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Bible Commentaries
2 Chronicles 33

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-27

XVIII

THE REIGNS OF MANASSEH, AMON, AND JOSIAH

2 Kings 21:1-23-30; 2 Chronicles 33:1-35:27


We take up in this chapter the reigns of Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah. We saw at the close of the last chapter the complete vindication of Isaiah as a prophet, the miraculous deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem from the hand of the Assyrians by the destruction of the army, and the apparent triumph of the principles of right and of good in the kingdom of Judah, the continued prosperity of the reign of Hezekiah, and the paramount influence of the prophet Isaiah.


One would naturally expect a period of great religious revival and national prosperity to follow such a good king as Hezekiah; that he would leave an heir worthy of his name, also that Judah would now enter upon a long career of prosperity and ascendancy among the nations of the world. But we must not deceive ourselves as to the condition of the people in Judah and Jerusalem. We read in Isaiah a description of the people: "In that day did the Lord God of Hosts, call to weeping and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: and, behold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine: Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we may die." There is still an utter absence of faith in Jehovah: "And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts. Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, said the Lord God of Israel." We see by this that the masses of the people were still practically incorrigible in their religious deterioration. "Wherefore, the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men, therefore behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people." These passages give a little glimpse into the inner life of the people. But the magnificent work of Isaiah and the goodness of Hezekiah have had one splendid result, viz: Judah and Jerusalem have been saved from the yoke of the Assyrians. They are now free and for many years they pay no tribute to that foreign power.


Manasseh was twelve years old when he came to the throne and his was the longest reign – fifty and five years – of any king of Judah. Uzziah reigned fifty-two years altogether. We would expect a good boy to be raised up in such a home as that of Hezekiah, but instead, he was just the opposite of his father in almost every respect, which shows that, perhaps, even in the palace of Jerusalem there was a taint of Baal worship and there were those who adhered to it and taught it to the young prince. The description of Manasseh’s reign is terrible. The idolatrous party attains the ascendancy almost as soon as he comes to the throne, and Manasseh begins at once to undo all the work that had been done by Isaiah and Hezekiah. There is a great revival of idolatry. We are reminded of Revelation 20:1-10, the first resurrection representing a great revival of righteousness throughout the world as if there were life from the dead, and the second resurrection the loosing of Satan ushering in a revival of evil. This is on a small scale the same thing. Notice what Manasseh did: "For he built again the high places which Hezekiah destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made an Asherah" – an image representing the female deity, the worship of which was really licentiousness. He worshiped all the hosts of heaven, something apparently new among those kings. Probably this kind of worship was imported from Assyria or from Babylon, quite probably from Babylon. We recall that Ahaz imported something from Damarcus, a new style of altar. Now Manasseh imports the new system of worship of the hosts of heaven from Assyria or Babylon. He built altars in the house of Jehovah, equaling Ahaz in his desecration of that sacred place. He built altars for all the hosts of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord, "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" – went after the fortunetellers, which is about as sure a sign of the deterioration of character as we find. It is a great offense against Almighty God to go to these people to find out his will, when he has given right ways of finding it out. "And he set the graven image of Asherah, that he made, in the house of which the Lord 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." Thus we see the idol worship re-established in Judah with its center in the Temple, and the result is: "And Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, so that they did evil more than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel."


Next we notice the change of rulers in Assyria. Sennacherib was slain by his two sons in an insurrection that was intended to place a new monarch on the throne of Assyria. They escaped, and after five months of insurrection and revolt and disturbance Esarhaddon, another son, took his place upon the throne. We are told in one of the lists of Esarhaddon that Manasseh king of Judah paid him tribute. We are not sure just when Manasseh began to pay tribute, but in one of his western expeditions Esarhaddon must have come close to Judah and Jerusalem, and Manasseh in order to keep his throne, began to pay him regular tribute. How long he did this we are not told, but we know that Esarhaddon conquered Egypt with all the western states of Asia and made them pay tribute, and we know also that when his son succeeded him upon the throne, that was a signal for a general revolt among those nations, and it seems almost certain that Manasseh was one of those who revolted and refused to pay tribute. As a consequence Manasseh was taken captive by the king of Assyria and led away in chains to Babylon. During all this time there were some servants of God, prophets, warning him: "And the Lord spake by his servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: therefore thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold I bring such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, and whosoever hears 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." That was to be the result of Manasseh’s idolatry and wicked reign. The doom is settled, the fate of Jerusalem is inevitable. The seeds of idolatry have been sown in the people’s hearts, and so grown in their hearts and lives that they are incorrigible and salvation is impossible. It is possible for a nation to go so far into sin that God must withdraw his mercy from it; it is also possible for an individual to go so far that even the Spirit of God cannot stem the tide of evil within him.


As a result of this rebellion Manasseh is taken captive by the king of Assyria, and as a result of his captivity and imprisonment Manasseh comes to himself and repents. When he was in distress "He sought the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers and he prayed unto him." In the Apocrypha we have that prayer. Here is a part of it: “O Lord Almighty, that art in heaven, thou God of our fathers, of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed. . . . Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness hast promised repentance and forgiveness to them that have sinned against thee: and of thine infinite mercies hast appointed repentance unto sinners, that they may be saved. Thou therefore, O Lord, thou art the God of the just, hast not appointed repentance to the just, to Abraham, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee. But thou hast appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner: for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea. My transgressions are multiplied, O Lord: my transgressions are multiplied and I am not worthy to behold and see the height of heaven for the multitude of iniquities. . . . I have provoked thy wrath and done that which is evil in thy sight. I did not thy will neither kept I thy commandments. . . . I bow the knee of mine heart, beseeching thee of grace; I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities: but, I humbly beseech thee, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me, and destroy me not with mine iniquities." That prayer may or may not be genuine, but it certainly is a penitent one. It is not an inspired prayer. Manasseh was restored to his kingdom on his pledge of fealty and payment of tribute to the Assyrian monarch, for under no other conditions would an Assyrian king release him and restore him to his kingdom.


Now he seeks to undo in the rest of his life all the evil that he had done. He builds the outer wall of the city of David, which had doubtless been thrown down or injured by the Assyrians. He compassed about Ophel, which is the southeastern division of the city of Jerusalem, put captains in all the fenced cities of Judah, "And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. And he built up the altar of the Lord, and offered thereon sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel." But it was too late. Manasseh died, having to some extent redeemed the evil of his early reign, but was not buried in the sepulchers of the kings. During that terrible revival of idolatry and of evil, there was a severe persecution against all the righteous people, especially the prophets, so severe that the blood of the prophets and righteous people was spilled like water in Jerusalem. During that period, tradition says, Isaiah was sawn asunder. It is a tradition which goes far back, and is probably true. Thus during that terrible persecution in the reign of Manasseh, Isaiah met his death.


Now we take up the reign of Amon, son of Manasseh. He reigned but two years and walked in the footsteps of his father Manasseh, kept up the idolatrous worship, promulgated heathenism, learned no lessons from his father’s sins, repentance, remorse, and reformation, and at the end of two years by means of a palace insurrection – not an insurrection among the people, but a palace insurrection – he was put to death. Why this insurrection came, and why they sought to put Amon to death we do not know. Certainly it could not have been the work of the prophetic class, who were true to Jehovah. That class of men do not murder, and yet what class of people were there who desired the death of Amon since he favored idolatry? We have so little light that we cannot settle the question. The people at once rose up and the murderers of the king were put to death, and Josiah, only eight years old) the son of Amon was put on the throne.


So now we come to the reign of Josiah, the best of all the kings, a man against whom nothing can be said; we have a description of his character: "And he did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.


And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him." But in spite of the fact that there was such a king upon the throne, as nearly perfect in character as any king ever was, the sin of Judah still remained, too deep dyed and too great to be forgiven by the Lord, though God defers the evil day till Josiah has passed from the earth. Josiah began in the eighth year of his reign to make reformations in his kingdom, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from all its high places, and the image of Asherah, and the graven images and the molten images, and brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence, and even took the bones of the priests that were buried there, and burned them upon the altars, desecrating them so that they would not use them any more. He carried on a drastic reformation as early as he was able to do so, beginning at sixteen years of age, and when twenty, redoubling his vigor. The next work was to repair the Temple. When twenty-six years of age he gave orders for it to be repaired, and the man that carried on the reformation and renovation of the Temple was Hilkiah of whom we shall speak later. Behind Josiah, working with and among the people, is another great prophet, Jeremiah. No doubt he was one of the powers behind the throne, one of the great forces which inspired Josiah to carry on his work, for in this period Jeremiah was in the first part of his career. So Josiah, helped by Hilkiah and Jeremiah, repaired the Temple, built it, rededicated it, sacrificed and kept the Passover, etc.


While that was going on one of the principal events of his reign occurred. The Temple had been desecrated for nearly forty years. It had been broken down, and now while they were repairing it, clearing away the rubbish from the altars, perhaps into the holy of holies, and to the ark of the covenant, Hilkiah the high priest found a book. It was the book of the Law given by the hand of Moses. Hilkiah at once spoke to Shaphan the scribe and handed the book to him, and Shaphan took it before the king. It is certain that the book discovered there contained the book of Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 27-28) contains the curses that would come upon the nation (Israel) if it forsook the law of God. I have no doubt that this section was read before king Josiah, and no monarch could but tremble and shudder if he heard those words of Moses. Josiah rent his clothes, and he sent for the prophetess, Huldah. Josiah remembered that the kingdom had committed all the sins Moses here mentioned. He knew that the evils threatened must inevitably come, and that meant his kingdom and his throne would go down in utter and overwhelming shame.


They went to the prophetess, Huldah, and she said, "These things are true; they shall come to pass," but adds this: "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you unto me, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah; because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore is my wrath poured out upon this place, and it shall not be quenched. But unto the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel: as touching the words which thou hast heard, because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his word against this place and against the inhabitants thereof, and hast humbled thyself before me, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me, I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place."


Thus Josiah trembling beneath the terrible curse that must inevitably come, had this assurance, which leaves some hope and courage in his heart, that it would not come in his day, but that he should see peace. Then what does Josiah do? The next thing is to gather together all the elders of all Judah and Jerusalem and have the book read before them. There were probably many idolatrous men among them, but when summoned thus by the king they came and on hearing the book of the law read with curses there pronounced, they concurred with Josiah and the nation thus represented, renewed its covenant with God. The old covenant that had been broken was now renewed and they vowed that they would keep his commandments and testimonies and statutes with all their heart and soul. This was an epoch in the life of Josiah and of the nation and in the life of Jeremiah also, for we find in Jeremiah 11 that it had a great effect upon his preaching. He had been prophesying several years before this, and in chapter II we see that his preaching took a new turn: "Thus saith the Lord, hear ye the words of his covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem."


This furnished Jeremiah with a text, and he goes forth preaching with marvelous power on the basis of this great covenant renewed because of the finding of the Law. As soon as the Law was found Josiah carried on his reformation even more drastically than before. The work had never been completed. Now Josiah carries it to completion. Notice what he does: brings forth out of the Temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for the worship of Baal and for the Asherah and all the hosts of heaven; put down all the idolatrous priests; brought out the image of Asherah from the Temple; broke down the houses of the Sodomites where they carried on their abominations under the name of religion; degraded the priests that bad been officiating at the high places; defiled Topheth, the place where they had been causing their sons to pass through the fire to the god, Molech; took away the horses that the king of Judah had made and had given to the sun, images of horses representing a part of the idolatrous worship of some of their deities; removed all the altars and destroyed the high places and desecrated them by burning the bones of the priests thereon. It was as drastic and as complete as could be made.


But it is only outward. Josiah didn’t turn the people’s hearts, and Jeremiah who had been prophesying all this time at last comes to the conclusion – the first man in the history of revelation – that "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?" And the only way that Israel could be saved was to be saved through a new covenant which would write the laws of God upon their hearts and put them in their minds.


