“Figs” That Give Pleasure Even to God
“This is what Jehovah the God of Israel has said, ‘Like these good figs, so I shall regard the exiles of Judah, whom I will send away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans, in a good way.’”—Jer. 24:5.
1. How did the fig come into our life’s experience?
THE FIG TREE was to be found in the first garden ever planted on our earth. Our first human parents started us off in eating this delicious fruit, the fig. Was the fig tree also allowed to grow outside that first garden? Yes, and for this we can be glad. Thus we today can also have the pleasure of eating this little bundle of sweetness. Quite out of the ordinary, the first clothing that our first parents, Adam and Eve, wore for a short time to cover their loins was made from fig leaves, sewn together. This was just before they were exiled from their Paradise of Pleasure for having rebelled against the Planter and Owner of this garden of Eden.—Gen. 2:8; 3:1-7.
2. In his illustration, how did Jotham use the fig tree with a happy meaning for us?
2 In an illustration told long afterward by Jotham the son of Judge Gideon he had the fig tree speak. It asked: “Must I give up my sweetness and my good produce, and must I go to wave over the other trees?” (Judg. 9:11) In Jotham’s illustration the fig tree refused to leave its good properties. In actuality today, the fig tree still has its goodness and sweetness inherent in it. In this it yet serves God’s kindly purpose.
3. What did Jotham use the fig tree to picture, but what did Jesus Christ use it to picture, and in what parable?
3 Jotham used the fig tree to illustrate an individual, a faithful Israelite who would refuse to be put at the head of the government by the democratic vote of a national election. Much later, Jesus Christ used the fig tree to picture the nation of Israel. In a parable, he said:
“A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none. Then he said to the vinedresser, ‘Here it is three years that I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, but have found none. Cut it down! Why really should it keep the ground useless?’ In reply he said to him, ‘Master, let it alone also this year, until I dig around it and put on manure; and if then it produces fruit in the future, well and good; but if not, you shall cut it down.’”—Luke 13:6-9.
4. After three and a half years of ministry by his representative on earth, in what way did the Planter find no fruit on the symbolic fig tree?
4 Jesus gave that parable sometime after the Jews celebrated the autumn festival of tabernacles (Succoth) in 32 C.E., hence, three years after he began his public ministry in the land of Israel. He was now in the fourth year of his evangelizing work. So in less than six months the nation of Israel would reject him and have him put to death on a stake outside the walls of Jerusalem. In return for three-and-a-half years’ work among the Israelites, he had only a few hundred disciples as fruitage of his labors. His heavenly Father, Jehovah God, had planted that symbolic tree of Israel. Rightfully, after three years and a half of special care and attention by his Son and representative on earth, he looked for fruit. But, comparatively speaking, he found none in the way of followers of his Son, the Messiah. Like the “vinedresser” of the parable, his Son had kept ‘digging’ around the symbolic fig tree halfway through the fourth year of his ministry. But to no avail.
5, 6. (a) By use of a real fig tree, how did Jesus indicate that the symbolic fig tree would be cut down? (b) When was that symbolic fig tree cut down, as indicated by what development?
5 At almost the middle of this fourth year Jesus indicated that the fruitless national “fig tree” was to be cut down. On Monday, Nisan 10, 33 C.E., on his way to Jerusalem Jesus came up to a fig tree. Though it had leaves, it bore no fruit. At this Jesus cursed the fig tree, saying: “Let no one eat fruit from you anymore forever.” What happened? We read: “When they were passing by early in the morning, they saw the fig tree already withered up from the roots. So Peter, remembering it, said to him: ‘Rabbi, see! the fig tree that you cursed has withered up.’”—Mark 11:12-21.
6 Well, now, was Jesus taking spite out on an unintelligent tree? No, but he was using that barren fig tree as an illustration. That fig tree pictured the nation of Israel to which Jehovah had sent his Son to gather fruitage in the form of supporters of the true Messiah or Christ. When, under the leadership of its high priest and other religious guides, the nation rejected Jesus as the representative of God’s kingdom, the several hundred individuals that did accept him were as nothing. Like a taxable tree cumbering the ground, that symbolic fig tree deserved to be cut down, for it came under God’s curse. (Compare Deuteronomy 28:15-68.) Fifty-one days after Jesus Christ was killed as though a false Messiah, the Israelite “fig tree” was cut down, for God then brought forth a new nation, Christian Israel, spiritual Israel, to produce Kingdom fruitage. (Matt. 21:43; 1 Pet. 2:9; Gal. 6:16; Jas. 1:1) The cut-down “fig tree” was consigned to the fire at Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E.
THE TWO BASKETS OF FIGS
7. In 617 B.C.E., how did Jehovah refer to a symbolic fig tree in a vision to Jeremiah?
7 Once before Jerusalem had been destroyed, by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar back in 607 B.C.E. However, 10 years before that national disaster, or in 617 B.C.E., God used the fig tree to symbolize the Jewish nation. This was when he gave to his prophet Jeremiah a portentous vision, about which Jeremiah tells us the following:
“And Jehovah showed me, and, look! two baskets of figs set before the temple of Jehovah, after Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile Jeconiah [or, Jehoiachin] the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, and the princes of Judah and the craftsmen and the builders of bulwarks, from Jerusalem that he might bring them to Babylon. As for the one basket, the figs were very good, like early figs; and as for the other basket, the figs were very bad, so that they could not be eaten for badness.”—Jer. 24:1, 2.
8. How did Jehovah explain what the basket of good figs meant?
8 When asked what he saw in vision, Jeremiah described accurately what he saw. (Jer. 24:3) But what did those figs picture? Why, Israelites who were meant to be deported to Babylon. Regarding this, we read:
“This is what Jehovah the God of Israel has said, ‘Like these good figs, so I shall regard the exiles of Judah, whom I will send away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans, in a good way. And I will set my eye upon them in a good way, and I shall certainly cause them to return to this land. And I will build them up, and I shall not tear down; and I will plant them, and I shall not uproot. And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am Jehovah; and they must become my people, and I myself shall become their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.’”—Jer. 24:5-7.
9. Those “figs” came from what symbolic tree, and whom did they include?
9 Those symbolic “figs” came from some symbolic tree. From which “tree”? From the nation of Israel, of which Jehoiachin the son of Jehoiakim was king for just three months and 10 days. (2 Chron. 36:9, 10; Matt. 1:11, 12) Among those whom the king of Babylon then carried into exile were Daniel, his three Hebrew companions Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, and Ezekiel. (Dan. 1:11-17; Ezek. 1:1-3) Thus, away back in Jeremiah’s time, Jehovah used the fig tree to picture the nation of his chosen people. By the time of that exile, Jeremiah had prophesied 30 years.
10. How did Jehovah live up to his declared purpose regarding the “good figs,” and how did they display “sweetness” to him?
10 By what Jehovah said in connection with the vision of the good figs he indicated better times. He told of good things that he would do to the faithful remnant of his covenant people. This would be at the end of the “seventy years” that he had foretold just seven years earlier. (Jer. 25:11, 12) Jehovah is the God of truth, and historical records show that, in 537 B.C.E., he lived up to his declared purpose. He used the Persian Cyrus the Great to overthrow Babylon in 539 B.C.E., and then moved him to restore the symbolic “good figs” back to the land where the symbolic tree from which they had come had first been planted. There they rebuilt Jerusalem and erected a new temple for Jehovah’s worship. By doing all of this, they displayed the “sweetness” like that of very good figs to their God, the Planter of their treelike nation.
11, 12. (a) Whose name do the “good figs” of today have called upon them? (b) What was political Babylon of ancient times, and what is Babylon the Great?
11 Does this have any meaning for our day? Yes, in our own 20th century the final fulfillment of Jehovah’s prophecy by Jeremiah has taken place and on a grander scale. This means that there are yet with us Christians who correspond to the “good figs.” Jeremiah’s God has regarded these also “in a good way.” He has delivered them from Babylon the Great. Not without precedent God’s own name is called upon them now. Back in Jeremiah’s time the symbolic “good figs” were Israelites called by the name of his God. Even the prophet’s name, Jeremiah, incorporated the divine name, for it means “Jehovah Loosens (the Womb).” In Jeremiah’s day, Babylon became the dominant world power as a political organization. It held sway more than 90 years and so enhanced the false religion that stems from the Babylon of Nimrod’s day. This religious feature is brought to the fore in the last book of the Bible that speaks of Babylon the Great and makes it the sexual handmaid of the political powers. As Babylon of antiquity represented an empire, so does Babylon the Great represent an empire, the world empire of false religion.
13. What command is given to God’s people as regards Babylon the Great, and how did she become “drunk” with the blood of witnesses?
