Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
JEREMIAH CHAPTER 28
Hananiah’s false prophecy: Jeremiah’s answer, Jeremiah 28:1-9. Hananiah breaketh Jeremiah’s yoke: he foretelleth an iron yoke, and Hananiah’s death, Jeremiah 28:10-17.
Here is a great appearing difficulty, viz. how the fourth year could be called
the beginning of Zedekiah’s reign, who reigned in all but eleven years, which if they be divided into three parts, the fourth year can hardly be in any propriety called the beginning of his reign. Many things are said to untie this knot, which by such as are curious may be read both in the English Annotations and in Mr. Pool’s Synopsis, I shall only repeat what seemed to both them, and seemeth also to me, the best solution. Though it be said in the fourth year, yet it is not said, in the fourth year of Zedekiah’s reign; they therefore think, that the fourth year of the sabbatical course is here intended. The Jews had a kind of jubilee every seventh year, it was a year when the land was to rest, and not be tilled, Leviticus 25:1-4, and in that year they were to release their debtors and servants, Deuteronomy 15:1; which notion of this fourth year is very probable, if the year wherein the city was besieged was a sabbatical year, or year of rest. For if Zedekiah’s first year were the fourth of the seven that made the sabbatical circle, his third year was another sabbatical year, and his tenth another, presently after which the city was taken.
Hananiah we read no more in Scripture; it is probable from the place where he lived, which was one of the cities of the priests, that he was a priest, but no more than a pretended prophet. He comes to Jeremiah in the temple, where he was wont to deliver his prophecies, to confront him in the presence both of the priests and the people, saying,
The false prophet counterfeiteth the style of the true prophets, both in the names which he gives unto God, and in speaking of what God would do, as if already done.
It appeareth by what we met with Jeremiah 27:16, that this was the constant song of the city prophets at that time, but we read not of any but this Hananiah, who was so confident as to limit a time; nor doth he mention any long time, he saith
within two full years; but he spake falsely, for it appeareth, from Jeremiah 52:31, that Jeconiah was there thirty-seven years.
Only it is admirable, that being so nigh the king’s court he should mention the return of Jehoiachin, or Jeconiah, which, had it been true, must have been to the prejudice of Zedekiah, for Jeconiah was the right heir to the crown, being the son of Jehoiakim. Zedekiah his uncle was put in by the conqueror, but it is probable he saw Jehoiachin was more acceptable to the people, and that the faction for the nephew was greater than for the uncle. False teachers are always on the greatest side, either for number or for power.
The true prophet Jeremiah speaks to this false prophet with as much boldness as he had spoke to him with impudence, and in the same presence of the priests and of the people, but with a preface of great charity and modesty.
Amen, saith he; which particle is used in holy writ, either as a particle of assertion, as it is most ordinarily used both in this single form, and doubled by our Saviour in the gospel; or as a particle of wishing and praying, upon which account it is used in the Lord’s prayer, though there it signifieth more than here, viz. a faith or belief that God will grant the petitions, as well as a desire that he would grant them; here it signifieth no more than the latter, and is expounded by the next words: nor indeed doth it, or can it here, signify so much as an absolute hearty desire, for Jeremiah could not heartily pray for that which God had told him he would not do. Jeremiah therefore must be understood here, either to have spoken only as a man, testifying the kindness he had for his country; then the sense is, If it be the will of God, or may it be the will of God; I wish what thou hast said might come to pass: or else in sensu composito: q.d. The Lord give unto this people a heart to reform and amend their ways, that the words which thou hast spoken may come to pass.
The word which I am now about to speak concerneth, thee, and not thee alone, but all the people; therefore do thou mark it well, and let them mark it also.
That is, Thou and I are not the first prophets that have foretold to countries and nations the great judgments of God coming upon them,
war, evil, pestilence: by evil, some think is to be understood famine, but it is not much material.
