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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 21

 

 

Verse 1-2

The Reign of Manasseh, King of Judah 687/6-642/1 BC. Co-regent from 696/95 BC.

In this passage the prophetic author, who was as we have seen always very selective, concentrated his attention on the failures of Manasseh and the future consequences for Judah. He mentions neither his Babylonian exile, nor his repentance (see 2 Chronicles 33:1-20), nor is there any mention at all of his subjection to Assyria. As far as he was concerned they were irrelevant to his main purpose, which was to emphasise that from a religious viewpoint Manasseh was overall a bad king for Judah, and in his view left a bad legacy. While Manasseh himself had changed in his final years he was unable fully to reverse what he had done, both to Judah and to his family. The high places which Hezekiah had destroyed had been restored and the people had been turned back to the old unregenerate ways of worship, and even though outwardly in his final years that worship was of YHWH, it would almost certainly be the old syncretistic Yahwism of old. People commanded by the king to alter their ways of worship would not do it wholeheartedly. Above all he could not undo what he had taught his son in his earlier days, and his son thus continued to follow in the footsteps of his earlier unregenerate days, advancing the downward path of Judah and the triumph of idolatry. Manasseh had laid down a pathway that led to destruction which his late conversion could not prevent.

It is true that Manasseh had the misfortune to reign when Assyria was at the height of its power which put certain restraints on him, (not mentioned by the author), but he went far beyond what that required of him religiously. He reigned under Esarhaddon, whose conquests included Egypt reaching up even into upper Egypt, and then under Ashur-bani-pal who followed him. Assyrian inscriptions make clear that, along with many other kings, he was (humanly speaking inevitably), a vassal of both. He was also to suffer for his father’s sin concerning friendship with Babylon, for it was probably his alliance with the then king of Babylon, Shamash-shum-ukin, the rebellious brother of Esarhaddon, that resulted in his being dragged ‘by hooks’ to Babylon by Esarhaddon when that rebellion was quelled, and there he was judged and punished accordingly. After repenting he returned to Judah and sought to mitigate what he had previously done, but it was mainly in vain. The people may have appeared outwardly to respond to his repentance in his later life but it was not from the heart. His repentance came too late to alter the ingrained inward effects of his earlier evil days, effects which would rear their heads again during the reign of his son.

We are not told who reigned while he was in custody in Babylon, but it may well have been his son, with Assyrian overseers. And his son had presumably continued his evil ways, and while somewhat restrained when Manasseh returned a changed man, would allow his evil to blossom fully once Manasseh had died. That in the author’s view was Manasseh’s legacy. Like Ahab before him (1 Kings 21:27-29), from the kingship point of view his late repentance could not make up for what he had been and done for most of his life, and that had been abysmal. What he had earlier done had been a number of steps too far, and it had guaranteed the final judgment on Judah and Jerusalem, which was the author’s concern.

The passage divides up into five parts:

Overall Analysis.

a Introductory Detail (2 Kings 21:1-2).

b Summary Of His Evil Life (2 Kings 21:3-9).

c YHWH’s Consequent Judgment (2 Kings 21:10-15).

b Further Summary Of His Evil Life (2 Kings 21:16).

a Final Comments (2 Kings 21:17-18).

2 Kings 21:1-2

Introductory Detail (2 Kings 21:1-2).

The account of Manasseh’s reign commences with the usual introductory formula and verdict on his reign

2 Kings 21:1

‘Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned five and fifty years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Hephzibah.’

The twelve years refers to when he became co-regent with his father in 696/95 BC, and the fifty five years of reign included that co-regency. As usual the name of the important queen mother is given. Hephzibah means ‘my delight is in her’ (compare Isaiah 62:4 which may well have been written around this time).

2 Kings 21:2

‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, after the abominations of the nations whom YHWH cast out before the children of Israel.’

The verdict on his reign was that he did evil in the sight of YHWH, having walked in all the abominations of the nations whom YHWH had cast out before the children of Israel, the nations whose behaviour had been so evil that YHWH had ordered either their destruction or their expulsion from the land.


