Click here to learn more!
Hananiah's false prophecy; his reprimand from Jeremiah; and his fate. The preciseness of the date in verse 1 is to emphasize the supernatural character of Jeremiah's prediction. The latter was uttered in the fifth month of the fourth year of Zedekiah, and Hananiah died in the seventh month of the same year (verse 17).
In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah. It seems strange that the fourth year of a reign which only lasted eleven years in all should be called "the beginning. Is it not probable that the clause was interpolated here by a later copyist on account of Jeremiah 27:1, where at present a similar clause (see note) is found? Originally placed in the margin as a gloss upon the words "the same year," it would very easily find its way into the text. Hananiah … the prophet (see on Jeremiah 27:15). Gibeon. This was a priestly city (Joshua 21:17), so that Hananiah was probably himself a priest like Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1) and Pashur (Jeremiah 20:1). The modern El Jib, on an isolated, rocky hill, doubtless represents the ancient Gibeon. In the presence of the priests and of all the people. Apparently the event took place on either a new moon or a Sabbath, when the people would throng to the temple.
Hananiah opens his prophecy with the usual formula, claiming Divine inspiration in the fullest sense. His message is short and sweet: I have broken—i.e. I have decreed to break (the perfect of prophetic certitude)—the yoke of the king of Babylon. Had Hananiah stopped here, he might, perhaps, have escaped Jeremiah's indignant rebuke. But with light-hearted arrogance he ventures to fix a time close at hand for the event, which, no doubt, was destined to occur, but after a long interval. Dr. Payne Smith suggests that he probably cherished the belief that the confederacy then on foot (Jeremiah 27:3) would defeat Nebuchadnezzar.
And I will bring again … Jeconiah. Hananiah thus directly contradicts the assurance of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 22:26, Jeremiah 22:27) that Jehoiachin would not return, but would die in a foreign land. Has he a political object in his favorable prognostication for the deposed king? Does he, in short, belong to a Jehoiachin party opposed to the friends of Zedekiah? The view is possible, and may seem to be confirmed by the emphatic repetition of the fall of Nebuchadnezzar, the liege lord of Zedekiah. Still there is evidence enough in modern history that the return of an exile is not necessarily tantamount to his reinstatement in his office.
Jeremiah's reply. He heartily wishes that Hananiah's prediction were capable of fulfillment, but it runs directly counter to the declarations of all the older prophets. "War, and evil, and pestilence" was their constant burden, for the people to whom they prophesied were unworthy of the golden age of felicity in which the prophets so firmly believed. Only by a terrible judgment could the people of Israel be purified for the Messianic age. This appears to be what Jeremiah means by verse 8. True, he speaks of "countries" and "kingdoms" in the plural, but all the great prophets include the nations best known to them within the range of their preaching, and even of their Messianic preaching. Isaiah, for instance, threatens sore judgment upon Egypt and Assyria, and yet he holds out the cheering prospect that Egypt and Assyria will have a part in the Messianic felicity. Thus Hananiah's prediction has probabilities very strongly against it He not only prophesies "peace,' but attaches no condition to his promise, which, therefore, has double need of verification by the event (comp. Deuteronomy 18:22).
Jeremiah 28:10, Jeremiah 28:11
Instead of any rejoinder, Hananiah has recourse to violence, tears off and breaks the yoke on Jeremiah's neck, and repeats his declaration of the fall of Nebuchadnezzar within two years. Jeremiah meekly suffers.
No long time after this the prophet is commissioned to tell the bitter truth more fully than he had done before, and to warn Hananiah of his coming punishment.
The yokes of wood; rather, a yoke of wood. The word rendered in the Authorized Version" yokes" means properly "poles," two of which, with the "bands," composed a "yoke" (see on Jeremiah 27:2). But thou shalt make; rather, but thou hast made. The sense in which Hananiah is said to have made "a yoke of iron" (we should render in the singular) comes out in Jeremiah 28:14. The point is that there was a certain justification for Hananiah's violent act, but not that which he supposed. Jeremiah's wooden yoke was really an inadequate symbol; the prophet was too tender to his people. Thus God made the truth appear in still fuller brightness from the very perverseness of its enemy.