In connection with his great reformation Josiah went to the Northern Kingdom and defiled the altar of Bethel in fulfilment of the prophecy of the old man of God who had come up from Judah and warned Jeroboam against his departure from the worship of Jehovah in going after the calves of Dan and Bethel. But he spared the old prophet’s monument. Now he kept the Passover as it had not been kept for many years; he gathered together all the people of Israel far and near, even from the north. Notice in 2 Chronicles 35:7 that he "gave to the children of the people, of the flock, lambs and kids, all of them for the passover." To the poor people who could not afford it, Josiah gave offerings for the passover, "and the princes gave freewill offerings." The Passover was kept, as it had not been kept since the days of Samuel.


Now we would expect this to result in a revival, a long period of blessing and of the true worship of God, but it was only outward; it was not deep in heart; it was not lasting; Josiah did his noblest, and his name is one of the most blessed in all the annals of kings. He tried to prevent the awful doom of Judah, but "the times were out of joint," and the sin of Judah was so deep and terrible that nothing could check it. The tears of Jeremiah, the most pathetic of all the figures in prophetic history, after forty years of effort, failed to do it.


We now come to the death of Josiah. It is quite probable that Josiah had to pay tribute to the kingdom of Assyria during all his reign. Manasseh did, and it is quite probable that Josiah felt himself under obligation to the king of Assyria, and this fact may account for the strange action which led to his death. During this time Egypt had risen to power; a very able king was on the throne, Pharaoh-necoh, and the old time rivalry between Egypt and Assyria had revived. Egypt wanted all the world and Assyria wanted all the land next to hers, and those two great nations, one in the Nile Valley and the other in the Mesopotamian Valley, were always trying to conquer each other. Now Pharaoh-necho was coming up the coast of Palestine to meet the Assyrians. It seems that Josiah felt himself duty bound to help Assyria and check Pharaoh’s progress, for he marched out against him to fight – a little kingdom, Judah, little more than the city of Jerusalem itself – against the king of Egypt. The king of Egypt warned him: "Now, don’t you meddle with me. I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war; and God hath commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me: that he destroy thee not." For some reason Josiah determined to fight him and check him on his way. They met in the valley of Esdraelon, then called the valley of Megiddo; the battle was joined; Josiah, though he disguised himself, was wounded by the archers and turned about to flee to Jerusalem and died. He was cut off after a reign of not more than thirty years, in the middle of one of the most glorious and useful reigns that Judah ever witnessed. There was great grief. All Jerusalem and Judah mourned for Josiah. Jeremiah lamented sorely, and we can understand why. Jeremiah wept because he could see plainly the hope of the kingdom was gone, and the doom now was swift and sure. "All the singing men and singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations until this day," meaning, of course, when this was written. "And they made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations." The book of Lamentations written by Jeremiah, is not referred to here; it must have been a collection of songs of that nature written and preserved. We do not possess them now, as they have been lost. It seemed that the light of Judah had gone out, and the only thing to be done was to wait patiently until the end came, and it came before very long.

QUESTIONS

1. Give a general statement of the condition of Judah at the end of Hezekiah’s reign.

2. What was the result of the work of Isaiah and Hezekiah?

3. Who succeeded Hezekiah, what was his mother’s name and what its meaning?

4. What was his character and work?

5. What change in the throne of Assyria during his reign?

6. What was Jehovah’s message to Judah through the prophets?

7. Give an account of Manasseh’s further crimes, imprisonment, and

8. What was the spiritual condition of the people at this time?

9. What of his repentance and where do we find his prayer recorded?

10. Who succeeded Manasseh and what was his character and death?

11. Who succeeded Amon, and what his character, how old was he when he began to reign and when was he converted?

12. What of his early reformation?

13. What book found m repairing the Temple and what effect of the discovery on Josiah?

14. What great prophet begins his work in this period and what other contemporaneous with him?

15. What prophetess appears here and what were her prophecies?

16. Give an account of the making of the covenant.

17. What was Josiah’s further reformation?

18. Why did he send the ashes of the images of Baal to Bethel?

19. What did he do with the powder of Asherah?

20. What was the meaning of "horses given to the sun"?

21. What prophecy fulfilled in Josiah’s acts at Bethel?

22. Who was the prophet "that came out of Samaria"?

23. Give an account of Josiah’s passover.

24. What circumstances of Josiah’s death?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Chronicles 33". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/2-chronicles-33.html.
 
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