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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
2 Chronicles 33

 

 

Verses 1-25

EXPOSITION

The first twenty verses of this chapter are taken up with the account of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah and Hephzibah, who, beginning to reign at the early age of twelve years, reigned in all fifty-five years; the remaining five verses with the account of the reign of his son Amon. The parallel to this chapter is 2 Kings 21:1-26. The repeated references in this chapter to Manasseh's neglect, and to his people's neglect, after his example, of injunction, promise, and threat of the Word of the Lord and of the Law, make it a prominent instance of the spirit of the compiler, and an indication of one of the main objects he had in view, and kept in view in writing these chronicles.

2 Chronicles 33:1

The parallel adds the name of Manasseh's mother, the well-omened name Hephzibah, "My delight is in her" (Isaiah 62:4).

2 Chronicles 33:2

The abominations of the heathen (see Deuteronomy 18:9-14).

2 Chronicles 33:3

He built again; literally, returned and built—the ordinary Hebrew idiom for "took again to building," etc. Made groves; i.e. as often before the stocks that set forth Ashtoreth (Deuteronomy 16:21). The parallel gives prominence to the one Asherah, ten times offensive, as set up in the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 33:7 there). The mention of his pantheon of the host of heaven is an addition to the wickedness of former wicked kings. It is also noted in the parallel.

2 Chronicles 33:4

In Jerusalem (so 2 Chronicles 6:6; 2 Chronicles 7:16). The quotation is from Deuteronomy 12:11.

2 Chronicles 33:6

Caused his children. Parallel (2 Kings 21:6), "his son," in the singular number (see also 2 Kings 16:3 compared with our 2 Chronicles 28:3). There can be no doubt that this worst of cruel abominations, learned from Ammon and Moab, amounted to nothing less than the sacrifice of the child in the fire. It is, perhaps, something remarkable that we do not encounter anywhere any description of the exact manner of administration of this cruelty, and of its taking effect on the pitiable victim. The solemn commands of Le 2 Chronicles 18:21 and Deuteronomy 18:10 bespeak sufficiently distinctly the prevision and earnest precaution of the Divine Ruler of Israel, through Moses, on behalf of his people. The following references all bear on the subject, and will be studied with advantage in order given: 2 Kings 3:27; 2 Kings 17:17; Ezekiel 20:26; Micah 6:7; Amos 5:26; Jeremiah 7:32; Jeremiah 19:4; Ezekiel 16:20; Ezekiel 20:26. In the valley of the son of Hinnom (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16). On an elevation at the eastern extremity of this valley it was that Solomon erected "high places" to Moloch, entailing on himself a long and dire responsibility (1 Kings 11:7). Consult also our 2 Chronicles 28:3 and note there; with added reference, Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' pp. 172, 482. Also he observed times; Revised Version, and he practised augury. The Hebrew word is ועְוֹנֵן. This root is found once in piel infinitive (Genesis 9:14), and is rendered (Authorized Version), "when I bring a cloud," etc.; beside, it is found in all ten times, always in poel, in preterite twice (the present passage and parallel), future once (Le 19:26), participle seven times, in which six places it is rendered (Authorized Version) "observing times," once in Isaiah and Micah with rendering "soothsayers," again in Isaiah "sorcerers," and in Jeremiah "enchanter." There is difficulty in fixing its exact meaning, though its general meaning may be embraced in the words of the Revised Version. A likely meaning, judging from derivation, may be the practising augury from observing of the clouds. The passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy are those that of old solemnly prohibited it. And used enchantments; Hebrew, וְנִחֵשׁ; the root is the familiar word for "serpent." The verb occurs eleven times, always in piel. The prohibition to practise such "enchantment" or divination is found in Le 19:26 and Deuteronomy 18:10; the five occasions of the use of the word in Genesis, however (Genesis 30:27; Genesis 44:5, Genesis 44:15), argue that it was not a thing intrinsically bad, but bad probably from certain, so to say, simoniacal possibilities to which it lent itself. There lay in it some assumption, no doubt, of superhuman help, and the wickedness may have consisted in assuming it where it was not real. And used witchcraft; Hebrew, וְכִשֵּׁף; Revised Version, and practised sorcery. The word is found six times in piel. The prohibition is found in Deuteronomy 18:10; the rendering of the word (Authorized Version) is by the term "sorcery" three times, and "witch" or "witchcraft" the other three times. Dealt with a familiar Spirit, and with wizards. The prohibitions are in Le 19:31; Deuteronomy 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:11. See as illustrations 1 Samuel 28:3-21; and notice the language of Isaiah 8:19, "that chirp and mutter;" and Isaiah 19:3.

2 Chronicles 33:7, 2 Chronicles 33:8

(Comp. Psalms 132:13, Psalms 132:14; 2 Samuel 7:10.)

2 Chronicles 33:7

A carved image, the idol; translate, a carved image of the idol; i.e. the Asherah; for see the parallel (2 Kings 21:7). The idol; Hebrew, סֶמֶל. This name is found here and in 2 Chronicles 33:15; in Deuteronomy 4:16, translated (Authorized Version) "figure;" and Ezekiel 8:3, Ezekiel 8:5, translated (Authorized Version) "image."