Verses 3-9

Summary Of His Evil Life (2 Kings 21:3-9).

The full evil of the life of Manasseh is brought out by a detailed description of all the abominations that he committed (2 Kings 21:3-7), followed by two summaries, one in 2 Kings 21:9 and one in 2 Kings 21:16, thereby making up a threefold indictment of the ‘completeness’ of his evil. Whilst it was true that his subjection to the King of Assyria would have required that at a minimum he introduce into the Temple an Assyrian altar, and the worship of Assur and the host of heaven (whose power was claimed by the Assyrians as having brought about his subjection, and who would need to ‘watch over’ the observance of the treaty made between them which would have been lodged in the Temple), it was not required of him that he go to excess in other directions. The Assyrians did not interfere with the local religion. Thus his excesses in that regard may well have partly been due to the fact that when he came to the throne as sole ruler at a comparatively young age he was under the influence of parties who had endeared themselves to him during his co-regency with a view to a return to the old ways once Hezekiah was dead. It may also have included bitterness at the thought that his destiny, according to the famous prophet of YHWH Isaiah, was to become a eunuch in the service of the King of Babylon (2 Kings 20:18). It may be that he felt that the ancient gods of the land would offer him a better future.

Analysis.

a For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he reared up altars for Baal, and made an Asherah, as did Ahab king of Israel, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them (2 Kings 21:3).

b And he built altars in the house of YHWH, of which YHWH said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name” (2 Kings 21:4).

c And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of YHWH (2 Kings 21:5).

d And he made his son pass through the fire, and practised augury, and used enchantments, and dealt with those who had familiar spirits, and with wizards (2 Kings 21:6 a).

c He wrought much evil in the sight of YHWH, to provoke him to anger (2 Kings 21:6 b).

b And he set the graven image of Asherah, which he had made, in the house of which YHWH said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever, nor will I cause the feet of Israel to wander any more out of the land which I gave their fathers, if only they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them” (2 Kings 21:7-8).

a But they did not listen, and Manasseh seduced them to do what is evil more than did the nations whom YHWH destroyed before the children of Israel (2 Kings 21:9).

Note that in ‘a’ we have described the restoration of the perverted worship of the gods of Canaan, and in the parallel the fact that Manasseh did more evil that the nations whom YHWH had destroyed because of their worship of the perverted gods of Canaan. In ‘b’ he desecrated the place in which YHWH had put His Name, and in the parallel he did the same. In ‘c’ be built altars to the host of heaven in the courts of the house of YHWH, and in the parallel he wrought much evil in the sight of YHWH to provoke Him to anger. Centrally in ‘d’ he practised child sacrifice, and engaged in the occult.

2 Kings 21:3

‘For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he reared up altars for Baal, and made an Asherah, as did Ahab king of Israel, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.’

Manasseh did not, of course, do all this himself. Rather he rescinded the order of Hezekiah against the old high places, so that those of the people so inclined, which were many, could once again restore the high places with their semi-Canaanite worship, and set up altars for Baal, while he himself seemingly set up an altar of Baal and an Asherah image in the Temple in the same way as Ahab had done (compare 2 Kings 16:3; 1 Kings 16:30-33). It was a deliberate reversal of Hezekiah’s reforms. The worship of the host of heaven, which would include Assur the sun god, was probably required by his Assyrian conquerors, but it was one thing to give formal recognition to them, it was quite another to enter into their worship enthusiastically. He appears to have ‘gone over the top’. He was seemingly not too reluctant a vassal.

2 Kings 21:4

‘And he built altars in the house of YHWH, of which YHWH said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” ’

In view of 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 21:5 this would appear to refer to (or at least include) altars for Baal. And he set them up in the very place where YHWH had promised to David that he would ‘put His Name’ (by allowing the introduction of the Ark, ‘whose name was called by the Name of YHWH of Hosts Who dwells between the cherubim’ - 2 Samuel 6:2). It was thus a direct confrontation with YHWH.

