Jeremiah 28:1-17 – Jeremiah and Hananiah, the False Prophet


Jeremiah 28:1-17


Jeremiah 28 is a parade example of the conflict between Jeremiah and false prophets, though Hananiah does not look the part.


Jeremiah often refers to false prophets, and Hananiah is the most prominent. Hananiah is something of a surprise to a reader who has repeatedly read about the false prophets. One is led to expect a charlatan or a quack, an idolater or an immoral individual, one who is obviously deceptive. The portrayal of Hananiah, whose name means “Yahweh is gracious,” cuts against such an expectation. He is presented as a model of prophetic propriety. He uses all the right language, including the typical “Thus says the Lord” (28:2) and the use of the divine “I.” He also performs symbolic acts (28:10), as does Jeremiah (for example, 13:1-11). He is given genealogical and geographical identity; he is placed in a specific historical context, comparable to that of Jeremiah himself (compare 28:1 with 1:1-3).

Moreover, the text identifies Hananiah simply as “the prophet,” with no qualifications (interestingly, the Septuagint identifies him as a “false prophet”). In other words, the only possible clue as to the “falseness” of Hananiah’s preaching is the word he speaks. And, then, many a hearer/reader would be led to think that he is even more believable than Jeremiah himself. He preaches the gospel so clearly! God is about to act in saving ways on behalf of Israel. Jeremiah even has to hesitate for some time before he sees through what Hananiah has to say. He is finally able to respond only when he has heard from Yahweh. Jeremiah will, finally, speak a word of salvation to Israel as well, but such a word can in truth only come through judgment.

Hananiah is put to death according to the law of Deuteronomy 13:1-5.