2 Chronicles 33 – The Reigns of Manasseh and Amon
A. The reign of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah.
1. (1-2) A summary of the reign of Manasseh, a 55-year rule of evil.
Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
a. Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king: This means that he was born in the last fifteen years of Hezekiah’s life, the additional fifteen years that Hezekiah prayed for (2 Kings 20:6). Those additional fifteen years brought Judah one of its worst kings.
i. “Had this good king been able to foresee the wickedness of his unworthy son, he would doubtless have no desire to recover from his sickness. Better by far die childless than beget a son such as Manasseh proved to be.” (Knapp)
b. And he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem: This was both a remarkably long and a remarkably evil reign. A long career or longevity is not necessarily evidence of the blessing and approval of God.
i. “He was a son of David, but he was the very reverse of that king, who was always faithful in his loyalty to the one and only God of Israel. David’s blood was in his veins, but David’s ways were not in his heart. He was a wild, degenerate shoot of a noble vine.” (Spurgeon)
c. According to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before: Manasseh imitated the sins of both the Canaanites and the Israelites of the northern kingdom (2 Kings 16:3). Since God brought judgment on these groups for their sin, casting them out of their land, then similar judgment against an unrepentant Judah should be expected.
2. (3-9) The specific sins of Manasseh.
For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he raised up altars for the Baals, and made wooden images; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. He also built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem shall My name be forever.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. He even set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had 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, I will put My name forever; and I will not again remove the foot of Israel from the land which I have appointed for your fathers; only if they are careful to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.” So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.
a. He rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down: Manasseh opposed the reforms of his father Hezekiah and he brought Judah back into terrible idolatry.
i. This shows us that repentance and reform and revival are not permanent standing conditions. What is accomplished at one time can be opposed and turned back at another time.
b. He raised up altars for the Baals, and made wooden images: Manasseh did not want to imitate his godly father. Instead, he imitated one of the very worst kings of Israel: Ahab. He embraced the same state-sponsored worship of Baal and Asherah (honored with a carved image) that marked the reign of Ahab.
c. He also built altars in the house of the LORD: It was bad enough for Manasseh to allow this idol worship into Judah. Worse, he corrupted the worship of the true God at the temple, and made the temple a place of idol altars, including those dedicated to his cult of astrological worship (he built altars for all the host of heaven).
d. He built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD: Manasseh did not only bring back old forms of idolatry; he also brought new forms of idolatry to Judah. At this time the Babylonian Empire was rising in influence, and they had a special attraction to astrological worship. Manasseh probably imitated this.
i. “The king’s apostate worship of ‘the starry host’ had evil precedents going as far back as the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 4:19; Acts 7:42), but such practices were a particular sin of Assyro-Babylonians, with their addiction to astrology.” (Payne)
ii. “But this Manasseh sought out for himself unusual and outlandish sins. Bad as Ahab was, he had not worshipped the host of heaven. That was an Assyrian worship, and this man must need import from Assyria and Babylonia worship that was quite new.” (Spurgeon)
e. He caused his sons to pass through the fire: Manasseh sacrificed his own sons to the Canaanite god Molech, who was worshipped with the burning of children.
f. Practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists: Manasseh invited direct Satanic influence by his approval and introduction of these occult arts.
i. “The Hebrew word for ‘spiritists’ is yiddeoni, by etymology, ‘a knowing one.’ It referred originally to ghosts, who were supposed to possess superhuman knowledge; but it came to be applied to those who claimed power to summon them forth, i.e., to witches.” (Payne)
g. He even set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God: The Chronicler seems too polite to say it, but 2 Kings 21:7 tells us that this idol was Asherah, the Canaanite goddess of fertility. This god was worshipped through ritual prostitution. This means that Manasseh made the temple into an idolatrous brothel, dedicated to Asherah.