For ‘in Jerusalem will I put My Name’ see 1 Kings 11:36; 1 Kings 14:21. YHWH had put His Name in Jerusalem in response to David’s action in bringing the Ark of YHWH (which was called after the Name of YHWH - 2 Samuel 6:2) into Jerusalem as his capital city. It was David’s desire that YHWH would adopt Jerusalem as the present place where He put His Name, and YHWH had responded to him because of His love for him. It was thus for David’s sake that He had adopted Jerusalem. And now Manasseh was restoring it to its old owners, the gods of Canaan. This was thus an open rejection by Manasseh of his own Davidic status, and of the uniqueness of the God of David.

In Deuteronomy 12 YHWH had made clear that He would put His Name wherever the Tabernacle was set up, and the Ark placed within it. And that place had varied from time to time. But there was no specific thought in Deuteronomy of Jerusalem. Deuteronomy simply had in mind the setting up of one Central Sanctuary at whatever place YHWH chose at any particular time (although it nowhere says it would be the only sanctuary. It would be the central one around which the tribes united). This was initially at Shechem (as Deuteronomy itself recognised), and eventually for a long time at Shiloh. It was David, and then Solomon, who decided to set it up at Jerusalem, and it was for David’s sake that YHWH recognised Jerusalem as the place where He would put His Name. It is a mistake to read Jerusalem specifically back into Deuteronomy 12.

2 Kings 21:5

‘And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of YHWH.’

It would appear that the old court around the Temple had been divided into two (compare 2 Kings 23:12). This would probably be necessary in order to house the altar of YHWH in one section and the altars of Baal in the other (the worship of both could not take place in the same area simultaneously). Altars to his overlord’s gods, recognised in terms of the host of heaven, would thus have to be set up in both sections. The worship of the host of heaven was widespread, even though the gods might have different names. But here, as the Assyrian gods are mentioned nowhere else in the passage, it is seemingly connected with Assyria (where ‘the host of heaven’ was certainly worshipped), for their presence and worship would certainly have been required.

Alternatively the mention of the two courts may have in mind the ‘middle court’, possibly mentioned in 2 Kings 20:4, which may have been a court in the palace complex which was alongside the court of the Temple. But we would expect the altars to be erected before the door of the Sanctuary which favours the first idea above (compare 2 Kings 23:12).

‘The host of heaven.’ Anyone who was a polytheist and connected the gods with the sun, moon and stars would necessarily think of ‘the host of heaven’ every time that he looked up to the stars at night. There it was spread before him, a great host. Thus we have mention of ‘the host of heaven’ as early as Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3; compare Genesis 1:2. The Assyrians had, however, schematised the idea.

2 Kings 21:6

‘And he made his son pass through the fire, and practised augury, and used enchantments, and dealt with those who had familiar spirits, and with wizards.’

This may signify that he also introduced the worship of Molech (Melech) the god of the Ammonites who required child sacrifice, or alternatively that he transferred those practises to the worship of Baal, as would occur in the future in Jeremiah’s day (Jeremiah 19:5). That passing through the fire involved such child sacrifice is clear from Jeremiah 19:5. He also indulged in the occult, using divination by omens, enchantments, consultations with familiar spirits through mediums, and wizardry, all of which was forbidden by the Law of YHWH (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10-14).

2 Kings 21:6

‘He wrought much evil in the sight of YHWH, to provoke him to anger.’

Not only did he introduce false worship in abundance, but Manasseh also ‘wrought much evil, in the sight of YHWH’, provoking Him to anger. Central to this was his rejection of the covenant requirements of YHWH (compare 2 Kings 21:16, where his wrong behaviour clearly goes beyond a simple indulging in false worship, serious though that was. Canaanite worship, with its perverted sex acts, did, of course, openly result in flagrant disobedience to YHWH’s other commandments).

2 Kings 21:7

‘And he set the graven image of Asherah, which he had made, in the house of which YHWH said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever,” ’

Chief among his crimes was the setting up of the image of the mother goddess of the Canaanite religion, not only in Jerusalem which was a crime in itself, but also in the very house of which YHWH had said to David and Solomon, ‘There will I put My Name’ (1 Kings 11:36; 1 Kings 14:21). The setting up of the Asherah with its evil and lascivious associations appears to have been looked on, if that were possible, as even more serious than the pillars and altars of Baal (compare 2 Kings 13:6; 1 Kings 16:33). The sexual extravagances associated with Asherah are here set in stark contrast to the purity of the Name of YHWH.

2 Kings 21:8

“Nor will I cause the feet of Israel to wander any more out of the land which I gave their fathers, if only they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.”

At that time YHWH had promised that He would not cause the feet of Israel to wander out of the land which He had given to their fathers any more. In other words there would be no danger of exile for them. They would be safe in the land. But it had been conditional on their observing to do all that He had commanded them, and all that had been commanded to them by Moses as written in the Law of Moses, YHWH’s servant. And we have already seen that three major exiles of God’s people had already resulted because of their disobedience. The first was in 2 Kings 15:29, following the destruction and annexation of the region around Naphtali, when many from those regions were transported; the second in 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11-12 following the destruction of Samaria; and the third in 2 Kings 18:13 (read in the light of the Assyrian annals), resulting from the initial invasion of Judah. Indeed every Assyrian and Babylonian, and even Egyptian, invasion would result in many exiles, for these nations never went back without taking captives with them, (compare Isaiah 11:11-12; Isaiah 43:5-6; Isaiah 49:12; Isaiah 56:8). So, as for many nations of the other nations (e.g. 2 Kings 16:9), exile was a common occurrence for the Israelites, and continually brought home the warning that if they were disobedient God would spew them out of the land (Leviticus 18:28; Leviticus 20:22). (What is erroneously called ‘The Exile’ in popular Biblical teaching, as though there was only one, is only recalled because it resulted from the destruction of Jerusalem and we have records about some of them returning. But exile was not uncommon. In those days people lived in expectation of the possibility of exile if they rebelled (compare 2 Kings 18:32). So it did not take a prophet to forecast the possibility of exile. What the prophet did was explain the reason for the exile.

This prophecy is not actually elsewhere recorded in Scripture. The closest to it is found in 1 Samuel 7:10 where we read, ‘and I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more’, but there were many prophecies that were not included in Kings (consider the examples found in Chronicles) so that there is no good reason for denying the genuineness of this prophecy.

2 Kings 21:9

“But they did not listen, and Manasseh seduced them to do what is evil more than did the nations whom YHWH destroyed before the children of Israel.’

However, in spite of all that YHWH had said the people did not listen. And Manasseh ‘seduced them’ and led them into such evil ways that they were even more evil than the nations whom YHWH had (only in part because of Israel’s disobedience) destroyed before the children of Israel. It is clear therefore that this could have only one inevitable end, that they would be spewed out of the land (Leviticus 18:28; Leviticus 20:22). A further series of exiles was inevitable.


Verses 10-16

YHWH Prophesies Destruction And Misery On An Unfaithful People (2 Kings 21:10-16).

These prophecies were made during the reign of Manasseh. Indeed the Chronicler made clear that many seers prophesied during his reign (2 Chronicles 33:18), seeking to turn him back to righteousness. And they are here followed by a summary of the grossness of Manasseh’s evil ways prior to his own period of exile.

Interestingly, in spite of past precedents, there is no mention of exile in the prophecies, although it might be read in simply because it was inevitable in such circumstances. The thought is rather of the thoroughness of YHWH’s judgment, and the total humiliation of His people. (The description could in fact have been applied to any of the times when Jerusalem was taken and its people despoiled e.g. 1 Kings 15:25-27, and to what would have happened to them had Jerusalem been taken by Rezin and the son of Remaliah (2 Kings 16:5; Isaiah 7:1-2), or by Assyria in the time of Sennacherib).

