The Early Captivity
The wicked king Jehoiakim had ignored Jeremiah’s warnings. The kingdom of Judah was weaker than any time in history; they no longer had the Lord on their side.
Now, a little time afterwards, the king of Babylon made an expedition against Jehoiakim, whom he received [into the city], and this out of fear of the foregoing predictions of this prophet, as supposing he should suffer nothing that was terrible, because he neither shut the gates, nor fought against him; yet when he (Nebuchadnezzar) was come into the city, he did not observe the covenants he had made, but he slew such as were in the flower of their age, and such as were of the greatest dignity, together with their king Jehoiakim, whom he commanded to be thrown before the walls, without any burial; and made his son Jehoiachin king of the country, and of the city: he also took the principal persons in dignity for captives, three thousand in number, and led them away to Babylon; among which was the prophet Ezekiel, who was then but young. And this was the end of king Jehoiakim, when he had lived thirty-six years, and of them reigned eleven. But Jehoiachin succeeded him in the kingdom, whose mother's name was Nehushta; she was a citizen of Jerusalem. He reigned three months and ten days. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book X, 6:3)
Herein we learn of the origin of one of the Lord’s three great Old Testament Prophets—Ezekiel. He was a chosen vessel taken in the first wave of Babylonian captives to be the Prophet of the Captivity. We have no record that he had ever heard or met Jeremiah, but it is tempting to think that the older prophet had an influence on the younger Ezekiel. His name means “God will strengthen” and he was “a priest of the family of Zadok.” (Bible Dictionary: Ezekiel)
While we often think of the Babylonian Captivity as beginning in 587 BC in the 11th reign of Zedekiah when Jerusalem was destroyed, the first wave of captivity came here, at the end of the reign of Jehoiakim in 598 BC. The second wave came three months later. The prophet Habakkuk said of this time, “They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.” (Hab. 1:9)
2 Kings 24:8-16
Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother's name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done.
At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged.
And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it.
And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign.
And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said.
And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land.
And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king's mother, and the king's wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.
And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon.
The reign of Jehoiachin (also referred to as Coniah or Jeconiah) may be one of the most ignominious of all the Jewish kings. He reigned for only 100 days. The Lord’s warning was given to him before he ever took the throne, “I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die… for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jer. 22:26, 30).
During Jehoiachin’s 100 day reign, Nebuchadnezzar started to get nervous. He worried that Jehoiachin would seek revenge for the killing of his father. This fear was of the Lord as Jehoiachin was in no position to challenge Babylon or kill Nebuchadnezzar.
But a terror seized on the king of Babylon, who had given the kingdom to Jehoiachin, and that immediately; he was afraid that he should bear him a grudge, because of his killing his father, and thereupon should make the country revolt from him; wherefore he sent an army, and besieged Jehoiachin in Jerusalem; but because he was of a gentle and just disposition, he did not desire to see the city endangered on his account, but he took his mother and kindred, and delivered them to the commanders sent by the king of Babylon, and accepted of their oaths, that neither should they suffer any harm, nor the city; which agreement they did not observe for a single year, for the king of Babylon did not keep it, but gave orders to his generals to take all that were in the city captives, both the youth and the handicraftsmen, and bring them bound to him; their number was ten thousand eight hundred and thirty-two; as also Jehoiachin, and his mother and friends. And when these were brought to him, he kept them in custody, and appointed Jehoiachin's uncle, Zedekiah, to be king. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book X, 7:1)
Thus the First Captivity (numbering 3000) were taken at the beginning of Jehoiachin’s reign, and the Second Captivity (numbering 10,832) were taken a hundred days later at the end of Jehoiachin’s reign.