The beasts of the field (see on Jeremiah 27:6).
The prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet. In one sense Hananiah was a prophet as much as Jeremiah. He claimed to have received the prophetic call, and God alone, who searcheth the heart, could pronounce upon the justice of his claim. Whatever training was regarded as necessary for the office he had probably gone through, and now for a number of years he had been universally recognized as a member of the prophetic class. Probably he had those natural gifts, including a real, though dim and not unerring, "second sight," which seems to have formed the substratum of Old Testament prophecy; but he certainly had not the moral backbone so conspicuous in Jeremiah, and he lacked that intimate communion with God (this became dear on the present occasion) which alone warranted the assurance that "Jehovah, the God of Israel, hath sent me."
I will east thee; rather, I song thee away. Possibly, as Hitzig suggests, there is an allusion to the preceding verse, in which the same verb occurs. Thou hast taught rebellion; literally, thou hast spoken turning aside. To "speak turning aside (or, 'rebellion')" is a phrase of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 13:6), where it is used, as here, of opposition, not to Jehovah, but to revealed truth.
The story of Hananiah the prophet.
Hananiah, priest and professional prophet, now presents himself as the rival and opponent of Jeremiah. A rude and shallow man, he probably thrusts himself forward unasked, as the representative of the popular prophets of smooth things whom it is the true prophet's painful duty to refute and rebuke. His own conduct and Jeremiah's behavior to him are both clearly brought before us in this chapter.
I. THE CONDUCT OF HAVANIAH.
1. He utters a pleasing prophecy. He promises a speedy overthrow of the tyranny of Nebuchadnezzar. Even Jeremiah heartily echoes the wish that the prediction could be true. It is always easiest to prophesy smooth things, to soothe and flatter rather than convince men of sin and persuade them to accept the darker truths.
2. Hananiah speaks with great positiveness. He boldly claims the authority of God for what he says (verse 2). His assertions are definite, minute, inherently consistent. Daring assumptions such as those of Hananiah carry the unthinking as by storm. A brazen face, a loud voice, a positive assertion, are enough to convince many people without the slightest ground in reason. You have only to say a thing very strongly and to repeat it very often, and the mere force of utterance will make way for it where calm, measured reasoning quite fails. Hananiah is definite in detail. People have a tendency to believe what they can understand clearly and imagine vividly. We must be warned, therefore,
(1) that they who make the loudest claims to speak for God may have least right to do so;
(2) that the truth of a statement must be measured, not by the vehemence with which it is asserted, but by the strength of the grounds on which it rests; and
(3) that the reality of things cannot be ascertained by reflection on the consistency, clearness, and fullness of our subjective ideas about them.
3. Hananiah manifests a stupid insolence under contradiction. He cannot reason with Jeremiah, he cannot refute the great prophet's words, he has no new thoughts to contribute; he can only repeat his former assertion with loud words and passionate actions. He is a poor, unintellectual creature, whose notion of controversy is like that of foolish people we sometimes meet with—people who imagine that to argue is just to repeat an assertion with dogged obstinacy. Hananiah loses his temper and behaves with rudeness to Jeremiah. The last refuge of the helpless controversialist is insolence and abuse.
II. THE BEHAVIOR OF JEREMIAH TO HANANIAH.
1. He heartily assents to the false prophet's desire for the happiness of the nation. "Jeremiah said, Amen: the Lord do so," etc. (verse 6). He had been accused of a traitorous wish to see his country humiliated. No charge could be more false. The preacher who feels it his duty to threaten Divine punishments to wicked men should not be accused of wishing them evil. He may speak with grief and regret, as God also punishes reluctantly (Ezekiel 33:11).
2. Jeremiah appeals to the example of the older prophets. He is true to their teaching, while Hananiah contradicts it. This appeal should be unanswerable to one who, like Jeremiah's opponent, professes to be the successor of these men. Amongst men who believe in the Bible the appeal to Scripture should be a first resort. How can a Christian teacher maintain his ground if he is contradicting this highest authority? Jeremiah was fond of "the old paths," the traditions and examples of earlier prophets. There is a consistency in prophecy, a common spirit, common ideas and principles in the prophets, and in revelation generally.
