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the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 21

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-9

Second Kings - Chapter 21 AND Second Chronicles - Chapter 33

Manaseeh’s Reign - 2 Kings 21:1-9 AND 2 Chronicles 33:1-9

Upon the death of King Hezekiah Judah acquired another child king. Manasseh came to the throne of Judah at the age of twelve years and set a record tenure, fifty-five years. Manasseh is another of those strange paradoxes among the kings of Israel and Judah. He was the wicked son of the good father who was the son of a wicked father. What influenced Manasseh to be such an evil man? Nothing is known of his mother, so the blame cannot really be put on her. Cnly her name, Hephzi­bah, is given. The name means "my delight is in her." and Isaiah gives it as one of the Lord’s names for a restored Israel (Isaiah 62:4;. It might be implied from this that she was a good person.

Regardless of the reason, Manasseh was certainly the worst king Judah had had, not even barring his grandfather Ahaz. He set himself the task of undoing the good work Hezekiah had done. It must be that the old idolatrous princes regained the official positions in the kingdom. The high places were restored and worship of the Canaanite gods re­established. Altars to the Baals were erected, the groves were revived, and the heavenly bodies became objects of worship. The Kings account indicates that Manasseh patterned his religious revolution after that of Ahab of Israel. He practiced child sacrifice, even .offering his own son on the pagan altar.

The sacred precincts of the temple were violated by Manasseh’s idolatry. Shrines for the heavenly bodies were set up in the courts o` the temple. He indulged in cultic practices represented in the witchcraft and wizardry of the times. Manasseh did these things fully aware of the law of God which forbade it. He constructed himself an idol of the grove for placement in the temple. This was the false god served by sexual orgies in the groves and may imply that Manasseh introduced ritual prostitution in the temple itself. The Scriptures emphasize that Manasseh did these wicked things though he knew the Lord had said He would place His name there for ever. This command had been given to both David and Solomon in the initial stages of planning and building the temple.

The Lord in making these promises to David and Solomon had agreed to make the temple His house and Jerusalem His city so long as Israel adhered to the law given from God by the hand of Moses. If they observed all His commandments, the Lord promised that Israel would dwell safely in the land He had given them. But the people followed the evil leadership of their new king, not heeding the commands of the Lord. The Scriptures say Manasseh seduced the people of Judah to do worse than the Canaanite tribes whom He drove out of the land to give it to Israel.

Much has been written about whether Hezekiah was in serious error in seeking an extension to his life. Manasseh is the chief reason for raising the question. It is assumed that Hezekiah had no heir to the throne when he received the pronouncement of his impending death, for twelve year old Manasseh was born during the fifteen year extension of life. Had Hezekiah died in his fourteenth year Judah would never have had wicked Manasseh to bring God’s wrath on the land to its ultimate expulsion of the people.

But it is a very debatable question. The early death of Hezekiah may, or may not, have brought about a better rule. Furthermore, the good lessons from Hezekiah’s repentance and his attendant humility would not have been either. To speculate on what might have been is about one of the most useless pastimes commentators can indulge in. It is better to simply take the account of actual events and draw lessons from them.

Verses 10-16

Prophet’s Warning – Commentary on 2 Kings 21:10-16 AND 2 Chronicles 33:10

The Lord did not leave Judah without warning during the religious corruption of Manasseh’s reign. He sent prophets to them, unnamed, but with the important message of repentance and foreboding. God always renders the disobedient without excuse, before bringing judgment (Isaiah 58:1).

The Lord had several charges against Manasseh: 1) he did more wickedly than the Amorites whom the Lord drove from the land to Canaan; 2) he involved the nation of Judah in his sins; 3) he is the cause for which judgment will befall his people.

God’s judgment of Judah for the wickedness provoked by the excesses of their king will be so terrible that the ears of those who hear it will tingle. This is the condition more usually expressed by people today as making one’s skin crawl, or causing the hair of his head to stand on end.

Everyone has experienced this feeling, and that is what those will feel who hear what God is doing in judgment of Judah. He will measure them by the plumbline he used to measure the kingdom of Ahab a century and a half earlier. Ahab’s dynasty was totally wiped out, and that is what the prophets foretell of Judah and Jerusalem. God will wipe out the city of Jerusalem as one might wipe out a dish, turning it over and wiping it inside and out. Thus, the city is to suffer total decimation.

