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Bible Commentaries
2 Chronicles 33

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Verses 1-9


After the revival under Hezekiah about which is written in the previous chapters, there are two more great histories: one of Manasseh and one of Josiah. The first history is that of Manasseh and tells the story of the conversion of an individual human being. In the whole Old Testament there is not a more striking history of conversion than that of Manasseh. The other history is that of Josiah and tells of the reform of an entire nation. In these ‘epilogue’ we see what the grace of God can do.

Manasseh King of Judah

Manasseh is born during the fifteen years of extra time Hezekiah received (2 Kings 20:6). When he is twelve years old, he becomes king (2 Chronicles 33:1). Manasseh is an extraordinary wicked king. The fact that God tolerates him for so long – he reigns no less than fifty-five years, from 697-642 BC – shows the patience of His grace.

Manasseh breaks a double record. No king has ruled as long as he has, and no king has been as wicked as he is. His name means ‘to make forget’. With this he is a model for the people, who also forget God (Jeremiah 2:32). While it is written of his father that “he did right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 29:2) it says of Manasseh that “he did evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 33:2). The contrast with his father manifests itself in everything. Through the actions of Manasseh, God’s land is inundated with the atrocities of the heathen nations, which the LORD has driven out before the eyes of His people.

Manasseh quickly undoes all his father’s reforms (2 Chronicles 33:3). It seems that he has made haste with that. What his father has broken down, he rebuilds. The idol altars are erected again. Manasseh surrenders himself with heart and soul to idolatry.

It is getting worse. He even dares to build idol altars in the house of the LORD (2 Chronicles 33:4). With this he grieves the LORD deeply. We hear the pain of the LORD resound in the quote of what he said about his house: “My name shall be in Jerusalem forever.” In the courts of the house of the LORD Manasseh builds altars for all the host of heaven, that are the stars (2 Chronicles 33:5).

And it can be even crazier. He lets his sons pass through fire, as his grandfather Ahaz did (2 Chronicles 33:6; 2 Chronicles 28:3) and focuses on occultism. He surrenders to the powers of darkness. This is not limited to a personal activity, but he promotes occultism by dealing with mediums and spiritists.

He does everything he can think of to provoke the LORD to anger. His next action is to put a self-made idol in the house of God (2 Chronicles 33:7). It is in a terrible way contrary to the intent of God with His home. God has spoken out clearly against David and Solomon about His house. It is the house where His Name shall dwell forever. But Manasseh doesn’t care about God’s intentions.

A reminder is given of the condition to remain in the land (2 Chronicles 33:8). Manasseh doesn’t mind at all. If he has thought about it at all, he ignores everything God has said. He does not care about God or His commandment. He leads Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, so that they have sinned worse than the nations which the LORD has wiped out of the land (2 Chronicles 33:9). People who confess to belong to God’s people sometimes do things for which unbelievers are ashamed (1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Corinthians 5:1). The history of Manasseh is, in short, that of Israel itself.

Verses 10-17

Manasseh Humbles Himself

The LORD doesn’t remain silent, and speaks to Manasseh through his prophets (2 Chronicles 33:10; 2 Chronicles 33:18; 2 Kings 21:10-Ezra :). But Manasseh is not listening. Therefore the LORD has him captured by the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, whom He sends to Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:11). Heavily handcuffed he is taken to Babylon, which is still a vassal state of Assyria at the moment.

Now by what has happened to him, Manasseh gets so distressed that he entreats the LORD his God (2 Chronicles 33:12). There is a total change in his attitude towards God. That is conversion. First he does everything to provoke God to anger. Now he tries to appease God. The anger of God was brought upon him by all his atrocities. He cannot earn back God’s favor by doing some good deeds now, but only by humiliating himself deeply before Him. That is repentance. Conversion and repentance belong together.

Manasseh prays to God, and God is moved by his entreaty and hears (2 Chronicles 33:13). That is God. He listens to the supplications of a penitent sinner. For He has promised that He will listen if a man humbles himself (2 Chronicles 7:14). Then Manasseh returns to Jerusalem, meaning the LORD brings him back there. What happens here with Manasseh will happen with Israel in the future. Israel returns to the land at their national conversion.

Manasseh is not only spared and receives grace himself, but he is also enabled to restore much of what he has previously corrupted (2 Chronicles 33:14-Nehemiah :). He is given the opportunity to show the fruits of his conversion (cf. Luke 3:8-2 Chronicles :). He begins by improving the defense of Jerusalem and the fortified cities of Judah (2 Chronicles 33:14). He builds an outer wall around Jerusalem and put army commanders in all the fortified cities of Judah.