2 Chronicles 33:10

(See parallel, 2 Chronicles 33:11-15.)

2 Chronicles 33:11

The contents of this and the following six verses (to the seventeenth) are not in the parallel, though their place there is plain. That parallel, however, supplies in its 2 Chronicles 33:16 a very forcible narration of the evil conduct of Manasseh in Jerusalem itself, so that he "filled" it with "innocent blood" from "one end to another." The King of Assyria; i.e. either Esarhaddon, B.C. 680, or (though it is not probable) his son, Assur-banipal, B.C. 667-647. Among the thorns; i.e. with hooks or rings (so 2 Kings 19:28, where the same word is used; as also in Exodus 35:22; Isaiah 37:29; Ezekiel 19:4, Ezekiel 19:9; Ezekiel 29:4; Ezekiel 38:4).

2 Chronicles 33:13

And prayed unto him. The apocryphal "Prayer of Manasses" is not at all likely to be authentic. And brought him again to Jerusalem. The Targum gives many mythical tales as to how this deliverance was effected. Then Manasseh knew that. Did he not know, well know, before? So far as the mode of expression may in any degree warrant such a stretch of charity, what an idea it gives of the force with which grossest error will captivate even the taught; and with what force of a furious wind did the contaminating influence of idolatries all around sweep betimes before them—these very kings and chief men of Judah and Jerusalem! It is evident that there was always among the people a "remnant" who kept the faith. See here, e.g; the reference to the "innocent blood" shed in Jerusalem, no doubt bleed of those who would not consent to idolatry—blood of noble martyrs.

2 Chronicles 33:14

The wall without; or, Revised Version, the outer wall, is probably one with that of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:5), which now Manasseh repairs, or rebuilds, and perhaps lengthens as well as heightens. The fish gate (Nehemiah 13:16), left on the north of Jerusalem, and opened on the main road for the sea. The wall traversed the north and east sides to Ophel, "on the wall" of which, it is said (2 Chronicles 27:3), "Jotham built much." Hezekiah also built much there, and now Manasseh raised it up a very great height.

2 Chronicles 33:15

It will be noted how the mount of the house of the Lord is here differenced from the city. "The city" seems to have comprised the two hills east and west of the Tyropoean valley, and the "fore" city enclosed by the new wall (see Dr. Murphy's valuable little 'Handbook to Chronicles'). The strange gods, the idol, and the altars have all been mentioned in 2 Chronicles 33:3-7.

2 Chronicles 33:17

Compare Hezekiah's good work (2 Chronicles 31:1) with his son's bad work (2 Chronicles 33:3); the latter could undo his father's good, but now could not undo his own evil! The illegitimate worshippings and offerings of high places, though they had been "winked at" from time to time by some of even the better of the kings, were of course essentially counter to the one national worship in the one temple, and to the offerings and sacrifices of the one national altar.

2 Chronicles 33:18

The parallel again obtains (2 Kings 21:17, 2 Kings 21:18), but in shorter form. His prayer. This is for the present, at any rate, lost, the apocryphal and the Septuagint manuscript version of it alike not genuine. The words of the seers. So again our compiler shows undesigned correspondence with the writer of the parallel, as above quoted (2 Kings 21:10-15). As to the original authorities quoted here, book of the kings, etc; and next verse, "the sayings of the seers," see Introduction, vol. 1. § 5.

2 Chronicles 33:20

In his own house. The parallel has, "In the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza;" i.e; with little doubt, what had been formerly the garden of one Uzza.

2 Chronicles 33:21

The long reign of Manasseh of fifty-five years—a signal and merciful instance of space given for repentance—ended, his death met him presumably at the age of sixty-seven. The son who succeeded him was twenty-two years old, born therefore not before his father was forty-five years old. This may be an indication that it was indeed not one son only whom Manasseh "caused to pass through the fire" (verse 6). He emulated the sins of the former life of his father, but did not, like him, repent. It will be noted that in verse 19 of the parallel his mother's name is given as "Meshulle-meth, the daughter of Haruz, of Jotbah," of whom nothing is known.

2 Chronicles 33:24

His servants conspired. So also Joash and Amaziah had been punished, the latter avenging the death of his father on those servants who had caused it (2 Kings 1:14 :5; 2 Chronicles 24:25, 2 Chronicles 24:26; 2 Chronicles 25:27).

2 Chronicles 33:25

The people of the land. The emphatic expression here used (as also in the parallel), with its repetition in same verse malting it more so, may either betray the unfortunate sympathy that the worse element of the nation felt with the bad king and his evil ways, or it may mean that the healthier element of the people insisted on the right respect being observed to the proper succession. The conduct of Josiah from very tender years, which could not have been entirely his own, but must be credited in part to those who taught and influenced him, throws the balance of probability, perhaps, into this latter and more charitable view. The parallel contains two closing verses (25, 26) additional to what we have, giving the authority as the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah," and stating that Amen also "was buried in his sepulchre, in the garden of Uzza."

