2 Kings 21:1. Manasseh reigned fifty and five years — In which time the years, wherein he was a captive in Babylon, are comprehended. He must, according to his age mentioned here, have been born three years after Hezekiah was miraculously restored, and had his life lengthened.
2 Kings 21:2. He did evil in the sight of the Lord — Through his own vicious inclinations, and the instigation of the wicked princes of Judah, who in Hezekiah’s time were secret enemies to the reformation which he was endeavouring to effect; and now, when the restraint which they had been under was removed by his death, broke forth into open hostility against it, and corrupted the king’s tender years with their wicked counsels. After the abominations of the heathen — It had been his father’s first care to root all idolatry out of his kingdom, and to restore the service of the temple to its pristine order and splendour. But this his graceless son, on the contrary, made it his study to banish religion and morality out of the country, to revive the old idolatry, and to introduce new and unheard-of idols and ceremonies; besides witchcraft, sorceries, and every wicked custom that was used among the heathen far and near. Baal became now the favourite object of his worship: Moloch and the valley of Hinnom were now more frequented than ever; the impious king encouraging his impious subjects to sacrifice their children there, as Ahaz had done before. He did not, however, pass unpunished for these offences: but for the particulars of his punishment, which are not mentioned in this book, the reader must be referred to 2 Chronicles 33:11, &c. See Dodd.
2 Kings 21:3-5. He built up again the high places — Trampling upon the dust of his worthy father, and affronting his memory. And worshipped all the host of heaven — The sun, moon, and stars, which the Gentiles had transformed into gods. He built altars — To the gods of the neighbouring nations, and to the host of heaven; in the house of the Lord — Not only in Jerusalem, where the Lord had recorded his name, but even in the courts of the temple itself, both in that where the priests and Levites performed their services, and in that wherein the people worshipped. Thus, when the faithful worshippers of God came to the place he had appointed, to do their duty to him, to their great grief and terror, they found the altars of other gods ready to receive their offerings.
2 Kings 21:6. He made his son pass through the fire — By which he dedicated him to Moloch, in contempt of the seal of circumcision by which he had been dedicated to God: see notes on Leviticus 18:21-22. And observed times — Lucky or unlucky days, according to the superstitious practice of the heathen.
2 Kings 21:7. He set an image of the grove, &c. — The image of that Baal which was worshipped in the grove, or of some other of his idols. The word Asherah, here rendered grove, is nearly the same with Ashtaroth, or Astarte, the imaginary female deities, which were worshipped along with Baalim. This image seems to have been set up in the very temple itself, probably in the holy place; as if designed purposely to affront the Lord to his face, and set him at defiance: “desecrating,” says Henry, “what had been consecrated to God, and, in effect, turning him out of his own house, and putting the rebels in possession of it.”
2 Kings 21:9-10. Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations, &c. — Partly, because they were not contented with those idols which the Canaanites worshipped, but either invented, or borrowed from other nations, many new idols; and partly, because as their light was far more clear, their obligations to God infinitely higher, and their helps against idolatry much stronger than the Canaanites had; so that their sins, though the same in kind, were unspeakably worse in respect of these dreadful aggravations. The Lord spake by his servants the prophets — Abarbinel says, that Hosea, Joel, Nahum, and Habakkuk, all prophesied in his days: and some think Obadiah also, and Isaiah.
2 Kings 21:11-12. Manasseh hath done wickedly, above what the Amorites did — The Canaanitish nations; all so called from one eminent part of them, Genesis 15:16. And hath made Judah to sin with his idols — By his example, encouragement, counsel, authority, and command. Therefore I am bringing evil upon Jerusalem — It will come, and it is at no great distance. Whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle — The report of it shall fill men’s minds with terror and amazement.
2 Kings 21:13. I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria — She shall have the same measure and lot; that is, the same judgments which Samaria has had. For the line is often put for one’s lot or portion, because men’s portions or possessions used to be measured by lines. Or it is a metaphor taken from workmen, who mark out by lines what parts of a building they would have thrown down, and what they would have to stand. I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, &c. — As men do with a dish that hath been used, first wholly empty it of all that is in it, then thoroughly cleanse and wipe it, and lastly turn it upside down, that nothing may remain in it; so will I deal with Jerusalem, thoroughly empty and purge it from all its wicked inhabitants. Yet the comparison intimates, that this should be in order to the purifying, not the final destruction of Jerusalem. The dish shall not be broken in pieces, or wholly cast away, but only wiped.
2 Kings 21:14-15. I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance — The kingdom of Judah, the only remainder of all the tribes of Israel, which I once chose for my inheritance; but now, notwithstanding that I conferred on them that privilege, I will utterly reject and forsake them. They have provoked me since the day, &c. — This sore judgment, though it was chiefly inflicted for the sins of Manasseh and his generation, yet had a respect unto all their former sins.
2 Kings 21:16. Moreover, Manasseh shed innocent blood — The blood of those prophets, and other righteous men, who either reproved his sinful practices, or refused to comply with his wicked commands. The tradition of the Jews is, that he caused Isaiah, in particular, to be sawn asunder, and that by a wooden saw, to which the author of the epistle to the Hebrews is thought to allude, Hebrews 11:37. Besides his sin, wherewith he made Judah to sin — That is, his idolatry, which is elsewhere called evil and corruption, and here sin, by way of eminency; which is the more remarkable, because it is here compared with horrid cruelty, and implied to be worse than it, and more abominable in God’s sight, because it more directly and immediately struck at the glory and the purity of the Divine Majesty, by respect unto which all sins are to be measured.
2 Kings 21:18. Was buried in the garden of his own house — Not in the sepulchre of the kings; probably by his own choice and command, as a lasting testimony of his sincere repentance, and abhorrence of himself for his former crimes.
2 Kings 21:21. He (Amon) walked in the way, &c. — He revived that idolatry which Manasseh, in the latter end of his reign, had put down. Those who set bad examples, if they repent themselves, cannot be sure that they whom their example has drawn into sin will repent; it is often otherwise.
2 Kings 21:23. The servants of Amon conspired against him — He having rebelled against God, his own servants rose up against him, and slew him when he had reigned only two years; and his own house, that should have been his castle of defence, was the place of his execution. He had profaned God’s house with his idols, and now God suffered his own house to be polluted with his blood. How unrighteous soever they were that did it, God was righteous who suffered it to be done.
2 Kings 21:24. The people slew all that had conspired against King Amon — Thus they cleared themselves from having any hand in the crime, and did what was incumbent on them, to deter others from the like villanous practices. And the people made Josiah his son king — It is probable the conspirators had designed to put him by, but the people stood by him, and settled him on the throne, encouraged, it may be, by the indications he gave, even in his early days, of a good disposition. Now they made a happy change from one of the worst to one of the best of all the kings of Judah. Once more, said God, they shall be tried with a reformation: if that succeed, well; if not, then, after that I will cut them down.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 21". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany