Jeremiah chapter 28 contains a dramatic confrontation between Jeremiah and a false prophet named Hananiah. Set during the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, this chapter highlights the difference between true messengers of God and false prophets who speak deception.
The core message involves a prophecy by Hananiah that God would break Babylon’s yoke of oppression over Judah within two years. Jeremiah counters that this message is false, asserting that the yoke would not be broken for a long time to come. Jeremiah’s message is vindicated when Hananiah dies shortly thereafter, confirming he was a false prophet.
This chapter contains valuable lessons for discernment that remain relevant today:
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- There will always be false prophets who proclaim a distorted message.
- We must test all teaching carefully against the standard of God’s Word.
- True prophets boldly proclaim God’s message, even when it is difficult.
- God vindicates His true messengers over time.
- Cheap grace and false optimism have destructive consequences.
Let’s explore the deep truths of this chapter in more detail. May we learn to embrace the whole counsel of God, test all teaching by Scripture, and walk in reverent obedience to God’s Word.
Hananiah’s False Prophecy (Jeremiah 28:1-4)
Chapter 28 opens by introducing Hananiah, a prophet from Gibeon who spoke to Jeremiah at the temple in the presence of priests and people. Hananiah directly contradicted the message Jeremiah had been proclaiming from the Lord (Jer. 27).
Jeremiah had said Judah must submit to Babylon for many years until God restored them. But Hananiah makes a bold prediction in verse 3:
“Within two full years I will bring back to this place all the articles of the LORD’s house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon.” (Jeremiah 28:3)
According to Hananiah, the exile would be swiftly ended and the temple articles restored. This was a message of cheap optimism, directly contradicting Jeremiah’s prophecy of a long captivity.
Jeremiah’s Initial Response (Jeremiah 28:5-9)
Jeremiah responds with a surprising concession, agreeing that he hopes Hananiah’s prophecy comes true:
“Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD perform your words which you have prophesied, to bring back the articles of the LORD’s house and all the captives from Babylon to this place.” (Jeremiah 28:6)
However, in verses 8-9 Jeremiah cites the precedent of past prophets who proclaimed doom that was fulfilled. This implies skepticism of Hananiah’s message. Jeremiah probably hopes for the best, but suspects the man is a false prophet. Time will vindicate the true word from God.
Hananiah Replaces Jeremiah’s Yoke (Jeremiah 28:10-11)
To provide a dramatic symbol of his prophecy, Hananiah takes the wooden yoke from Jeremiah’s neck – the yoke Jeremiah had worn to symbolize submission to Babylon – and breaks it.
Hananiah boldly declares:
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within two full years.’” (Jeremiah 28:11)
By breaking Jeremiah’s yoke, Hananiah attempts to graphically prove that God will swiftly end Babylon’s dominion. But in reality, this proves only that he lacks understanding of the word God had truly given through Jeremiah.
Jeremiah’s Response and Prophecy (Jeremiah 28:12-17)
In this dramatic confrontation, Jeremiah immediately responds with a chilling prophecy:
“Go and tell Hananiah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made in their place yokes of iron.” For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him. I have given him the beasts of the field also.”’” (Jeremiah 28:13-14)
Far from breaking the yoke of Babylon, Jeremiah declares that Hananiah has only made it stronger. Disobedience to God’s word through Jeremiah will result in an even harsher bondage.
Verses 15-17 contain a stinging rebuke of Hananiah for speaking falsely in God’s name and deceiving the people. Judgment is coming soon on this false prophet. By contrast, Jeremiah was sent by God and spoke truth – difficult as it was to accept.
The Death of Hananiah (Jeremiah 28:17)
The chapter concludes with the sobering report that Hananiah died two months later. God’s swift judgment proved he was a false prophet who spoke rebellion rather than God’s word. Meanwhile, Jeremiah’s message was vindicated as truth from God.
This dramatic object lesson remains relevant today. Those who proclaim merely what people want to hear – cheap grace and easy optimism – are false guides. By contrast, those who faithfully preach the hard truths of Scripture are often rejected, yet vindicated by God over time.
May we have discernment to test every message by the Word of God, rather than our own desires. And may we have courage to stand for truth, no matter how difficult it may be in the moment.
Detailed Exposition of Jeremiah 28
Now let’s take a closer, verse-by-verse look at this confrontation between Jeremiah and the false prophet Hananiah.
Hananiah’s False Prophecy (Verses 1-4)
Verse 1 provides some important context. This event occurred in the fifth month of the same year King Zedekiah had begun to reign. So it was still early in his reign, before the final rebellion and destruction of Jerusalem.
