1 - 9 Manasseh King of Judah
1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 He built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” 5 For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD provoking [Him to anger]. 7 Then he set the carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever. 8 And I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers, if only they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.” 9 But they did not listen, and Manasseh seduced them to do evil more than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel.
The God-fearing Hezekiah is followed after his death by his godless son Manasseh. Manasseh is only twelve years old when he starts reigning (verse 1). His reign lasts no less than fifty-five years, a period that exceeds that of all the other reigns. It is one of the enigmas of God’s government that He allows such a wicked man as Manasseh to rule over His people for so long.
The name of his mother is also given. Hephzibah means ‘My lust is in her’. In that name we hear what Jerusalem means to the LORD. What kind of woman she is, is not told. Whether she is a good or a bad mother, we do not know. Judging by the development of Manasseh, she certainly could not prevent him from developing into such an ungodly king. We cannot point to a cause for all time when children go against what their God-fearing parents have told them.
Manasseh does not take as an example his father Hezekiah, but the kings of Israel, of whom we have read over and over again that they did, whatever is said here of Manasseh, “evil in the sight of the LORD” (verse 2). He does “according to the abominations of the nations”.
He quickly undoes his father’s reforms and “he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed” (verse 3). He is also inspired by Ahab, the most godless king of Israel. It is quite possible that his worship and serving of sun, moon and stars (“all the host of heaven”) comes through Assyrian influence. So we see that Manasseh takes over the worst of everything and everyone and puts it into practice. The judgment that God has given both to the nation and to Ahab doesn’t matter him at all.
That the wicked Manasseh seems to be able to do unhindered whatever it takes also says something about the people. The revival under Hezekiah has apparently not deeply rooted in the population. The people are easily carried away on the bad road on which Manasseh is leading them.
He openly provokes the LORD by building idol altars in the house of the LORD (verses 4-5). The greatness of this evil is clearly expressed by saying that Manasseh does this in the house “of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.””. Manasseh doesn't care about that. He ignores the rights of the LORD to His house and just makes it a dwelling place for demons. Manasseh does not act out of ignorance concerning the will of the LORD, but he does not care at all about that will.
His whole performance shows his surrender to demonic powers to whom he has voluntarily surrenders (verse 6). This means that he sacrifices his children to the devil, engages in occultism – he practices witchcraft and uses divination – and stimulates all sorts of forms of sorcery – he appoints mediums and spiritists. The conclusion is that he does not ‘only’ ignore the LORD. It is much worse. Not only does he pass by the LORD with contempt, but he intentionally acts in this way to defy the LORD: “He did much evil in the sight of the LORD provoking [Him to anger].”
Verse 7 gives another example of his gross violation of the rights of the LORD and his defiance of Him. Even more emphatically than in verse 4 we hear the indignation of God about Manasseh’s shameless courage to set the carved image of Asherah in the temple. We hear God’s indignation in what He says of His house and of His city. God’s feelings about what He has chosen to put His Name there forever are deeply offended by Manasseh’s contemptuous actions.
In verse 8 the LORD continues, in connection with verse 7, to speak about what He would have liked to do. He had wanted to put His Name forever among a people whom He would never drive out of this land, if they at least listened to His law. And there it went wrong: “But they did not listen” (verse 9). They follow Manasseh and it makes them wander in a way that makes them sin worse than the heathen peoples who first lived in the land. We have here the side of the godless mass of the people, after we have seen in Hezekiah the history of the faithful remnant.
Even now there is no nation that has corrupted it more than Christianity, just as Israel here is sinning worse than the nations. That is why God’s judgment will all the severer come over Christianity.
10 - 16 LORD Announces Judgment
10 Now the LORD spoke through His servants the prophets, saying, 11 “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations, having done wickedly more than all the Amorites did who [were] before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols; 12 therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am bringing [such] calamity on Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. 13 I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies, and they will become as plunder and spoil to all their enemies; 15 because they have done evil in My sight, and have been provoking Me to anger since the day their fathers came from Egypt, even to this day.’” 16 Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; besides his sin with which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD.
Because of all the wickedness of Manasseh and his perseverance in it, the LORD must announce the judgment. He does so “through His servants the prophets.” The contents of His words are in verses 11-15. God does not remain silent and sends His warnings. When the judgment comes, no one can say that he did not know. This judgement will be carried out by Babylon.
Verse 11 first gives a summary of the sins of Manasseh. In this summary he is emphatically called “king of Judah”. He should have thought that he was king of Judah. Judah means ‘God lover’. Manasseh has overloaded this name with the greatest shame. His deeds are atrocities, in which the deeds of the pagan Amorites fade away. By his wrong example he made Judah sin.
In verses 12-14 follows the announcement of what the LORD will do as punishment for these sins, while verse 15 gives the reason for the punishment. The judgment that the LORD will bring over Jerusalem and Judah will astonish those who hear of it. The standard set for judgment is the same as the one the LORD has set for Samaria and the house of Ahab. God is perfectly righteous in His judgment. He doesn't measure by double standards.
By this judgment there will be nothing left of Jerusalem. The city will be like a dish wiped clean and turned upside down (verse 13). The LORD will withdraw from the remnant of His inheritance and give it into the hands of their enemies. He no longer gets involved with them and leaves them to their fate. For this fate they have chosen themselves. The “remnant of My inheritance” (verse 14) refers to the inhabitants of Jerusalem who have not perished in a previous judgment. So this is not about the faithful remnant, but what remains after the first judgment.
Many of the remnant who have lived in the days of Hezekiah are killed by Manasseh. According to tradition, Manasseh has let Isaiah “cut into pieces” (Heb 11:37). He would have committed this terrible murder with a wooden saw. We also live in days comparable to the days of Manasseh. If we want to be faithful to the Lord and His Word, we must count on being persecuted (2Tim 3:12) and we will have to be willing to pay our faithfulness dearly.
17 - 18 Death of Manasseh
17 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh and all that he did and his sin which he committed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 18 And Manasseh slept with his fathers and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza, and Amon his son became king in his place.
The brief previous description of all the atrocities of Manasseh is all the author of 2 Kings has to say. Here we read nothing about his conversion, which is reported in 2 Chronicles 33 (2Chr 33:10-20). We only read here about his government, about his responsibility, how he ruled. In books of Chronicles we read about the grace of God.
19 - 26 Amon King of Judah
19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name [was] Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. 20 He did evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done. 21 For he walked in all the way that his father had walked, and served the idols that his father had served and worshiped them. 22 So he forsook the LORD, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD. 23 The servants of Amon conspired against him and killed the king in his own house. 24 Then the people of the land killed all those who had conspired against King Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place. 25 Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 26 He was buried in his grave in the garden of Uzza, and Josiah his son became king in his place.
After the wicked Manasseh, who ruled for a long time, comes another wicked king, his son Amon. These two kings are between two God-fearing kings. Grace is not an inheritance, one cannot demand it. Grace is given by God without reason in man.
In the description of Amon’s reign, the full emphasis is on the fact that Amon completely follows his father Manasseh in his wickedness: “He walked in all the way that his father had walked” (verse 21). That is worse than “not walk in the way of the LORD” (verse 22). He does this as a conscious choice, because we read that he “forsook” the LORD. Forsaking is leaving consciously. The LORD is called here “the God of his fathers”. He turns his back on everything God has been to his fathers, with whom we will think of David and Hezekiah in the first place.
The LORD allowed his father Manasseh to reign for fifty-five years. In all his godlessness He did not intervene. That does not mean that everyone can do what he wants. Amon gets a quick judgment. After only two years reign, he is murdered by his servants.
The people of the land, the hard-working people, kill Amon’s killers. Then they make his son Josiah king in his stead. They take the law into their own hands. Somehow they want a king from David’s house to remain in power. Possibly they act, because there is still something of the good influence of a converted Manasseh present in them. In any case God uses it to place a king on the throne of David in Josiah, whom He will use as a special instrument for a last revival among His people. God controls everything, including the autocratic actions of population groups, to fulfill His plan.