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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 21

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



In this short chapter, the fifty-five year reign of Manasseh - the longest in Judah’s history - and the two-year reign of his son Amon are compressed and extremely abbreviated. The reason is simple enough. The evil reigns of these men deserved even less attention than they received here.

Verses 1-6


“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign; and he reigned five and fifty years in Jerusalem: and his mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, after the abominations of the nations whom Jehovah cast out before the children of Israel. For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up the altars for Baal, and made an Ashera, as did Ahab king of Israel, and worshipped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of Jehovah, whereof Jehovah said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of Jehovah. And he made his son to pass through the fire, and practiced augury, and used enchantments, and dealt with them that had familiar spirits, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of Jehovah to provoke him to anger.”

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign” “When Hezekiah named his son Manasseh, he might have done so in the spirit of Joseph who gave that name to his first-born (Genesis 41:51), because God `made him forget’ his dangerous illness.”(F1)

“And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah” The ineffectiveness of Hezekiah’s extensive reforms is evident in what happened under Manasseh. “There was little sympathy with his reforms in the hearts of the people; the fear of God had vanished from the hearts of the people. Corruption and vice were multiplied.”(F2) Degenerate and licentious leaders of the nation gained control of the young king, sinking the whole nation into the depths of depravity.

“He built again the high places” This was the first step toward the gross idolatry promoted by Manasseh.

“He made an Ashera, as did Ahab” Adam Clarke identified Ashera with the Roman goddess, “Venus.”(F3) Although the word “Ashera” is sometimes translated “grove,” there is no doubt that the reference here is to an image. “It was an emblem of Astarte.”(F4)

“He built altars for all the host of heaven” We cannot understand why some scholars attempt to identify this worship of the host of heaven as some kind of a late development in Israel. They did it in the times of the wilderness wanderings (Acts 7:42), and besides that Solomon built a temple to Moloch, which god, among other things was a sun-god, as evidenced by the great temple of Moloch in Carthage. This is also supported by the martyr Stephen who mentioned the worship of the heavenly bodies side by side with that of Moloch (Acts 7:42-43). The worship of the heavenly host focused principally upon the sun, moon, the five planets known in antiquity, and the twelve constellations associated with the Zodiac.

“He made his son to pass through the fire” In 2 Chronicles 33:6, the text states that “He made his sons to pass through the fire.” Thus, he might have sacrificed several of his children to Moloch.

“He practiced augury, and used enchantments” DeHoff observed that, “Similar practices such as fortune-telling are prevalent even today in civilized countries.”(F5) “From time to time there is a renewal of interest in fortune-telling; and much of it borders on witchcraft. The abuse of drugs is also related to efforts of some to `see visions.’“(F6)

The seeking of omens, or other kinds of magical information, is called necromancy. Practitioners of this art gaze at the tea leaves, the entrails of some animal, the movement of the clouds, the flight of birds, or at the position of arrows shaken out of a quiver. How pitiful were such practices, especially when exhibited in one of the kings of the dynasty of David.

Verses 7-9


“And he set the graven image of Ashera, that he had made, in the house of which Jehovah said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name forever; neither will I cause the feet of Israel to wander any more out of the land which I gave their fathers, if only they will observe to do all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them. But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do that which is evil more than did the nations whom Jehovah destroyed before the children of Israel.”

“The graven image of Ashera, in the house of Jehovah” Hammond wrote that, “Probably he placed that lust-exciting emblem of Astarte, which was a most horrible profanation of all true religion, in the very Holy of Holies itself, turning the truth and grace of God into lasciviousness (Judges 1:4).”(F7) Keil pointed out that the placement of that image, “Is here mentioned as the very worst,”(F8) of the sins of Manasseh.

“Manasseh seduced them to do… evil more than did the nations whom Jehovah destroyed before the children of Israel” This parallels what Ezekiel said of both Judah and Israel (2 Kings 16), that their sins exceeded the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. Right here, therefore, is the reason why God found it necessary to reject and destroy both Israel and Judah. The impartial justice of God would have been compromised by any other procedure. The announcement that God would indeed execute such penalties upon the Chosen People was made at once, not by the priests, and not by that mythical Deuteronomist, but by “the prophets of God.”

Verses 10-15


“And Jehovah spake to his servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, that were before him, and made Judah also to sin with his idols; therefore thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Behold, I bring such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. And I will cast off the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; because they have done that which is evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.”

“Jehovah spake by his servants the prophets” “Probably Isaiah was one of these.”(F9) Keil included Habakkuk among them,(F10) and Adam Clarke added Hosea, Joel, and Nahum.(F11) Zephaniah may also have been among the number.

Manasseh’s abominations listed in this chapter are by no means a complete record. Of course, throughout his reign, Judah was dominated by Assyria. “The inscriptions of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal record his tribute to Assyria.”(F12) This indicates that at least some of the sinful innovations introduced by Manasseh were probably the result of suggestions or orders from his Assyrian overlords. However, Manasseh went far beyond that, sending messengers to distant lands to discover other pagan gods and idols which were then brought to Jerusalem and worshipped there.

“Whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle” The meaning here is, “That like a sharp discordant note that pains one’s ears, so the news of the harsh punishment to be meted out to Judah will give pain to all who hear it.”(F13) As Keil expressed it, “It denotes such a judgment as had never been heard of before, exciting alarm and horror.”(F14)

The true proclaimers of God’s Word, as were the prophets of old, and as ministers of the gospel today should be, are faithful to deliver unwelcome truth to their hearers. The message of God to all mankind is to countless sons of Adam a message of torment and not of comfort. It is said of such witnesses to the truth that, “They tormented them that dwell on the earth” (Revelation 11:10). Alas, in our day, that element of faithful preaching is sadly lacking. “The sermons of some ministers would never cause the ears of anyone to tingle.”(F15) But if preachers of God’s Word do not sound the alarm against the wickedness of mankind, who will?

“The line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab” “This denotes the measure (the extent) of the destruction of Samaria, and the extermination of the royal house of Ahab.”(F16) Thus, just as Samaria was taken and her people deported, so will it happen to Jerusalem; and just as the royal house of Ahab was exterminated, the same will happen to the ruler of Jerusalem. Of course, all this happened exactly according to the prophecy. Zedekiah, the last ruling monarch of Jerusalem, was captured and compelled to witness the slaughter of all his sons!

“I will cast off the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” Here is the prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem and the deportation of its people to Babylon. Not merely one prophet, but all of God’s prophets reiterated and emphasized this message over and over again for God’s people, but it did not, in any sense, make any difference with the people.

In our own generation, we see the same thing. The Christ has warned that, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3), but sinful people dash wildly ahead, heedless of their fate.

Verses 16-18


“Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; besides his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin in doing that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah. Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and his sin that he sinned, are they not written in the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 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 reigned in his stead.”

“According to an old Jewish legend, which is probably referred to in Hebrews 11:37, the prophet Isaiah was executed by Manasseh by being sawn in two.”(F17)

It is also significant that Manasseh’s successor, his son, was named Amon, the same being the name of an Egyptian god. “Thebes, a capital of Egypt, was the holy city of Amon; and in his honor, they called themselves No-Amon (Nahum 3:8). He was, in some sense, the god of the wind and of certain powers of generation.”(F18)

“He shed innocent blood very much,” It is significant that this is specifically mentioned here, and “It indicates some culminating horror, something not mentioned before; and these conditions are answered by supposing that the reference is to a bloody persecution of the righteous in Jerusalem.”(F19) Josephus mentioned that persecution.

“Setting out from a contempt of God, he barbarously slew all the righteous men that were among the Hebrews; nor would he spare the prophets, for every day he slew some of them, until Jerusalem was overflown with blood.”(F20)

In 2 Chronicles 33, there is a report of Manasseh’s repentance, following his capture and deportation to Assyria and his subsequent return to his throne; but, since the author of Kings ignored that event, we shall also defer any discussion of it until our Commentary on Chronicles.

The report of Manasseh’s death and burial “in his own house,” is explained by scholars as either (1) due to the sepulchre of the kings of Judah being full, or (2) to the refusal of the people to allow such an honor to such a wicked king. We cannot see that it makes much difference. We find it difficult to accept Matthew Henry’s opinion that, “Due to his repentance, and his humiliation because of the realization of all his sins, he was buried in the garden of his own house, by his own order, counting himself unworthy to be buried in the tombs of David and the other kings.”(F21) This is a very charitable view, but we doubt the validity of it.

Verses 19-26


“Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign; and he reigned two years in Jerusalem: and his mother’s name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haraz of Jotbah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, as did Manasseh his father. And he walked in all the ways that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them; and he forsook Jehovah the God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of Jehovah. And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and put the king to death in his own house. But the people of the land slew all them that had conspired against king Amon; and the people of the land made Josi ah his son king in his stead. 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? And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza: and Josiah his son reigned in his stead.”

Nothing is revealed concerning the reason of the conspiracy against Amon, or the motives of the conspirators. The suggestion of Canon Cook proposes a reasonable solution of what actually happened.”

“The intention of the conspirators had perhaps been to declare a forfeiture of the crown by the Davidic line and to place a new dynasty on the throne. This the people would not suffer; so they arrested the conspirators, put them to death, and invested the royal authority in young Josiah, who was only eight years old.”(F22)

He was the true heir to the throne.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Kings 21". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/2-kings-21.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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