Chapter twenty-eight provides an exceptional example of the false teaching that Jeremiah had to deal with. Shortly after the events of chapter 27, while Jeremiah still wore the wooden yoke on his neck (Jeremiah 27:2), a prophet named Hananiah confronted Jeremiah about his message. Hananiah declared that God promised the exiles would return within two years (Jeremiah 28:1-4). Of course, everyone wanted to believe that this was true, including Jeremiah, who responded, “Amen! May the LORD do all this! May the LORD make your prophecy come true!” (Jeremiah 28:5-6) The problem with prophecy, however, is that it was impossible to know whether or not the message truly came from God until it had taken place or not (Jeremiah 28:7-9). Because the Law required that false prophets were to be put to death (Deuteronomy 18:20-22), two years was a long time to wait before Hananiah’s message could be confirmed or condemned.
In a grand display of confidence, Hananiah took Jeremiah’s yoke from his neck and broke it into pieces, declaring that Judah’s tie to Babylon would indeed be broken within two years (Jeremiah 28:10-11). Later, God had Jeremiah deliver to Hananiah the message that the yoke was unbreakable, that the people would not return within two years, and that Hananiah would die yet that year because of his false messages (Jeremiah 28:12-17). He died two months later, proving that his message was false and Jeremiah’s was true.