The Word Made Fresh
1Manasseh began his rule when he was twelve years old and reigned for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother was Hephzibah. 2The LORD deemed his reign to be an evil one because he fell into the disgusting practices of the people the LORD drove out before Israel. 3He rebuilt the hilltop shrines his father Hezekiah had destroyed. He set up altars for sacrifices to Baal, erected a pagan totem pole like the one of King Ahab of Israel and worshiped and served all the planets and stars of the heavens. 4Even though the LORD had declared, “My name will be in Jerusalem,” Manasseh built altars to the heavenly bodies 5in the two courtyards surrounding the temple. 6He sacrificed one of his sons in the fire and practiced fortune-telling and prognostication, and even appointed ‘mediums’ and ‘wizards.’ The LORD was very angry with his evil practices. 7He displayed a carved image of the goddess Asherah in the very temple of which the LORD declared to David and Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from among all the tribes of Israel, I will place my name forever. 8And if they are careful to obey my laws which I gave them through Moses, I will not steer Israel away from the land I gave their ancestors.” 9But the people did not remain loyal. Manasseh led them into more wickedness than any of the nations the LORD had destroyed before Israel settled the land.
10The LORD told the people through the prophets, the servants of the LORD, 11“Because of the evil things done by king Manasseh of Judah – more than anything the Amorites did before him because he actually led Judah into sin with his idols – 12I, the LORD, the God of Israel, declare that I will smite Jerusalem and Judah with such calamity their ears will tingle when they hear of it. 13I will submit Jerusalem to the same tests I applied to Samaria and the house of Ahab. I will wipe Jerusalem away like wiping a dish clean and then turning it over. 14I will disown whatever evidence remains of my presence there and deliver them to their enemies. They will become no more than target practice to their enemies 15because of their wickedness which I have seen, and which has made me burn with anger, wickedness that has been with them since the day their ancestors left Egypt down to this very day.”
16To add to his wickedness, Manasseh had spilled innocent blood through the streets of Jerusalem from one end of the city to the other, and this in addition to the sin he led Judah into, doing things that the LORD had declared to be evil.
17The rest of Manasseh’s reign, the things he did and the sins he committed, are all recorded in the Book of the Acts of the Kings of Judah. 18He joined his ancestors and was buried in the garden that Uzza had planted on his palace grounds.
His son Amon succeeded him as king. 19He came to the throne at the age of twenty-two and ruled for two years in Jerusalem. His mother was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. 20The LORD saw that he was an evil king just as his father Manasseh had been. 21He did everything his father had done, including worshiping and serving his father’s idols. 22He completely abandoned the LORD, the God of his ancestors. 23His own servants turned against him and killed him in his palace, 24but the people rounded up the conspirators and put them to death. Then they made his son Josiah king in his place.
25The details of Amon’s reign are recorded in the Book of the Acts of the Kings of Judah. 26He was buried in Uzza’s garden on the palace grounds.
His son Josiah succeeded him as king.
1-9: Manasseh holds the record for length of rule in Judah; 55 years. Unfortunately, he is not the man his father was but takes after his grandfather Ahaz. He apparently wants to make sure he has all the bases covered religion-wise, so he erects altars, totem poles and shrines to every god he ever heard of, including the host of heaven (sun, moon, and stars). He even builds shrines to pagan gods in the very temple of the LORD. The religious atrocities he commits surpass anything any of the evil kings in Samaria ever did.
10-15: The prophets, however, know of God’s anger, and through them God makes it known that he has determined to punish Judah just as Israel was punished. But no one heeds their warnings.
16: And Manasseh piles crime upon crime. The innocent blood that he spills is probably the blood of the prophets who pronounced God’s judgment on Israel (see Luke 13:34).
17-18: Manasseh dies and is succeeded by his son Amon.
19-26: Amon proves to be just as evil as his father Manasseh, but his reign only lasts 2 years. He is so despicable that his own servants decide enough is enough and assassinate him, but their coup is unsuccessful because the people will not allow the dynasty of David to end. They kill the killers and crown eight-year-old Josiah, Amon’s son, as king (Amon was therefore only 16 when his son Josiah was born; an indication of character flaws and parental neglect, perhaps?). Josiah will prove to be a good one, though.
The reign of two of the wickedest kings of Judah is covered in this chapter. Why does God allow such evil to continue? If you ever want to look for evidence that God has given human beings a free will, you need look no further than these stories from Israel’s early history. Keep in mind that God is steering Israel toward a certain destiny, preparing them for a certain child to be born in Bethlehem.