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Deeper Commentary

2Ch 33:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign; and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem-
"Causing to forget" is a strange name for a child unless the father [like Joseph] had a previous life he wanted to forget. Manasseh was born three years into Hezekiah's final 15 years of life in which he turned away from God. So I suggest that his name reflects Hezekiah's desire to 'forget all that God stuff' and get on with 'enjoying' his last 15 years without God. And this was naturally reflected in the way he raised a son who was one of Israel's most evil rulers.

2Ch 33:2 He did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, after the abominations of the nations whom Yahweh cast out before the children of Israel-
We may wonder why God let such an evil man live and reign for 55 years (:1), the longest reigning of any king. Surely if he had been slain for his wickedness, as other men were, then he would have led fewer people astray? I suggest the answer is that God worked for decades towards this evil man's repentance- and it paid off. He did repent in the end. And we can look forward to eternity together with him. We see in this the huge meaning and value God places upon the individual person, and how He will not give up searching for the lost until He finds them. Manasseh would be the parade example of that.

2Ch 33:3 For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; and he reared up altars for the Baals, and made Asheroth, and worshipped all the army of the sky, and served them-
This revival of idolatry would not have been possible unless the people generally were eager and willing for it. I suggested previously that Hezekiah's reforms were largely on the cusp of his becoming king. They were partly a psychological reaction against the misery of Ahaz's reign, and the reforms of 2 Chron. 31 were often a result of group psychology rather than personal reformation of the heart. They were all too sudden and spontaneous, at the same moment, to have been the outcome of all the concerned individuals having the same heart response. There was a group psychology there, a going with the crowd. And so it is unsurprising that they all turned away relatively soon afterwards.

2Ch 33:4 He built altars in the house of Yahweh, of which Yahweh said, My name shall be in Jerusalem forever-
This was precisely the behaviour of his grandfather Ahaz. I suggest that this was only done by persuading themselves that these altars were in fact a form of Yahweh worship. For there is never any specific statement that Judah formally renounced Yahweh. And this continues to be the abiding weakness of God's people; to justify wrongdoing by claiming it is part of worshipping God. Such as justifying luxury homes and goods in the name of needing them to serve God with.

2Ch 33:5 He built altars for all the army of the sky in the two courts of the house of Yahweh-
These were the court of the priests, and the court of the common people (2 Chron. 4:9). The priesthood were surely complicit in this. For when Uzziah had tried to offer incense himself, 80 faithful priests resisted him. But there is no record of any such resistance to Manasseh. The priests in Hezekiah's time had been reticent to devote themselves solely to Yahweh (1 Chron. 29:34). I suggested that this was because they were accustomed to being priests both of Yahweh and of the pagan gods. This means that they took a cut from all the offerings to all the gods. 

2Ch 33:6 He also made his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom-
This would have meant that his surviving children would have hated him for slaying their siblings; although passing through the fire may have been a dedication ceremony rather than actually burning them to death. 2 Kings 21:6 has "his son", 2 Chron. 33:6 has "his children". As he had more than one son, we are to infer surely that this focus upon "his son" meant that one of his sons in particular passed through the fire, and that could imply that he sacrificed his son [maybe his firstborn]. Israel should have removed from amongst them a man who did this (Dt. 18:10), and the fact they didn't suggests they therefore passively supported him in his apostacy.

The valley of Hinnom, Ge Hinnom, was to later be known as Gehenna, and became a symbol used by the Lord for complete destruction (Mt. 5:22). As they burnt their children there, to destruction, so sinners would be burnt to destruction in that same place.

And he practised sorcery and used enchantments, and practised witchcraft and dealt with those who had familiar spirits, and with wizards-
AV "a familiar spirit" is misleading, and many of the modern versions give something like "witch" or [ESV, GNB] "a medium". LXX has "a divining spirit". It doesn't mean she did actually have any such spirit; but that she was considered as having this. Such people were thought to be able to be possessed by the spirit of dead people, and to therefore speak in their name. But the Bible clearly teaches that the "spirit returns to God" (Ps. 146:4; Ecc. 12:7), and that death is unconsciousness. The spirit of dead persons don't enter other people. I would go so far as to say that the record of the witch at Endor, who supposedly had a "familiar spirit", is deconstructing this belief. For Samuel himself appears, and speaks directly to Saul, and not through the "medium". The woman therefore screamed in shock when Samuel actually appeared. He was resurrected, briefly, in order to give God's final message to Saul. The people claiming to have "familiar spirits" lay on the ground and mumbled hard to understand words in a voice seeking to imitate the dead person (Is. 29:4) but Samuel appeared in person and spoke clearly to Saul, directly. We also note that Samuel appeared to Saul standing upright, because Saul bowed before him: "Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and showed respect" (1 Sam. 28:14). This was quite different to how the mediums lay on the ground and mumbled words into the dust.

