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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 28

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Verses 1-4

Hananiah Contradicts Jeremiah

From Jeremiah 28:1 it is clear that the first verse of the previous chapter also concerns the kingship of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 27:1). In the fourth year of Zedekiah, a false prophet, Hananiah, appears. This man comes from Gibeon, a place with a religious history. There the tabernacle stood in the last days of David and the first days of Solomon. This place has tradition.

Hananiah dares to utter the false prophecy in the Name of the LORD of hosts that the LORD will soon break the yoke of the king of Babylon (Jeremiah 28:2). He does so “in the presence of the priests and all the people”. With his false prophecy he influences both the religious leaders and the common people. In doing so, he places a great responsibility on himself.

What he says completely contradicts what Jeremiah, the prophet from Anathoth, spoke in the Name of the LORD. As a result, the people are faced with two opposing messages, both spoken in the Name of the LORD. What are they to believe? They do not believe the words of the LORD, but the message that pleases them most, the message of a speedy restoration. Possibly the occasion is the covenant Zedekiah made with other nations to defend themselves jointly against Babylon (Jeremiah 27:3). Human efforts to free themselves from a yoke appeal to them more than humbling themselves before the LORD.

Hananiah is even bold enough to say that within two full years the LORD will bring all the vessels of the temple back to Jerusalem from Babylon (Jeremiah 28:3). He emphasizes the time element by mentioning that first. He also predicts the return of Jeconiah and all the exiles (Jeremiah 28:4). This too he does in the Name of the LORD. This shows that his preference and also that of the people is for Jeconiah over Zedekiah. Once again he pronounces it that the LORD will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.

Verses 5-9

Jeremiah’s Appeal to the Past

Jeremiah addresses the prophet Hananiah while the priests and people stand by (Jeremiah 28:5). Here we have prophet versus prophet. Hananiah is seemingly standing strong. He has a powerful, pleasant message, which goes down well with the people. Jeremiah has a weak appearance. He stands with a yoke on his neck and has an unpleasant message. But we see in Jeremiah how God’s power works in weakness.

Jeremiah speaks in their “presence”. They stand by and watch. With an “amen” Jeremiah agrees with what Hananiah has said (Jeremiah 28:6). By this he means that he would like Hananiah to be right. He knows, however, that it is not so. The exile will not last two years, but seventy years. That is what the LORD has spoken. Time will tell that Hananiah’s prophecy is a lie prophecy (Deuteronomy 13:1-:).

Then he addresses the ears of Hananiah and the ears of the people (Jeremiah 28:7). He points out that Hananiah and he are not the first prophets (Jeremiah 28:8). There have been many prophets before them. We can think of Isaiah, Amos, Micah. To whom and what did they prophesy? They have prophesied against many nations and great kingdoms “of war and of calamity and of pestilence”. They have not brought a pleasant message. That these are true prophets, they can all know. After all, they have seen that their prophecies have come true.

Of the prophet who prophesies of peace, that is Hananiah, this is yet to be seen. When the prophesied peace comes true, that prophet will be acknowledged to have been sent by the LORD in truth (Jeremiah 28:9; Deuteronomy 18:20-Song of Solomon :). Jeremiah can speak in this way because he knows that Hananiah is a lying prophet. The characteristic of a lying prophet is that he always predicts prosperity without any condition attached to it and without the need for repentance.

Verses 10-11

The Answer of Hananiah

Hananiah should be willing to wait on the LORD whether his prophecy would come true. However, he knows that he is making up his prophecy. What Jeremiah says scares him. He is too proud to admit that he is prophesying lies. His response consists of an act and an explanation of it. To impress the people, he underscores his words with a violent action. He takes the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and breaks it (Jeremiah 28:10). He can no longer stand it. This yoke, this symbol of submission and oppression, is a thorn in his side. It must be broken. As if by doing so its meaning would also be nullified.

The people stand and watch (Jeremiah 28:11). Hananiah adds to his act the statement that will have sounded pleasant to the people’s ears. When he explains the meaning of his act, he again begins his words with the formula that true prophets use. Again he misuses the Name of the LORD.

We hear no reaction from the priests or the people. They will have nodded in agreement at the words Hananiah speaks. At least this is language of hope, they think. Redemption in the near future. Jeremiah does not respond either, but goes “his way”. He does not enter into a war of words. Sometimes it is better to keep quiet and go away, than to continue to fight a lying prophet. He knows that he has the LORD on his side.

In this Jeremiah is an example for every servant of the Lord. He has testified powerfully against evil before kings and princes, before priests and people. Here he no longer does that. He is done talking to Hananiah and does not begin a war of words “which is useless [and leads] to the ruin of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14). At some point, it is good to stop responding to the claims of those who oppose God and His Word. Jeremiah leaves it to the LORD to judge between a prophet and a prophet.

Verses 12-14

Jeremiah’s More Powerful Statement

The LORD speaks to Jeremiah after “Hananiah the prophet” had broken the yoke from the neck of “the prophet Jeremiah” (Jeremiah 28:12). Both Jeremiah and Hananiah are called prophet again and again in their confrontation. It is a great trial to be opposed by people who hold the same position in God’s people. Jeremiah has given the matter into the hands of the LORD. From Him he is now instructed to prophesy against Hananiah (Jeremiah 28:13).

He must say to him that the wooden yokes he has broken will be replaced by iron yokes (Deuteronomy 28:48). The wooden yoke is the soft yoke of the will of God. The iron yoke is the hard yoke of sin. These yokes Hananiah will make for himself, that is, they will come upon him through his own fault. The incitement to rebel, which will avail nothing, has only brought him under even heavier domination. The LORD will do this through Nebuchadnezzar to whom He has given power over all the nations, also giving the beasts of the field into his hand (Jeremiah 28:14).

Verses 15-17

Death of Hananiah the Prophet

Jeremiah has one more word for Hananiah personally (Jeremiah 28:15). It is a touching word, a call to still listen and recognize his sin in not being sent by the LORD and causing the people to trust in lies. Perhaps it is a call like Joshua once made to Achan (Joshua 7:19). However, the judgment is certain. The LORD is going to reject him from the face of the earth (Jeremiah 28:16). Hananiah called for apostasy, not from Babylon, but from the LORD. This is the sin of the antichrist, of whom Hananiah is a picture (cf. Isaiah 22:15-Psalms :).

In Hebrew, there is a play on words in Jeremiah 28:15 and Jeremiah 28:16. Because the LORD “did not send” (lo-selahaka) Hananiah, He says that He will “send” (mesallehaka) him away from the face of the earth, that is, he will die. In other words, Hananiah was not sent as a prophet by the LORD to His people, but is now sent away by the LORD from life.

Jeremiah also mentions a time limit. It is the time limit within which Hananiah will die, which is within seven months. Halfway through that year, two months after the announcement (Jeremiah 28:1), Hananiah dies by the judgment of God (Jeremiah 28:17; cf. Ezekiel 11:13).

These are two months that the LORD adds to his life, during which he could have still made use of grace. Whether he did, we do not know. With his death, the authority of the true prophet was confirmed. These events underscore the service of Jeremiah.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 28". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/jeremiah-28.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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