By peace is here meant prosperity, all good being by the Hebrews usually understood under the notion of peace. The prophets either prophesied evil or good, according as God revealed his will unto them; what way was for them to discover whether the prophets were truly sent of God, yea or no? It was known by the event: this was the rule God set, Deuteronomy 18:22,
When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken. But this was not true on the contrary part, for a prophet might speak a thing, which thing might come to pass, and yet be none of the Lord’s prophets, nor be hearkened to, as appeareth from Deuteronomy 13:1-3. Some have thought that prophecies concerning good things always were brought to pass if the prophet were a true prophet, but it appeareth otherwise from Jeremiah 18:9,10. Prophecies both concerning good and evil might not come to pass, and yet the prophet be a true prophet, in case the manners of the people altered; for in all promises or threatenings of temporal good or evil there is a condition to be understood; God neither by his promises bindeth himself to do good to wicked men, nor by his threatenings tieth up his own hands from showing mercy to such as turn good: but some observe yet this difference, that good things are in Scripture never absolutely promised, but they come certainly to pass, and are fulfilled; but God for terror often threateneth evil things, without expressing any condition, when notwithstanding a condition is understood, upon the fulfilling of which the threatening cometh not to pass, as it was in the case of Nineveh, upon the prophecy of Jonah. But the greater difficulty is to determine by what rule they could judge one a true or false prophet, if they might not always judge by the event, the coming or not coming to pass of what he prophesied. I answer, they were to judge from the word of God, as well as from the event, Isaiah 8:20; therefore, Deuteronomy 13:1-3, the people were commanded not to hearken to that prophet which should confirm what he said by a sign or wonder, if his scope were by it to persuade people to idolatry. So that if a prophet prophesied good and prosperity to any people, the people were to consider what his scope was, and whether what he prophesied was according to the law of God, which speaketh no good to a wicked impenitent people; and though what he said came to pass, yet he was to be determined no true prophet, if what he said were contrary to God’s revealed will, or his scope in speaking of it was to harden people in sinful courses, or to seduce them from the right ways of God. Jeremiah here, as to the trial of the truth of his and Hananiah’s contrary prophecies, appealeth to the event, telling him that he as a man heartily wished that his words might prove true.
The prophet Jeremiah’s coming into the temple with a yoke upon his neck, as a type of the yoke of the king of Babylon, under which the Jews were to come, gave occasion to the affront given him by the false prophet; in a further degree of impudence, being thus confronted by Jeremiah, he pulls the yoke off Jeremiah’s neck, and breaketh it in a high and impudent contempt of God, and his will revealed by this prophet, and confirmed by this yoke as a sign, adding also the following words.
As God hath his sacraments to confirm the truth of his word, of which his ministers are the stewards and administrators; so the devil hath his sacraments, of which his prophets are the administrators. God by his prophet Jeremiah had revealed his will as to the king of Babylon’s success against many nations, and bringing them into his servitude; as a sacrament or sign of this, he had commanded Jeremiah to put on a yoke with bonds. Hananiah, the false prophet, cometh in the name of God, and declares the contrary, that within two years God would break the yoke of the king of Babylon, and free the nations in subjection to him; and as a sacrament or sign to gain credit to this falsehood, he plucks off Jeremiah’s yoke, and breaks it, and expounds himself that God should so break the king of Babylon’s yoke from the neck of all nations, and pretends he had a commission from God to say this. Jeremiah, not able to endure to hear such lies, goeth away in testimony of his dissent from him, and adherence to what he had said.
Some time after this, God taking notice of the affront put upon his prophet Jeremiah, for faithfully discharging the message with which he had intrusted him, revealeth his mind unto Jeremiah, that he might declare it unto the people, and particularly to this false prophet.
Jeremiah seeing the impudence of Hananiah, and that his further discourse with him would do no good, but it may be have caused more danger to himself, prophesying what was more ungrateful to the people than what the false prophet prophesied, and possibly desirous further to know the will of God, withdrew himself. Soon after God sends him back to the people and to Hananiah with this message, That he by his false prophecy had done the people no good, but much hurt, further incensed God against them, and provoked him to make their judgment heavier, giving them iron yokes instead of those of wood.
For notwithstanding all he had said, God was resolved to justify his word, and to bring them under subjection to Nebuchadnezzar, and to give all they had also into his power.
Jeremiah being a second time confirmed in the truth of his revelation, and having likewise a special revelation relating to this false prophet, comes now and tells him his doom, viz. that he should die within a year, because he had taught people to believe, and to hope for, and trust to what was false, and they were never like to see.
And because by this his doctrine he had made God a liar, contradicting his will revealed by Jeremiah, and by it taught people to hold out against Nebuchadnezzar, and not quietly to yield to him.
That is, within the compass of a year after that Jeremiah had spoken these words, within two months after that Jeremiah had thus prophesied, as appeareth from Jeremiah 28:1; so dangerous a thing it is for ministers to teach people contrary to the revealed will of God.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jeremiah 28". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24