He worked much evil in the sight of Yahweh, to provoke Him to anger-
God can be grieved [s.w. 'provoke to anger']. He has emotions, and His potential foreknowledge doesn't mean that these feelings are not legitimate. They are presented as occurring in human time, as responses to human behaviour. This is the degree to which He has accommodated Himself to human time-space limits, in order to fully enter relationship and experience with us. As He can limit His omnipotence, so God can limit His omniscience, in order to feel and respond along with us. 

2Ch 33:7 He set the engraved image of the idol, which he had made, in God’s house, of which God 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, will I put My name forever-
Manasseh is criticized for placing an idol in the very place where God's Name of Yahweh was meant to dwell, “the graven image of Asherah” (2 Kings 21:7 RV). He replaced the invisible things- the more abstract things of the characteristics of God which the Name speaks of- by something material and visible. We make the same mistake when we turn away from true spirituality and become lost in physical works. If Judah had not forgotten the Name [and this must refer to their lack of appreciation of it rather than forgetting the letters JHVH], then they wouldn’t have served Baal and other gods (Jer. 23:27). It is this particular idol which it seems was returned to the temple just prior to the destruction of the temple (Ez. 8:3), despite Manasseh himself removing it on his repentance.

2Ch 33:8 neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from off the land which I have appointed for your fathers, if only they will observe to do all that I have commanded them, even all the law and the statutes and the ordinances given by Moses-
This is apparently (:7) a quotation from what God said to David and Solomon. But it appears to be an adaptation about the promises to the singular seed, that he must continue in obedience if the promises were to be fulfilled through him. But just as Abraham's seed is both the Lord Jesus and all those in Him, the true Israel of God, so the promises about David's seed also have a collective dimension.

2Ch 33:9 Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that they did more evil than the nations did whom Yahweh had destroyed before the children of Israel-
God's tolerance of Judah in His land was therefore by grace, and in hope of their repentance. Their doing "more evil" than the Gentiles could refer to the fact that as in covenant relationship with God, they were the more responsible for their sins. Or the idea may be that most Gentiles were faithful to their set of gods, only changing them if that was enforced upon them by the military dominance of a neighbour. But Judah went running madly to every god they could, described by Hosea under the figure of sexual addiction.

2Ch 33:10 Yahweh spoke to Manasseh, and to his people; but they gave no heed-
"They gave no heed", or 'did not listen', is a phrase used in the later prophets as they appeal to the exiles (Neh. 9:34; Zech. 1:4). The sins of Manasseh in 'not listening' to God's word are cited as the main reason for the exile. We note that refusing to listen to God's word is the essence of all the sins of idolatry etc. It is the spurning of relationship with God which appears to hurt Him even more than the list of sins which Manasseh was also guilty of.

2Ch 33:11 Therefore Yahweh brought on them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh in chains, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon-
Literally, "in thorns", but the idea is of rings or hooks, probably in his nose. For it was like this that Assyria was to be treated by God, and the latter day Assyrian led by Gog will likewise effectively be Yahweh's captive servant with rings in his nose (2 Kings 19:28; Ez. 38:4). Or it could be that Manasseh was taken "in the thorns", hiding in a thorn bush.

Albert Barnes notes: "Esarhaddon mentions Manasseh among his tributaries; and he was the only king of Assyria who, from time to time, held his court at Babylon".

2Ch 33:12 When he was in distress, he begged Yahweh his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers-
There is no lack of evidence that later Bible characters found inspiration in Samson, especially in their weakness. Manasseh is an example (2 Chron. 33:12,13 = Jud. 16:19,28). The intensity of Samson's repentance was quite something. It must have inspired Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:11), who like Samson was bound (Jud. 16:21) and humbled (Jud. 16:5,16,19 AVmg.)- and then repented with a like intensity. And Zedekiah went through the same basic experience, of capture by his enemies, having his eyes put out, his capture attributed to false gods; and he likewise repented (2 Kings 25:7).  

