Manasseh’s Reign of Terror
“Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle” (vv. 11–12).- 2 Kings 21:1–18
Judah, during the years of the divided monarchy, enjoyed many more godly kings than the northern kingdom of Israel did. The faithfulness of the nation meant that Judah lasted nearly 150 years longer as a sovereign kingdom than Israel, which was exiled in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:1–23). Nevertheless, Judah finally succumbed to the cancer of apostasy. Things ultimately became so bad in Judah that God had to vindicate His holiness by fulfilling the covenant curse of exile for the southern kingdom (see Deut. 28:15–68). Judah reached the point of no return during the reign of King Manasseh, though the exile into Babylon came after he passed from the scene.
Today’s passage describes the reign of King Manasseh of Judah, the son of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:21). We see in 2 Kings 21:1 that Manasseh began his reign at the age of twelve, which refers actually to the start of his co-regency with Hezekiah. The two men ruled Judah alongside one another for about ten years; thus, Manasseh had ample time to learn from the righteous example of his father (see 18:1–6). But Manasseh did not learn much of anything, at least based on the evidence of the first part of his reign. Second Kings 21:1–9 gives us a list of Manasseh’s crimes. He reversed Hezekiah’s reformation, rebuilding forbidden altars and high places throughout the land. He even put a “carved image of Asherah,” the ancient Near Eastern goddess, in the house of the Lord. God had put His name in Solomon’s temple, but Manasseh replaced it with the name of Asherah (vv. 2–7). Moreover, Manasseh engaged in fortune-telling and necromancy, and he even followed his grandfather Ahaz’s example in sacrificing one of his sons as a burnt offering (v. 6; see 16:1–3). In addition, most of Manasseh’s reign was violent and unjust for the people of Judah, for he “shed very much innocent blood” (21:16). The Judahites largely followed Manasseh’s example, for the wicked king “led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel” (v. 9). The children of Abraham had become worse sinners than the people they had driven out of the promised land (v. 11). Thus, the Judahites had to be driven out as well (vv. 12–15).
As we will see, the last word on Manasseh in Scripture is not his apostasy. Nevertheless, today’s passage reminds us that there is a limit even to God’s patience. He will not tolerate wickedness forever but will finally bring it into judgment (Zeph. 1:14–18).
Manasseh’s example is a warning to us not to presume upon the grace of God. The Lord is slow to anger and exceedingly patient, but if we take advantage of this patience by remaining in our sin, we can expect severe discipline. When we hear the call to repent, let us do so immediately. And may we never presume upon the grace of God.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 33:1–20