We have here an instance,
I. Of the insolence of the false prophet. To complete the affront he designed Jeremiah, he took the yoke from off his neck which he carried as a memorial of what he had prophesied concerning the enslaving of the nations to Nebuchadnezzar, and he broke it, that he might give a sign of the accomplishment of this prophecy, as Jeremiah had given of his, and might seem to have conquered him, and to have defeated the intention of his prophecy. See how the lying spirit, in the mouth of this false prophet, mimics the language of the Spirit of truth: Thus saith the Lord, So will I break the yoke of the king of Babylon, not only from the neck of this nation, but from the neck of all nations, within two full years. Whether by the force of a heated imagination Hananiah had persuaded himself to believe this, or whether he knew it to be false, and only persuaded them to believe it, does not appear; but it is plain that he speaks with abundance of assurance. It is no new thing for lies to be fathered upon the God of truth.
II. Of the patience of the true prophet. Jeremiah quietly went his way, and when he was reviled he reviled not again, and would not contend with one that was in the height of his fury and in the midst of the priests and people that were violently set against him. The reason why he went his way was not because he had nothing to answer, but because he was willing to stay till God was pleased to furnish him with a direct and immediate answer, which as yet he had not received. He expected that God would send a special message to Hananiah, and he would say nothing till he had received that. I, as a deaf man, heard not, for thou wilt hear, and thou shalt answer, Lord, for me. It may sometimes be our wisdom rather to retreat than to contend. Currenti cede furori—Give place unto wrath.
III. Of the justice of God in giving judgment between Jeremiah and his adversary. Jeremiah went his way, as a man in whose mouth there was no rebuke, but God soon put a word into his mouth; for he will appear for those who silently commit their cause to him. 1. The word of God, in the mouth of Jeremiah, is ratified and confirmed. Let not Jeremiah himself distrust the truth of what he had delivered in God’s name because it met with such a daring opposition and contradiction. If what we have spoken be the truth of God, we must not unsay it because men gainsay it; for great is the truth and will prevail. It will stand, therefore let us stand to it, and not fear that men’s unbelief or blasphemy will make it of no effect. Hananiah has broken the yokes of wood, but Jeremiah must make for them yokes of iron, which cannot be broken (Jer. 28:13), for (says God) “I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations, which shall lie heavier, and bind harder, upon them (Jer. 28:14), that they may serve the king of Babylon, and not be able to shake off the yoke however they may struggle, for they shall serve him whether they will or no;” and who is he that can contend with God’s counsel? What was said before is repeated again: I have given him the beasts of the field also, as if there were something significant in that. Men had by their wickedness made themselves like the beasts that perish, and therefore deserved to be ruled by an arbitrary power, as beasts are ruled, and such a power Nebuchadnezzar ruled with; for whom he would he slew and whom he would he kept alive. 2. Hananiah is sentenced to die for contradicting it, and Jeremiah, when he has received commission from God, boldly tells him so to his face, though before he received that commission he went away and said nothing. (1.) The crimes of which Hananiah stands convicted are cheating the people and affronting God: Thou makest this people to trust in a lie, encouraging them to hope that they shall have peace, which will make their destruction the more terrible to them when it comes; yet this was not the worst: Thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord; thou hast taught them to despise all the good counsel given them in God’s name by the true prophets, and hast rendered it ineffectual. Those have a great deal to answer for who, by telling sinners that they shall have peace though they go on, harden their hearts in a contempt of the reproofs and admonitions of the word, and the means and methods God takes to bring them to repentance. (2.) The judgment given against him is, “I will cast thee off from the face of the earth, as unworthy to live upon it; thou shalt be buried in it. This year thou shalt die, and die as a rebel against the Lord, to whom death will come with a sting and a curse.” This sentence was executed, Jer. 28:17. Hananiah died the same year, within two months; for his prophecy is dated the fifth month (Jer. 28:1) and his death the seventh. Good men may perhaps be suddenly taken off by death in the midst of their days, and in mercy to them, as Josiah was; but this being foretold as the punishment of his sin, and coming to pass accordingly, it may safely be construed as a testimony from Heaven against him and a confirmation of Jeremiah’s mission. And, if the people’s hearts had not been wretchedly hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, it would have prevented their being further hardened by the deceitfulness of their prophets.