Then he cleanses in the house of the LORD that he has so greatly desecrated (2 Chronicles 33:15). What he placed in his rebellion against God in and near the house of the LORD of idols and idolaters, he removes in submission to God. He throws everything outside the city.

After his breaking down of what promotes idolatry, there is room to restore what he in his rebellion against God has broken down from the house of the LORD (2 Chronicles 33:16). He rebuilds the altar of the LORD. He then brings peace offerings and thank offerings, thereby testifying of his gratitude toward God.

After showing that his conversion is real, he orders Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel (2 Chronicles 33:16). You can only ask something of someone else if you have set a good example yourself. Manasseh must first prove that he serves the LORD. Now that this is the case, he can also call upon his people with authority to do the same. The Lord Jesus is always and in everything the perfect example. After He has washed the disciples’ feet, He instructs them to wash each other’s feet (John 13:14-Ezra :).

Manasseh has been able to undo much of what he introduced of idolatry before his conversion, but not everything (2 Chronicles 33:17; 2 Chronicles 33:22). We see this also in the history of Josiah who still breaks down a lot (2 Chronicles 34:1-Judges :). The people continue to value the high places in order to sacrifice there. It can be said that they sacrifice only to the LORD their God, but the desire for specially consecrated places remains.

This is also evident in Christianity. There may be a desire to honor only the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but this is often linked to outer things, such as a church building, certain clothing, and candles. As a result, religion becomes more a service to sentiment, feeling, than to God. Today it is often more about how it feels than whether it is true.

Verses 18-20

The Death of Manasseh

For the rest of Manasseh’s acts, the chronicler refers to other documents. The first document is ‘the records of the kings of Israel’. It contains “his prayer to his God” (2 Chronicles 33:18). It also contains “the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel”. The prayer of Manasseh to God and the words of God to Manasseh are recorded. These two, the prayer and the Word of God, form the life of a man in his relationship to God.

The second document is “the records of the Hozai” or “the records of the seers” (2 Chronicles 33:19). It contains, as in the document mentioned above, “his prayer”. The fact that his prayer is mentioned twice – together with the mention in this chapter (2 Chronicles 33:13) three times in total – shows how important God considers his prayer to be. This is underlined by the remark “[how God] was entreated by him”. It is not about the fact alone, that God was entreated by him, but it says how God was entreated by him. This is indicates more the way Manasseh has prayed and God’s benevolent acceptance of his prayer.

However, the second document also contains “all his sin, his unfaithfulness, and the sites on which he built high places and erected the Asherim and the carved images, before he humbled himself”. Manasseh has set the pen of the historians in motion. There is a lot to tell about him, both for good and for evil.

The beauty of the account we have of the conversion of Manasseh in holy Scripture is that no sinner needs to despair. Conversion is possible for the greatest sinner. At the same time, every sinner must be aware that a precise record is being made of all the deeds he has done. This also happens with all the words that people have spoken to him in the Name of the Lord to address him about his sins. If repentance does not come, all this will testify against him before the great white throne (Revelation 20:11-Ezra :).

The final remark of the chronicler about Manasseh is about his death (2 Chronicles 33:20). When he dies, he is buried in his house, which is in the garden of his house (2 Kings 21:18). It is not clear why he is not buried with his fathers. His son Amon succeeds him as king.

Verses 21-25

Amon King of Judah

Amon, the son of Manasseh, becomes king when he is twenty-two years old (2 Chronicles 33:21). He reigns only two years in Jerusalem. That is enough to get to know him as one to whom the general characteristic of the kings of Israel applies: “He did evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 33:22). He shows that he learned nothing from his father’s conversion. He does the sins that his father did before his conversion.

He sacrifices to the idols his father made. Perhaps Manasseh did remove the idols in his restoration, but did not destroy them. It may be that there have been so many of them that he has not been able to destroy them all. Sometimes we can’t undo everything we’ve done wrong in earlier years.

Amon follows his father in evil and not in good. He does not humiliate himself as his father has humiliated himself (2 Chronicles 33:23). As a result, he makes his guilt ever greater. It says emphatically “Amon” does it. It is this Amon, the man who occupies such a privileged and at the same time responsible place in God’s people.

Amon does not die a natural death. He is the victim of a conspiracy of his servants, who kill him in his own house (2 Chronicles 33:24). Unlike Manasseh, he is not given the opportunity to convert later in his life. No one knows the day of his death. It is therefore important to tell people that every day can be the last and that conversion should not be postponed until tomorrow.

God uses the sense of justice of the people of the land to prevent the land from sinking into anarchy. The people of the land act according to the law and kill the conspirators (2 Chronicles 33:25). Then they make the son of Amon Josiah king instead of his father.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Chronicles 33". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/2-chronicles-33.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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