Fruitage—Good And Bad
“Jehovah showed me, and, look! two baskets of figs . . . 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.”—JEREMIAH 24:1, 2.
1. How did Jehovah show compassion for his people, Israel, but how did they respond?
THE year was 617 B.C.E. It was just ten years before Jehovah’s deserved judgment was carried out against Jerusalem and its people. Jeremiah had already been preaching strenuously for 30 years. Note Ezra’s vivid description of the situation, as found at 2 Chronicles 36:15: “Jehovah the God of their forefathers kept sending against them by means of his messengers, sending again and again, because he felt compassion for his people and for his dwelling.” And the result of all this effort? Sadly, Ezra goes on to relate in 2 Ch 36 verse 16: “But they were continually making jest at the messengers of the true God and despising his words and mocking at his prophets, until the rage of Jehovah came up against his people, until there was no healing.”
2, 3. Describe the striking vision that Jehovah showed Jeremiah.
2 Did this mean that the nation of Judah would be completely wiped out? To find the answer, let us consider a momentous vision that was now given to Jeremiah and recorded in Jer chapter 24 of the book bearing his name. God used two baskets of figs in this vision to symbolize developments among his covenant people. These would be represented by two distinct kinds of fruitage, good and bad.
3 Jeremiah chapter 24, verses 1 and 2, describes what God’s prophet saw: “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 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.”
Visionary Good Figs
4. What comforting message did the vision of the figs hold for faithful Israelites?
4 After questioning Jeremiah about what he saw, Jehovah went on to say in Jer 24 verses 5 to 7: “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.”
5, 6. (a) How were some Israelites ‘sent away in a good way’ to Chaldea? (b) How did Jehovah ‘set his eye in a good way’ on faithful Israelites in exile?
5 So it seems from what Jehovah said here that better times were ahead, that the nation of Judah would not be completely wiped out. But what is the significance of this basket of good figs?
6 Jeconiah, or Jehoiachin, had been king over Judah for just three months and ten days before he willingly surrendered Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar. Among the ones carried captive with him into exile were Daniel and his three Hebrew companions Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, as well as Ezekiel. Their lives were preserved by the king of Babylon, so it could be said that Jehovah looked upon all these captives as being sent away in a good way to the land of the Chaldeans. Did you notice that Jehovah also promised to ‘set his eye upon them in a good way’? How was this fulfilled? In 537 B.C.E., 80 years later, Jehovah caused King Cyrus to issue a decree allowing a remnant of their descendants to return to the land of Judah. These faithful Jews rebuilt the city of Jerusalem; they erected a new temple for the worship of their God, Jehovah; and they returned to him with all their heart. So in all of this, to Jehovah these captives and their descendants were like very good early figs.
7. When and how was Jehovah’s eye on the modern Jeremiah class “in a good way”?
7 You may remember that in the previous article regarding Jeremiah’s prophetic words, we learned that they have meaning for our 20th century. And Jer chapter 24 is no exception. During the dark years of World War I, many of Jehovah’s dedicated servants came under the influence of Babylon the Great in one way or another. But Jehovah’s watchful eye ‘was upon them in a good way.’ So it was that through the Greater Cyrus, Christ Jesus, Jehovah broke the power of Babylon the Great over them and gradually brought them into a spiritual paradise. These spiritual Israelites responded and returned to Jehovah with all their heart. Then, in 1931, they rejoiced to accept the name Jehovah’s Witnesses. Truly, it could now be said that they had become like a basket of very good figs in Jehovah’s eyes.
8. In what way have Jehovah’s Witnesses heralded abroad the figlike sweetness of the Kingdom message?
8 And Jehovah’s Witnesses have not missed the purpose of God’s undeserved kindness in freeing them from Babylon the Great. They have not kept the figlike sweetness of the Kingdom message of good news to themselves, but they have heralded it abroad in keeping with Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:14: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” And the result? More than 4,700,000 sheeplike ones who are not spiritual Israelites have broken free from Babylon the Great!
Visionary Bad Figs
9. Who were represented by the bad figs of Jeremiah’s vision, and what was to happen to them?
9 But what about that basket of bad figs in Jeremiah’s vision? Jeremiah now rivets his attention on Jehovah’s words found at Jeremiah chapter 24, verses 8 to 10: “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 and those who are dwelling in the land of Egypt—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.’”
10. Why did Jehovah reckon Zedekiah to be a ‘bad fig’?
10 So Zedekiah truly turned out to be a ‘bad fig’ in Jehovah’s eyes. Not only did he rebel against King Nebuchadnezzar by breaking the oath of loyalty he had made to that king in Jehovah’s name but he also completely rejected Jehovah’s compassion extended to him through Jeremiah. In fact, he even went as far as to have Jeremiah put in detention! No wonder Ezra sums up the king’s attitude as he does at 2 Chronicles 36:12: “He continued to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah his God. He did not humble himself.” In Jehovah’s eyes Zedekiah and those remaining in Jerusalem were like a basket of bad, rotten figs!
Rotten Figurative Figs in Our Day
11, 12. Who are identified as bad figs today, and what will happen to them?
11 Now look around the world today. Do you think we can find a figurative basket of bad figs? Let us consider the facts by comparing our day with Jeremiah’s. In this 20th century, Jehovah has used the Jeremiah class, the anointed remnant, to warn the nations continually of his oncoming fury at the great tribulation. He has urged the national groups to give him the glory due his name, to worship him with spirit and truth, and to acknowledge his reigning Son, Christ Jesus, as earth’s rightful Ruler. What has been the reaction? Just the same as in Jeremiah’s day. The nations continue doing what is bad in Jehovah’s eyes.
12 Who are the ones fomenting this rebellious attitude? Who keep making jest of these Jeremiahlike messengers of God by questioning their authority to act as God’s ministers? Who keep despising the Word of God? Who today has been behind most of the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The answer is plain for all to see—it is Christendom, especially the clergy! And just look at all of Christendom’s rotten, bad fruitage that was discussed in the preceding article. Oh, yes, there certainly is a symbolic basket of bad figs in the earth today. In fact, Jehovah says that they cannot “be eaten for badness.” Jehovah’s words through Jeremiah echo down to our day: ‘They will come to their finish’! Jehovah’s rage against Christendom will find no healing.
A Warning Lesson for Us
13. In view of Paul’s words found at 1 Corinthians 10:11, how should we understand the vision of the two baskets of figs?
13 As we examine the implications of Jeremiah’s inspired warning message, the apostle Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 10:11 ring in our ears: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” Have we personally taken to heart the warning conveyed to us by this vision of the two baskets of figs? What we have been discussing is an essential part of the things that befell Israel as a warning example for us.
14. How did Israel respond to Jehovah’s tender care?
14 Finally, let us recall Jehovah’s words to King David regarding Israel, as found at 2 Samuel 7:10: “I shall certainly appoint a place for my people Israel and plant them.” Jehovah tenderly cared for his people, Israel, in every way. There was every reason for the Israelites to produce good fruitage in their lives. They had but to listen to Jehovah’s divine teaching and to keep his commandments. Yet, only a few of them did that. The majority were so stubborn and wayward that they produced bad, rotten fruitage.
15. How have spiritual Israel today and their sheeplike companions responded to Jehovah’s compassion?
15 Well, then, what about our day? Jehovah has shown much compassion toward his remnant of spiritual Israel and their sheeplike companions. His eye has been upon them constantly since their spiritual deliverance in 1919. As he foretold through Isaiah, they daily receive divine instruction from the greatest Teacher in the universe, Jehovah God. (Isaiah 54:13) This divine teaching, directed through his dear Son, Jesus Christ, has resulted in abundant peace among them and has steadily brought them into a closer relationship with Jehovah. What a wonderful spiritual environment this provides for all of us to know Jehovah, to listen to him, and to continue to produce good fruitage in our lives—fruitage that brings praise to Jehovah! It means our very lives!
16. What personal application can each one of us make of the vision of the two baskets of figs?
16 But in spite of all of God’s undeserved kindness, there are still some who become rebellious and hardhearted, as many did in Judah of old, and who produce bad, rotten fruitage in their lives. How tragic this is! May none of us ever lose sight of the warning lesson brought home to us by these two baskets of figs with their fruitage—good and bad. As Jehovah’s deserved judgment against apostate Christendom hastens, may we take to heart the apostle Paul’s admonition: “Walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work.”—Colossians 1:10.
Reviewing “Fruitage—Good and Bad” and paragraphs 1-4 of “Jehovah’s Controversy With the Nations”
□ What does the basket of good figs represent?
□ How has the visionary basket of bad figs become apparent?
□ What warning lesson does Jeremiah’s message provide for us?
□ What was significant about the year 607 B.C.E.? and 1914 C.E.?
[Picture on page 15]
Like good figs, God’s people have brought forth sweet Kingdom fruitage
[Picture on page 15]
Christendom has proved to be like a basket of bad figs