King Manasseh

By Royce Frederick

Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, began reigning as king over Judah about 690 B.C., when he was only twelve years old. Generally, such a young boy would not be ready for such power and responsibility. Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah, who was only eight years old when he became king, was a very good king. But Manasseh did not choose the path of wisdom and righteousness.

Manasseh reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. Most of those years were filled with great wickedness. “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...Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Kings 21:2, 9). He “rebuilt the high places [places for worshipping false gods] 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...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 temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 21:3, 6-7). All of these were clear violations of the Law of Moses.

In addition to forsaking the worship of the living God, he was extremely cruel to his own people. “Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin with which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 21:16).

Manasseh’s wickedness was a major reason for the eventual destruction of Judah. “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations...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...I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down’” (2 Kings 21:11-13).

However, the record of Manasseh’s funeral in 2 Kings 21:18 appears peaceful: “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” (2 Kings 21:18).

The Bible also mentions Manasseh’s repentance. Did he repent after his death? No. That is not possible, for “ is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Each person lives only one time on the earth. When we die, all opportunities for repentance and salvation are gone. We must make our choice in this life.

The story of Manasseh’s repentance is not recorded in 2 Kings, but in 2 Chronicles. “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” (2 Chronicles 33:10-11). The Assyrians often used hooks through the noses of their captives to pull them along.

During his captivity and torture in the city of Babylon, Manasseh learned very well a lesson which his ancestor, Solomon, had written: “...the way of the unfaithful is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). “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” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13).

Manasseh went to work trying to make things right. He built the outer wall of the city of David and put valiant captains in all the fortified cities of Judah (verse 14). He took away the foreign gods, removed the idol from the Lord’s temple, and tore down the altars he had built in Jerusalem (verse 15). “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” (verse 16). These are the fruits of true repentance!

Manasseh truly turned his life around! But we need to soberly notice that he was never able to UNDO all the damage he had done. Part of that is seen in his son Amon, who followed his father’s wickedness, not his reform. Had Amon witnessed the wicked life of his father during the tender years of his youth? “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” (2 Chronicles 33:21-23).

Another part of the lasting damage is seen in the nation. The kingdom of Judah did not collapse immediately, but the foundation of the kingdom was beyond repair. Jeremiah wrote, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth...I will hand them over to trouble to all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem’” (Jeremiah 15:1, 4). Judah and Jerusalem finally fell in 586 B.C. Truly, “ sinner destroys much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18).

Actions have consequences. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8). The law of sowing and reaping involves the physical, mental, social, and spiritual parts of life. And it involves all of the people whom we influence along the way. Very often, the people we influence the most are those who are most dear to us.

How sad it is when anyone continues in sin. The lesson we need to learn from Manasseh is NOT permanent guilt and unbearable regret. When a person hears the gospel, believes, repents of his sins, confesses his faith in Christ, and is baptized into Christ for the remission of sins, ALL of his sins are washed away by the blood of Christ (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 8:35-39; 22:16; Galatians 3:26-27). The Lord is ready to cleanse even the most defiled. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). “...I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all long-suffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:13-16).

The lesson is this: we must not delay obeying the Lord! The cost is too high — for ourselves and others. “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). We cannot undo all of the results of our sins. But we can prevent more damage and regrets. We need to surrender to the will of God today, then always look forward and “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).