The Word Made Fresh
1During that same year, which was early in the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of his fourth year, the prophet Hananiah of Gibeon, Azzur’s son, spoke to me in the temple before the priests and the people. 2“This is what the LORD Almighty, God of Israel, says: ‘I will shatter the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3Over the next two years I will bring back to this place all the sacred items from the LORD’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has taken. 4I will also bring back to this place Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and all the other exiles who were taken from Judah to Babylon, and I will break the hold the king of Babylon has on this place.’”
5Then Jeremiah replied to Hananiah in the hearing of the priest and others who were gathered in the LORD’s house. 6“Amen! May the LORD do just that! May the LORD fulfill your prophesy and bring back the sacred items from Babylon, and all the exiles as well. 7But, listen to what I have to say to you and all these people. 8Since the earliest times the prophets who preceded you and I have prophesied war and plague and disaster against many other countries and kingdoms. 9But any prophet who foresees peace will only be recognized as a prophet if his prognostications come true.”
10Then Hananiah removed the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it. 11He said in the hearing of all the people, “This is what the LORD says: ‘In the same way I will break the yoke of Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar from the neck of all their conquered nations within two years.’” Jeremiah left, then, and went on his way.
12Soon after this took place the LORD spoke to Jeremiah, saying, 13“Go tell Hananiah, you have broken a wooden yoke; it will be replaced by an iron yoke on your own neck. 14The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says, ‘I will place an iron yoke on the necks of all these nations to force them to serve Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. And they will serve him. I will even put him in charge of the wild animals.’”
15Then the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah: “Listen, the LORD has not sent you, but you have persuaded these people to embrace your lies. 16So, the LORD is about to remove you from the face of the earth. You are going to die this year because you have encouraged people to ignore the LORD.”
17In the seventh month of that year, the prophet Hananiah died.
1-4: We are in the fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah, around 594 B.C. Another prophet, one Hananiah, a court prophet who caters to the whims of the ruling authorities, makes a public announcement that he claims is the word of the LORD, that Nebuchadnezzar’s conquests are over and that within two years everything and everybody he had taken out of Jerusalem would be returned. This, of course, is in direct conflict with what we just read Jeremiah has told them.
5-9: Jeremiah feigns agreement with Hananiah. Then, however, he lets everybody know that the true test of a prophet is whether or not the prophecy comes to pass. We’ll see, he says.
10-11: In response, Hananiah grabs Jeremiah’s yoke which he has been carrying around on his back for about four years, since the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah (27:1-2). He’s trying to grab Jeremiah’s thunder as well, saying that, just as Jeremiah took up the yoke to demonstrate Judah’s servitude to Nebuchadnezzar, Hananiah’s removal of the yoke demonstrates that they will break the hold of Babylon. Jeremiah, wise fellow that he is, simply walks away. A few pounds lighter.
12-17: God tells Jeremiah to tell Hananiah that the wooden yoke will be replaced by one made of iron. But Jeremiah has had enough of being jerked around. He goes and tells Hananiah that God is really angry with him, and he is going to die! He does. Moral of the story: don’t mess with God’s prophets.
Compared to other tyrants of the time, Nebuchadnezzar actually seems to have been a humanitarian ruler who was willing to let his subjects live in relative peace. God was watching out for the welfare of God’s people even when they deserved to be punished. Sometimes God allows us to undergo suffering that we brought on ourselves, but God is always planning for our future restoration.