3. Jeremiah appeals to the confirmation of facts. (Verse 9.) He dares to await the verdict of history; he challenges Hananiah to do the same. We are too hasty in following the loud and pushing popular spirits of the hour. Wait and see the issue of their work when the first excitement has died away.
4. Jeremiah meets the insolence of Hananiah with quiet courtesy. He calmly reasons with him at first. When he finds his opponent proof against arguments which only rouse his temper, he quietly leaves him. There are times when men are too heated for argument, and there are men with whom it is always useless to argue. Under such circumstances the interest of truth, our own rightful dignity, and charity to our opponent, caution us to leave him in silence.
5. Jeremiah reiterates his prediction at a later time, with more stringent threats, and pronounces a solemn sentence of death on Hananiah. This he does after receiving fresh communications from Heaven and under the urgency of a Divine commission. It is always our duty to forgive our enemies; but if they are also the enemies of God, we may recognize the justice of God's judgment on them. It is to be noted that Jeremiah did not compass the death of Hananiah; he only foretold it, and this under a Divine impulse. The words of Jeremiah were verified. Hananiah died long before events proved the futility of his own prophecy. Perhaps this was best for him. His death is a solemn warning to people who may be tempted to sacrifice truth for popularity.
An appeal to ancient prophecy.
I. THE PRINCIPLES OF THE APPEAL. Several important principles are here illustrated.
1. The value of a precedent. Novel circumstances demand novel actions. The spirit of progress should teach us to improve on the conduct of our forefathers. Yet the most radical progressionist must often see the use of a precedent. It is an appeal from the confusion and excitement of the moment to an example which can be studied more calmly. If the precedent is respected by both parties of a quarrel, there is in it a common meeting-place for a reconciliation. The Bible is useful to us in this way for its great examples.
2. The duty of referring to Scripture. Jeremiah did not simply refer to antiquity; he referred to ancient prophecy—to the authority of a series of inspired teachers. This is the justification of our appeals to the Bible. It is not that the Bible is an old book, but that it is the fountain of special Divine illumination.
3. The unity of Scripture. The most original thinkers have usually started on the foundation prepared by their predecessors. But such men as Kepler and Newton have left their teachers far behind, and exposed the error of much of their teaching. It is different with the Bible. Here, too, there is the progressive development of thought, the growing light of revelation. But while the outer husk of the earlier ideas of the Bible is cast aside, those ideas themselves are not discarded, but enlarged and glorified by a fuller evolution. Definite laws are changed, but vital principles remain. Thus there is a marvelous unity in the Bible.
II. THE RESULT OF THE APPEAL. This led to a confirmation of the darker view of the future. It was a sad result. It is only too true that the old prophets were preachers of repentance, threatening wrath and judgment. Their visions of the brighter future were few compared with their more stern predictions. The former, too, referred to distant times, the latter to circumstances of immediate interest. It is a terrible thought that an inspired view of human nature should lead so many great and good men to this gloomy conclusion. If these men rose from their graves and lifted up their voices in our own cities would they completely change their tone? Such a man as Thomas Carlyle seemed to realize something of the spirit of these old Hebrew prophets, and to him the condition of the modern world suggested the gloomiest forebodings. Happily, we do not look to the verdict of a prophet for our salvation. Christ has coma we listen to the teaching of apostles as well as to that of prophets. We have a New Testament. If the prophet exposes our sin and threatens our ruin, the gospel teacher points to the remedy in the redemption of the world by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah 28:13, Jeremiah 28:14
Yokes of iron.
Hananiah broke the wooden yoke which Jeremiah wore in token of the approaching servitude of the Jews. In return he was told that the real yoke of Babylon would be much more severe—a yoke of iron.
I. FACTS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN OPINIONS. If the rule of Babylon really would be as a yoke of iron, what was the use of circulating milder views of the future? We are too much inclined to judge of ideas by their fitness for our own previous notions, instead of testing them solely by their consistency with facts.
II. THE FUTURE MAY BE WORSE THAN WE EXPECT. There are dreadful events in past history. May there not also be dreadful events in future experience? Life is not a harmless plaything, nor the earth a thornless garden. There are terrors, judgments, agonies, in this strange world of ours. Who knows what may be in the next? This much we should all know: God is not the easy, indulgent Being of lax principles that shallow optimists fancy him to be, but wisely firm as well as infinitely merciful where mercy can be justly exercised.
III. NEGLECT OF TIMELY WARNING WILL INCREASE FUTURE SUFFERING. If the yoke of wood is broken, a yoke of iron shall be forged to take its place. The longer we delay hearkening to the warnings of God the worse must be our future punishment, because our sin is increasing while we remain impenitent; because to sin against light, against admonition, is to sin more plainly and willfully; and also because the rejection of a warning sent in mercy is itself an act of resistance to the will of God.
This year thou shalt die.
It is a great mercy that God has hidden from us the date of our death. If this were known all life would be deranged; some would grow reckless, some negligent of their highest duty till death was near, some despondent and unfit for all work, some overclouded with grief for the approaching separation from loved friends. We may be thankful, therefore, that God keeps the secret to him-soil "Our times are in his hand." Still, it may be profitable for us to question ourselves how we should act if such a revelation were made—if an angel came to us with the message, "This year thou shalt die." What would be the effect of such a message?
I. IT WOULD URGE US TO PUT OUR TEMPORAL AFFAIRS IN READINESS FOR DEATH. We should wish to "put our house in order," to see that all was left right and straight for those who come after us, to do all in our power to provide for those who are dependent on us. But none of us knows but that he may die this year. We should not, therefore, delay in providing for those who will be left. It is foolish for a man not to make his will till he knows he is dying. Cruel injustice has often been done through the postponement of this duty until too late.
II. IT WOULD URGE US TO BE READY FOR ANOTHER WORLD. It would matter little what happened to us for the few months that remained of our earthly course. This life would then seem a poor shadow, its treasures not worth a thought. All anxiety would be fixed on "that undiscovered country." But we do not know but that we shall die this year; and we do know that life is fast fleeting. Should we not be ready in any case? Should we not feel as pilgrims and strangers, and seek for better treasures than those of earth, which all lie a prey to thief and moth and rust? Besides, spiritual preparation for death is not the simple, mechanical thing it appears to be in conventional language. Do we know we shall ever be able to fit ourselves for another world if we postpone all considerations of this momentous subject? It should be remembered, too, that he who is not fit to die is not fit to live; that spiritual condition which is real preparedness for heaven is just the condition for serving God here; if we are rightly living now we are fit to die—then and only then.
III. IT WOULD URGE US TO A DILIGENT COMPLETION OF OUR LIFE'S WORK. It would be a call to earnest effort to redeem the short remainder of our days. There would be much that we should desire to see finished. It would be sad to let the task fall from our hands unaccomplished. But the same appeal is made to all of us. Life is short, and the work of life is great. There is much for the longest life to do. In any case there is no time for idle postponement of service. Every day has its duty; neglect this, and you can never return to it without neglecting the duty of the morrow. Let us all "work while it is day," seeing that "the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4).
IV. IT SHOULD NOT TROUBLE THE CHRISTIAN WITH ANY FEAR. To him death has lost its sting. The natural human shrinking from it may remain, but this should be overwhelmed by the thought of the home beyond. For him to die is to end "the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to," and to enter the rest, the safety, the joy of heaven. But to the spiritual man it is more than this. All his better days he has been seeking to be nearer to God; for God he has been panting and yearning. Death will be the fruition of this his heart's hunger; it will make him "forever with the Lord." Earthly ties will still be strong, but he will feel that all is well that is God's will. If God's will be that he live, he will rejoice in the privilege of service; if it be that he die, he will feel this as "gain," so that, "whether he live or die, he is the Lord's."
"Lord it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve thee is my share,
And this thy grace must give."
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
How to answer those who oppose the truth.
Where the light is there will be the deepest shadow; the truth is ever sharply defined against falsehood. Just when it was most important that the will of God and the real position of Israel should be ascertained, there were many striving to deceive and misrepresent. The behavior of Jeremiah on this occasion was twofold.
I. ACCORDING TO HUMAN KNOWLEDGE AND JUDGMENT.
1. With moderation. "Amen: the Lord do so." Under such trying circumstances the behavior of the prophet is praiseworthy in the extreme. The contradiction and indignity to which he had been subjected might have excused a hot rejoinder. He is willing to have the dispute settled in a very effectual way. Meanwhile he is careful to make it clear that he too desired what his opponent had prophesied. This was the disposition of the Master, and should be copied by all his disciples. "A soft answer turneth away wrath;" "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men."
2. By an appeal to the great principle that the event will determine the truth of their predictions or the wisdom of their conduct. (Verses 8, 9.) This was an appeal to the conscience of his opponent.
3. Quiet submission to the will of God. "And the prophet Jeremiah went his way." When there is no sign of reasonableness in our antagonists, or no prospect of immediate success, it is well to submit quietly and to wait God's time. This is the test of spiritual reality. True Christianity will show itself in earnest, unobtrusive actions and patient waiting for Christ. The most eloquent enforcement of the gospel is a quiet, consistent life.
II. AS INSPIRED. Whilst he had no direct message he was silent. But God, who will not leave his servants without a witness, and who resents the slightest dishonor to which they are subjected, came to his rescue. The whole attitude of the prophet is now changed. With certainty he recovers also his vivacity, energy, and fearless power of denunciation. He is now the minister of judgment.
1. To the nation. The yoke of wood gives place to one of iron. The complicity of the people in the guilt of the false prophet must be punished. Their resistance to the will of God and disbelief of his servant involves them in a heavier sentence. So it is with all impenitence and rejection of God's Word. The position of the transgressor cannot remain the same. With each step he plunges into deeper guilt and more fearful judgment.
2. To the originator of the offense. In this case the sentence is proportionately heavier and more immediate. Death is pronounced against the offending prophet with terrible brevity and clearness. There is ever a distinction between offenders and those who cause them to often& Primacy in disobedience will ensure a special and unmistakable mark of God's anger. This announcement of doom, simple as it was in itself, must have been appalling to its hearer, whose inner sense of degradation and falseness would enhance its force. It is possible that the time and manner of this communication may have been intended to awaken repentance; failing which it was carded into effect. All around us such judgments are taking place, and it is well for men to examine what manner of spirit they are of ere they presume to occupy sacred offices or to set themselves against the laws of God's kingdom.—M.
Jeremiah 28:10, Jeremiah 28:11
Presumption increasing with impunity.
The meekness of Jeremiah's reply emboldened the false prophet, and he forthwith proceeded from words to actions. The symbol appointed by God was publicly removed from the shoulders of Jeremiah and destroyed. Opposition to the spirit and will of God could scarcely go further. The interpretation given to the action reveals how false and dangerous the position assumed.
I. THE SERVANTS OF GOD ARE FREQUENTLY AT APPARENT DISADVANTAGE AS COMPARED WITH THE SERVANTS OF SATAN. The action was so sudden and unexpected that Jeremiah had but little to say, and eventually went his way, sad but silent. Everything seemed to favor his opponent. The "patriotic party" was enthusiastic, and not to be restrained. The wisdom of this world is prompt and versatile because it is unprincipled; and it is bold because it is profane and unbelieving. Yet this is the condition under which the followers of the truth are to contend.
II. THE SERVANTS OF SATAN ARE THEREBY ENCOURAGED TO MORE PRONOUNCED BEHAVIOR, AND COMMIT THEMSELVES BEYOND RECALL. Hananiah's case illustrates this in two ways, viz.:
1. Sacrilegious action. Touching the person of the prophet. Deliberately destroying the yoke which he must have known was of Divine appointment.
2. Its definitive interpretation. He not only rebelled against the Lord, but committed himself to a prediction with a fixed date, and one that must soon arrive. The necessity of the position he had assumed was upon him. Woe to the prophet of lies who ventures upon definite and verifiable prophecies! There is no halting-place to those who begin systematically to oppose God's truth. They must ere long be caught in their own snares. With the sense of reverence the fear of consequences is forgotten and caution is discarded.