HOMILETICS

2 Chronicles 33:1-20

Uncertain repentances.

While the father Hezekiah filled one of the niches of the throe typical best kings, his son Manasseh, the thirteenth King of Judah, by mournful contrast, occupies one of those of the three worst of all the kings of both lines, the other two being Jeroboam and Ahab. His reign, filling the longest space of all, viz. fifty-five years, occupies but a very unequal space on the page of the present history, and a yet shorter in the parallel (2 Kings 21:1-18). Eventful as it was, its eventfulness was of such a character that the historians may be pardonably credited with the very natural disposition to get over it as quickly as was possible. But from another point of view, the brevity marks significantly enough one unrelieved tale, one catalogued accumulation of personal sin, and sin against his high office and position, sin against his nation, and that sin—some of the worst of all sin—which consisted in seducing (verse 9 and 2 Kings 21:9) others to sin. The phenomena spread before the student in this chapter exhibit the King Manasseh—

I. TOUCHING THE LOWEST DEPTHS OF SIN THAT HAD DISTINGUISHED EITHER THRONE OF THE RENDED KINGDOM. The following particulars may be identified, as e.g.:

1. The general type of his evil work resembled him to "the heathen, whom God" had actually driven out as intolerable, while making room in the land for his own people.

2. The evil work which he did was an undoing of good work, and that the good of his own father before him. "He built again what Hezekiah his father had broken down" (verse 3).

3. The evil work which he did was so much worse than that of King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:24), who shut up "the house of the Lord," in that it proceeded to the sacrilegious profanity of "building altars" for idolatrous worship, and "for all the host of heaven" in that house itself, "whereof the Lord had said, In Jerusalem shall my Name be for ever." In "that house" also he set "a carved image … idol."

4. The evil work which he did was a persuading and seducing of the people (over whom he was presumably shepherd) to sin, so strong as to amount to little less than compulsion. Note how often the peculiar circumstances surrounding a tempter's tempting make the tempting so called, in nothing appreciable to fall short of compulsion. The serpent's tempting of Eve was discretion itself as compared with the brute force and the overpowering force with which evil and sin itself are proffered (?) to the mind, heart, hand, of many a helpless one, many a helpless thousand in the vortex of modern civilization, its methods and systems.

5. The evil work did not shrink or stay before the enormity of "shedding innocent blood" (2 Kings 21:16)—that triumph of devilishness—but e'en carried it to such excess that could make it possible for the historian to write, that with the wickedness "he filled Jerusalem from one end to another," making it to ring again with its sorrows and "cries from the ground," and with his sin.

II. WARNED IN AN EXCEPTIONALLY FORCIBLE MANNER. Allusion is made to this interposition in our verses 10, 18; but fuller information respecting it is given in 2 Kings 21:10-15, and especially 2 Kings 21:12, 2 Kings 21:13, in language that has indeed made its mark. For the expression (2 Kings 21:12), "both his ears shall tingle," see 1 Samuel 3:11; Jeremiah 19:3; and upon the latter verse (Jeremiah 19:13), see Rogers's 'Superhuman Origin of the Bible,' p. 268 (1st edit; 8vo). Note what real force, though so often neglected, "warning" should be.

III. SUFFERING THE MOST ABJECT DEGRADATION OF CAPTURE AND HUMILIATION OF PUNISHMENT. This is expressed in Jeremiah 19:11, compared with 2 Kings 19:28; Amos 4:2; Job 41:2; see also again Rogers's ' Superhuman Origin of the Bible,' p. 286. The retribution in the mode and the place of punishment is to be observed. It is the Assyrians who carry him away, but his captivity is to Babylon.

IV. HIS EXCEEDING HUMBLING OF HIMSELF WITH ENTREATIES AND PRAYER BEFORE GOD IN HIS AFFLICTION, AND BECAUSE OF AFFLICTION. There are sufficient reasons for believing that there were present alike some penitence and some repentance in this humbling of himself, and beseeching "of the Lord his God," and "prayer to the God of his fathers." For God heard the prayer, in some sense also undeniably answered it,—brought Manasseh again to Jerusalem and to his throne there. It is also said that Manasseh came to be convinced of what he should never have doubted, that "the Lord he was God" (verse 13); that he reversed his former idolatrous practices and commands, cast out idols and altars from the city, repaired God's altar and offered peace offerings and thank offerings (verses 15, 16), and began other useful works for the defence of Jerusalem and his country. If he cleared himself, however, it is plain that he could not succeed in winning the people away with a perfect heart from "the high places," and their sacrifices and worship there (verse 17), which temptation it was he who had again put in their way at the beginning. How often has God's ready mercy and abundant pity run to meet and to help and to receive a penitence that did not prove itself after all pungent and intrinsically deep and lasting! How often does he still manifest himself thus "ready to forgive," while the strictest and severest self- searchings of our own hearts as to their sincerity and purity remain to be challenged! It is indeed to be noted, and it is a thing unexplained, and painfully, warningly suggestive, that one of the inspired histories (our parallel) has not a single word to say of his repentance and amendment; as though, whatever it were personally, and not a case "where tears of penance came too late for grace" for the individual, yet such repentance was all too late to rehabilitate his character, redeem his reign, or undo for a miserable nation the worst of his sins' consequences!