i. “From the whole it is evident that Asherah was no other than Venus; the nature of whose worship is plain enough from the mention of whoremongers and prostitutes.” (Clarke)
ii. “Manasseh repeated these sins and exaggerated them each time. After one forbidden idol had been enshrined, he set up another yet more foul, and after building altars in the courts of the temple, he ventured further…. Thus he piled up his transgressions and multiplied his provocations.” (Spurgeon)
h. Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed: 2 Kings 21:9 tells us what the attitude of the people was: they paid no attention. This described the basic attitude of the people of Judah during the 55-year reign of Manasseh. They paid no attention to the generous promises of God, promising protection to His obedient people. In addition, they were willingly seduced by Manasseh’s wickedness and were attracted to do more evil.
i. “He did all he could to pervert the national character, and totally destroy the worship of the true God; and he succeeded.” (Clarke)
ii. “How superficial had been the nation’s compliance with Hezekiah’s reforms! Without a strong spiritual leader, the sinful people quickly turned to their own evil machinations. The judgment of God could not be far away.” (Patterson and Austel)
iii. This was a transformation of the culture from something generally honoring God to a culture that glorified idolatry and immorality. In general we can say this happened because the people wanted it to happen. They didn’t care about the direction of their culture.
B. Manasseh’s repentance.
1. (10-11) God chastises Manasseh.
And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon.
a. And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people: This was the great mercy of God. He was under no obligation to warn or correct them; God would have been completely justified in exercising judgment immediately. Instead, the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people.
i. 2 Kings 21:10-15 tells more about these specific warnings of the prophets.
b. But they would not listen: Despite God’s gracious warnings, neither the king nor the people would listen. God found more compelling ways to speak to the rulers and people of Judah.
i. 2 Kings 21:16 tells us of the terrible extent of Manasseh’s sin: Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin by which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD.
ii. “We cannot vouch for the tradition that the prophet Isaiah was put to death by him by being sawn in sunder, but terrible as is the legend, it is not at all improbable.” (Spurgeon)
c. Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria: God allowed Manasseh to be taken and carried away as a captive, after the pattern of his own sinful bondage.
i. “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 to heaven, which otherwise prosperity had coached to hell.” (Trapp)
ii. “No mention is made of Manasseh’s exile in Assyrian sources, even though Manasseh appears in the annals of Esarhaddon (680-669 B.C.) and Ahsurbanipal (668-626 B.C.) as a rather unwilling vassal forced to provide supplies for Assyria’s building and military enterprises. It is quite possible that he rebelled against these impositions at some point.” (Selman)
iii. “Manasseh’s presence in Babylon is not surprising, since Assyria had had a long interest in Babylon, which was under the direct control for the whole of Esarhaddon’s reign and after Shamash-shum-unkin’s demise.” (Selman)
2. (12-13) The remarkable repentance of Manasseh.
Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.
a. When he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God: Manasseh was not the first one (and not the last) to turn back to God after a severe season of affliction. It has been said that God speaks to us in our pleasures and he shouts to us in our pains. Manasseh finally listened to God’s shouting through affliction.
i. “The Assyrians were notoriously a fierce people, and Manasseh, having provoked them, felt all the degradation, scorn, and cruelty which anger could invent. He who had trusted idols was made a slave to an idolatrous people; he who had shed blood very much was now in daily jeopardy of the shedding of his own; he who had insulted the Lord must now be continually insulted himself.” (Spurgeon)
b. And humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers: The word humbled reminds us that the essence of Manasseh’s sin was pride. The phrase God of his fathers reminds us that Manasseh returned to the godly heritage he received from his father Hezekiah.
i. This is a wonderful example of the principle, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Manasseh was raised by a godly father, yet he lived in defiance of his father’s faith for most of his life. Nevertheless, at the end of his days he truly repented and served God.
c. He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom: God graciously restored the late-repenting Manasseh. This gracious response to Manasseh was the final step in his return to the LORD (Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God).
i. “He was convinced by his own experience of God’s power, justice, and goodness, that Jehovah alone was the true God, and not those idols which he had worshipped, by which he had received great hurt, and no good.” (Poole)
ii. “Manasseh’s repentance was evidently the chief subject in the mind of the chronicler, and while his sins are painted faithfully and revealed in all their hideousness, all becomes but background which flings into relief Manasseh’s genuine penitence and the ready and gracious response to God.” (Morgan)
iii. In his sermon, The Old Testament “Prodigal,” Spurgeon imagined what it would be like for the remnant of believers in Jerusalem to hear that Manasseh was returning from Babylon. They had a brief pause in the persecution they had suffered from the evil king, and at least a slow-down in the official promotion of idolatry. Now to hear he was coming back must have driven them to their knees, asking God to have mercy on them once again. Imagine their surprise when they found that King Manasseh returned a repentant, converted man!
iv. “Oh! I do not wonder at Manasseh’s sin one half so much as I wonder at God’s mercy.” (Spurgeon)
3. (14-17) The late deeds of Manasseh.
After this he built a wall outside the City of David on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate; and it enclosed Ophel, and he raised it to a very great height. Then he put military captains in all the fortified cities of Judah. He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem; and he cast them out of the city. He also repaired the altar of the LORD, sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. Nevertheless the people still sacrificed on the high places, but only to the LORD their God.
a. After this he built a wall: Before he was humbled and repentant, Manasseh didn’t care very much for the defense of Judah and Jerusalem. Now, with a more godly perspective, he cared deeply about the security of God’s people and the kingdom of Judah.
i. “This was probably a weak place that he fortified; or a part of the wall which the Assyrians had broken down, which he now rebuilt.” (Clarke)
b. He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD: Before he was humbled and repentant, Manasseh promoted the worship of idols. Now, he destroyed idols and promoted the worship of the true God of Israel alone; he even commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.
i. “Manasseh’s religious reforms represented a direct reversal of earlier policies (vv. 2-9), since each of the items removed in verse 15 is mentioned in verses 3, 7.” (Selman)
ii. “Turn to Him with brokenness of soul, and He will not only forgive, but bring you out again; and give you, as He did Manasseh, an opportunity of undoing some of those evil things which have marred your past.” (Meyer)
c. Nevertheless the people still sacrificed on the high places, but only to the LORD their God: This reminds us of the distinction between two different kinds of high places. Some were altars to pagan idols; others were unauthorized altars to the true God. Manasseh stopped all the pagan worship in Judah, but unauthorized (that is, outside the temple) worship of the God of Israel continued.
i. “Half a century of paganism could not be counteracted by half-a-dozen years of reform.” (Payne)
ii. “While repentance of personal sin brings ready forgiveness, the influence of the sin is terribly likely to abide.” (Morgan)
4. (18-20) Manasseh’s death and burial.
Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, indeed they are written in the book of the kings of Israel. Also his prayer and how God received his entreaty, and all his sin and trespass, and the sites where he built high places and set up wooden images and carved images, before he was humbled, indeed they are written among the sayings of Hozai. So Manasseh rested with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house. Then his son Amon reigned in his place.
a. The rest of the acts of Manasseh: The Chronicler must refer to documents that have more information than the 2 Kings text. 2 Kings does not mention the repentance of Manasseh, and does not tell us anything about his reign substantially different than what we read in 2 Chronicles.
i. “Manasseh illustrates one of the central themes of Chronicles, that God can fulfill his promise of restoration in 2 Chronicles 7:12-16 to the repentant even in the most extreme circumstances.” (Selman)
ii. “As for despair, it is damnable. While the story of Manasseh stands on record, no mortal hath a just excuse to perish in despair; no one is justified in saying, ‘God will never forgive me.’ Read over again the history of Manasseh; see to what lengths of sin he went, to what extravagant heights of evil he climbed; and then say to yourself, ‘Did sovereign mercy reach him? Then it can also reach me.’” (Spurgeon)
b. So Manasseh rested with his fathers: Manasseh was a remarkably bad and evil king, yet at the end of his days he truly repented and served God. In this way, we can say that it was very true that Manasseh rested with his fathers.
