The opening verse of Jeremiah 28 confirms what has been said about the date in the previous chapter. Both events were in the reign of Zedekiah. "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 Jehovah, in the presence of the priests, and of all the people."
At this time the iniquity and enmity of the false prophets become more manifest than ever. Hananiah resents in the strongest way Jeremiah's prediction. He prophesied in the name of Jehovah, "Within two full years will I bring again into this place" from Babylon all the vessels of the temple. This was the false witness of restoration that Hananiah bore in the presence of Jeremiah, who in answer only said, "Amen, Jehovah do so" (verse 6). Hananiah predicted that Judah's yoke under Nebuchadnezzar would in two full years be broken. Jeremiah with great meekness says, "Amen, Jehovah do so." If such was His will, the true prophet was content.
Hananiah gave a sign with his false prophecy, taking the yoke from off Jeremiah's neck, breaking it and saying, "Thus saith Jehovah, Even so, will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations"; but Jeremiah went his way without any reply (verse 11). This self-restraint is a great lesson for us; the servant of the Lord shall not strive. The same man, Jeremiah, who had been like a brazen wall, who had resisted kings and prophets and priests to the face, now refuses to contend with the prophet Hananiah.
The reason for his conduct is plain. Jeremiah did remonstrate, and warn while there was a hope of repentance or when long-suffering grace called for it, but where there was no conscience at work, where there was a false pretence of the name of the Lord, he simply goes his way. He leaves God to judge between prophet and prophet. If Jeremiah was true, Hananiah was false. He was perfectly sure that he was true himself. He allows, therefore, the word and the act of Hananiah to be before the consciences of the men of Judah, without adding a word of his own. He would have weakened his former testimony, if he had said one single word more.
Jeremiah even wished that Hananiah's prophecy of immediate deliverance from the yoke of Babylon might be true; but there had been no repentance in Judah. It is always a mark of false prophecies that in a day of evil they promised prosperity. When the people of God have departed from Him, false prophets prophesy smooth things. They have their glowing dreams of progress and of the extension of the work and blessing of the Lord. The coming of great things and pleasant things is their invariable testimony. A true prophet, on the contrary, in the day of evil warns of the coming of the Lord to judge the ungodly. This is what Jeremiah did. But Hananiah held out the welcome prospect that a general deliverance from servitude to the king of Babylon was close at hand.
But afterwards God gave Jeremiah a word to say to Hananiah. "Go and tell Hananiah, saying, Thus saith Jehovah; Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes 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 serve 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 cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against Jehovah. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month" (verses 13-17). It was a solemn public vindication of the truth of Jeremiah's prophecies and the falsity and deceit of Hananiah's.