Hananiah is identified as a prophet from Gibeon who spoke publicly to Jeremiah at the temple, with all the priests and people listening. This temple setting added gravity to his pronouncement.
In verse 3 Hananiah directly contradicts the message from God that Jeremiah had proclaimed in chapter 27. He declares that within two years all the articles taken from the temple by Nebuchadnezzar would be returned and the captives released. In essence, it was a prophecy that the coming exile would be brief and easily resolved.
This message appealed to the people’s desires. After all, who wants to hear of long captivity and judgment? But that was precisely the problem – Hananiah was prophesying merely what the people wanted to hear, not the word God had truly spoken through Jeremiah.
Jeremiah’s Initial Response (Verses 5-9)
Jeremiah’s immediate response is somewhat surprising. In verse 6 he offers an “amen,” saying may the Lord fulfill your words and restore the articles and exiles.
However, in verses 8-9 Jeremiah refers back to the prophets of old like Isaiah and Micah who had proclaimed doom that was ultimately fulfilled. This implies doubt that Hananiah’s rosy predictions would come true.
It seems that Jeremiah hoped for the best – that somehow judgment could be averted – but suspected Hananiah was peddling false optimism. Time would soon confirm who spoke truth. Jeremiah had confidence that God would vindicate those who faithfully declared His word.
Hananiah Replaces the Yoke (Verses 10-11)
To provide a dramatic symbol, Hananiah takes the wooden yoke from Jeremiah’s neck – the yoke symbolizing submission to Babylon – and breaks it. He declares God will similarly “break the yoke of Babylon” within two years.
Of course, this was not a genuine prophetic act, since the first yoke had been God’s instruction to Jeremiah. Hananiah’s display only demonstrated his complete misalignment with God’s word through the true prophet, Jeremiah.
Jeremiah’s Response and Prophecy (Verses 12-17)
Jeremiah immediately counters that Hananiah has only succeeded in replacing the wooden yoke with an iron one – meaning Judah’s bondage would now only become harsher. Defiance of God’s word would deepen, not remove, their oppression.
In verses 15-17 Jeremiah rebukes Hananiah harshly, accusing him of speaking lies in God’s name. He goes so far as to say Hananiah has preached rebellion against the Lord. A stinging indictment!
By contrast, Jeremiah makes clear he was sent by God and speaks truth, however difficult it was for the people and leaders to accept. Two months later, Hananiah’s swift death proved conclusively which man spoke for the Lord.
Lessons for Today from Jeremiah 28
What timeless truths can we apply from this confrontation between the true prophet and a false flatterer?
1. There will always be false prophets who distort God’s word. From ancient Israel down to today, many people claim to speak for God but proclaim false messages that merely scratch itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3). We must be constantly on guard.
2. Test all teaching by Scripture. The only way to discern truth from falsehood is to carefully match every message against the standard of God’s Word (Acts 17:11). No matter how pleasing the words or how impressive the speaker, we reject anything contradicting the Bible.
3. True prophets boldly proclaim God’s message, even when difficult. True men and women of God are willing to preach hard truth and endure rejection to remain faithful to Scripture. They care far more about pleasing God than being liked.
4. God vindicates true prophets over time. Though false messengers may prosper for a season and true servants face opposition, God ultimately confirms and upholds those who honor His word.
5. Flattery and cheap grace fill pews but distort truth. Messages focused merely on offering people what they want to hear may be initially popular, but they lack spiritual substance and breed complacency.
6. Obeying God’s difficult words leads to blessing. While hard teachings like repentance and submission seem harsh initially, they lead to life and peace when embraced by faith. God’s path always proves wise and good in the end.
May the stark contrast between Jeremiah and Hananiah spur us to be discerning, cling to Scripture alone, proclaim God’s whole counsel, test all teaching, embrace hard truths, and trust the vindication that comes to all who honor God’s Word.
Jeremiah chapter 28 contains a dramatic object lesson in discernment that remains deeply relevant today. The contrast between the true prophet Jeremiah and the flattering false prophet Hananiah provides essential insight into how we can recognize truth versus deception.
This passage warns us that there will always be false teachers who distort God’s word to cater to people’s desires. We must be vigilant to test every message against the standard of Scripture alone. True servants of God will preach the full counsel of God’s Word, even when it is difficult to accept.
Though false messengers may prosper for a season, God ultimately vindicates those who honor His word above all else. May this confrontation strengthen us to cling to biblical truth no matter how unpopular it may be. God’s way is always right, wise, and good – in His perfect timing.
As we seek to navigate through the confusing voices of our day, let us ground all discernment in the sure foundation of God’s holy, inspired, inerrant Word. With Scripture as our guide, we can avoid deception and walk steadily in the light of God’s eternal truth.