i. “Manasseh’s conversion helps to explain a longstanding problem in Kings, namely, why the exile did not fall in Manasseh’s reign if his sins were really so serious.” (Selman)
ii. Yet, his repentance was too late to change the nation. “The widespread revolts during the reign of Ashurbanipal, which occurred from 652-648 B.C., may provide the occasion for Manasseh’s summons to Babylon and imprisonment. If so, his subsequent release and reform were apparently far too late to have much of an effect on the obdurately backslidden people.” (Patterson and Austel)
iii. It was also not soon enough to change the destiny of the kingdom. “Years later, when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, the writer would blame Judah’s punishment on the sins of Manasseh (2 Kings 24:3-4).” (Dilday)
iv. Manasseh “more than any other single person was responsible for the final destruction of the kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 23:26; 24:3; Jeremiah 15:4).” (Payne)
C. The reign of Amon, son of Manasseh.
1. (21-23) A two-year, evil reign
Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the LORD, as his father Manasseh had done; for Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and served them. And he did not humble himself before the LORD, as his father Manasseh had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.
a. He reigned two years in Jerusalem: This unusually short reign is an indication that the blessing of God was not upon the reign of Amon.
b. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, as his father Manasseh had done.… he did not humble himself before the LORD, as his father Manasseh had: Amon sinned as Manasseh had sinned, without having the repentance that Manasseh had. It is likely that one of the greatest sorrows to the repentant Manasseh was that his sons, and others who were influenced by his sin, did not also repent.
i. “There is not one bright spot in this king’s character to relieve the darkness of his life’s brief record.” (Knapp)
ii. “Glycas saith that Amon hardened himself in sin by his father’s example, who took his swing in sin, and yet at length repented. So, thought he, will I do; wherefore he was soon sent out of the world for his presumption, dying in his sins, as 2 Chronicles 33:23.” (Trapp)
iii. “Manasseh and Amon in their contrasting ways show that a fatalistic attitude in the face of God’s judgment is quite unjustified.” (Selman)
2. (24-25) The assassination of Amon.
Then his servants conspired against him, and killed him in his own house. But the people of the land executed all those who had conspired against King Amon. Then the people of the land made his son Josiah king in his place.
a. His servants conspired against him, and killed him in his own house: This story of conspiracy and assassination seems to belong among the kings of Israel, not Judah. Yet when the kings and people of Judah began to imitate the sins of their conquered northern neighbors, they slipped into the same chaos and anarchy that marked the last period of Israel’s history.
i. “Although the Scriptures give no reason for the conspiracy, its cause may lie within the tangled web of revolts that Asurbanipal suppressed from 642-639 and that caused him to turn his attention to the west.… Amon’s death may thus reflect a power struggle between those who wished to remain loyal to the Assyrian crown and those who aspired to link Judah’s fortunes to the rising star of Psammetik I (664-609) of Egypt’s Twenty-Sixth Dynasty.” (Patterson and Austel)
b. But the people of the land executed all those who had conspired against King Amon: This was a hopeful sign. Up to this point, the people of Judah had largely tolerated some 57 years of utterly wicked kings who led the nation in evil. Now it seems that they wanted righteousness and justice instead of the evil they had lived with for so long.
i. In some way, it could be said that the people of Judah had these wicked kings for more than 50 years because that is what they wanted. God gave them the leaders they wanted and deserved. Now, as the people of the kingdom turned towards godliness, God gave them a better king.
c. Then the people of the land made his son Josiah king in his place: Though king Amon was assassinated, God did not yet allow Judah to slip into the same pit of anarchy that Israel had sunk into. Because of the righteous action of the people of the land, there was no change of dynasty, and the rightful heir to the throne of David became king.
i. “The only positive contribution Amon made to the history of Judah was to produce one of the best kings to reign on the throne of Jerusalem.” (Dilday)