Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentJEREMIAH 28
JEREMIAH vs. HANANIAH
Having already tried to bring about the execution of Jeremiah under the reign of Jehoiachim, the false priests and prophets elected to counteract Jeremiah's teachings by a dramatic confrontation and denial of his prophecies publicly. Their representative in this endeavor was Hananiah, son of Azur, a Gibeonite, probably a priest, a self-called false prophet with the brazen face, the loud voice, and the arrogant self-confidence that made him quite convincing with his smooth message of peace, prosperity, restoration and glory for Judah, all to be within two years!
There are extensive differences between the Septuagint (LXX) and the text of ASV, which is more complete than the LXX, which is certainly a mere abbreviation of the American Standard Version. The details of the American Standard Version are confirmed by recent archaeological discoveries, thus confirming it as superior to the LXX. False critics love to make those differences the basis of efforts to discredit certain words in the true text.
Hananiah means "`The Lord is Gracious,' and there are no less than fourteen characters in the Old Testament who bear this name."F1 Nothing is revealed in the Bible regarding this man except what is written here. The very fact of his being a Gibeonite should have suggested caution to the people. The citizens of this place deceived Joshua and earned for themselves favored status in the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 9:23); King Saul massacred large numbers of them (2 Sam. 21:1ff); and there Joab treacherously slew Amasa (2 Sam. 20:4ff).F2
THE FALSE PROPHECY
And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet, who was of Gibeon, spake unto me in the house of Jehovah, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying, Thus speaketh Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of Jehovah's house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried to Babylon: and I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went to Babylon, saith Jehovah; for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.
In the beginning of the reign. in the fourth year ..
(Jeremiah 28:1). The critics, practically all of them, agree that these clauses are self-contradictory.F3 Now we do not deny that there are in the Bible examples of some copyist's error, or some scribal note, here and there, that may have been accidentally and unconsciously adopted into the traditional text of the scripture. However, we do not believe that this is a blanket reason for explaining everything men do not understand as a gloss, or a copyist's error.
Some of the wisest men who ever wrote commentaries on the Bible find no fault with these clauses.
"These clauses accord with the common reckoning by dividing a reign into two halves; and, as Zedekiah reigned eleven years, this date was in the first half, therefore `in the beginning.'F4
"Michaelis states that, "up to the fourth year, Zedekiah had the throne only upon the basis of his yearly appointment by Nebuchadnezzar, but that he was vested with the royal title and authority in the fourth year." (This would make the first year of his full authority as indeed the fourth year). This opinion was also adopted by Scholz.F5 The first four years of Zedekiah's reign were indeed `the beginning of it,' because in those years he was tributary to the king of Babylon; but afterward he was truly "king" in rebellion against Babylon.F6
"Some interpreters have been troubled by the fact of the fourth year of Zedekiah's reign being here referred to as `the beginning'; but according to Jewish usage it was indeed `the beginning' of his reign, for the Jews divided periods of time into two halves, the beginning and the end. The simple meaning of the passages is, `In the first half of his reign.'"F7
In the light of such observations as these, we are constrained to label the critical claims of "an interpolation," or of "a gloss," or of "a copyist's error," as being far more likely the inadequate efforts of scholars to explain their ignorance. After all, where is there the slightest evidence of any kind of an error in the text?
In the presence of the priests and of all the people
(Jeremiah 28:1). He chose either a sabbath or a new moon that he might confront Jeremiah not only in the presence of the priests but also of all the people.F8 It is amazing that not merely this comment, but practically the exegesis of this whole chapter appears almost verbatim in the writings of Payne Smith. On this verse, Smith has this: He seems to have come to Jerusalem on purpose to confront Jeremiah, and to have chosen either a sabbath or a new moon for the occasion, that his act might be done not only in the presence of the priests, but also of all the people.F9
Thus speaketh Jehovah, the God of Israel, saying
(Jeremiah 28:2). Hananiah here presented himself as an authentic prophet of God, using all of the right formula, and confronting Jeremiah with a contradiction of that true prophet's word, which was as blunt, convincing, and evil as the claim of Satan himself in the Garden, that Ye shall not surely die! How were the people to know who spoke the truth? This chapter will shed light on that problem.
Cheyne commented that, "One has only to say a thing very firmly, and to repeat it very often, and the very force of utterance will make way for it. A brazen face, a loud voice, and a positive assertion are enough to convince many people of assertions that are against all reason."F10 The recent Nazi, Adolph Hitler, exploited this human weakness to the limit, adding the principle that, "the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it!"
One thing that might have bolstered the confident arrogance of Hananiah was the fact that, "Nebuchadnezzar at that very time was busy putting down a rebellion at home, and probably Hananiah's friends had sent him word of this."F11 Additionally, there was also the conspiracy of the kingdoms against Babylon mentioned in the previous chapter. It all seemed very promising from the standpoint of a "prophet" who was relying upon his own political shrewdness, instead of relying upon what God had revealed to him.
I will bring again to this place Jeconiah
(Jeremiah 28:4). For many years, one of the favorite arguments against the authenticity of the prophecy of Ezekiel was the fact that certain events were dated from the reign of Jehoiachin who reigned only three months. However, archaeology has turned the tables on the critics and has revealed this feature of Ezekiel as an impregnable argument in favor of its genuineness.F12 It also confirms the authenticity of this trust of the false prophet Hananiah in the speedy return of Jeconiah to Jerusalem. That Jeconiah was still considered king of Judah, even by the Babylonians themselves, was proved in 1940 by the publication of tablets from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, enumerating the recipients of royal bounty, and including `Yaukin (Jeconiah), king of the land of Yahud (Judah).'F13
JEREMIAH'S RESPONSE TO THE FALSE PROPHECY
Then the prophet Jeremiah said unto the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests, and in the presence of all the people that stood in the house of Jehovah, even the prophet Jeremiah said, Amen: Jehovah do so; Jehovah perform thy words which thou hast prophesied, to bring again the vessels of Jehovah's house, and all them of the captivity, from Babylon unto this place. Nevertheless hear thou now this word that I speak in thine ears, and in the ears of all the people: The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old prophesied against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, and of evil, and of pestilence. The prophet that prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that Jehovah hath truly sent him. Then Hananiah the prophet took the bar from off the prophet Jeremiah's neck, and brake it. And Hananiah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith Jehovah: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon within two full years from off the neck of all the nations. And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.
Jeremiah said, Amen: Jehovah do so
(Jeremiah 28:6). This was not sarcasm, because Jeremiah truly desired that such wonderful things as the false prophet had spoken might indeed be done by the Lord, only if it were possible. It was the same kind of plea that Jesus made, when he said, If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.
However, this was in no sense whatever a statement that Jeremiah, even for a single moment, believed the lying words of the evil prophet. Green missed this truth altogether. He said, "Jeremiah revealed here his belief in the sincerity of Hananiah, and that Jeremiah himself was possibly wrong."F14 Such a view cannot be reconciled with what Jeremiah immediately said.
Nevertheless, hear now this word that I speak in your ears
(Jeremiah 28:7). The real answer to Hananiah's false prophecy was that it made liars out of every prophet God had ever sent, including Jeremiah, all of whom had prophesied the ruin and captivity of Judah. Jeremiah also pointed out that the prophets of peace could be verified as true only by the conformity of subsequent events with the things they had prophesied. With that announcement, Jeremiah terminated the argument.
Deut. 18:22 had laid down the test for prophets that only those prophets were true whose predictive prophecies were proved true by subsequent events; and Jeremiah referred to this, but as the false prophets had allowed a margin of two whole years for the fulfillment of his prediction, the truth of Hananiah's falsity was not at once evident.
We should observe the meekness and mildness of Jeremiah's response. He engaged in no loud and boisterous repetitions. He did not, upon his own unsupported authority, at once declare Hananiah to be the false prophet which he knew him to be. He simply waited for God to provide the answer, and turned away and left the scene. Although Jeremiah had given his personal assent to the glorious words of the false prophet, "He well knew that the truth was otherwise."F15
Hananiah took the bar. and brake it ..