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

2 Chronicles 33:1-9

The apostate.

Well indeed was it for King Hezekiah that he did not foresee, though he may have feared (see previous homily), the character and the course of his son and successor. Had he done so, not all his riches and honour, not all his treasuries and storehouses, not all his flocks and herds, not all his watercourses and other works, would have removed sorrow from his heart. There has never, in any land, been a greater change, a sadder reaction, than that experienced by Judah when the godly Hezekiah was succeeded by the apostate Manasseh. It is true, indeed—

I. THAT PITY AS WELL AS BLAME MAY BE EXTENDED TO THE YOUNG KING. He was but twelve when he ascended the throne of Judah. He was far too young to encounter the peculiar temptations of sovereignty; and there was much excuse for him if, at that tender age, he allowed his own youthful inclinations to be overborne by the counsels of those so much older and so much more experienced than himself. In view of his circumstances, we may commiserate as much as we condemn him. No one need wish to occupy a higher position than his years, his experience, his training, have fitted him to fill. Its honours and its emoluments, however great they may he, are of no account at all in view of the immense disadvantage at which such a one is placed, and of the temptations to which he is exposed. Let youth wait its time; let it not seize the opportunity before the hour is ripe; let it understand that the position of subjection, of apprenticeship, of culture (special or general), is a far happier and far wiser one for the present, and that it is the one hope of a really prosperous and honourable career.

II. THAT MORAL EVIL MAY BE HIT VERY HARD, AND YET NOT BE SLAIN. Nothing will account for the speedy apostasy of Judah but the supposition that there was a vigorous idolatrous party at court, or that beneath the outward conformity of the previous reign there was a secret and yet strong inclination toward the practices of the time of Ahaz, Hezekiah did well to put down the altars and the "high places" with the unsparing energy he showed. But it was proved once more that it is one thing to remove the temptation and another thing to change the character. No reformer must be satisfied until he has reason to be convinced that sin is rooted out of the heart as well as taken out of the hand, that righteousness is loved within as well as manifested without.

III. THAT SIN LEADS RAPIDLY DOWN FROM BAD TO WORSE. It is painful, indeed, to think of the lad carefully cultured in Hebrew ways of piety and morality going down into such sad depths of sin and shame as are indicated in the text (verses 3, 4, 5, 7). Not all at once, but by somewhat rapid stages, he went on and down from the piety and purity of his boyhood to the "depths of Satan," as they may be called. That is too often the lamentable course of sin. It takes but a few years for the soul that was taught to hate iniquity and to shrink from its touch to become familiar with its phases and to become an adept in its practices. The "monster of the hideous mien," when we have become

"familiar with its face,

We first endure, then pity, then embrace."

Shun the first step that leads down the evil slope.

IV. THAT SIN BECLOUDS THE INTELLECT WHILE IT DEGRADES THE SOUL. Manasseh "used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit," etc. (verse 6). When men leave the rational service of the one Lord of all, and betake themselves either to superstition or to unbelief, they are very apt to yield themselves up to the greatest follies; to accept theories and to practise arts which a very moderate share of intelligence condemns as childish and vain. Only in the way of Divine truth shall we tread the path of human wisdom; once out of that track we lose our way, and wander in labyrinths of folly and of error. With Jesus Christ for our Teacher, we shall shun those byways of folly which would dishonour and degrade us.

V. THAT ONE SINFUL SOUL MAY WORE A WORLD OF HARM. "So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen," etc. (verse 9). Perhaps those who first used their influence to withdraw him from the service of Jehovah shrank from some of the "developments" of their own work; but when we send a human spirit on a downward course, we little know whither that course will lead, or in what it will end. There are scarcely any limits to the evils which one bad life may work or start. Heavy indeed is the responsibility, great is the guilt, of those who lead the young astray, and send them along a path where they not only err and fail themselves, but scatter broadcast the seeds of sin and sorrow.—C.

2 Chronicles 33:10-17

The penitent.

In these words we have—

I. THE LAST AND WORST SYMPTOM OF DEPARTURE FROM GODOBDURACY. "The Lord spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken" (verse 10). Sin reaches its extremity when it deliberately and determinately closes its ear against the recognized voice of God. A defiant refusal to listen when God is speaking to us is surely the ne plus ultra of iniquity; guilt can go no further (see Proverbs 2:1-22 :24 33).

II. THE DESCENT OF THE DIVINE PENALTY. When other means of instruction and of influence have been tried and failed, God visits in severe discipline. To Manasseh this came in defeat, humiliation (he was bound in fetters), and captivity; he had to leave the city of David and the land of his fathers, and become a show in the distant land of the enemy. To us the Divine discipline comes in various ways, of which the most common are bodily affliction, the vision of death, substantial loss, the estrangement of those who had been near and dear to us, some form of bitter humiliation, bereavement and consequent loneliness.

III. THE RISE OF TRUE PENITENCE IN THE HUMAN HEART. At length Manasseh had his eyes opened, and he saw his folly and his sin; at length he learnt that he had not only forsaken the good way of his father Hezekiah, but had grievously and guiltily departed from the living God. We can never tell what will humble the heart of a man; one is affected and subdued by one affliction, another by another. But at length the blow falls, and the edge of the sword enters in, and the heart bleeds, and it is wounded not unto death, but unto life.

1. Then comes recognition of the truth. Then God is recognized—his nearness, his claims, his displeasure, his fatherly purpose. Then guilt also is discerned—its greatness, its heinousness.

2. Then comes acknowledgment and appeal. The heart humbles itself before God, even as Manasseh now "humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers" (verse 12); and the soul prays for mercy, asks that its guilt may be forgiven, and itself restored.

3. And then comes self-surrender; for if there be not a willingness, a readiness to yield ourselves unto God, an exhibition of penitence is only an affectation; it is unreal and untrue. If it is genuine, it must be accompanied by a pure desire and a firm resolve to return unto him whom we have guiltily forsaken.

IV. THE BESTOWAL OF DIVINE MERCY. Manasseh soon found how immeasurable had been his mistake in his great apostasy. For the God of his fathers proved to be a God full of compassion and of great mercy, and he heard the humbled suppliant and restored him, and brought him back to his kingdom. So God now hears and pardons and restores; he forgives us our sin, and he takes us back to his Divine favour, and he restores to us our peace, our hope, our joy, our life in him and with him. For there is one invariable and inseparable sequence, viz.—

V. NEWNESS OF LIFE ON THE PART OF THE FORGIVEN. Manasseh goes back to Jerusalem, takes away the strange gods and the altars he had built, and casts them out of the city; and he repairs the altar of the Lord, and re-establishes the worship of Jehovah (verses 15, 16). We return unto God, and at the same time to all purity, to all temperance, to all uprightness, to all reverence both in spirit and in action, to all piety of thought and of behaviour. This is precious indeed, beyond all price, this restoration to God and to our true self; yet is there—

VI. ONE SERIOUS DRAWBACK. Manasseh could not altogether undo what he had done. "Nevertheless the people did sacrifice," etc. (verse 17). He could not, by one enactment or by a number of them, bring back the situation he had so completely broken up. It takes a long time to restore a people to the habits they have forsaken. Nor could Manasseh recall to life the brave and faithful men whom he had "done to death" with his cruelties (2 Kings 21:16). There are some things which the most genuine repentance will not effect. It will not recall the wasted years; nor undo the malign and death-bearing influences which have been at work in human hearts and lives; nor compensate the wronged for the injuries they have suffered in body or in spirit. Therefore let all remember that, while repentance and restoration are blessed, a life of holy service from the beginning is far more blessed still.—C.

2 Chronicles 33:21-25

The forfeited heritage.

It is but very little we know or think of Amon: his name is unfamiliar, for his life was uneventful. And yet why should not he have had as happy, as glorious, as useful a career as David, or as Hezekiah, or as Josiah? He had a very fair opportunity before him, but he lost it by his own folly. Let us look at—

I. THE GOLDEN CHANCE THAT WAS BEFORE HIM. He was heir to the throne of Judah. Measured by some monarchies, ancient and modern, that was small enough. But it was no despicable fortune. As our own country's history shows, we must not reckon the worth of a kingdom by its geographical dimensions. Under David and Solomon the kingdom of Israel was a real power, if not a "great power" in that age. And then it was open to Amon to conciliate the tribes of Israel as his noble grandfather had done, and perhaps to win them back. At any rate, the kingdom of Judah was itself no mean heritage; its men and women were far above the average of humanity in intelligence, in civilization, in an appreciation of freedom, in courage, in all the elements of human power. To govern Judah might well satisfy the ambition of a strong and aspiring mind. And there was one thing about Judah that could not be claimed either for Assyria or Egypt. It was the chosen dwelling-place of God; if he were hut worshipped and honoured there, his presence and his power would be a more sure guarantee of national independence and prosperity than countless hosts of armed men or of chariots of war. Judah was the home of God, and therefore of truth and of heavenly wisdom. To reign there was a choice heritage for a true man.

II. THE RECKLESSNESS WITH WHICH HE THREW IT AWAY.

1. He deliberately chose the evil course. At two and twenty he had not his father's excuse for being led astray. The stern discipline through which Manasseh,,, had passed, and the mercy he had found in a forgiving God, surely should have affected and controlled his son. But he disregarded and defied the lessons which were written in such large characters before his face, and chose the evil way (verse 22).

2. He declined to be corrected and restored; he persisted in the path of wrong (verse 23).

3. He excited the hatred of those whom he governed, and brought about an early and ignominious death, enjoying but two brief years of kingly rule (verse 24).

