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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 21

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch

Verses 1-18

Reign of Manasseh (cf. 2 Chron 33:1-20). - 2 Kings 21:1. Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, so that he was not born till after Hezekiah's dangerous illness (2 Kings 20:1.).

2 Kings 21:2

Having begun to reign at this early age, he did not choose his father's ways, but set up the idolatry of his father Ahab again, since the godless party in the nation, at whose head chiefs, priests, and (false) prophets stood, and who would not hearken to the law of the Lord, and in the time of Hezekiah had sought help against Assyria not from Jehovah, but from the Egyptians (Isaiah 28:7, Isaiah 28:14., Isaiah 30:9.), had obtained control of the young an inexperienced king, and had persuaded him to introduce idolatry again. On 2 Kings 21:2 cf. 2 Kings 8:18 and 2 Kings 16:3.

2 Kings 21:3-5

ויּבן ויּשׁב , “he built again” the high places, which Hezekiah had destroyed (2 Kings 18:4), erected altars for Baal and an Asherah, like Ahab of Israel (1 Kings 16:32-33). האשׁרה is the image of Asherah mentioned in 2 Kings 21:7, whereas in the Chronicles the thought is generalized by the plurals לבּעלים and האשׁרות . To these two kinds of idolatry, the idolatrous bamoth and the (true) Baal-and Asherah-worship, Manasseh added as a third kind the worship of all the host of heaven, which had not occurred among the Israelites before the Assyrian era, and was probably of Assyrian or Chaldaean origin. This worship differed from the Syrophoenician star-worship, in which sun and moon were worshipped under the names of Baal and Astarte as the bearers of the male and female powers of nature, and was pure star-worship, based upon the idea of the unchangeableness of the stars in contradistinction to the perishableness of everything earthly, according to which the stars were worshipped not merely as the originators of all rise and decay in nature, but also as the leaders and regulators of sublunary things (see Movers, Phöniz. i. pp. 65 and 161). This star-worship was a later development of the primary star-worship of Ssabism, in which the stars were worshipped without any image, in the open air or upon the housetops, by simple contemplation, the oldest and comparatively the purest form of deification of nature, to which the earlier Arabians and the worshippers of the sun among the Ssabians (Zabians) were addicted (cf. Delitzsch on Job 31:26-27), and which is mentioned and forbidden in Deuteronomy 4:19 and Deuteronomy 17:3. In this later form the sun had sacred chariots and horses as among the Persians (2 Kings 23:11), and incense was offered to the stars, with the face turned towards the east, upon altars which were built either upon housetops, as in the case of the Nabataeans (Strabo, xvi. 784), or within the limits of the temple in the two courts (cf. Ezekiel 8:16, also 2 Kings 21:5; 2 Kings 23:12, and 2 Chronicles 33:5; Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5). This burning of incense took place not merely to the sun and moon, but also to the signs of the zodiac and to all the host of heaven, i.e., to all the stars (2 Kings 23:5); by which we are no doubt to understand that the sun, moon, planets and other stars, were worshipped in conjunction with the zodiac, and with this were connected astrology, augury, and the casting of nativities, as in the case of the later so-called Chaldaeans.

(Note: Movers ( Phöniz. i. p. 65) correctly observes, that “ in all the books of the Old Testament which are written before the Assyrian period there is no trace of any (?) star-worship; not that the Phoenician (Canaanitish) gods had not also a sidereal significance, but because this element was only a subordinate one, and the expressions, sun, moon, and stars, and all the host of heaven, which are not met with before, become for the first time common now, ” - although his proofs of the difference between the Assyrian star-worship and the Phoenician and Babylonian image-worship stand greatly in need of critical sifting.)

This star-worship is more minutely described in 2 Kings 21:4, 2 Kings 21:5. The two verses are closely connected. The מזבּחות וּבנה of 2 Kings 21:4 is resumed in מזב ויּבן in 2 Kings 21:5, and the יי בּבית of 2 Kings 21:4 is more minutely defined in the יי בּית חצרות בּשׁתּי of. 2 Kings 21:5. “In the two courts:” not merely in the outer court, but even in the court of the priests, which was set apart for the worship of Jehovah.