(Jeremiah 28:10). It might have appeared to Hananiah and the crowd in the house of the Lord that Jeremiah had been silenced. Jeremiah did not at once deny Hananiah's evil prophecy. Why? No answer had then appeared from Jehovah; and Jeremiah did not give an answer that God had not yet spoken.
"Encouraged by Jeremiah's patience and in the absence of any answer from God that his prophecy was a lie, Hananiah resorted to violence, tore the yoke from the prophet's neck, and broke it, probably to the great delight of the crowd who considered the action as a symbol of deliverance."F16
And the prophet Jeremiah went his way
(Jeremiah 28:11). There are men with whom it is always useless to argue,F17 and Jeremiah instantly recognized in Hananiah just such a person. He had falsely claimed to have God's Word; Jeremiah had already pointed out that his prophecy was contrary to what all previous prophets had prophesied; and, since God had at that point in time not refuted Hananiah with any dramatic additional revelation, there was nothing else for Jeremiah to do, except to leave; and that he at once did.
GOD GAVE THE ANSWER, VINDICATING JEREMIAH
Then the word of Jehovah came unto Jeremiah, after that Hananiah the prophet had broken the bar from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Go, and tell Hananiah, saying, Thus saith Jehovah: Thou hast broken the bars of wood; but thou hast made in their stead bars of iron. For thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations, that they may served Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him: and I have given him the beasts of the field also. Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah: Jehovah hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will send thee away from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast spoken rebellion against Jehovah. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.
Bars of wood. bars of iron ..
(Jeremiah 28:13). The meaning here is that the Babylonian disaster coming upon the nations would be even worse after the rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, which, of course, was finally led by Zedekiah. For Judah, it resulted in the second great siege of Jerusalem, the absolute and total destruction of the temple, and the removal of many more captives to Babylon.
Jehovah hath not sent thee... I will send thee away from the face of the earth
(Jeremiah 28:15,16). There is a play upon the words here. Jehovah had indeed not sent Hananiah with his false prophecy, but God here promised that he would indeed be sent away from the face of the earth. This was a clear prophecy of the death of Hananiah; but God spelled it out for him, this year thou shalt die.
Because thou hast spoken rebellion against Jehovah
(Jeremiah 28:16). This is very similar to countless other statements throughout the Bible. Note that the sentence of death here announced against Hananiah, Accords perfectly with Deut. 18:20 which declares that to prophesy falsely in the name of Jehovah, as Hananiah had done, was to commit a capital offense.F18 This is only another example of the innumerable instances in which the discernible shadow of the Pentateuch lies over every single subsequent word in the holy Bible. As Harrison pointed out, this sudden death of Hananiah is similar to the deaths of Pelatiah (Ezekiel 11:13) and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).F19
Most current commentators treat this and the preceding two chapters as a single unit, which indeed they are; but we prefer to deal with all of these chapters as units in their own right.
Footnotes for Jeremiah 28
1: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 676.
2: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Chicago, Illinois: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), p. 1226.
3: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 edition), p. 200.
4: W. Harvey Jellie, Jeremiah, in Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company), P. 490.
5: E. Henderson, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Company, 1851), p. 156.
6: Matthew Henry's Commentary, p. 582.
7: Charles Lee Feinberg in Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody Press), p. 547.
8: Barnes' Notes (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), p. 217.
9: Scribner's Bible Commentary (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898), p. 462.
10: T. K. Cheyne, Jeremiah in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 581.
11: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 676. <12> Merrill F. Unger, Unger's Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), p. 293.
14: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), p. 139.
15: J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archeology (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972) p. 539.
16: Scribner's Bible Commentary (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898), p. 464.
17: T. K. Cheyne, Jeremiah in the Pulpit Commentary, p. 582.
18: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 edition), p. 203.
19: R. K. Harrison, Jeremiah in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, p. 131.