“The exact day on which Jehoiachin was taken captive is given in the Babylonian Chronicles, which is a short synopsis on clay tablets of what occurred in each year of the Babylonian kings. Speaking of Nebuchadnezzar in his seventh year, the chronicles state, ‘He encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of the month Adar he captured the city (and) seized (its) king. A king of his own choice he appointed in the city (and) taking the vast tribute he brought it to Babylon.’ The king of his choice was Zedekiah (see 2 Kgs. 24:17). The date mentioned corresponds to Saturday, 10 March 597 B.C., on our calendar.” (John P. Pratt, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Oct. 1998, 64)
Jeremiah 24:1 The Lord shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the Lord
“In response to those in Jerusalem who continued to believe they had been preserved from total destruction because of their righteousness, the Lord showed Jeremiah the vision of the two baskets of figs. The Lord revealed that the good figs represented the fate of those who had been taken to Babylon, and the bad represented the fate of those who had been left behind.” (Kent P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 241 - 242)
“An element of interest in Jeremiah's prophetic work is the manner in which he taught object lessons (see Teacher; Teacher Development). For instance, Jeremiah called attention to the impending fall of Jerusalem and captivity of her inhabitants by wearing the yoke of an ox (Jer. 27:2). He showed his faith in the eventual restoration of Israel to her homeland by buying a piece of land (32:1-15). He conveyed some of his messages with parables. In Jeremiah 18:1-10, the Lord inspired him to ask his listeners to observe a potter who had to rework some ‘marred’ clay. He noted that the potter represented the Lord and the marred clay the inhabitants of Jerusalem. So poignantly disturbing was this parable that some of Jeremiah's listeners began to plot against his life (18:18-23). In Jeremiah 24:1-10 he declared that the Lord showed him two baskets of figs, one good and one inedible. The good figs represented those taken captive whom the Lord would ‘acknowledge.’” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 722)
Jeremiah 24:5 Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive… for their good
When something bad happens, it can be difficult to understand. The most righteous people in Jerusalem, excepting a few like Lehi and Jeremiah, are taken captive to Babylon. Some 13,000 of the best and brightest are made as slaves. How could something so unfair happen to the righteous? The Lord’s plan might seem like a punishment. It is often the same in our own lives. When things are going wrong we may need to remember, “I, the Lord, have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven; ye cannot see it now, yet a little while and ye shall see it, and know that I am, and that I will come and reign with my people.” (D&C 84:119) John S. Tanner noted, “suffering may prove to be a blessing, and prosperity the trial. From personal experience no less than from scripture, we know that prosperity may test our faith and that suffering may ready us for salvation.” (“Hast Thou Considered My Servant Job?” Ensign, Dec. 1990, 49-50)
From these 13,000, the Lord is going to rebuild the Jewish nation. They are the best blood of the land—the most likely to flourish as a believing, covenant people of the Lord. Ezekiel was taken captive; Daniel was also taken captive. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were known as Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah when they were taken captive (Dan. 1:7) They are not captured because they are wicked, but because they are good. They are the good figs in the object lesson. From them will come Malachi, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Twelve.
Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them an heart to know me
Seventy years would pass before the descendants of these captives would return to rebuild Jerusalem. Indeed, the good figs could plan on spending the rest of their lives in Chaldea. In the extremes of living in Babylon, they would have to learn how to be righteous. They are a type for us—called under the covenant to righteousness, yet living in spiritual Babylon. We all must learn to worship the true and living God while those around us are bowing to images of gold (Dan. 3:1). Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, we might be cast into the fiery furnace, but do we have the faith to trust in the saving power of the Son of God?
David B. Haight
It’s very clear in my mind, and I hope it is in yours, that as we live in the world of materialism, in Babylon that we live in today, and see the happenings of the world, whether you read the financial pages or the political pages or whatever, you can sense and feel that where we find our strength and where we find the answer to our challenges and our problems would be as we listen to the voice of the prophet—God’s prophet here upon the earth. (“Sustaining the Prophets,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 36)
Jeremiah 24:8-10 And as the evil figs… I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach
Who are the bad figs? Excepting Jeremiah, Baruch, Lehi etc., they are those who are left in Jerusalem. For the time being, they must have felt like they had been lucky to avoid Babylonian captivity. They could continue to live in denial about the demise of Jewish society as it began to crumble around them, as clueless Laman and Lemuel, who couldn’t “believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets” (1 Ne. 2:13). What can you expect from evil figs? They could “not discern the signs of” their times (Matt. 16:3).
Ultimately, they will not only be taken captive, but they will be spread all across the world or destroyed at the hands of the Babylonian army. If we are willing to mix metaphors of figs and olives, the allegory of Zenos describes them perfectly:
…we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned.
And behold, saith the Lord of the vineyard, I take away many of these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will; and it mattereth not that if it s o be that the root of this tree will perish, I may preserve the fruit thereof unto myself…
And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard went his way and hid the natural branches of the tame olive-tree in the nethermost parts of the vineyard, some in one and some in another, according to his will and pleasure. (Jacob. 5:7-8, 14)