1. And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, which was of Gibeon, spake unto me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests, and of all the people, saying,
1. Factum est anno illo, principio regni Zedechiae, regis Jehudah, anno quarto, mense quinto, loquutus ad me Chananiah, filius Assur, propheta qui erat e Guibeon (oriundus e Guibeon) in Templo Jehovae, coram oculis sacerdotum et totius populi, dicendo,
2. Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.
2. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, confregi (aut contrivi) jugum regis Babylonis.
The Prophet relates here with what haughtiness, and even fury, the false prophet Hananiah came forward to deceive the people and to proclaim his trumperies, when yet he must have been conscious of his own wickedness. It hence clearly appears how great must be the madness of those who, being blinded by God, are carried away by a satanic impulse. The circumstances of the case especially shew how great a contempt of God was manifested by this impostor; for he came into the Temple, the priests were present, the people were there, and there before his eyes he had the sanctuary and the ark of the covenant; and we know that the ark of the covenant is everywhere represented as having the presence of God; for God was by that symbol in a manner visible, when he made evident the presence of his power and favor in the Temple. As Hananiah then stood before God's eyes, how great must have been his stupidity to thrust himself forward and impudently to announce falsehood in the name of God himself! He had yet no doubt but that he falsely boasted that he was God's prophet.
And he used the same words as Jeremiah did, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel Surely these words ought to have been like a thunderbolt to him, laying prostrate his perverseness, even had he been harder than iron; for what does Jehovah of hosts mean? This name expresses not only the eternal existence of God, but also his power, which diffuses itself through heaven and earth. Ought not Hananiah then to have trembled when any other had alleged God's name? But now, though he derided and laughed to scorn the prophetic office as well as God's holy name, he yet hesitated not to boast that God was the author of this prophecy, which was yet nothing but an imposture. And he added, the God of Israel, so that he might be in nothing inferior to Jeremiah. This was a grievous trial, calculated not only to discourage the people, but also to break down the firmness of the holy Prophet. The people saw that God's name was become a subject of contest; there was a dreadful conflict, |God has spoken to me;| |Nay, rather to me.| Jeremiah and Hananiah were opposed, the one to the other; each of them claimed to be a Prophet. Such was the conflict; the name of God seemed to have been assumed at pleasure, and flung forth by the devil as in sport.
As to Jeremiah, his heart must have been grievously wounded, when he saw that unprincipled man boldly profaning God's name. But, as I have already said, God in the meantime supported the minds of the godly, so that they were not wholly cast down, though they must have been somewhat disturbed. For we know that God's children were not so destitute of feeling as not to be moved by such things; but yet God sustained all those who were endued with true religion. It was indeed easy for them to distinguish between Jeremiah and Hananiah; for they saw that the former announced the commands of God, while the latter sought nothing else but the favor and plaudits of men.
But with regard to Hananiah, he was to them an awful spectacle of blindness and of madness, for he dreaded not the sight of God himself, but entered the Temple and profaned it by his lies, and at the same time assumed in contempt the name of God, and boasted that he was a prophet, while he was nothing of the kind. Let us not then wonder if there be many mercenary brawlers at this day, who without shame and fear fiercely pretend God's name, and thus exult over us, as though God had given them all that they vainly prattle, while yet it may be fully proved that they proclaim nothing but falsehoods; for God has justly blinded them, as they thus profane his holy name. We shall now come to the words:
And it was in the same year, even in the fourth of Zedekiah's reign, etc. The fourth year seems to have been improperly called the beginning of his reign. We have said elsewhere, that it may have been that God had laid up this prophecy with Jeremiah, and did not design it to be immediately published. But there would be nothing strange in this, were the confirmation of his reign called its beginning. Zedekiah was made king by Nebuchadnezzar, because the people would not have been willing to accept a foreigner. He might indeed have set one of his own governors over the whole country; and he might also have made a king of one of the chief men of the land, but he saw that anything of this kind would have been greatly disliked. He therefore deemed it enough to take away Jeconiah, and to put in his place one who had not much power nor much wealth, and who was to be his tributary, as the case was with Zedekiah. But in course of time Zedekiah increased in power, so that he was at peace in his own kingdom. We also know that he was set over neighboring countries, as Nebuchadnezzar thought it advantageous to bind him to himself by favors. This fourth year then might well be deemed the beginning of his reign, for during three years things were so disturbed, that he possessed no authority, and hardly dared to ascend the throne. This then is the most probable opinion.
He says afterwards, that Hananiah spoke to him in the presence of the priests and of the whole people Hananiah ought at least to have been touched and moved when he heard Jeremiah speaking, he himself had no proof of his own call; nay, he was an impostor, and he knew that he did nothing but deceive the people, and yet he audaciously persisted in his object, and, as it were, avowedly obtruded himself that he might contend with the Prophet, as though he carried on war with God. He said, Broken is the yoke of the king of Babylon, that is, the tyranny by which he has oppressed the people shall be shortly broken. But he alluded to the yoke which Jeremiah had put on, as we shall presently see. The commencement of his prophecy was, that there was no reason for the Jews to dread the present power of the king of Babylon, for God would soon overthrow him. They could not have entertained hope of restoration, or of a better condition, until that monarchy was trodden under foot; for as long as the king of Babylon bore rule, there was no hope that he would remit the tribute, and restore to the Jews the vessels of the Temple. Hananiah then began with this, that God would break the power of the king of Babylon, so that he would be constrained, willing or unwilling, to let the people free, or that the people would with impunity extricate themselves from the grasp of his power. He then adds, --