5 March 2016

Jeremiah 28:1-17

“Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you made this people trust in a lie.” (v. 15)

Psalm: Psalm 50:1-15


After Jehoiakim died his son, Jehoiachin (known also as Jeconiah - verse 4) became king of Judah. Within months the king of Babylon had come and taken him away, along with other leaders and treasures from the temple. In his place another relative, Zedekiah, was made king; although very much under Babylonian rule.

All that Jeremiah had warned about was coming true. Instead of resisting, Jeremiah's message now was to embrace it. In chapter 27 Jeremiah made for himself a yoke, the harness for beasts of burden. He walked around Jerusalem in it, encouraging everyone to accept their servitude to Babylon as the way to maintain the peace they had. He warned against listening to false prophets predicting a quick restoration.

Hananiah was just such a prophet. His name meant 'The Lord is gracious' and he argued that God was more gracious than Jeremiah suggested, bringing back the treasures and people from exile. The term 'false prophet' shouldn't make us assume though that he was a charlatan. Rather he may have held to the stories of God's deliverance in the past and assumed it would happen again (for example 2 Kings 19), unable to believe that God would allow Judah to be totally devastated.

Hananiah shaped his argument in the same way Jeremiah did, claiming authority from God. As Jeremiah broke the pot (Jeremiah 19:10), so Hananiah broke the yoke (verse 10).

In his public response Jeremiah places the burden of proof upon the prophet of peace; he must demonstrate his authority by peace flourishing in the kingdom. With hindsight, after the final exile in 587BC we see the authority certainly lay with Jeremiah. He was right to claim that God had not sent Hananiah. Whilst it may seem harsh or barbaric in our day, Deuteronomy 18:20 sentenced any false prophet to death.

Jeremiah gives a different way to interpret world affairs. To the eyes of all, Babylon had overrun Judah because of its supreme power. To Jeremiah, and the community who found themselves in exile, the interpretation of the events focused on the work of God rather than any human power.

To Ponder

  • How do you respond when you hear preachers giving very different accounts of who God is, how we might relate to God, how we are to engage in the world?
  • Where do you see signs of God's activity in bad situations as well as good?

Bible notes author

The Revd Will Fletcher

Will is a presbyter stationed in the Sheffield Circuit. He has oversight of one multisite church (The Beacon Methodist Church) which is spread over three locations in western Sheffield.