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CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter is parallel with 2 Kings 21:0., yet differs in omitting some things and adding new matter, especially in central part. Impiety of Man. (2 Chronicles 33:1-10); his captivity and repentance (2 Chronicles 33:11-17); his end (2 Chronicles 33:18-20). Amon (2 Chronicles 33:21-25).
2 Chronicles 33:1-10.—Manasseh’s revival of idolatry. Named after a tribe of Israel, born after his father’s recovery. Evil, through influence of those around him. 2 Chronicles 33:3. Built (2 Kings 18:4); groves, one in 2 Kings 21:3-7, that which was intruded into the temple. 2 Chronicles 33:4. House, i.e., within precincts of temple and in its courts (2 Chronicles 33:5). 2 Chronicles 33:6. Through fire, like Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:3); observed, bewitched with an evil eye; enchantments, serpent charms; accustomed to all the black arts of the day. 2 Chronicles 33:7. Carved, in Ki. wooden stock of Ashtoreth. 2 Chronicles 33:8. Appointed, fixed. 2 Chronicles 33:9. Err, by example and conduct. 2 Chronicles 33:10. Spake, full account 2 Kings 21:10-15.
2 Chronicles 33:11-17.—Manasseh’s cap. and repentance. Thorns, among which he hid himself for refuge (1 Samuel 13:6); some “among the living,” i.e., took him alive; others “which took M. cap. with rings.” 2 Chronicles 33:12. Besought, lit. “stroked or smoothed the face of the Lord” (cf. Exodus 32:11; 1 Samuel 13:11; 1 Kings 13:6; Daniel 9:13). 2 Chronicles 33:14. Wall, rebuilt or repaired. Gihon, 2 Chronicles 32:4; fishgate, near N.E. corner of lower city; went round to Ophel. 2 Chronicles 33:15. Strange (2 Chronicles 33:3-5); idol of 2 Chronicles 33:7. 2 Chronicles 33:16. Repaired, desecrated, or damaged altar. 2 Chronicles 33:17. High places (2 Chronicles 31:1), prohibited that there might be one national altar.
2 Chronicles 33:18-20.—Manasseh’s end. Prayer, preserved in some MSS. of Sept., no claim to be considered the genuine utterance of Jewish king. The composition of an Hellenistio Jew, well acquainted with the Sept., writing at a time probably not much anterior to the Christian Era [Speak. Com.]. 2 Chronicles 33:19. Seers, of Hozai (marg.), a prophet of the time. 2 Chronicles 33:20. House, fuller in 2 Kings 21:18. Reason not known.
2 Chronicles 33:21-25.—Amon’s reign and end. A. re-established the idolatries which his father put aside; met the fate of Joash and Amaziah from his servants, at whose death executive government was suspended.
MANASSEH’S WICKEDNESS.—2 Chronicles 33:1-9
Hezekiah’s reformation not completed by successors, lost its influence upon manners of people. Corruption and vice increased and openly practiced by degenerate leaders. Young king trained up in idolatry and introduced abominations when he became ruler.
I. Wickedness determined in its spirit. “He wrought much wickedness.” A liberal patron and zealous adept in Chaldean arts and imposture. Multiplied sins privately and publicly. Determined, energetic, and violent in his career. Did wickedness “with both hands earnestly.”
II. Wickedness awful in its extent. Upset his father’s reforms, increased idolatrous customs, raised soothsayers to dignity in his count filled the land with altars of Baal, and outraged all decency by putting an image of Asherah in the very precincts of the temple dedicated to the true worship of God.
III. Wickedness exceptional in its nature. He practised sorcery and necromancy, and restored the fires of Tophet. “He made Judah do worse than the heathen.” He became a cruel persecutor, and his reign a reign of terror. Streets of Jerusalem ran with innocent blood. “His name became in Jewish annals the synonym of infamy” (cf. 2 Kings 21:16). Sins terrible in themselves, inexcusable in Manasseh, and most fruitful of evil!
IV. Wickedness unchecked by Divine warnings. “The Lord spake to M. and to his people, but they would not hearken” (2 Chronicles 33:10). God about to destroy, not build and defend the city! “Line and plummet” threatened. Destruction would be entire and unhindered by any destroying angel. People taken away as “a prey and a spoil.” M. himself a captive in chains and carried to Babylon. A punishment deserved, sent in mercy, and brought repentance and restoration.
MANASSEH’S REPENTANCE.—2 Chronicles 33:10-13
Exact time of Manasseh’s confinement in dungeon of Babylon not known, but narrative one of deepest interest, one which reveals the glory of unparalleled mercy. “The hardships, the loneliness, the disgrace of captivity were good for M.”
I. An exception in youthful experience. “The remarkable distinction of his career is that he is the only case clearly recorded in the Scriptures of a youth breaking away from the restraints and example of a religious parentage, who was recovered by the grace of God, and brought to repentance” [A. Phelps, D.D.].
