Manasseh, King of Judah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, December 26, 2022 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

After the great legacy of obeying God that King Hezekiah left during his 29-year reign, you would think that it would be easy for the next king to follow in his footsteps and keep following God. However, that was not what King Manasseh did, as we read about him in 2 Kings 21:1-18.

King Manasseh was the son of King Hezekiah, so he would have grown up experiencing what it was like to follow God under his father’s reign. But, he was only 12 years old when he became the king, so perhaps he was not mature enough to follow in his father’s footsteps during the next 55 years that he was the king – the longest reigning king in Judah’s history.

King Manasseh basically undid all of the good that his father had done. While King Hezekiah had gotten rid of all the places of idol worship, King Manasseh built them back up. In verses 2-3, we read, “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them.” Note the comparison of King Manasseh to King Ahab of Israel; he was known as the worst of the worst kings!

But the details of what King Manasseh did get even worse. The next thing mentioned is that he built altars to pagan gods in various parts of God’s temple in Jerusalem. But then verse 6 tells us even more: “He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger.” It is believed that his son was only an infant when King Manasseh sacrificed him as part of a ritual to a pagan god. All of this activity is demonic in nature and exactly the opposite of what God wanted His people to do.

To add to that, King Manasseh placed the Asherah pole in the temple. This was an especially terrible offense to God as the Asherah pole was a symbol of sexual immorality. To put that in the temple was like a direct slap in the face to God. The people were worshiping their own bodies and their sexuality rather than God. The author recounts a promise of God to the people of Israel in verses 7b-8: “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them.” The people were definitely not doing what God commanded them, and they were not keeping the law that God gave them through Moses.

Verse 9 tells us that the people did not listen to the law of Moses but instead let King Manasseh lead them astray from God. Not only did they go astray, but they did even more evil than the other nations that God had destroyed!

We don’t have names recorded for the prophets that God used during King Manasseh’s reign to try and get the people to turn back to Him, but we do see God’s message to the people in verses 11-15. God declares that Judah, and specifically King Manasseh, has done so much evil that God would destroy them. God will “bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle.” He is going to completely wipe out the nation, and they will be looted and plundered. God reminds them that they have been making him angry basically ever since they left Egypt!

Judah sinned so severely that they should expect a very severe judgment from God, and it is during this time period that God began to make that happen. God is a merciful and gracious God, but there is an end to His mercy when the people keep blatantly turning against Him in very explicit ways. God had already allowed the northern kingdom of Israel to be taken into exile under the Assyrians, so it is made clear here that a similar fate is now on its way for the southern kingdom of Judah.

The question remains, though: what happened between the very good reign of King Hezekiah and the very evil reign of King Manasseh? What caused the drastic change in the people?

One theory is that the change toward worshiping and obeying God under King Hezekiah was only lip service. Perhaps the people treated it like the next new idol worship fad but did not experience a true heart change toward God. Then, when King Hezekiah’s 16-year reign was over, the people reverted right back to idolatry.

Another theory is that it all hinges on the leader, and the people simply blindly followed whoever was in charge at the time. That does ring true with the history of the nation. When the leader follows and obeys God, he gets the people to do the same; when the leader disobeys God, he gets the people to do the same.

Another factor to consider is the people’s sinful nature. Following God is not easy, and people are naturally enticed by the easiest way to get through life. Sin and idolatry have to look more enticing than following God, or else no one would do it. Satan is cunning in that respect, and he appeals to the nature of the people to do what is pleasing in the short term rather than what may be better in the long term.

Today, we are no different than the people of Judah under King Manasseh. While we don’t worship Baal or Asherah poles, we do worship many other false gods – particularly the god of self. Our culture is all about doing what feels good and pleasing ourselves, which is often the opposite of what God calls us to do. It’s not that God doesn’t want us to be happy, but again, sin has to be enticing or we wouldn’t do it. God calls us to do the difficult thing of going against the culture (and even our leadership when they go against Him) to follow Him. It was not easy for the people of Judah, and it is not easy for us today. But because of what God did for us in sending Jesus to take on the punishment for our sin, we are called to honor and glorify God by living that difficult life that honors Him, rather than getting sucked into the idolatry that the culture around us is committing.

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