2 Kings 21:6

He also offered his son in sacrifice to Moloch, like Ahaz (2 Kings 16:3), in the valley of Benhinnom (Chr. cf. 2 Kings 23:10), and practised soothsaying and witchcraft of every kind. On ונחשׁ עונן see Deuteronomy 18:10 and Leviticus 19:26, אוב עשׂה , he made, i.e., appointed, put into office, a “necromancer and wise people” (cf. Leviticus 19:31 and Deuteronomy 18:11).

2 Kings 21:7

Yea, he even placed the image of Asherah in the temple, i.e., in the Holy Place. In the description of his idolatry, which advances gradatim, this is introduced as the very worst crime. According to the express declaration of the Lord to David (2 Samuel 7:13) and Solomon (1 Kings 9:3 compared with 2 Kings 8:16), the temple was to serve as the dwelling-place of His name.

2 Kings 21:8

The word of the Lord, “I will no more make the foot of Israel to move out of the land which I gave to their fathers,” refers to the promise in 2 Samuel 7:10: “I will appoint my people a place, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and be stirred up no more,” which had been fulfilled by the building of the temple as the seat of the name of the Lord, in the manner indicated in pp. 85ff. The lasting fulfilment of this promise, however, was made to rest upon the condition of Israel's faithful adherence to the commandments of God (cf. 1 Kings 9:6.).

2 Kings 21:9

This condition was not observed by the Israelites; Manasseh seduced them, so that they did more evil than the Canaanites, whom Jehovah had destroyed before them.

2 Kings 21:10-12

The Lord therefore announced through the prophets, to the rebellious and idolatrous nation, the destruction of Jerusalem and the deliverance of Judah into the hands of its enemies; but, as is added in 2 Chronicles 33:10, they paid no heed to them. The prophets who foretold this terrible judgment are not named. According to 2 Chronicles 33:18, their utterances were entered in the annals of the kings. Habakkuk was probably one of them, since he (Habakkuk 1:5) predicted the Chaldaean judgment as a fact which excited astonishment and appeared incredible. The Amorites are mentioned in 2 Kings 21:11 instar omnium as the supporters of the Canaanitish ungodliness, as in 1 Kings 21:26, etc. - The phrase, “that whosoever heareth it, both his ears may tingle,” denotes such a judgment as has never been heard of before, and excites alarm and horror (cf. 1 Samuel 3:11 and Jeremiah 19:3). The Keri שׁמעהּ is a correction, to bring the pronom. suff. into conformity with the noun רעה so far as the gender is concerned, whereas in the Chethîb שׁמעיו the masculine suffix is used in the place of the feminine, as is frequently the case.

2 Kings 21:13

“I stretch over Jerusalem the measure of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab.” The measure ( קו ) and the plummet ( משׁקלת , lit., a level) were applied to what was being built (Zechariah 1:16), and also to what was being made level with the ground, i.e., completely thrown down (Amos 7:7). From this sprang the figurative expressions, measure of desolation and plummet of devastation (Isaiah 34:11). - The measure of Samaria therefore denotes the measure which was applied to the destruction of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab denotes the extermination of the royal house of Ahab. The meaning is: I shall destroy Jerusalem as I have destroyed Samaria, and exterminate its inhabitants like the house of Ahab. In the second hemistich the same thing is expressed, if possible, still more strongly: “I wipe away Jerusalem as one wipes the dish, and (having) wiped (it), turns it upon its upper side ( פּניה ).” The wiping of a dish that has been used, and the turning over of the dish wiped, so as not to leave a single drop in it, are a figurative representation of the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the utter extermination of its inhabitants.

