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Jeremiah 28:1-17 – Jeremiah and Hananiah, the False Prophet

Summary

Jeremiah 28 is a parade example of the conflict between Jeremiah and false prophets, though Hananiah does not look the part.

Analysis

Jeremiah often refers to false prophets, and Hananiah is the most prominent. Hananiah is something of a surprise to a reader who has repeatedly read about the false prophets. One is led to expect a charlatan or a quack, an idolater or an immoral individual, one who is obviously deceptive. The portrayal of Hananiah, whose name means "Yahweh is gracious," cuts against such an expectation. He is presented as a model of prophetic propriety. He uses all the right language, including the typical "Thus says the Lord" (28:2) and the use of the divine "I." He also performs symbolic acts (28:10), as does Jeremiah (for example, 13:1-11). He is given genealogical and geographical identity; he is placed in a specific historical context, comparable to that of Jeremiah himself (compare 28:1 with 1:1-3).

Moreover, the text identifies Hananiah simply as "the prophet," with no qualifications (interestingly, the Septuagint identifies him as a "false prophet"). In other words, the only possible clue as to the "falseness" of Hananiah's preaching is the word he speaks. And, then, many a hearer/reader would be led to think that he is even more believable than Jeremiah himself. He preaches the gospel so clearly! God is about to act in saving ways on behalf of Israel. Jeremiah even has to hesitate for some time before he sees through what Hananiah has to say. He is finally able to respond only when he has heard from Yahweh. Jeremiah will, finally, speak a word of salvation to Israel as well, but such a word can in truth only come through judgment.

Hananiah is put to death according to the law of Deuteronomy 13:1-5.

Jeremiah 28:1-17

Hananiah Opposes Jeremiah and Dies

28In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, 2‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4I will also bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, says the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’

5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; 6and the prophet Jeremiah said, ‘Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfil the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. 7But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.’

10 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, and broke it. 11And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: This is how I will break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.’ At this, the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

12 Some time after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13Go, tell Hananiah, Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars only to forge iron bars in place of them! 14For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put an iron yoke on the neck of all these nations so that they may serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and they shall indeed serve him; I have even given him the wild animals. 15And the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, ‘Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you made this people trust in a lie. 16Therefore thus says the Lord: I am going to send you off the face of the earth. Within this year you will be dead, because you have spoken rebellion against the Lord.’

17 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.

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10 February 2011

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