II. It was sincere in its character. The misery and solitude of prison led to calm reflection.
1. His humility was great. The iron entered his soul. He recalled the days of childhood, thought of scenes of blood and cries of the murdered. The stars of heaven, which he had sinfully worshipped, shone in the dark prison to remind him of his guilt. He saw the vileness of his actions and the evil of his heart. “He humbled himself greatly.”
2. His prayer was earnest. He humbly besought God for pardon; implored for opportunity to evince the sincerity of his sorrow. God heard, and restored him; “was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom.”
III. It was permanent in its results. On his return he exerted himself to the uttermost to correct errors of his reign, and establish the worship of God in former purity and splendour.
1. He was concerned for the temporal welfare of the kingdom. Repaired the old walls of the city, added a new one; surrounded and fortified the hill of Ophel; strengthened, garrisoned, and provisioned “the fenced cities of Judah.”
2. He endeavoured to practise and promote religion among the people. In remembrance of former evils, among multitudes who had been former associates, and perhaps amid scoffs and taunts of ignominious capture and disgraceful imprisonment, he purged the land and the temple from idolatry; repaired the altar of Jehovah, and sacrificed peace-offerings upon it, and “commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.”
IV. It is most encouraging to others. A wonderful display of God’s mercy. A proof “that the Divine mercy,” says Stanley, “far exceeds the Divine vengeance, and that even from the darkest reprobation the free will of man and the grace of God may achieve a deliverance. If Manasseh could be restored, there was no one against whom the door of repentance and restitution was finally closed.”
MANASSEH’S LIFE AND ITS LESSONS
I. That the sins of parents arrested in one generation may appear in another. As diseases pass over some, and reappear in others, so wickedness, thought to be extinct, assumes its virulence, and brings forth its fruit.
II. That when children of godly parents sin they often become worse than others. M. went further, and more guilty of excess, than heathens around him. “M. seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel.”
III. That God exercises providential checks to prevent these sins. Thus far men can only go. The end often distant, but certain, when God designs to restore.
1. To fulfil his covenant.
2. To illustrate his mercy. Paul obtained mercy as a pattern to others, a form sketch to imitate, to be filled up by others (1 Timothy 1:16).
3. To reveal his nature. “Then M. knew that the Lord he was God.”
IV. That in the conversion of M. we have encouragement to labour and pray for the salvation of sinners. Give none up in despair. God’s power omnipotent, and his grace sufficient. Augustine, Newton, Bunyan, &c. This should be the theme of preaching as it is the doctrine of Scripture. After teaching theology for forty years, the elder Alexander said: “The longer I live, the more I incline to sum up my theology in the single sentence, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.’ ”
HEZEKIAH AND MANASSEH: A CONTRAST
We have in end of one and beginning of the other a magnificent sunset and a sunrise of quite an opposite description. A good father and king closing life in Hezekiah; a bad son and successor commencing life in Manasseh. I. Consider Hez. and what we learn about him.
1. That genuine goodness shall not want appropriate record and remembrance.
2. God the inspirer of goodness in the hearts of men will not forget it.
3. The beneficiaries of goodness will not be unmindful of their benefactors.
4. Sympathetic imitators will mirror forth their goodness from whom they have derived its idea and impulse. II. Now turn to Man and what the history says about him.
1. A youthful king.
2. A long reign.
3. A life of great wickedness. Application:
1. What may parents learn from the son of such a father? Hez. hoarded up wealth for his son. Did he undervalue the moral element in him?
2. What may subjects learn from the successor of such a king? Not to trust religion to princes who may be alternately reformers and destroyers [J. Spencer Hill].
LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF THREE KINGS.—2 Chronicles 33:21-25
I. Manasseh. There is no limit to the mercy of God. Sinners chief, welcome to complete forgiveness. If only great saints got into heaven great sinners would lose hope. But when we see M. and men like him going in and getting welcome, there is hope for us. If we follow their steps in repentance, we shall be permitted to join their company in rest.
II. Amon. Beware of turning the riches of God’s grace into a snare. As Manasseh’s case is recorded in the Bible that an aged sinner desiring to turn may not be cast into despair, Amon’s case, recorded beside it, that the young may not delay an hour, lest they perish for ever.
III. None will be lost or saved in consequence of anything in our parents. Amon saw his father born again when old, but the son did not inherit his father’s goodness. Josiah the child of an ungodly parent, yet he became a godly child. Two lessons plainly written in the history—one to make presumptuous humble, the other to give despairing hope:
(1) a converted father cannot secure the safety of an unconverted son;
(2) an unconverted father cannot drag down a child in his fall if that child follows the Lord [W. Arnot, “Fam. Treasury”].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS.
2 Chronicles 33:1. Reigned fifty-and-five years.
1. For the punishment of people’s sins.
2. That he might have time enough to amend his own life.
3. That in him, as afterwards in Paul, “God might show forth all longsuffering” [Trapp].
2 Chronicles 33:8. Israel fixed in God’s house and in the land.
1. Fixed by God’s appointment, not their own choice or preference.
2. Fixed conditionally. “Only if they will observe, &c.”
3. Ejected by violation of conditional promise.
2 Chronicles 33:9. M. seduced. The power of example. Ahaz. abandoned worship of God, but did not seduce generality of his subjects. Manasseh’s influence carried the whole nation with him into idolatry. Evil examples like pestilential diseases.
2 Chronicles 33:11-13. M.’s conversion.
1. Affliction its occasion. This designed. “They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them.” “When the rod spoke he heard it (Micah 6:9) who would not hear the word (2 Chronicles 5:10). God sent him into the dungeon to repent; as he did David into the depths, and Jonah into the whale’s belly to pray. Adversity hath whipt many a soul into heaven, which otherwise prosperity had coached to hell” [Trapp].
2. Prayer its accompaniment. “He besought the Lord.” “His affections, like Ben-hadad’s best counsellors, sent M. with a cord about his neck, to the merciful King of Israel” [Trapp].
3. Amendment its fruits. Complete reversal of former policy; zeal in destruction of idols, and in worship of God; public example and encouragement to others to do right. “Fruits meet for repentance.”
2 Chronicles 33:17. People did sacrifice. The force of habit, (a) To withstand good example; (b) To resist religious influences; and (c) To despise Divine warnings. Easier to corrupt than to reform men, and difficult to break off evil customs and forsake religious superstitions.
2 Chronicles 33:17-18. A dark day and a bright sunset. Here is an unostentatious, unhonoured, and unepitaphed grave. We have to trace in this case a sunrise of promise, soon obscured with clouds of guilt and crime. These clouds burst in floods of penitence and sorrow. A meridian of sudden brilliancy follows. The sky clears, and the orb of a chequered life sets cloudless and serene on the hills of Judah. Standing by his grave, let us consider—I. Manasseh’s sin. Look at
(1) His early training. Hezekiah would well bring him up;
(2) The baneful influence his creed and example had on his subjects;
(3) His repeated and obdurate rejection of Divine warning. II. His conversion. His dungeon became the gate of heaven. Note here the wonderful power of sanctified affliction. III. His new life. The grand test of the reality of conversion is the regenerated being. The tree is known by its fruits. We read that when God brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom, “then M. knew that the Lord He was God” [Dr. Macduff].
2 Chronicles 33:20. Buried in house, “in the garden of his own house” (2 Kings 21:18). The sepulchre in the garden (cf. John 19:41).
2 Chronicles 33:21-25. Amon trespassed more and more, lit., multiplied trespasses.
1. He began early. Early in age and in reign. Only twenty-two, only two years in Jerusalem.
2. He did much in the time. To do good much effort, time, and sacrifice required. Easy to do evil, which spreads quickly and makes a harvest in short season. “How then was Manasseh dead? In what sense was Manasseh buried? Here is an active boy who has caught his mantle, and is working with redoubled industry” [Dr. Parker]. “The evil that men do lives after them.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 33
2 Chronicles 33:1-7. Did evil. It was the misfortune of Manasseh to pass the most critical period of his life, the transition from youth to manhood, in an atmosphere so fraught with moral corruption, unfavourable to the formation of manly sentiments, holy purposes, and virtuous habits—a court, the court of a youth, himself the victim of a deadly miasma; the beams of his own glory exhaled under such influences, and the better impressions of earlier teachings were speedily erased; and he emerges into notice a worldling and an idolater, a stain upon his country’s annals, for fifty years a scourge and corrupter, himself at last saved, but only “in the furnace of affliction” and “so as by fire” [Rev. R. Hallam, D.D.].
2 Chronicles 33:11-13. When in affliction. Methinks I hear God say, Take this medicine; it is exactly fitted to the case, prepared and weighed by my own hands. Adam’s (Priv. Thoughts) sin the disease, Christ the physician, pain the medicine [Cecil]. By pain God drives me to prayer, teaches me what prayer is, inclines me to pray [Adams].
“Prayer is a creature’s strength, his very breath and being;
Prayer is the golden key that can open the wicket of mercy.”
2 Chronicles 33:21-24. Did evil. M. might repent and reform—ay, and be accepted by God; but could he undo the consequences—the effects upon others—of his life and wickedness? May as well expect to prevent the appearance of disease after having used every effort to spread infection. The father may turn to God in true sorrow, but the son he begat shall follow in his parent’s course of evil and never turn from it. Oh. how fearful a thing is sin! If we put our hands to it, we know not what we do. The thought of the irrevocable, irremediable consequences of sin should help to keep us from sinning [M. J.].
“How many, all weak and withered of their force,
Wait on the verge of dark eternity,
Like stranded wrecks!”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 33". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany