EVEN THE WORST SINNER, IF HE HUMBLY REPENTS, IS NOT BEYOND THE MERCY OF GOD
Raymond Dillard: Though the Chronicler was heavily dependent on Kings for his account of Manasseh (33:1–10 // 2 Kgs 21:1–10), the two accounts contrast sharply in their overall assessment of his reign. In the deuteronomic history Manasseh is the nadir of the kings of Judah and is the leading cause of a now irreversible exile, whereas in Chronicles he becomes repentant and a religious reformer. Though agreeing regarding his apostasy, the two historians come to opposite moral judgments.
Iain Duguid: Kings and Chronicles were written for different audiences, and their authors selected their material accordingly. In the Chronicler’s Manasseh account, hearers are encouraged to find a foretaste of their own situation, as they have been in exile because of rejection of God’s words through the prophets (33:10–11a; 36:15–17). Even in the darkest situation, as people “humble themselves” and cry to God in repentance, hope of full restoration (even including kingship; 33:13) is still possible; building and security go together with “serv[ing] the Lord the God of Israel” (v. 16).
Martin Selman: 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. God’s judgment had clearly been at least delayed, though if God’s basic decision could not be overturned by Josiah’s extensive reformation, Manasseh’s more limited changes (cf. v. 17) were not likely to be any more successful.
Matthew Henry: This foolish young prince, in contradiction to the good example and good education his father gave him, abandoned himself to all impiety, transcribed the abominations of the heathen (v. 2), ruined the established religion, unraveled his father’s glorious reformation (v. 3), profaned the house of God with his idolatry (vv. 4, 5), dedicated his children to Moloch, and made the devil’s lying oracles his guides and his counsellors, v. 6. In contempt of the choice God had made of Zion to be his rest for ever and Israel to be his covenant-people (v. 8), and the fair terms he stood upon with God, he embraced other gods, profaned God’s chosen temple, and debauched his chosen people. He made them to err, and do worse than the heathen (v. 9); for, if the unclean spirit returns, he brings with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself. That which aggravated the sin of Manasseh was that God spoke to him and his people by the prophets, but they would not hearken, v. 10. We may here admire the grace of God in speaking to them, and their obstinacy in turning a deaf ear to him, that either their badness did not quite turn away his goodness, but still he waited to be gracious, or that his goodness did not turn them from their badness, but still they hated to be reformed.
I. (:1-9) OPENING SUMMARY OF THE REIGN OF MANASSEH –
RELAPSE INTO IDOLATRY – THE DEPTHS OF DEPRAVITY
A. (:1) Age and Duration of Reign
“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king,
and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem.”
Raymond Dillard: Manasseh ruled longer than any other king of Judah. Many find in this fact the key to the Chronicler’s treatment of this king. In light of his theology of immediate retribution, Manasseh would have represented something of a problem: how is it that this king who represented the pinnacle of evil also enjoyed the divine blessing of long life? The Chronicler’s account of Manasseh’s punishment, repentance, and reform removes the narrative from being a problem and makes it instead a dramatic confirmation of the validity of retribution theology and the efficacy of repentance.
Iain Duguid: For all kings after Hezekiah he omits the queen mother.
B. (:2) Summary Moral Evaluation
“And he did evil in the sight of the LORD according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel.”
Raymond Dillard: Note the three occurrences of the phrase reporting that Manasseh “did evil” early in the paragraphs beginning with 33:2, 6, 9; repetition of such phrases is common on paragraph boundaries. . .
This verse is verbatim 2 Kgs 21:2, but functions somewhat differently in the earlier narrative. In Kings Manasseh’s reign accounts for the exile; the abominations for which Yahweh drove the Canaanites from the land would eventually be the same reasons for which Israel was driven out (Deut 18:12; 2 Kgs 17:8, 16–20). This relationship between the deeds and exile of the Canaanites and the deeds and exile of Israel is somewhat muted in Chronicles and becomes the personal experience of the king rather than the nation.
C. (:3-8) Record of Idolatrous Practices
Andrew Hill: The specific catalog of abominations promoted by Manasseh as “alternative religion” for the kingdom of Judah invites comparison with the Mosaic prohibitions against false worship (Deut. 16:21 – 17:7; 18:9-13). Among the taboos borrowed wholesale form Canaanite culture are idolatry associated with the fertility cult deities Asherah and Baal, astral worship, infanticide, and the occult (2 Chron. 33:3-6).
According to 2 Kings 17:7-13, 16-20, these are the very sins that incited God’s wrath against the northern kingdom of Israel and brought about the Assyrian exile. Note too how centuries earlier the theocratic kingdom of Israel under Joshua’s leadership waged war against the indigenous populations of Canaan as divine judgment for the same list of abominations (Lev. 18:24-28). The narrative in 2 Kings 24:3-4 ascribes blame directly to King Manasseh for the Babylonian exile of the southern kingdom. Like matter reaching an irreversible energy state of critical mass in the science of physics, the course charted by the political and religious policies of Manasseh lead irrevocably to the Exile.
1. (:3-5) Worshiping False Gods
“For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he also erected altars for the Baals and made Asherim, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 And he built altars in the house of the LORD of which the LORD had said, ‘My name shall be in Jerusalem forever.’ 5 For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.”
2. (:6a) Passing His Sons Throug
h the Fire
“And he made his sons pass through the fire in the
valley of Ben-hinnom;”
3. (:6b) Diving into the Occult
“and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery,
and dealt with mediums and spiritists.”
4. (:6c) Provoking God to Anger
“He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger.”
5. (:7-8) Desecrating the Temple with a Prominent Idol
“Then he put the carved image of 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 from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever; 8 and I will not again remove the foot of Israel from the land which I have appointed for your fathers, if only they will observe to do all that I have commanded them according to all the law, the statutes, and the ordinances given through Moses.’”
Raymond Dillard: The “carved image” (v 7) is specifically an image of Asherah in 2 Kgs 21:7.
Andrew Hill: The king leads the people astray by breaking the first commandment (2 Chron. 33:7; cf. Ex. 20:3-4). The carved image he erects in God’s temple symbolizes his rejection of God’s rule at both the personal and the national level. King Manasseh’s arrogance breeds the evil of idolatry and poisons his subjects with the sin of idolatry (1 Sam. 15:23; cf. Ex. 20:3-4).
D. (:9) Summary Moral Evaluation
“Thus Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel.”
II. (:10-13) CAPTIVITY AND REPENTANCE –
THE BREADTH OF GOD’S MERCY
A. (:10) Spurning God’s Prophetic Warnings
“And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.”
B. (:11) Subjected to Capture and Degrading Bondage
“Therefore the LORD brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains, and took him to Babylon.”
C. (:12) Supplicating the Lord in Humility
“And when he was in distress, he entreated the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.”
D. (:13a) Saved by the Mercy of God
“When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom.”
E. (:13b) Settled in His Knowledge of God
“Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.”
Andrew Hill: The expression “the Lord was moved” (33:13) is unusual and marks a theological distinctive of the God of the Bible. Unlike the deaf Baals after which the Israelites continually strayed, the God of Israel is not only approachable, but he listens to prayer and is capable of responding with empathy toward those in dire need (Ex. 22:27; 2 Chron. 30:9; cf. 1 Kings 18:26; Isa. 44:18; Hab. 2:18). The stark contrast between God who listens to the plea of Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:13) and the people who pay no attention to God (33:10) would not be lost on the Chronicler’s audience. The episode foreshadows the hallmark attribute of Jesus Christ as the great high priest, who is moved to grant mercy because he sympathizes with human weakness, having experienced it himself (Heb. 4:14-16).
Poole: 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.
III. (:14-17) POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS REFORMS –
THE FRUIT OF REPENTANCE
Raymond Dillard: Building programs and large armies are the lot of the righteous king in Chronicles, and the author’s inclusion of this material relates no doubt to showing divine blessing following upon repentance. It is possible that such fortification was undertaken prior to his revolt against Assyria, and that it has been dischronologized to this point as part of the Chronicler’s presentation; however, it is equally probable that the fortification was undertaken after his return from Babylon as part of the Assyrian efforts to buttress their southern borders against Egypt. Manasseh may have been repairing damage done to the city walls when he was taken captive. Cf. 32:5.
Iain Duguid: The Chronicler has told of previous kings who had been faithful but subsequently failed in some way (e.g., Asa, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah), but Manasseh stands out as the only king who began his reign in unfaithfulness but repented and did good.
Andrew Hill: The next report emphasizes Manasseh’s political and religious reforms. Usually this is construed as the “healing of the land,” the natural aftermath of prayer and repentance according to God’s promise in 7:14. The Chronicler sees royal building projects as an indication of divine blessing for obedience. Manasseh’s reforms are both political and religious in nature suggesting God’s acceptance of the king’s prayer of repentance. The rebuilding of the city wall of Jerusalem (33:14) may refer to repairs made necessary when Manasseh was taken captive by the Assyrians or to the continuation of the expansion of Jerusalem begun under Hezekiah (cf. Isa. 22:10-11; 2 Chron. 32:5). Strengthening the military presence in the fortified cities of Judah (33:14) is almost routine for kings ruling in Jerusalem, since these cities form a shield against foreign invaders (cf. 2 Kings 18:13; 2 Chron. 14:6; 17:2; 26:9). Assuming Manasseh’s renewed loyalty as an Assyrian vassal after his release from exile, both initiatives may have been encouraged by the Assyrians as defensive measures aimed at discouraging an Egyptian military campaign into Judah.
A. (:14a) Rebuilding the Walls Protecting Jerusalem
“Now after this he built the outer wall of the city of David on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entrance of the Fish Gate;< /p>
and he encircled the Ophel with it and made it very high.”
B. (:14b) Redeploying Military Commanders to Fortified Cities
“Then he put army commanders in all the fortified cities of Judah.”
C. (:15) Removing Foreign Gods
“He also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD,
as well as all the altars which he had built on the mountain of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside the city.”
Martin Selman: 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. Some form of regular worship was recommenced (v. 16), though its range seems rather limited (cf. 1 Chr. 23:31; 2 Chr. 2:4; 8:13; 31:3).
D. (:16a) Reestablishing the Altar in the Temple
“And he set up the altar of the LORD
and sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it;”
E. (:16b) Redirecting the People to Serve the Lord God
“and he ordered Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.”
F. (:17) Limitation of Manasseh’s Reforms
“Nevertheless the people still sacrificed in the high places,
although only to the LORD their God.”
David Guzik: 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.
Andrew Hill: The impact of Manasseh’s religious reforms seems restricted to Jerusalem and its immediate environs, given the Chronicler’s reference to ongoing worship in the high places (33:17). The worship associated with the Canaanite high places proves a snare for the Israelites throughout the history of the monarchies.
Martin Selman: As with all previous attempts to eradicate the signs and symbols of Canaanite religion, in practice its undemanding morality and sensuous practices proved irresistible to the majority of the People (cf. 2 Chr. 14:3; 15:17; 17:6; 20:33). Despite the formal changes, the people as a whole saw no need for a change of heart (cf. Isa. 29:13; Jer. 3:10; 2 Tim. 3:5).
J. Barton Payne: A half century of paganism could not be overcome by a half dozen years of reform.
(:18-20) EPILOGUE – CLOSING SUMMARY OF REIGN OF MANASSEH
A. (:18-19) Recorded Deeds
“Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh even his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are among the records of the kings of Israel. 19 His prayer also and how God was entreated by him, and all his sin, his unfaithfulness, and the sites on which he built high places and erected the Asherim and the carved images, before he humbled himself, behold, they are written in the records of the Hozai.”
Mark Boda: A comparison of the concluding summary note of Manasseh in 2 Kings 21:17-18 with the one in 33:18-20 reveals the differing nuances of each account. The book of Kings emphasizes “the sins he committed” while Chronicles highlights “his prayer to God.” The Chronicler mentions two sources for his account of Manasseh, one The Book of the Kings of Israel, and the other The Record of the Seers. The role of the prophetic voice is emphasize in this closing note and this record of the seers is said to contain details on locations of idolatrous sites. Although penitent in life, Manasseh was denied the honor of burial with the kings of Judah in death.
B. (:20a) Death and Burial
“So Manasseh slept with his fathers,”
“and they buried him in his own house.”
C. (:20b) Succession
“And Amon his son became king in his place.”
REIGN OF WICKED AMON – SHORT AND CHAOTIC —
WITHOUT REPENTANCE LIFE ENDS IN TRAGEDY
Raymond Dillard: The Chronicler’s account of Amon follows rather closely that in 2 Kgs 21:19–26. The most notable difference is that for the writer of Kings, Amon was “just like” his father Manasseh (2 Kgs 21:20 // 33:22), whereas in Chronicles Amon is contrasted to Manasseh because of his failure to repent (33:23). The Chronicler explicates “walking in all the ways his father walked” (2 Kgs 21:21) as “offering sacrifices and worshiping all the idols his father Manasseh had made” (33:22).
Thomas Constable: Amon represented the other alternative that the returned exiles could choose: no repentance. His fate would have been, and is, a warning to seek the LORD.
Martin Selman: Although the cloud of exile hangs over chapters 28-36, Manasseh and Amon in their contrasting ways show that a fatalistic attitude in the face of God’s judgment is quite unjustified.
J. Barton Payne: Amon was the unhappy product of his father’s pagan life, not of his pious death. This brief summary of his reign closely parallels II Kgs 21:19-26 and notes the immediate relapse of Judah to the pre-conversion religion of Manasseh.
A.C. Gaebelein: The utter corruption of human nature is seen in the case of his son Amon. With the awful experience of his father before him, and no doubt exhorted by Manasseh to serve the LORD and be true to Him, he followed deliberately the bad example of his father’s idolatry. He trespassed more and more and did not
repent like his father Manasseh, but died in his sins. Under his reign the wickedness reached a higher mark than under any previous king.
I. (:21-22a) OPENING SUMMARY OF REIGN OF AMON
A. (:21) Age and Duration of Reign
“Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king,
and he reigned two years in Jerusalem.”
Frederick Mabie: Amon’s brief reign lasts from about 643-641 BC, a time of significant Assyrian power in the biblical world.
B. (:22a) Moral Evaluation
“And he did evil in the sight of the LORD as Manasseh his father had done,”
J.A. Thompson: Just as Manasseh could not go back and undo the damage he had done to his nation, even so he could not back and change the son he had raised to be a pagan. Amon followed in his father’s footsteps, but not the steps that Manasseh would have like him to follow.
II. (:22b-23) TWO MAIN AREAS OF CULPABILITY
A. (:22b) Idolatry
“and Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and he served them.”
J. Barton Payne: Either their removal had not involved their destruction (v. 15), or the concentration of Manasseh’s reformation in Jerusalem had left available his more scattered idolatries (cf. v. 17).
B. (:23) Impenitence
“Moreover, he did not humble himself before the LORD as his father Manasseh had done, but Amon multiplied guilt.”
Iain Duguid: The Chronicler uses Amon’s reign as a contrast to the positive action of Manasseh in “humbling himself.” That becomes the focus of attention in the two reigns, an example for hearers to heed.
Matthew Henry: He fell like him, but did not get up again like him. It is not so much sin as impenitence in sin that ruins men, not so much that they offend as that they do not humble themselves for their offences, not the disease, but the neglect of the remedy.
III. (:24-25) CLOSING SUMMARY OF REIGN OF AMON
A. (24) Assassination of Amon
“Finally his servants conspired against him
and put him to death in his own house.”
Andrew Hill: The reason behind his assassination is unspecified (33:24). Clearly the general populace is not in sympathy with the coup since they execute those palace officials party to the conspiracy (33:25a).
J.A. Thompson: The reasons that Amon’s officials conspired against him and assassinated him in his palace are not given, but they may have had a political motivation in the international politics of the day. Amon was perhaps pro-Assyrian in his policies at a time when Assyria’s power was declining and many Israelites were looking toward Egypt for leadership. If so anti-Assyrian opponents of Amon’s foreign policy lay behind the plot.
B. (:25a) Execution of Conspirators against Amon
“But the people of the land killed all the conspirators against King Amon,”
Raymond Dillard: Scholars have reached a variety of conclusions regarding the sociopolitical identity of the group designated by the phrase “people of the land”; some conclude they were
(1) a privileged social class composed of free landowners;
(2) a collective designation for free people, citizens;
(3) a reference to the population of the provincial towns as distinguished from the population of Jerusalem;
(4) a proletariat of the common folk;
(5) a national council composed of elders.
Andrew Hill: The expression “people of the land” (33:25a) may be an idiom for a coalition of religious and political leadership centered in Jerusalem since they also function as “king makers” in other succession crises (cf. 22:1; 26:1; 36:1).
J.A. Thompson: Most commentators agree that these were the free landholders of Judah who always acted decisively in times of crisis to maintain the Davidic dynasty in the land.
C. (:25b) Succession
“and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place.”
Dilday: 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.