Lecture Ninety-Second

Jeremiah 24:3-5

3. Then said the Lord unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.

3. Et dixit Jehova ad me, Quid tu vides Jeremiah? et dixi, Ficus, ficus bonas, bonas valde; et malas, malas valde, quae non comedantur propter malitiam.

4. Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

4. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad me, dicendo,

5. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.

5. Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Sicuti ficus bonae istae, sic agnoscam captivitatem Jehudah, quem emisi ex hoc loco in terram Chaldaeorum ad beneficentiam.


In the last Lecture we began to explain the meaning of the vision which the Prophet relates. We said that the miserable exiles whose condition might have appeared to be the worst, are yet compared to good figs, and that those who still remained in the country are compared to bad and bitter figs. We have explained why God shewed this vision to his servant Jeremiah, even because the captives might have otherwise been driven to despair, especially through the weariness of delay, for they saw that their brethren were still in possession of the inheritance granted them by God, while they were driven into a far country, and as it were disinherited, so that no one could regard them as God's people. As then despair might have overwhelmed their minds, God designed to give them some comfort. On the other hand, those who remained in the land not only exulted over the miserable exiles, but also abused the forbearance of God, so that they obstinately resisted all threatenings, and thus hardened themselves more and more against God's judgment, hence God declares what was remotest from what was commonly thought, that they had a better lot who lived captives in Babylon than those who remained quietly as it were in their own nest.

We have said that the badness of the figs is not to be explained of guilt, but of punishment: and this is what Jeremiah confirms, when he says, As these good figs, so will I acknowledge the captivity for good, or for beneficence, hbwj, thube. It is well known that captivity means the persons led captive, it being a collective word. Then he says,

"I will acknowledge the captives of Judah, whom I have driven from this people, so as to do them good again."1

As this doctrine was then incredible, God calls the attention of the Jews to the final issue; as though he had said, that they were mistaken who took only a present view of things, and did not extend their thoughts to the hope of mercy. For they thus reasoned, "It is better to remain in the country where God is worshipped, where the Temple is and the altar, than to live among heathen nations; it is better to have some liberty than to be under the yoke of tyranny; it is better to retain even the name of being a separate people than to be scattered here and there, so as not to be a community at all." Hence, according to their state at that time, they thought their condition better: but God corrected this wrong judgment; for they ought to have looked to the end, and what awaited the exiles and captives as well as those whom the king of Babylon had for a time spared. Though, indeed, it was the Prophet's object to alleviate the grief of those who had been led away into Chaldea, yet he had a special regard to the people over whom he was appointed an instructor and teacher. He was then at Jerusalem; and we know how perverse were those whom he had to contend with, for none could have been more obstinate than that people. As God had delayed his punishment, they supposed that they had wholly escaped, especially as they had an uncle as a successor to their captive king.

Hence, then, was their contempt of threatenings; hence was their greater liberty in sinning: they thought that God had taken vengeance on the exiles, and that they were saved as being the more excellent portion of the community. The Prophet, therefore, in order to break down this presumption, which he could not bend, set before them this vision, which had been given him from above. We now, then, see that the doctrine especially set forth is, that God would remember the captives for the purpose of doing them good, as though he had said that a wrong judgment was formed of the calamity of a few years, and that the end was to be looked to. It follows --

1 The word "acknowledge," or own, would lead us to attach rather a different meaning to this expression: God would own them "good," as the good figs. The next verse refers to God's purpose to do them good. -- Ed.