The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Jeremiah. The text is Jeremiah 28:5-9 and is a continuation of the “yoke prophecy” that begins in chapter 27 and ends at the finish of chapter 28. In relationship to Ezekiel, Horace Hummel calls this kind of prophecy “street theater.” Others have labeled it “action-prophecy.” Today, we might see it as the use of an object lesson to bring attention to the prophetic word. Regardless, it certainly painted a picture for the people who could “see” the Word of the LORD.

The context of this short reading begins in chapter 27 when Jeremiah is called upon by the LORD to make for himself a yoke to wear. The yoke represents Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. The LORD has given power and control over Israel and other surrounding countries to Babylon. They are told to serve him, or they will lose their land and their place in it. Israel is already in exile in Babylon but many people, like Jeremiah, have been allowed to remain in Jerusalem. As we know, the people did not follow these words. When they rebelled against the Babylonian governors they were removed from the land and the Temple and Jerusalem were razed with not one stone left upon the other.

Into all this another prophet, Hananiah, comes forth and prophesies the exact opposite of Jeremiah, claiming his is the true word from the LORD. Hananiah, a false prophet, gave the people what their itching ears longed to hear. Or, perhaps in the name of fairness and tolerance, they went with the lie, but it is not hard to imagine the people being more likely to listen to the positive message from Hananiah rather than the negative message from Jeremiah.

Jeremiah, in his response to Hananiah, makes it clear he hopes the prophecy of Hananiah is true. After all, who wants the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple to come to past? However, Jeremiah also points out how the prophets who preceded them prophesied according to what Jeremiah was saying. Most likely, Jeremiah is referring to Isaiah and Micah, who would have been well known to the people. Their prophecies were already coming to pass. Jeremiah points out that if Hananiah is going to say something different they must wait to see if his prophecy comes to pass before it can be said if he is a true or false prophet.

Jeremiah points out that if Hananiah is going to say something different they must wait to see if his prophecy comes to pass before it can be said if he is a true or false prophet.

Following this pericope, it is interesting that when Hananiah takes the yoke from Jeremiah and breaks it, Jeremiah does not resist, nor does he say anything. Rather, he walks away and waits until the Word of the LORD comes to him so he may give the proper response. Jeremiah does not presume to speak his own words to Hananiah. As a prophet, he only speaks the LORD’s words. Obviously, this is the difference between a true and false prophet, but it must have been difficult for the people to figure out at first.

28:5 לְעֵינֵי. (le-ei-Nei) Literally: “before the eyes of…” “in the presence of…”

הָעֹמְדִים (ha-o-me-Dim) root: עמד (aw-mad) Qal, participle: “the ones standing; the ones who were standing”

28:6 אָמֵן (a-Men) “verily; truly; surely” This is the origin of our word, “Amen”.

יַעֲשֶׂה: (ya-a-Seh) root: עשׂה (aw-saw) Qal: “to do; to make”

נִבֵּאתָ (nib-Be-ta) root: נבא (naw-baw) Niphal: “to prophesy”

לְהָשִׁיב. (le-ha-Shiv) root: שׁוב (shoob) Hiphil, infinitive: “to return; to cause to bring back”

הַגּוֹלָה; (hag-go-Lah) “exiles; deported ones”

28:7 דֹּבֵר o (do-Ver) Piel, participle: “speaking”

28:8 הָיוּ לְפָנַי וּלְפָנֶיךָ (ha-Yu le-fa-Nai u-le-fa-Nei-cha) “were before me and before you”

וּלְדָבֶר (u-le-Da-ver) “plague; pestilence”

28:9 יִוָּדַע (yiv-va-Da) root: ידע (yaw-dah) Niphal: “to be known; to become known”

שְׁלָחוֹ. (she-la-Cho) root: שׁלח (shaw-lakh) Qal: “to send; to stretch out; to send forth”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Jeremiah 28:5-9.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Jeremiah 28:5-9.