Analysis.

a And YHWH spoke by his servants the prophets, saying, “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations, and has done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols” (2 Kings 21:10-11).

b “Therefore thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, Behold, I bring such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle” (2 Kings 21:12).

c “And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down, and I will cast off the remnant of my inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies, and they will become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (2 Kings 21:13-14).

b “Because they have done what is evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even to this day” (2 Kings 21:15).

a Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin with which he made Judah to sin, in doing what was evil in the sight of YHWH (2 Kings 21:16).

Note that in ‘a’ Manasseh, as well as doing his evil had ‘made Judah to sin’, and the same was true in the parallel where he performed much evil and ‘made Judah to sin’. In ‘b’ YHWH will bring great evil on Judah, and in the parallel it is because of the way in which the people have provoked Him to anger right from their beginning as a nation. Centrally in ‘c’ His determined judgment on them is revealed.

2 Kings 21:10

‘And YHWH spoke by his servants the prophets, saying,’

The Chronicler tells us that during the reign of Manasseh many seers spoke to him in the Name of YHWH the God of Israel, their prophecies being recorded ‘among the acts of the kings of Israel’ (2 Chronicles 33:18). These would presumably also have been available to the prophetic author of Kings. YHWH did not leave Himself without a witness.

2 Kings 21:11

“Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations, and has done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols,”

Ahab had done ‘very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did whom YHWH cast out before the children of Israel’ (1 Kings 21:26), but Manasseh is seen as beingworsethan Ahab. He had done wickedlyaboveall that the Amorites who were before him did. (Note the contrast also with those who had done evil ‘above all (the kings) who were before them’ (1 Kings 16:25; 1 Kings 16:30; 1 Kings 16:33). Manasseh had done wickedness which exceeded even the wickedness of the Amorites, and the Amorites were seen by the time of Moses as the epitome of evil - Genesis 15:16). There could be no greater condemnation. And what was worse he had also made Judah to sin with his idols. He had led astray his people.

2 Kings 21:12

“Therefore thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, Behold, I bring such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle.”

This description signifies elsewhere a terrible judgment. In 1 Samuel 3:11 the tingling of the ears would be at what happened to the house of Eli. Thus what was to happen to Jerusalem and Judah was to be so devastating that men’s ears would tingle when they heard it.

2 Kings 21:13

“And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.”

For he would measure Jerusalem by the measuring line of sinful Samaria and by the plummet of the house of Ahab, and as 2 Kings 21:11 indicates by that measure they would come off worse (compare Isaiah 34:11, where however the idea is not quite the same. There the measurement was after destruction) For he would wipe it like a man wipes a dish and then turns it upside down. (An equivalent modern expression might be that ‘He would hang them out to dry’). The thought is of total and complete judgment. This did not necessarily indicate the same fate as Samaria. It is speaking of Samaria at the time of the house of Ahab as being a measure. Samaria and Ahab were to be the measure of their wickedness. It was because of their filthiness that YHWH would have to wipe them and turn them upside down. There is no emphasis at all on exile, although in the light of what had happened previously in Israel and Judah it must clearly have been seen as a possibility. It is the fact of the severe judgment that is important to the prophets, not its method. (It is, however, difficult to see how anyone speaking after the destruction of Jerusalem who had a tendency to misuse prophecy by altering it, could have failed to make more plain what he had in mind. It thus testifies to the early nature of this prophecy).

2 Kings 21:14

“And I will cast off the remnant of my inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies, and they will become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies,”

They would no longer be His chosen people but He would cast them off, and hand them over to their enemies, and the result would be that they would become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies. For ‘deliver them into the hands of spoilers who spoiled them’ see Judges 2:14, where He also ‘sold them into the hands of their enemies’ . This could therefore equally have described what happened to Israel in the Book of Judges.

It is significant that in all these prophetic descriptions there is no allusion to exile. While precedent would suggest it as a possibility, even a probability, it is nowhere indicated. The emphasis is on the totality of YHWH’s judgment on them and His rejection of them, as in the days of the Judges. Exile was thus just one possibility. It should be noted that the prophetic author was careful not to alter the prophecies in line with future events.

