Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, which was of Gibeon, spake unto me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying,XXVIII.
(1) And it came to pass the same year . . .—The chapter stands in immediate sequence with that which precedes and confirms the conclusion that the name Jehoiakim in Jeremiah 27:1 is simply a transcriber’s mistake. Of the Hananiah who appears as the most prominent of the prophet’s adversaries, we know nothing beyond what is here recorded. He was clearly one of the leaders of the party of resistance whom we have seen at work trying to form an alliance with the neighbouring rations in Jeremiah 27, and whose hopes had been revived by the accession of Pharaoh Hophra (Apries) to the throne of Egypt in B.C. 595. The mention of Gibeon suggests two or three thoughts not without interest :—(1) It was, like Anathoth, within the tribe of Benjamin, about six or seven miles from Jerusalem, and so the antagonism between the true prophet and the false in Jerusalem may have been the revival of older local conflicts. (2) Gibeon, like Anathoth, was one of the cities of priests (Joshua 21:17), and Hananiah was probably, therefore, a priest as well as prophet. (3) As still retaining the venerable relics of a worship that had passed away; it had also once been the sanctuary of Jehovah (1Chronicles 16:39). There the old tabernacle stood which had been with the people in the wilderness—which had been removed from Shiloh when the sacred ark was taken (2Chronicles 1:3). There Solomon, at the beginning of his reign, offered a stately sacrifice (1Kings 3:4). Ought not the prophet who had grown up in the midst of those surroundings to have learnt that no place, however sacred, could count on being safe from the changes and chances of time, all fulfilling the righteous purposes of God? The occasion on which he now appears was probably one of the new moon, Sabbath, or other feast-days on which the courts of the Temple were crowded.
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.(2) I have broken the yoke . . .—The word is obviously used with special reference to the symbol which Jeremiah had made so conspicuous (Jeremiah 27:2). With something, it may be, of ironical repetition, he reproduces the very formula with which the true prophet had begun his message. He, too, can speak in the name of “the Lord of Sabaoth, the God of Israel.”
Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the LORD'S house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon:(3) Within two full years.—Literally, two years of days. Hananiah, not deterred by the previous warnings of Jeremiah, becomes bolder in the definiteness of his prediction. The conspiracy of Judah and the neighbouring states against Nebuchadnezzar was clearly ripening, and he looked on its success as certain. Prediction stood against prediction, and, as there were no signs or wonders wrought, men had to judge from what they knew of the lives of the men who uttered them which of them was most worthy of credit. The contest between the two prophets reminds us of Deuteronomy 18:20-22.
And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, saith the LORD: for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.(4) And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim . . .—We get here a new glimpse into the nature of the anti-Chaldæan confederacy. Zedekiah was to be deposed as too submissive to Nebuchadnezzar, and the young Jeconiah was to be brought back from his prison at Babylon, and re-established in the kingdom as the representative of the policy of resistance, resting on the support of Pharaoh-Hophra.
Even the prophet Jeremiah said, Amen: the LORD do so: the LORD perform thy words which thou hast prophesied, to bring again the vessels of the LORD'S house, and all that is carried away captive, from Babylon into this place.(6) Amen, the Lord do so.—It is impossible to mistake the tone of keen, incisive irony with which the words were spoken. The speaker could, without falsehood, echo the wish as far as it was a wish, but he knew that it was a wish for the impossible. The whole condition of things would have to be altered before there could be the slightest prospect of its fulfilment. It was not wise to pray for that which was obviously out of the lines of God’s normal methods of working in history, and against His purpose, as uttered by His prophets.
The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old prophesied both against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, and of evil, and of pestilence.(8) The prophets that have been before me and before thee . . .—The appeal to the past is of the nature of an inductive argument. The older prophets whose names were held in honour had not spoken smooth things. They had not prophesied of peace; war, pestilence, and famine had been the burden of their predictions. And there was, therefore, an antecedent probability in favour of one who spoke in the same tone now, rather than of those who held out flattering hopes of peace and victory. The onus probandi in such a conflict of claims lay with the latter, not the former. Prophecies like those of Elijah (1Kings 17:1; 1Kings 21:21-24), Micaiah (1Kings 22:17), Elisha (2Kings 8:1), Joel (Joel 1:1-20), Hosea (Hosea 2:11-12), Amos (Amos 1-4), Micah (Micah 3:12), Isaiah (Isaiah 2-6), were probably in Jeremiah’s thoughts.
The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the LORD hath truly sent him.(9) The prophet which prophesieth of peace.—“Peace,” with its Hebrew associations, includes all forms of national prosperity, and is therefore contrasted with famine and pestilence, not less than with war. The obvious reference to the test of a prophet’s work, as described in Deuteronomy 18:22, shows, as other like references, the impression which that book had made on the prophet’s mind.
Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah's neck, and brake it.(10, 11) Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke . . .—We are reminded of the conduct of Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, in 1Kings 22:24. Personal violence, as has been the case in some Christian controversies, takes the place of further debate. The hateful symbols of servitude should not be allowed to outrage the feelings of the people any longer. His success in breaking that was to be the pledge of the destruction of the power which it represented. Jeremiah, it will be noted, does not resist or retaliate, but commits himself to Him that judgeth righteously. “He went his way.”
Then the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the prophet, after that Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying,(12) Then the word of the Lord . . .—The narrative suggests the thought of a time of silent suffering and of prayer, to which the “word of the Lord” came as an answer. And that word declared, keeping to the same symbolism as before, that all attempts at resistance to the power which was for the time the scourge, and therefore the servant, of Jehovah, would only end in a more bitter and aggravated bondage. In the “iron yoke” we have an echo of Deuteronomy 28:48.
For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him: and I have given him the beasts of the field also.(14) I have given him the beasts of the field also.—On the significance of this addition see Note on Jeremiah 27:6.
Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie.(15) Hear now, Hananiah . . .—The narrative leaves the time and place of the interview uncertain, but suggests an interval of some days between it and the scene in the Temple court just narrated. In the strength of the “word of the Lord” which had come to him, the prophet can now tell his rival that he is a pretender, claiming the gift of prophecy for his own purposes and that of his party. There is a strange significance in the fact that the same official title is applied to both the true and the false prophets.
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD.(16) I will cast thee . . .—Literally, I send thee. The verb is the same as in the preceding verse, and is repeated with an emphatic irony.
This year thou shalt die . . .—The punishment is announced, with time given for repentance. In part, perhaps, the threat may have tended to work out its own fulfilment through the gnawing consciousness of shame and confusion in the detection of the false prophet’s assumptions. He knew that the Lord had not sent him. Seven months passed, and then the stroke fell. It is one of the instances of the prophet’s work, as “rooting out” and “pulling down” (Jeremiah 1:10), and has its parallels in the punishment of Ananias, in Acts 5:4-5, and of Elymas, in Acts 13:11.