That same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, in the fifth month, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet, who was of Gibeon, spoke to me in Yahweh’s house, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying, “Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years I will bring again into this place all the vessels of Yahweh’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried to Babylon. I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, who went to Babylon,’ says Yahweh; ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’ ”
Then the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests, and in the presence of all the people who stood in Yahweh’s house, even the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May Yahweh do so. May Yahweh perform your words which you have prophesied, to bring again the vessels of Yahweh’s house, and all those who are captives, from Babylon to this place. Nevertheless listen now to this word that I speak in your ears, and in the ears of all the people: The prophets who have been before me and before you of old prophesied against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, of evil, and of pestilence. The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet happens, then the prophet will be known, that Yahweh has truly sent him.”
This passage presents a serious problem. What do you do when two prophets speak seemingly contradictory messages? Here, the prophet Hananiah said that in two years, Nebuchadnezzar will return all of the captives taken to Babylon as well as all of the temple vessels. Jeremiah had just said that if the people refuse to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, they will be destroyed and all of the rest of the temple vessels will be taken away. Why would Nebuchadnezzar give back what he had taken if they were just going to end up surrendering? More importantly, how are we supposed to handle it when prophets say things that don’t seem to go together?
Thankfully, Jeremiah shows us how to handle this by his own example. First of all, Jeremiah agrees that if it is the word of God, it must be accepted. He started out by saying: “Amen!” If it really was a word from God, then God is certainly able to change His mind and stop Nebuchadnezzar. After all, Jeremiah was asking the people to repent. Perhaps, within those two years, the people were going to repent and God would send the captives home. Perhaps, Jeremiah realized that God could bring them home with the temple vessels and then the people would surrender to Nebuchadnezzar and both of their prophesies would work out together after all. There was one problem though. Many prophets, including Isaiah, had said that war, evil and pestilence was coming. Those prophets had already been proven to be legitimate. That leads us to an important thing to remember when someone seems to contradict the Bible. It’s not possible for the Bible to be wrong. Either we don’t understand how it will work out together, or the prophet that is now speaking is false. That’s what Jeremiah also says here. If the prophet’s words don’t happen, then it will be obvious that God didn’t send him. Hananiah had just given a definite time in which something had to happen. They would all find out in two years if Hananiah was speaking God’s word or not.