13 However, will Babylon the Great also fall to destruction? Yes, the last book of the Bible has foretold this. Hence, in Revelation 18:4, 5, the following command is given to God’s exiled people, the Christian congregation: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues. For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind.” In spelling out part of her sins, Revelation 17:6 pictures this harlotrous religious empire as being “drunk with the blood of the holy ones and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” She became guilty of shedding the blood of Jehovah’s dedicated people during World War I (of 1914-1918) and took many captive in order to stop their preaching of God’s kingdom.
14. For responding to God’s command, how have the symbolic “good figs” fared, and who have joined them in their spiritual estate?
14 Those oppressed captives of Babylon the Great were like the “good figs” of Jeremiah’s vision. After World War I ended, Jehovah broke the power of Babylon the Great and, in 1919, he opened the way for them to act upon his command: “Get out of her, my people.” The spiritual Israelites who responded by breaking free from any partnership with Babylon the Great (including Christendom) were restored to Jehovah’s favor and were put to work in his Kingdom service. They readily spearheaded the worldwide preaching of “this good news of the kingdom,” as Jesus had foretold in Matthew 24:14 and Mark 13:10. To this day Jehovah has not seen good to let them be uprooted from their paradisaic spiritual estate into which he has brought them. To the contrary, more than 2,000,000 persons who are not spiritual Israelites have responded to the Kingdom preaching and have chosen to associate with Jehovah’s restored people in their spiritual estate. Thus they have taken up living under a figurative fig tree with its goodness and sweetness in more than 200 lands.
15, 16. (a) Who were counted in among the symbolic “good figs” in Jeremiah’s time? (b) What kind of ‘fig’ did King Zedekiah prove to be, and what did Jehovah foretell about the “bad figs”?
15 Among those who were counted in as the class of “good figs” of Jeremiah’s day was King Jehoiachin (or, Jeconiah) of Judah. Jesus Christ became an adoptive descendant of King Jehoiachin through his noted descendant Zerubbabel, who was like a ‘good fig.’ (1 Chron. 3:17-19; Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:23-27) In 617 B.C.E., after King Jehoiachin surrendered Jerusalem to the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar made Zedekiah, the uncle of Jehoiachin, the new king of Judah, under an oath before Jehovah to be a loyal vassal of Babylon. But King Zedekiah turned out to be a ‘bad fig,’ as it were. So the God by whom he had sworn, Jehovah, likened him to an uneatable fig, saying:
16 “And like the bad figs that cannot be eaten for badness, this in fact is what Jehovah has said: ‘So I shall give Zedekiah the king of Judah and his princes and the remnant of Jerusalem who are remaining over in this land [after the exile of Jehoiachin] and those who are dwelling in the land of Egypt [to which Jews fled in fear of the Babylonians]—I will also give them over for quaking, for calamity, in all the kingdoms of the earth, for reproach and for a proverbial saying, for a taunt and for a malediction, in all the places to which I shall disperse them. And I will send against them the sword, the famine and the pestilence, until they come to their finish off the ground that I gave to them and to their forefathers.’”—Jer. 24:8-10.
17. How bad a ‘fig’ did Zedekiah turn out to be, and with what consequences?
17 Certainly Jehovah found no pleasure in those symbolic “bad figs,” which he determined to bring to such a calamitous finish, under international reproach and contempt. How bad King Zedekiah turned out to be! He broke his sworn oath and rebelled against Babylon and, under pressure by his princes, he had Jeremiah put in detention like a national danger. Besides the “sword” of the Babylonian besiegers and the pestilence among the besieged Jews, it took gnawing famine to break down the resistance of Jerusalem’s defenders after 18 months of siege. The conquering king had prominent officials, political and priestly, killed. Captive Zedekiah saw his own sons killed, was then blinded and was dragged off to prison in Babylon, where he died in disgrace.
18. In view of such a warning example, what does it now behoove us to do in order to survive the coming “great tribulation”?
18 Do we today shudder at the horrible outcome to those symbolic “bad figs”? May they be a warning example to us not to imitate their course of action. If spiritual Israelites of today do not live up to the new covenant, if they do not uphold Jehovah’s universal sovereignty, if they do not support the Messianic kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ, they will have an outcome like that of those ancient “bad figs,” in the coming “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:21, 22) Then, also, the religious population of Christendom, who pretend to be spiritual Israelites, will come to their calamitous finish like “bad figs.” Truly, it now behooves us to be like Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch and his few devoted friends, men faithful to Jehovah who survived Jerusalem’s destruction.—1 Cor. 10:11.
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Christendom, like “bad figs,” faces the same calamitous end as ancient Jerusalem