2 Kings 21:15

“Because they have done what is evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even to this day.”

And all this would occur because they had done what was evil in His sight and had provoked Him to anger since the very day when they came out of Egypt, even to this present day. God’s judgment did not come on His people simply because of the behaviour and attitude of their kings. It resulted from the fact that the people were equally provocatively sinful. It would seem clear from the expressions used in 2 Kings 21:14-15 that Judges 2:11-15 was very much in mind.

For ‘done what is evil in My sight’ compare Numbers 32:13; Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 31:29; Judges 2:11 and often; 1 Samuel 15:19; 2 Samuel 12:9; 1 Kings 11:6 ad often. For ‘provoking to anger’ see 2 Kings 17:11; 2 Kings 17:17; 2 Kings 21:6; Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 9:18; Deuteronomy 31:29; Deuteronomy 32:16; Deuteronomy 32:21; Judges 2:12; 1 Kings 14:9; 1 Kings 14:15; and often.

2 Kings 21:16

‘Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin with which he made Judah to sin, in doing what was evil in the sight of YHWH.’

Along with Manasseh’s idolatry, as so often happened, went a propensity for evil, for it resulted in the Law of YHWH being set aside. ‘Shed innocent blood very much’ may be speaking only of judicial murder, although if so it was clearly carried out in large numbers, removing opponents, and especially those who sought to be faithful to YHWH (later tradition says that it included Isaiah), but it probably also included general persecution and the revealing of a total disregard for human life, something which once begun would happily be taken up by all so inclined. It would be seen by many as a convenient way of removing political or business rivals, appropriating other people’s wealth, and obtaining vengeance for perceived slights. Jerusalem had become a blood-bath.

The picture is one of wholesale bloodshed, unlike anything seen before. And this was on top of his making Judah to sin, in doing what was evil in the sight of YHWH, both by idolatry, and also by them acting contrary to the covenant and the ten ‘words’. His evil propensities were thus being taken up by others. As far as the prophetic author was concerned this was what lay at the root of his reign, and it is salutary to realise that in so far as it affected Judah it was something which his late repentance could not wipe out. As with Ahab (1 Kings 21:27-29) his repentance simply delayed judgment. It was thus not considered important enough to mention here.


Verse 17-18

Concluding Comments (2 Kings 21:17-18).

The account of Manasseh’s life ends with the usual concluding comments, referring us to the annals of the kings of Judah, and describing his death and burial along with information about the succession. But there is added to it the unique phrase for an epitaph, ‘the sins that he sinned’.

2 Kings 21:17

‘Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and his sin which he sinned, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’

In contrast with earlier kings the main factor about Manasseh was not his might but ‘the sin that he sinned’ (he was the only king to have this epitaph, but compare 1 Kings 15:30; 1 Kings 16:19), the details of which, along with his other acts, could be found in the royal annals of Judah.

2 Kings 21:18

‘And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza, and Amon his son reigned instead of him.’

And Manasseh died peacefully and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzzah, possibly because there was no room in the sepulchres of the kings. Its proximity to the Temple, along with that of his son’s, were probably in mind in Ezekiel 43:7, And his son Amon reigned instead of him.


Verses 19-26

The Reign Of Amon, King Of Judah c. 642/1-640/39 BC (2 Kings 21:19-26).

Amon continued in the way in which he had been brought up and reinstituted the idolatrous practises of the reign of his father prior to his repentance. He neither worshipped YHWH truly nor continued in the ways prescribed by His Law. This may partly have been in order to ingratiate himself with Assyria who would take an immediate interest in the new king. But his activities in general clearly angered the ruling elite in Jerusalem so much so that they conspired against him and assassinated him in his own house. This may have been at the instigation of a reviving Egypt in the face of Assyrian decline. Feelings were now set against Assyria whose king Ashur-bani-pal had lost his enthusiasm for adventuring, replacing it with antiquarian interests, and was beset with problems from elsewhere. But these would be rulers were not popular generally and not acceptable to the people so that the ‘people of the land’, the aristocrats of ancient lineage, the landed gentry and the free men of Judah (who probably hated the idea of Egyptian influence as much as they hated Assyrian influence) slew them in their turn and restored the rule of the house of David.