Thus, after a dishonourable and reactionary reign, he came to a miserable and inglorious end, and thus he forfeited his heritage.

1. There is a very goodly heritage before us as the children of men. It will probably include something fair and bright of this world's estate, some pure enjoyment of which we may partake gladly and gratefully. It will certainly include the knowledge of God; the opportunity of worshipping and of serving him everywhere and in every relation we sustain; the means of cultivating a holy and a noble character; openings for usefulness in many ways, and particularly in the way of helping others on in the path of life; the opportunity of preparing for a far broader sphere and a far fuller life in the kingdom of heaven.

2. We may find ourselves tempted to forfeit this good estate. It is alienable by a sinful preference of the lower good, by a guilty disregard of Divine voices, by a perilous postponement of sacred obligation to some future time.

3. It is our true wisdom and our bounden duty to take at once that decisive step (of self-surrender to our Lord) which places us within the kingdom of God, and secures for us the lasting friendship of a Divine Redeemer.—C.

HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW

2 Chronicles 33:1-20

The reign of Manasseh.

I. ITS EARLY COMMENCEMENT. Manasseh, "One who forgets" (Gesenius)—an exceedingly appropriate name for one who in his lifetime forgat God and every good thing; in the inscriptions Minasi; perhaps so called "in allusion to the zeal with which the northern tribe had joined in Hezekiah's reforms" (2 Chronicles 30:11), or to the desire which prevailed in Hezekiah's reign for a union of the two kingdoms" (Stanley)—was twelve years old when he ascended his father's throne (verse 1). A wise child may be better than a foolish king (Ecclesiastes 4:13); but, as a rule, "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child" (Proverbs 22:15), while wisdom is the ripe fruit of age and experience (Job 32:7). The experiment of boy-kings—unless where these have been placed under regents or guided by wise counsellors, as were Joash (2 Chronicles 24:2) and Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:5)—has seldom been successful (Ecclesiastes 10:16); though Manasseh's grandson, Josiah, must be pronounced an honourable and brilliant exception (2 Chronicles 34:2).

II. ITS EVIL CHARACTER. Manasseh "did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord" (verse 2).

1. In imitation of the heathen. Whether he endeavoured to become acquainted with all the heathen religions he could find, and to introduce them into Judah, and "for this purpose sent into the most distant lands where there was any famous cultus, and grudged no pains for his one object" (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' 4:208)—which seems a pure conjecture on the part of the learned author who propounds it—it is undoubted that he resuscitated paganism and carried it to a higher degree of prevalence than it had ever before attained in Judah.

2. In dishonour of his father. "He built again the high places his father Hezekiah had thrown down' (verse 3). Two things may have accounted for this sudden outbreak of paganism after Hezekiah's death.

3. In defiance of Jehovah. Not content with re-establishing idolatry in general, he proceeded to put a special affront upon Jehovah.

III. ITS LONG CONTINUANCE. The worst king had the longest reign—fifty-five years. Perhaps:

1. To discover the true character of the nation's sin, to reveal the essentially evil nature of idolatry, the inherent wickedness of such apostasy from Jehovah as Manasseh and his subjects had been guilty of. For this reason God bore long with the antediluvian world, and still at times permits wicked men to cumber the ground through long years, while good men, on the other hand, appear to be cut off before their time.

2. To signalize the Divine forbearance, to make known to Manasseh and his subjects the Divine long-suffering, the desire on Jehovah's part that he and they should repent; as God still, for a like reason, exercises patience with wicked men (1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Peter 3:15), being unwilling that any should perish, but that all should turn unto him and live (Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32; Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

3. To vindicate the Divine justice, in ease the threatened judgments against Judah and Jerusalem should come to be fulfilled. After such an exhibition of the hideous character and bitter fruits of idolatry as had been given by Judah's king and people, and after such a display of patient forbearance on the part of Jehovah, when the stroke of judgment fell upon the apostate land, it would be impossible to say that it was either undeserved or premature; that either Judah's cup of iniquity was not full, or everything had not been done to secure her recovery from the evil path upon which she had entered (Isaiah 4:3 -7).

IV. ITS PEACEFUL CLOSE.

1. The king was converted. "Manasseh humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers" (verse 12). "Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God" (verse 13; see next homily on verses 11-17).

2. The people were reformed. In part at least a check was given to their idolatry. Though they continued to sacrifice on the high places, they did so "unto the Lord their God only" (verse 17).

Learn:

1. That early promotion, except in grace, is frequently a grievous misfortune.

2. That piety in parents is no guarantee of piety in children.

3. That the alternation of good and evil rulers in the Church and in the state is not without its uses—on the one hand of comfort, on the other hand of trial.

4. That "length of days is no true rule of God's favour" (Hall).

5. That "we may not measure grace by means" (ibid.).

6. That "that mischief may be done in a day which many ages cannot redress" (ibid.).

7. That no degree of wickedness is beyond the reach of grace to forgive or remove.—W.

2 Chronicles 33:11-17

Manasseh's repentance.

I. ITS IMPELLING CAUSE.

1. The grace of God. That the regeneration and conversion of a soul is a work of Divine grace is taught hardly less clearly in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 30:6; 1 Kings 8:58; Psalms 110:3; Isaiah 26:12; Jeremiah 13:23; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 11:19; Zechariah 12:10) than in the New (John 1:13; John 3:3; John 6:44, John 6:63, John 6:65; Ephesians 2:1-10; Ephesians 5:14; Philippians 1:6).

2. The judgments of Providence. "The Lord brought upon him and his people the captains of the host of the King of Assyria" (verse 11).

II. ITS ACCOMPANYING SIGNS.

1. Humility. "He humbled himself greatly before the Lord God of his fathers" (verse 12). This grace, beautiful in all who come before God (Job 25:5, Job 25:6; Ecclesiastes 5:2), is absolutely indispensable to a penitent (Job 40:4; Isaiah 6:5; Romans 7:18), and is the certain highway to spiritual promotion (Proverbs 15:33; Isaiah 66:2; Luke 18:13, Luke 18:14).

2. Prayer. "He besought the Lord his God" (verse 12); "he prayed unto him" (verse 13)—no doubt with the language and feeling of

III. ITS CONSEQUENT FRUITS.

1. Acceptance. Jehovah "was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom" (verse 13). So God still listens to the cries of sincere penitents when they call upon him for forgiveness and salvation, for emancipation from the condemnation of the Law and the enslaving yoke of sin (Job 33:27, Job 33:28; Isaiah Iv. 6, 7; Isaiah 57:15; Jeremiah 3:12-14; Luke 18:14; James 4:8). That Manasseh should have been restored to his throne and kingdom harmonized well with the mild character of Esarhaddon, who appears from the monuments to have accorded similar treatment to a son of Meredach-Baladan, and to an Aramaean chief of the Gambalu, both of whom on submitting to his authority were forgiven and reinstated in their former positions. Like clemency was extended by Assur-bani-pal to the King of Arvad's Vakinlu's sons, who, on kissing the great king's feet after their father's death, were favourably received—Azibahal the eldest being appointed to the kingdom of Arvad, and the others presented with clothing of linen and bracelets of gold ('Records,' etc; 1:69). Tammaritu King of Elam likewise experienced the great king's favour on making humble submission and acknowledgment of his offence.

2. Illumination. "Then Manasseh knew that Jehovah he was God" (verse 13).

3. Reformation. "He took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord (verse 7), and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord,… and cast them out of the city" (verse 15). Compare the earlier reformations of Joash (2 Chronicles 23:17), and Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 31:1), and the later of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:3, 2 Chronicles 34:4). So in every case of true conversion there must be a putting away of known sin (Isaiah 1:16; Isaiah 55:7; Matthew 3:8).

4. Separation. The people continued to sacrifice on the high places, though only unto the Lord their God (verse 17). On their part it was a compromise. Willing to advance half-way on the path of reformation, they would not make a clean severance between themselves and idolatry. Manasseh did not so.

5. Consecration. "He repaired the altar of the Lord, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings" (verse 16). So far as he himself was concerned, he was done with the high places; and his regal authority, backed up by his personal example, he faithfully employed to induce his subjects to have done with them also.

LESSONS.

1. The benefits and design of affliction.

2. The value and use of prayer.

3. The graciousness of God towards penitents.

4. The marvellous illumination that comes with the new life.

5. The certainty that holiness will flow from a personal experience of mercy.

6. The intermixture of imperfection with the best services of saints.—W.

2 Chronicles 33:18-20

Lessons from the life of Manasseh.

I. A LURID LIGHT UPON THE NATURAL HISTORY OF SIN. Manasseh's career brings into prominence certain truths upon the subject of human depravity which in these days of so-called culture and refinement are prone to be pushed aside, ignored, and forgotten.

1. That sin, wickedness, a disposition to go astray from the paths of virtue, is an inborn characteristic of the human soul in its fallen condition; is a native product springing up out of the soil of man's interior being, and does not simply come upon him from without as the result of his environment, as the combined effect of the circumstances by which he is surrounded and of the examples by which he is directed. This is what theologians are accustomed to call the doctrine of original sin—a doctrine which Scripture with perfect clearness announces (Psalms 51:5), which experience everywhere attests (1 Kings 8:46; Ecclesiastes 7:20), which modern science with its law of heredity strikingly confirms, and which lends peculiar emphasis to the teaching of Christ as to the new birth (John 3:7).

2. That this inborn principle of sin frequently reveals itself at unexpected times and under totally unlooked-for conditions. Concerning Manasseh one would have felt disposed to reason that if ever a child had the chance of being good, or at least of keeping down the evil that was in him, that child was the son of Hezekiah. Yet scarcely had he come to the throne at the early age of twelve than the wickedness of his nature began to break forth in almost full-blown violence. It is a warning to parents not to slacken in their diligence or abate in their efforts to promote the godly education of their children, since the season for impressing them with right views of truth and instilling into them right principles of action is at the longest extremely short, and if neglected may lead to irreparable disaster in after-life; while it is a much-needed reminder that not even pious parents can infallibly secure the conversion of their children, and that after all these have the determination of their future characters and destinies largely in their own hands.