2 Kings 21:14-15

With the destruction of Jerusalem the Lord forsakes the people of His possession, and give it up to its enemies for a prey and spoil. נחלתי שׁארית : Judah is called the remnant of the people of God's inheritance with a reference to the rejection and leading away of the ten tribes, which have already taken place. On וּמשׁסּה בּז see Isaiah 42:22; Jeremiah 30:16.

To this announcement of the judgment there is appended in 2 Chronicles 33:11. the statement, that Jehovah caused Manasseh the king to be taken prisoner by the generals of the king of Assyria and led away to Babylon in chains; and that when he humbled himself before God there, and made supplication to Him, He brought him back to Jerusalem and placed him upon his throne again; whereupon Manasseh fortified the walls of Jerusalem still further, placed garrisons in the fortified cities, removed the idol from the temple, abolished from the city the idolatrous altars erected in Jerusalem and upon the temple-mountain, restored the altar of Jehovah, and commanded the people to offer sacrifice upon it. - This incident is omitted in our book, because the conversion of Manasseh was not followed by any lasting results so far as the kingdom was concerned; the abolition of outward idolatry in Jerusalem did not lead to the conversion of the people, and after the death of Manasseh even the idolatrous abominations that had been abolished were restored by Amon.

(Note: The historical truth of these accounts, which Rosenmüller, Winer, and Hitzig called in question after the example of Gramberg, has been defended by Ewald, Bertheau, and even by Thenius; and the latest attack which has been made upon it by Graf in the theol. Studien u. Krit. 1859, iii., has been met by E. Gerlach in the same magazine of 1861. For further remarks see the Commentary on the Chronicles.)

2 Kings 21:16

Manasseh also sinned grievously by shedding innocent blood till Jerusalem was quite filled with it. לפה פּה , from one edge to the other, see at 2 Kings 10:21. This statement has been paraphrased by Josephus thus ( Ant. x. 3, 1): Manasseh slew πάντας ὁμῶς τοὺς δικαίους τοὺς ἐν τοῖς Ἑεβραίοις , and did not spare even the prophets, with the additional clause, which exaggerates the thing: καὶ τούτων δέ τινας καθ ̓ ἡμέραν ἀπέσφαξε, ὥστε αἵματι ῥεῖσθαι τὰ Ἱεροσόλυμα .

(Note: The widespread Jewish and Christian legend, that Manasseh put to death the prophet Isaiah, and indeed had him sawn in sunder, to which there is an allusion in Hebrews 11:37, also belongs here. (See Delitzsch, Comm. on Isaiah, p. 5.))

2 Kings 21:17-18

Manasseh was buried “in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza.” “His house” cannot be the royal palace built by Solomon, because the garden is also called the garden of Uzza, evidently from the name of its former possessor. “His house” must therefore have been a summer palace belonging to Manasseh, the situation of which, however, it is impossible to determine more precisely. The arguments adduced by Thenius in support of the view that it was situated upon Ophel, opposite to Zion, are perfectly untenable. Robinson ( Pal. i. p. 394) conjectures that the garden of Uzza was upon Zion. The name עוּא ( עזּה ) occurs again in 2 Samuel 6:8; 1 Chronicles 8:7; Ezra 2:49, and Nehemiah 7:51.

Verses 19-22

Reign of Amon (cf. 2 Chronicles 33:21-25). - Amon reigned only two years, and that in the spirit of his father, that is to say, worshipping all his idols. The city of Jotbah, from which his mother sprang, was, according to Jerome (in the Onom. s. v. Jethaba), urbs antiqua Judaeae; but it is not further known.

Verses 23-25

His servants conspired against him and slew him in his palace; whereupon the people of the land, i.e., the population of Judah ( הארץ עם = יהוּדה עם , 2 Chronicles 26:1), put the conspirators to death and made Josiah the son of Amon king, when he was only eight years old.

Verse 26

Amon was buried “in his grave in the garden of Uzza,” i.e., in the grave which he had had made in the garden of Uzza by the side of his father's grave. He had probably resided in this palace of his father. יקבּר , one buried him.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 2 Kings 21". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/2-kings-21.html. 1854-1889.
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