Analysis.

a Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah (2 Kings 21:19).

b And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, as did Manasseh his father, and he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them (2 Kings 21:20-21).

c And he forsook YHWH, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of YHWH, and the servants of Amon conspired against him, and put the king to death in his own house (2 Kings 21:22-23).

d But the people of the land slew all those who had conspired against king Amon (2 Kings 21:24 a).

c And the people of the land made Josiah his son king instead of him (2 Kings 21:24 b).

b Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? (2 Kings 21:25).

a And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza, and Josiah his son reigned instead of him (2 Kings 21:26).

Note that in ‘a’ Amon began to reign and in the parallel he was buried, and his son reigned instead of him. In ‘b’ he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and in the parallel the remainder of his acts are found in the royal annals of Judah. In ‘c’ the bureaucrats put Amon to death, and in the parallel the people of the land ensured that his son reigned instead of him. Centrally in ‘d’ the people of the land slew the conspirators against Amon.

2 Kings 21:19

‘Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah.’

There is no specific hint of a co-regency in the case of Amon, but he may well have acted when his father was a hostage, although only under Assyrian supervision, especially as he is said to have come to the throne at twenty two years of age, an age which given Manasseh’s long reign would be a little surprising if it referred to his sole reign. He may thus have presided at that age under Assyrian supervision when his father was a hostage, first in Egypt and then in Babylon. His sole reign was for little longer than a year. It has been suggested that the queen mother Meshumelleth was of Arabian descent, but this is not at all certain. The name Haruz is attested in Sinai and Hejaz, but it is also found in Phoenicia. Jotbah (Jotbathah) on the other hand is given as two stages from Ezion-geber in Numbers 33:33. Compare Deuteronomy 10:7. This might be seen as confirming the Arabic connection.

2 Kings 21:20

‘And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, as did Manasseh his father.’

Amon followed in the evil ways of his father, doing what was ‘evil in the eyes of YHWH’ in the same way as his father had done, and reversing Manasseh’s later policy. This may partly have been due to Assyrian influence.

2 Kings 21:21

‘And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them,’

He behaved as his father had done in his evil days, and served the same idols as his father had done, and worshipped them. His idolatry was too ingrained to be affected by his father’s conversion.

2 Kings 21:22

‘And he forsook YHWH, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of YHWH.’

But above all he forsook YHWH, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in His ways. The Law of YHWH was thrust to one side. This was his crowning sin.

2 Kings 21:23

‘And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and put the king to death in his own house.’

In the author’s view, for he gives no other explanation, it was the forsaking of YHWH that was the real and ultimate cause of his courtiers conspiring against him and putting him to death in his own house. That does not mean that that was the courtiers’ motive. We are not told what that was. But it does suggest that the author saw it as YHWH’s motive for bringing it about.

Amon’s return to full idolatry might be seen as suggesting that he wanted to placate his Assyrian masters, while the conspiring of his courtiers might have been because of Egyptian influence in view of Assyria’s growing weakness. That it was not a popular uprising comes out in the sequel. It was a court conspiracy.

2 Kings 21:24

‘But the people of the land slew all those who had conspired against king Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king instead of him.’

However, the people of the land were not happy with the situation, and they in their turn slew the conspirators so that they could make Amon’s son Josiah king instead of him. They no more wanted Egyptian interference than they wanted Assyrian rule.

2 Kings 21:25

‘Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’

As usual we are referred for his further acts to the royal annals of Judah.

2 Kings 21:26

‘And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza, and Josiah his son reigned instead of him.’

Like his father Amon was buried in his sepulchre (no doubt already prepared) in the garden of Uzza, and he was succeeded by the young Josiah.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 21:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-kings-21.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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