“When [Manasseh] was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God” (vv. 12–13).- 2 Chronicles 33:10–20
Written originally to the people of Judah in exile, 1 and 2 Kings are concerned primarily to explain why the Judahites were taken to Babylon. The exiles and their children needed to know why they were disciplined so that they would not repeat their sins. So, the author of 1 and 2 Kings tends to focus on the negative, to emphasize the idolatry that led to Judah’s exile.
On the other hand, 1 and 2 Chronicles were written to the people of Judah after they returned from exile. That audience needed to know how to receive again the covenant blessings promised in Leviticus 26:1–13 and Deuteronomy 28:1–14. Thus, the Chronicler tends to emphasize the positive, highlighting the obedience and repentance of the preexilic kings and people. By following those examples, the postexilic generation would again receive the Lord’s blessing.
That explains why 2 Chronicles 33 gives a more positive picture of Manasseh than 2 Kings 21 does. The author of 2 Kings left out the account of Manasseh’s exile and repentance because he wanted to show how Manasseh’s evils put the nation in a position where exile was inevitable. In the early part of his reign, Manasseh led the people so far astray that there would not be a lasting reformation until God taught the people the consequences of their rebellion via the Babylonian exile. But the Chronicler includes the story of Manasseh’s repentance to show the postexilic audience that they should not despair. When the Judahites were back in the promised land, they certainly would have found it hard to believe that the Lord had really forgiven them, so far had they fallen. But if even someone as bad as Manasseh could repent and be redeemed, so, too, could the Judahites be assured that the Lord would be their God if they walked in repentance and faith as Manasseh did later in his reign.
The message of today’s passage, then, is that God’s people should not fear that the Lord will be unwilling to forgive them. Instead, we must understand that our Creator wants to show mercy. He is eager to forgive and to bless. We must confess our sin, but having done so, we must not inordinately focus on our depravity but should focus on the gracious character of God who will pardon us and bless us abundantly if we return to Him. The early church father John Chrysostom comments, “If, looking to the magnitude of his own iniquities, [Manasseh] had despaired of restoration and repentance, he would have missed all that he afterward obtained.”
There is a time to examine our consciences and to understand the full magnitude of our sin. However, if we are not careful, such introspection can turn into despair. Thus, we must also meditate on the grace of God and look to Christ continually. We must be convinced that the Lord is gracious and kind, for then we will be eager to run to Him when we fall short. Turning to Him is the only way to find forgiveness and other blessings.
Passages for Further Study
2 Kings 13:22–23