If you got hauled off into exile, you’d certainly be hoping for them to spare your life. By the time this group of 74 people consisting of dignitaries, priests, and even poor folk were collected and taken to the king, many others were already hostage in Babylon. Would these people have knowledge of where they were headed from hearing word from those exiled or was it a total unknown?
No matter what these people knew or didn’t know, they endured emotional upheaval which led to the resolution of death. These prisoners would not be captive for long. Certainly they had seen death all around them when others had been taken or attacked. Now it was their turn. This was not a pleasant time to be in Jerusalem.
When you picture these people being taken into exile, away from everything that’s familiar, the vision is not pretty. Imagine the despair and longing for how things used to be! In today’s reading, God uses the vision of figs as more than just a depiction of good and evil. Jeremiah now has a much different picture of how God sees those living in exile. They represent the good figs.
Have you ever stopped to think about what the people left behind in Jerusalem must have been thinking? Did they feel victorious because they weren’t the ones whisked away into the unknown? Perhaps they felt superior having been spared this brutality. According to the fig story, their reality is quite the opposite.
The generous and universal hope given in our last reading is again focused on the people of Judah, particularly in Jerusalem. There is hope for a return from the exile that hasn’t happened yet. This text seems to flip back and forth between judgment and rescue; however, it is regarded as an oracle of salvation.
The people must have thought Micah was crazy when he mentioned Babylon. While we know the Babylonians were the empire to take down Judah, at the time Micah said these words Babylon was not a power to be feared. This promised exile would have sounded a bit foolish to Micah’s audience. What effect do you think that had on Micah’s credibility?
Suddenly in charge, Judah’s final king, Zedekiah (formerly known as Mattaniah) finds himself trying to fit into his nephew’s shoes. This same nephew, King Jehoiachin, had been taken away by the Babylonians. Note that it was after Jehoiachin had surrendered. The departure of Judah into exile had begun.
We see Zedekiah as a bit of a rebel. The Babylonian king had been the one to appoint the “uncle.” Did you notice how close in age the two were. They were likely more like friends, acting like cousins would act. Why did Zedekiah choose the “rebellious” route? Was he not afraid of the Babylonian presence who had put him into office?