III. BY SO DOING THEY HASTEN THEIR OWN JUDGMENT. The triumph is brilliant but short-lived, and purchased at terrible cost. Let sinners pause when their crimes are made easy for them and excess follows upon excess. The motion of the rapid may but precede the fall (Jud Jeremiah 1:8-13). When human resources and precautions are exhausted, it may be a sign that God will undertake his own cause. His servants are justified at such a time in looking for and invoking his help, which is likely to be of a very signal and determining kind.—M.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
A false prophet and his fate.
I. HANANIAH'S PRESUMPTION. Note his direct challenge to the true prophet. He seeks out Jeremiah in the house of Jehovah, "in the presence of the priests and of all the people." A prophet was, of course, bound to make his utterances in public, but Hananiah waited his chance until he found an opportunity of bearding the hated Jeremiah in as open a way as possible. He speaks explicitly in the Name of Jehovah. He is not afraid to take the great Name in vain. Let us be warned lest we heedlessly utter, under the pretended authority of God, what is nothing more than the daring imagination of our own hearts. The false prophet Ventures on the very figure which had been employed by the true prophet. It would almost seem as if Jeremiah had habitually borne something in the shape of a yoke, and if so, it must have been a very irritating sight to the false prophets. Little wonder that, under the pretence of a prophetic mission, he ventured on the removal of this yoke. Above all things, there is the confident assertion with respect to time. Notwithstanding all the manifest difficulties of the achievement, Hananiah is not afraid to say that in two years Judah will again be firmly resting on its old foundations. Thus from all these indications of presumptuous action, we have an illustration of how confident heretics are in their error. Too often we are doubtful and partial in our statements of truth. We lack that faith and that thorough-going assertion of the truths God has revealed which are so necessary to make those truths full of operative and irresistible force. Hananiah here is as confident as he can be in all his deadly errors. He has not the least fear of plunging into the greatest responsibilities with regard to definite predictions. He passes from the ground of mere expostulations and remonstrances, and ventures on statements which in a very short time must either make him or ruin him. Let us learn from our enemies, and labor to be confident and determined in our assertion of truth, seeing there is no lack of determination on the part of those who have cast in their lot with error.
II. HANANIAH'S PERSISTENCE. It is very noticeable that Jeremiah does not meet him in anything of an angry or denouncing manner. It would have well pleased the true prophet to see the predictions of the false prophet brought about; for it is made abundantly evident that the sufferings of his country were an unspeakable grief to Jeremiah. An angry reply served no good purpose. The true prophet could manifest a dignified patience, and leave time to vindicate both the validity of his prophetic claim and his fidelity in speaking the truth. Meantime, he can only recommend Hananiah to consider well the lessons of history, and how the prophets of old had spoken of stern dealings with many wicked nations. Unfortunately, bad men are hardly ever discriminating students of history. Hananiah was here given an opportunity of repentance, if only he had chosen to avail himself of it. But so full was he of his own devices that gentle treatment only increased his audacity, and he drew public attention more than ever to himself by removing the symbolic yoke from Jeremiah's neck. That he was allowed to do all this should teach us a lesson of patience and trust when we see wicked men pursuing, undisturbed, their chosen path. They are only climbing higher that their ultimate ruin may become more widely manifest.
III. HANANIAH'S DOOM. The first result of his presumptuous conduct is to bring a more emphatic prophecy with regard to the captives. The second is to bring s sentence of death on the false prophet himself. He who has dealt rashly with the ordering of times and seasons is to know by a bitter experience that God has these times and seasons in his own hands. He is to die within the year. Notice the sin which he is charred with committing. He is doomed to death, not simply for the falsehood or the profanity, but for this, that he had taught rebellion against Jehovah. His words were an incitement to make a useless and premature attempt at liberation. God's prediction with regard to the captivity in Babylon had in it the nature of a command.
IV. HANANIAH'S DEATH. It came very quickly. Two months at the outside was the space between the utterance of a false rebellious statement and the confirming of a true one. The death came at such an interval as was very impressive. Compare the relations between Jeremiah and Hananiah here with those between Peter and Ananias. Both Hananiah and Ananias dealt presumptuously with the holiest of things.—Y.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Jeremiah 28". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29