2 Kings 21 – The Wicked 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. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. And 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. 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. “A degenerate plant of so noble a vine.” (Trapp)
ii. “Manasseh is named in Assyrian annals (Menasi or Minse, King of Yaudi) among twelve rulers of Palestine who brought tribute in kind to their overlord.” (Wiseman)
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 and unrepentant Judah should be expected.
2. (3-9) The specific sins of Manasseh.
For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; 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 I will put My name.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the Lord 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 make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers; only if they are careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.” But they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them 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 destroyed: 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 Baal, and made a wooden image: 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 wooden image) that marked the reign of Ahab.
c. He worshiped all the host of heaven and served them: 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.
d. 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).
e. He made his son pass through the fire: Manasseh sacrificed his own son to the Canaanite god Molech, who was worshipped with the burning of children.
f. Practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums: Manasseh invited direct Satanic influence by his approval and introduction of these occult arts.
g. He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of . . . the Lord: Asherah was the Canaanite goddess of fertility, and 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)
h. But they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil: This describes 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 was indeed a wicked king, but perhaps the greater sin was on behalf of the people who accepting this seduction willingly. 2 Chronicles 33:10 says, And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. God spoke to both the people and the leader, but they rejected His word.
ii. “He did all he could to pervert the national character, and totally destroy the worship of the true God; and he succeeded.” (Clarke)
iii. “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)
iv. This was a transformation of the culture from something generally God honoring 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.
3. (10-15) God promises judgment against Judah.
And the Lord spoke by His servants the prophets, saying, “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations (he has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols), therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Behold, I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab; I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. So I will forsake the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become victims of plunder to all their enemies, because they have done evil in My sight, and have provoked Me to anger since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.’ ”
a. The Lord spoke by His servants the prophets: When the leaders and the popular culture had abandoned God, the Lord still had a voice to Judah. He spoke by the prophets to His disobedient people.
i. “The prophets were Hosea, Joel, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Isaiah. These five following verses contain the sum of what these prophets spoke.” (Clarke)
b. He has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him: This was a remarkable achievement of evil. The Amorites were among the Canaanite tribes who populated the Promised Land before Israel captured it, and they were infamous for their violent, immoral, and depraved culture.
c. Both his ears will tingle: In other places in the Old Testament, tingling ears are a sign that an especially severe judgment was coming (1 Samuel 3:11, Jeremiah 19:3).
d. The measuring line of Samaria: God’s logic is simple. If Judah insisted on imitating the sins of the northern kingdom, then God would answer their similar sins with a similar judgment. God would cleanse Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down, subjecting them to their enemies.
i. “To wipe a dish and turn it upside-down to drain signified the depopulation of the land (cf. Jeremiah 51:34).” (Wiseman)
ii. So I will forsake: “Forsake is a strong, forceful word used to describe the skinning of an animal. It is sometimes translated cast off.” (Dilday)
4. (16) Manasseh persecutes the people of God.
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.
a. Manasseh shed very much innocent blood: This puts Manasseh, King of Judah, in the same spiritual family as Ahab, King of Israel. Under both of these kings – among others – the people of God were persecuted by the religion of state-sponsored idolatry. The extent of it was so great that it could be metaphorically said, he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another with the blood of his victims.
i. We see the tragic progression in Manasseh’s sin.
· First, idolatry is tolerated among God’s people.
· Then idolatry is promoted.
· Then idolatry is supported and funded.
· Then the worship of the true God is undermined.
· Then the worshippers of the true God are persecuted and murdered.
· Then the judgment of God soon comes.
b. In doing evil in the sight of the Lord: By tradition, one of the evils done by Manasseh was the murder of Isaiah the prophet. Many think that Hebrews 11:37 (they were sawn in two) is a reference to the martyrdom of Isaiah.
i. “To shed innocent blood implies oppression against the young, innocent and godly (cf. 2 Kings 24:3-4). The uncorroborated Jewish tradition (The Ascension of Isaiah) says that Isaiah was sawn in half during the reign of Manasseh (cf. Hebrews 11:37).” (Wiseman)
5. (17-18) Conclusion of Manasseh’s reign
Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh; all that he did, and the sin that he committed; are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Manasseh rested with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza. Then his son Amon reigned in his place.
a. All that he did, and the sin that he committed: This was the terrible legacy of Manasseh, who was born of one of the better kings of Judah (Hezekiah).
b. Are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 2 Chronicles 33:11-19 describes a remarkable repentance on the part of Manasseh. Because he and his people would not listen to the warnings of God, the Lord allowed the Babylonians to bind King Manasseh and take him as a captive to Babylon. There, when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers (2 Chronicles 33:12) and God answered his prayer and restored him to the throne. Manasseh then proved that his repentance was genuine by taking away the idols and the foreign gods from Jerusalem, and he commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel (2 Chronicles 33:16).
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. In this way, we can say that it was very true that Manasseh rested with his fathers.
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)
B. The reign of Amon, son of Manasseh.
1. (19-22) A two year, evil reign
Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. So he walked in all the ways that his father had walked; and he served the idols that his father had served, and worshiped them. He forsook the Lord God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the Lord.
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: Amon sinned as Manasseh had sinned, without having the repentance that Manasseh repented. It is likely that one of the greatest sorrows to the repentant Mansseh 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. 2 Chronicles 33:23 says: And he did not humble himself before the Lord, as his father Manasseh had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.
iii. “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)
2. (23-26) The assassination of Amon.
Then the servants of Amon conspired against him, and killed the king 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. 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? And he was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza. Then Josiah his son reigned in his place.
a. The servants of Amon conspired against him, and killed the king 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. . . . Amnon’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 will give 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 received the throne.
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)
© 2006 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission