad figs which could not be eaten due to rottenness. Then the LORD said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad figs, very bad, which cannot be eaten due to rottenness.”
Jeremiah 24:1–3

The good figs are the captives of Judah who are in exile, but whom God will bring back to Jerusalem. Those who return to the land, will also return to God:

“For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”
Jeremiah 24:6–7

The bad figs are Zedekiah, his officials, and those who remain in the land or who dwell in Egypt.

Chapter 25 contains both God’s judgment of Judah and its going into captivity in Babylon, and God’s judgment of the nations.

In Jeremiah 26 God tells him to stand in the court of the temple and prophesy to Judah to repent or face God’s judgment. The priests and prophets (false) are incensed at Jeremiah and want him to die. Officials and elders of Judah come, and Jeremiah’s life is spared. The last four verses contrast the fate of another prophet, Uriah, with Jeremiah’s.

“Indeed, there was also a man who prophesied in the name of the LORD, Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim; and he prophesied against this city and against this land words similar to all those of Jeremiah. When King Jehoiakim and all his mighty men and all the officials heard his words, then the king sought to put him to death; but Uriah heard it, and he was afraid and fled and went to Egypt. Then King Jehoiakim sent men to Egypt: Elnathan the son of Achbor and certain men with him went into Egypt. And they brought Uriah from Egypt and led him to King Jehoiakim, who slew him with a sword and cast his dead body into the burial place of the common people.

But the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, so that he was not given into the hands of the people to put him to death.
Jeremiah 26:20–24

Kidner calls these verses A postscript and writes,

“These verses, rounding off the chapter rather than the elders’ speech [26:16–19]…show what kind of tyrant had come to power, and what courage was needed in a prophet. They also remind the reader that God’s decisions are matters for his wisdom, not ours. Uriah was to glorify God by martyrdom; Jeremiah still had many years of speaking and suffering to fulfill. Meanwhile these days revealed another man of courage in Ahikam (24), one of a faithful family and of a small number of others who would come forward when they were most needed and most at risk.”4

Who would come forward when they were most needed and most at risk. I was intrigued by this brief glimpse and looked up cross-references about Ahikam. Kidner has this footnote on the family.

“Josiah had sent Ahikam, with four others, to consult the prophetess Huldah over the new-found book of the law (2 Ki. 22:12). His brother, Gemariah, dared to put a room at Baruch’s disposal for the public reading of Jeremiah’s scroll, and to protest against the king’s burning of the document. (36;10, 25). Ahikam’s son, Gedaliah, took Jeremiah under his wing after the fall of Jerusalem (39:14).”5

I was reminded of Hebrews 11, the “faith” chapter of the Bible, with its stories of those Old Testament men and women who stand as witnesses to us. May God enable us to have the courage of Jeremiah, and Ahikam and his family, to witness to Him, and to come forward when we’re most needed and most at risk.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications. (Site has been deleted since posting).
Still-life of figs in a basket and fruit on a ledge: William Hammer. Public domain.
The Genealogy of the Kings of Ancient Israel and Judah: Public domain. Copped.
Kings & reigns from The New International Inductive Study Bible (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR: 1993, Precept Ministries) IISB-45–IISB-46.
1Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody Press, Chicago IL: 1974) 359–360.
2,3,4,5Derek Kidner, The Message of Jeremiah: Against wind and tide (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1987) 85, 85, 97, 97.

*In 2011 I started a year-long series of posts, “Read the Bible in 2011.” You can find the other posts in the navigation menu in the header. If a day doesn’t have a link to a post, the post was simply a brief reminder about the reading. I’m filling in some of those gaps with new posts with “Read the Bible in 2011 Redux” as a category.

Original content: Copyright ©2011–2021 Iwana Carpenter

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