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What the Bible says about Hananiah's Error
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Jeremiah 27:1-11

God told Jeremiah to make a number of wooden yokes for himself and for various neighboring kings. The yokes symbolized servitude to Nebuchadnezzar, and poor Jeremiah spent many days wearing a wooden yoke as an example. Through this visual aid, God was instructing Judah, and the other kingdoms, to submit to Babylonian rule. Even though doing so would be very humbling for Judah, it would be better for them than to resist Nebuchadnezzar, and thus God's will. He had already sent numerous prophets, with scores of warnings to repent and turn back to Him, and now the time of reckoning had arrived.

David C. Grabbe
Hananiah's Error

Jeremiah 28:1-4

Previously, God told Jeremiah to make a number of wooden yokes for himself and for various neighboring kings (Jeremiah 27:1-11), which symbolized servitude to Nebuchadnezzar. Through this, God was instructing to submit to Babylonian rule. Even though doing so would be humbling for Judah, it would be better for them than to resist Nebuchadnezzar, and thus God's will.

But not everyone in Judah was ready to accept this reality. Even though God specifically warned against false prophets who spoke against submitting to Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 27:9-10), this is exactly what happened in the case of an obscure prophet named Hananiah.

Jeremiah had previously prophesied that Judah would be in exile in Babylon for a full seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11-12). He also foretold that Jeconiah (Coniah) would die in a foreign land (Jeremiah 22:24-26) and that the vessels of the Temple would remain there until the day that God brought them back (Jeremiah 27:19-22). Now, though, Hananiah came with a message that directly contradicted Jeremiah's prophecies. In Hananiah's vision of the future, Judah's restoration was just around the corner; everything would be back to normal within two years.

David C. Grabbe
Hananiah's Error

Jeremiah 28:5-9

With a note of sarcasm, Jeremiah replies that he would be thrilled if Hananiah's vision were correct—it would be a remarkable turn of events. Then he points out that the prophets before them had all prophesied calamity rather than prosperity. Hananiah's words were completely out of sync with God's pattern of warning His people through the prophets.

Prior to Jeremiah, God had sent Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. He had also sent Jonah to the empire of Assyria. All of them warned of tragedy and disaster if the people did not turn to God. Such warnings reach all the way back to Moses, who recorded the "Blessings and Curses" of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, detailing what God will do to a people who reject Him. Further, God also warns His people to be skeptical of those proclaiming a message of peace that lacks repentance (Jeremiah 4:10; 6:14; 8:11; 14:13; Ezekiel 13:10, 16). But, as God instructs in Deuteronomy 18:21-22, if what Hananiah said did not come to pass, it would be evidence that God had not sent him.

David C. Grabbe
Hananiah's Error

Jeremiah 28:10-11

Hananiah ignored Jeremiah's words of caution and broke the God-ordained yoke that symbolized Nebuchadnezzar's authority over the kingdoms. Jeremiah probably enjoyed a measure of relief at no longer having to wear the yoke, but the gravity of what Hananiah had done overshadowed it.

David C. Grabbe
Hananiah's Error

Jeremiah 28:12-17

God charges Hananiah with causing the people to trust in a lie, as well as inciting rebellion against Him. His transgressions were so grievous that God killed Hananiah two months later—a month for each year in his false vision (Jeremiah 28:1-4).

Hananiah's prophecy urged rebellion against God in a couple of ways. First, Scripture is clear that God had installed Nebuchadnezzar in a position of power over this area of the world. Though not a godly man, he filled a position that God had given him, thus to resist his rule was to rebel against the God-ordained order. When Hananiah predicted deliverance in just two years, it encouraged Judeans to think that they did not have to submit to this foreign king. In this way, he encouraged them to disregard God-instituted authority.

Second, Hananiah's lie subtly altered the reason for their crisis. He redefined the foreign domination from something that God deliberately caused (as told by the prophets) into something that He merely allowed and would soon remedy. The false prophet shifted the explanation of their pitiful circumstances from something that God had orchestrated due to the sins of His people into a time-and-chance problem that He would reverse.

This removed any need for self-examination. It exonerated the nation and its leaders, removing any thought that the people had misbehaved themselves into this crisis by rejecting God. By eliminating any thought of cause-and-effect regarding sin, Hananiah was in fact encouraging them to continue in their disobedience. Without any apparent consequences for sin, the mind begins to reason that sin is not the problem. Hananiah told them everything would be fine, but God saw it as teaching His people to rebel.

Something similar is happening today in a small way. Some are promoting an idea that the world is actually getting better. It is not a widespread belief, but some have taken such a rose-colored view of God that they believe mankind's best days are just ahead. They are convinced that there will not be catastrophe and death leading up to Jesus Christ's return.

To arrive at such a notion, one must nullify the pattern of God's prophets, just as Hananiah did. One has to find new meaning even for the words of Jesus Himself in places like the Olivet Prophecy where He plainly says that "unless those days are shortened, no flesh would be saved [alive]" (Matthew 24:22). Under this view, the bulk of Old and New Testament prophecies become either merely symbolic or already fulfilled, including all of Revelation. And a person must really cherry-pick his evidence to maintain the belief that circumstances in the world are improving! Some are actually doing this for the sole purpose of giving hope. However, like Hananiah's prophecy, it is a false hope.

David C. Grabbe
Hananiah's Error

Jeremiah 31:7-9

This is one place among several where God calls Israel His son. This is an unfulfilled prophecy of the "second exodus," when God re-gathers the nations of Israel and Judah. Notice that God will bring back a remnant—all that remains of decimated Israel. They return with weeping and supplication to God. These are the ones who have survived the sword (verse 2). They have been humbled and returned to God, who returns them to His land.

Why will God humble His son in such a way? The answer is in Proverbs 3:12 (NET): "For the Lord disciplines [corrects, chastens, punishes, scourges] those He loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights." God confirms this in Jeremiah 46:28 (NET): "Though I completely destroy all the nations where I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will indeed discipline you, but only in due measure. I will not allow you to go entirely unpunished."

In Jeremiah's day (and before), God loved the Judeans so much that He would not allow them to continue on their path of self-destruction. They resisted Him strongly, but He loved them far too much to allow them to continue without a course correction that they could not ignore. It was painful and bloody. Yet, it resulted in their being humbled enough that the survivors were at least somewhat more inclined to listen to God.

The same thing is playing out in the nations of Israel and Judah today. God loves His people, and He plans a bright future for them. But He does not love their disregard of Him. He loves them too much to allow them to self-destruct fully. He will allow them to make terrible decisions and reap the wretched consequences. He will also intervene to get their attention with pain that will only get worse when they try to ignore it.

Either way, conditions will continue to deteriorate as we approach Christ's return because they must. If God allowed the nations of Israel to turn away from Him without consequence, their hearts would be fully set in them to do evil (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Rather than allow that to happen, God will cause many to die, knowing they can be resurrected and given a new heart. He loves them too much to allow them to become incorrigible.

We have tremendous hope, but our hope is not in the brotherhood of man becoming less dysfunctional on its own. Our hope is in the Creator God who is making man in His image (Genesis 1:26), despite that effort involving pain, death, resurrection, and thousands of years in between. Our hope is in the One who will cut short the days ahead, for the sake of—for the love of—the elect. He loves His creation more than we can comprehend, but that love is sometimes demonstrated in ways that we also do not comprehend.

David C. Grabbe
Hananiah's Error


 




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