Then Hananiah the prophet took the bar from off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck, and broke it. Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Yahweh says: ‘Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from off the neck of all the nations within two full years.’ ” Then the prophet Jeremiah went his way.
Then Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, after Hananiah the prophet had broken the bar from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Go, and tell Hananiah, saying, ‘Yahweh says, “You have broken the bars of wood, but you have made in their place bars of iron.” For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says, “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they will serve him. I have also given him the animals of the field.” ’ ”
Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! Yahweh has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. Therefore Yahweh says, ‘Behold, I will send you away from off the surface of the earth. This year you will die, because you have spoken rebellion against Yahweh.’ ”
So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.
When Hananiah went on to say that Babylon’s power would be completely broken in the region within two years, a contradiction was not only apparent, it was real. God has spoken through Jeremiah that the people in other nations were to prepare for the Babylonian takeover. That takeover would not be happening if what Hananiah said was true.
Notice that Jeremiah didn’t say anything after Hananiah took the bar from his neck and used it as an illustration. He probably saw the contradiction quite clearly himself now. Both Hananiah and Jeremiah could not be true prophets of God. One of them was an imposter. Evidently, Jeremiah walked away. I know this because God told Jeremiah to “Go,” and tell Hananiah a new message which means he had to go to where Hananiah was. It’s important when we see a real contradiction, that we not try to accept it. It is also true that we shouldn’t speak until God shows us to what to say, but this passage also demonstrates that God will deal with a false prophet.
If God would have left things like they were, the people would have been confused. Which message was from God? To me, this seemed like an impossible problem but God provided an amazing way out.
The people had only one way to tell if a prophet is true. They had to see if what he predicted would happen. Both prophets could not be right, but if they were to wait until two years passed, it might be too late to follow Jeremiah and surrender to Babylon. I would imagine that Satan created this dilemma but God made it look easy. He simply had Jeremiah predict the death of Hananiah in a few months! Since both prophets could not be false, all the people had to do is watch to see if Hananiah would or die not! God not only proved to the people that Jeremiah was a true prophet, He also took out the bad one. God is quite capable of making His voice clear to us. He is also very serious about those who speak His word. This is a blessing to those of us who are telling the truth and a fearful warning to those who don’t.