The remnant had been saved from Sennacherib by the repentance of king and people during Hezekiah’s reign. But it will not occur again. The people will not turn back and will persist in their wickedness. Then the Lord will forsake that future remnant, leaving them to their merciless enemies. For all their provocation of God’s wrath from the time they fled from Egypt, His longsuffering will finally reach its limit, and they will again be a captive nation.

All this warning had no influence for good with Manasseh. Instead he began to persecute those who resisted his paganism, even to murdering many of them. The Scriptures say he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood from one end of Jerusalem to the other. According to Jewish tradition the prophet Isaiah was among the victims, being put to death by sawing him asunder. There is an inspired allusion to this in Hebrews 11:37.

2 Chronicles 33:11-17

Manasseh’s Conversion - 2 Chronicles 33:11-17

Only the Chronicles account gives this incident of the reign of Manasseh. It lacks many details which arouse the curiosity of the reader, such as the circumstances which led to his capture by the Assy`ans, how lie came to be released, the time of the occurrence, etc. It seems fairly safe to conclude that the adventure occurred in the rate life of Manasseh, judging by his deeds after his release. The statement that he was taken "among the thorns" does not seem to mean that he was found in a thicket of thorn bushes. Though some have conjectured that he was on a hunting trip and was surprised by the Assyrian patrol.

The Hebrew word translated "thorns" is sometimes also rendered "thistles." It probably means that his means of confinement was irritable as a thorn might be. Compare what is said of the Canaanite troublers of the disobedient Israelites (Joshua 23:13). The New American Standard Bible reads, "and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains, and took him to Babylon."

Another question arises as to why Manasseh was carried to Babylon rather than Nineveh, which was the chief city of the Assyrians. Of course, the Assyrians still retained control of Babylon in the time of Manasseh, but they were soon to lose it. In fact, this may supply a clue as to why Manasseh was released. He may have won his freedom by a Babylonian overthrow of the Assyrian overlords. Certainly the Lord used it to chastise Manasseh and to bring him to his senses and to his knees.

Manasseh must have suffered considerably in his captivity, though it was a great blessing to him. He realized at last what he had done and that it was God only who could deliver him. He prayed humbly and importunately to the Lord, who heard his prayer, delivered him, and allowed him to return to his throne in Jerusalem. The apocrypha contains a short book called the Prayer of Manasseh. Of course it is not inspired, and is only traditional, but reveals the probable feeling of the repentant king at the time. It is worthwhile reading for the student.

How long was Manasseh is prison? No information is given concerning that, but it would have been a period of months at the very least. The state of affairs in the kingdom during the absence of the king are unknown. The people soon discovered a drastic change in Manasseh after his restoration. He began trying to undo some of the mistakes of his past. His works included building a wall around the strategic spring of Gihon to the fish gate, greatly strengthening of the fortress Ophel. and putting trained captains over garrisons in all of Judah’s fenced cities.

The pagan idols and altars he had erected in Jerusalem and in the temple were removed and cast out of the city. The altar of the Lord was repaired and restored, peace and thank offerings were offered on it, and Judah was commanded to serve the Lord. The high places-were not removed, but the people claimed to be worshipping the Lord in the high places. Of course this was contrary to the Lord’s will.

The life of King Manasseh provides a double example for the student. His conversion is a beautiful example of the longsuffering mercy and grace of God in saving such a wicked reprobate idolator as Manasseh. He was guilty of sacrificing his son on a pagan altar, of allowing pagan prostitution in the land, probably even in the temple, and was the cause of Judah’s irrevocable destruction, fast approaching. One can thank the Lord for his conversion. On the other hand Manasseh is the example of one who wastes his life by rejecting the Lord so long. Manasseh had encouraged false worship, contributing to the damnation of souls of many of his people. Though he was saved and tried to restore worship of the Lord no heed was paid to him, and the nation hurtled on to its impending doom. One can bewail the tragedy of this. Read Psalms 103:8-12 in connection.