3. That the development of evil in human hearts and lives is often rapid and always downward. At least it was so with this infatuated prince, who began by exhibiting a singular precocity in sin, and ended not until he had all but exhausted the catalogue of crime. If he proceeded no further in his downward career than sacred story represents, the reason likely was that his ingenuity could devise nothing more atrocious. Indeed, one cannot help discovering in him a prototype of Shakespeare's Aaron, who says-

"Tut! I have done a thousand dreadful things

As willingly as one would kill a fly!

And nothing grieves me heartily indeed,

But that I cannot do ten thousand more."

('Titus Andronicus,' act 5. sc. 1.)

II. VALUABLE COUNSEL AS TO THE MORAL AND SPIRITUAL USES OF ADVERSITY.

1. It is always intended as a means of religious and moral improvement, whether it be laid on saint or sinner. The Lord doth not afflict men willingly, but for their profit, that they might be partakers of his holiness (Lamentations 3:33; Hebrews 12:10). In the case of saints it has this for its primary end (Hebrews 12:11); but even in the case of sinners this end is not neglected or overlooked. Calamity may fall on them directly as punishment; yet it always aims at their arrestment, reformation, and conversion.

2. It frequently succeeds when every other means of improvement fails. In the case of Manasseh nothing appeared potent enough to arrest him on his mad career—not the memory of his good father or of his pious mother, not the infinite folly of the idolatries he was keeping up, not the shame in which his immoralities involved him before the people, not the blood of his innocent victims, not the mourning and lamentation of his bereaved subjects, not the feelings of his own parental bosom, not the reproofs of Jehovah's prophets, not the terrors of his own conscience, Nor until God put a hook into his nose and led him off to captivity in Babylon did he pause and begin to reflect on his wickedness. And the same function is performed by affliction yet. God frequently employs it to pull up those whom he perceives rushing headlong to perdition, when other and milder methods have been used in vain.

III. A SPLENDID ILLUSTRATION OF THE FREENESS AND THE POWER OF DIVINE GRACE,

1. The steps of Manasseh's recovery.

2. The ground of Manasseh's recovery.

IV. NECESSARY INSTRUCTION AS TO THE ONLY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE OF CONVERSION AND SALVATION.

1. Illumination. "Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God." This was true all the same, whether Manasseh knew it or not, and all the while Manasseh was doing his best by the worship of idols to show that he believed the opposite. That which convinced him of his error was his experience of the Divine clemency. Whereas his service of idols had not been able to prevent his deportation to Babylon, no sooner had he transferred his allegiance to Jehovah than his captivity was ended. This sufficed to draw the veil from Manasseh's eyes. So men never really come to know God till they have been made partakers of his mercy in Christ. That which renders nugatory and worthless much of present-day objection to God and Christ, the Bible and the gospel, is that it commonly proceeds from them that know neither the one nor the other.

2. Reformation. Manasseh's conversion was authenticated by change of behaviour as well as change of mind. He took away the foreign gods out of the house of the Lord, and removed from both the temple and the city all the altars he had built for their worship. He repaired also the altar of the Lord, and commanded his subjects to serve the Lord God of Israel only. So in all cases of true conversion there must be the putting away of every known sin, the consecration of every individual power, and the performance of every known duty.—W.

2 Chronicles 33:21-25

Manasseh and Amen-father and son: a parallel and a contrast.

I. MANASSEH AND AMON RESEMBLED EACH OTHER. Both were:

1. Men. No higher dignity attainable on earth than that of manhood; higher than any purely temporal or social distinction is that of having been made in the Divine image.

2. Kings. Though often desecrated and abused, the position of a sovereign is one of great honour and responsibility. As vicegerents of Jehovah, the theocratic potentates of Israel and Judah stood upon the highest possible pinnacle of kingly renown.

3. Idolaters. Amen did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as did Manasseh his father (verse 22). "Like father, like son," is the common experience—the exceptions only proving the rule.

4. Sufferers. Manasseh taken captive by Esarhaddon or Assur-bani-pal; Amen conspired against and killed by his own servants.

II. MANASSEH AND AMON DIFFERED FROM EACH OTHER. They contrasted in:

1. Names. Manasseh was so called (probably, at least) after an Israelitish tribe (see homiletics on verses 1-20); Amen was named after an Egyptian god. The first was most likely traceable to Hezekiah's piety; the second due to Manasseh's impiety.

2. Reigns. Manasseh ruled Judah for fifty-five years; Amen for two. God determines to nations and individuals, to kings and subjects, the bounds of their habitations and the length of their days (Acts 17:26).

3. Careers. Manasseh repented, turned to Jehovah, and lived; Amon died as he had lived, an insensate idolater and hardened transgressor.

4. Ends. Manasseh died a natural, Amon a violent death.

Learn

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 33:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/2-chronicles-33.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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