Verses 17-26

Amon’s Reign – Commentary on 2 Kings 21:17-26 AND 2 Chronicles 33:18-25

The long reign of Manasseh is mostly passed over in silence by the inspired Scriptures. Manasseh had spent most of his reign in sinful practices which brought judgment on his people, and his late conversion can be characterized as "too little and too late" to save Judah. The most important event of his life (and of any life for that matter) was recorded, his conversion and trust in the Lord. Yet the people remembered him most, it seems, for his widespread promotion of idolatry. He was buried at death with honor, in his own house, or the palace garden of Uzza. The identity of Uzza is unknown. He is thought to have been the proprietor or gardener of the burial site.

Manasseh’s young son, Amon, succeeded him and was only twenty-two years of age. He was a man of the world, who followed his father’s evil example. No doubt he was already established in idolatrous worship before his father’s conversion. One wonders what his feeling, and that of the king’s counsellors, must have been when Manasseh returned from Babylonian imprisonment professing a new-found faith in the Lord. It may have been much as some people treat such today, cynicism and sarcastic statements. Perhaps Amon thought his father was mentally unbalanced by his experience. It is pretty evident that few people took him seriously, and he was able to influence few for good.

The saddest thing is that Manasseh influenced these people for evil. This immediately showed up in Amon. He restored the worship of the gods previously worshipped by his father, and refused to follow Manasseh’s late leadership in affairs of religion. He was probably very well liked by the party which was out of favor in the days of Hezekiah. So it is surprising that certain of Amon’s own servants disliked him so much he was assassinated by them in his own house. The people as a whole were outraged, and took all the guilty conspirators and executed them. Amon’s little son, Josiah, was crowned his successor. ’

The following lessons are notable: 1) The Devil will quickly destroy the good God’s people have done if he is allowed to; 2) it is better to learn the lessons from what was than to speculate on what might have been; 3) God gives fair warning to all under condemnation; 4) following a wicked ruler will destroy a nation; 5) tragedies often result in the salvation of sinners; 6) it is sad when bad deeds cannot be undone, and lead to condemnation of loved ones and friends.

2 Chronicles 34:1-7

Second Chronicles - 34

Reformation - 2 Chronicles 34:1-7

With Josiah Judah gets its last godly king, and again there is the paradox of bad father-good son. He was only an eight year old child when his father died, and he was made king. To the good of Judah he had a relatively long reign of thirty-one years, cut short by his death in battle. He is said to have taken his forefather David as his example and to have walked in his ways, doing right in the sight of the Lord, not turning aside to the right hand or the left.

Josiah turned to the Lord and was saved during his eighth year of rule, when, he was about sixteen years of age. It is said that he then began to seek after the God of David. What influenced this young man to turn from the idolatry of his father and his counselors is unknown, but the question will be examined at more length in a succeeding topic of this commentary. In the twelfth year of Josiah’s reign, when he was twenty years of age, he began a reformation of the land religiously, much like that of his great grandfather Hezekiah, whom he resembles in many respects.

Josiah totally demolished the shrines of idolatry throughout the land. He began with the high places, for this was the basis of most of the idolatrous practices carried on under pretense of worshipping the Lord. The groves were cut down, the carved wooden images and molten ones were destroyed. The numerous altars of Baal were broken down. The king was a personal witness to much of this, his presence lending emphasis to the crusade to turn Judah back to the true God. The pagan practice of raising idolatrous symbols on poles had appeared in Judah. Josiah cut these down. From the ashes of the burned images he took and strewed the dust on the graves of the false priests and prophets. The bones of many of these were taken from their graves and burned to ashes.

Josiah pursued his eradication program thoroughly in Judah and Jerusalem, then ventured into the former tribes of the north. For some eighty years the Assyrians had occupied these lands, since Samaria’s fall. Now they were in their decline because of pressure on them from eastern nations, such as Babylon, Media, and Persia. Josiah took advantage of lax conditions in the former northern kingdom to extend his reformation into that area, particularly the former tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Naphtali. It also extended to the south, to the former area of the tribe of Simeon. Here he broke down pagan altars and cut down the groves just as he had done in his own country, and returned to Jerusalem.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Kings 21". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-kings-21.html. 1985.
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