2Ch 33:13 He prayed to Him; and He was entreated by him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that Yahweh was God-
Manasseh's repentance and forgiveness was associated with his knowing Yahweh. He prayed to Yahweh, but only on experiencing forgiveness did he come to know Him (2 Chron. 33:13). To really know the Name elicits forgiveness, and the experience of that forgiveness leads to knowing the Name yet further. Job went through the same; when he truly saw / perceived God, he repented and 'loathed his words' (Job 42:6 RVmg.).

Humanly speaking, the return of Manasseh to Judah would have been because Assyria wanted to turn Judah into a vassal, buffer state between them and the mighty power of Egypt, which they feared. But this coincided with Manasseh's repentance. 

2Ch 33:14 Now after this he built an outer wall to the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entrance at the fish gate; and he encircled Ophel with it, and raised it up to a very great height; and he put valiant captains in all the fortified cities of Judah-
This wall seems to have been on the north east of the city, from the modern Damascus gate across the Gihon valley to the “fish gate” at the north east of the “city of David”. These defensive actions suggest he started to break away from servitude to Assyria, even though that was probably the basis of his return from exile (see on :13). Building projects like these were typically recorded as being done at the beginning of the reigns of kings of Judah, and so it's as if he was born again, and was trying to start out afresh.

2Ch 33:15 He took away the foreign gods, and the idol out of the house of Yahweh, and all the altars that he had built in the mountain of the house of Yahweh, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city-
This seems largely to have been his personal repentance, because the people continued their idolatry (:17) and were clearly devoted to idols in their hearts. The idols were apparently not destroyed, for in Josiah's time they had to be destroyed. To undo damage caused is a key feature of repentance, and truly Manasseh had fruits appropriate for repentance. He is really a stellar example of repentance. For his sin is repeatedly stated as being of leading Judah to idolatry. To so openly admit he had been wrong was truly a sign of abiding humility. 

2Ch 33:16 He built up the altar of Yahweh, and offered thereon sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving, and commanded Judah to serve Yahweh, the God of Israel-
This would imply he had at least partially destroyed the altar of Yahweh, in favour of altars to other gods. There are a number of other Old Testament examples of preaching the word after becoming aware of the depth of one's own sins. Consider Jonah preaching the second time, with the marks in his body after three days in the whale, admitting his rebellion against Yahweh, pleading with them to respond to His word. Reflect how when his head was wrapped around with seaweed, at the bottom of the sea at the absolute end of mortal life, he made a vow to God, which he then fulfilled, presumably in going back to preach to Nineveh (Jonah 2:9). His response to having confessed his sins and daring to believe in God’s forgiveness, turning again towards His temple even from underwater, was to resolve to preach to others if he was spared his life. And this he did, although as with so many of us, the pureness of his initial evangelical zeal soon flaked. Or consider Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. 19:3 cp. 18:31; 19:2; Josiah, 2 Chron. 34:29,32; Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 3:29; 4:2.

2Ch 33:17 Nevertheless the people sacrificed still in the high places, but only to Yahweh their God-
The essence of Judah's apostacy, then and now, was to combine service of Yahweh with that of idols. And so this is not a good comment. For sacrifice should have been made in the temple, and not in the idol shrines. We need to constantly ask ourselves whether we are serving our own idolatry in the name of serving God. This mixture of truth and error is seen not only in practical ways but also in the way so many Christian doctrines such as the trinity are in fact a mixture of paganism with truth. 

2Ch 33:18 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of Yahweh, the God of Israel, behold, they are written among the acts of the kings of Israel-
Manasseh's prayer is recorded in various uninspired writings. But it is not in the volumes we know as 1 and 2 Kings. I have therefore cautioned that the common concluding statement that the deeds of a king are "written in the book of the kings" should not be taken as necessarily referring to the books of Kings in our Bibles.

The words of the prophets who appealed to him are recorded in 2 Kings 21:11-15.

2Ch 33:19 His prayer also, and how God was entreated of him, and all his sin and his trespass, and the places in which he built high places, and set up the Asherim and the engraved images, before he humbled himself: they are written in the history of Hozai-
This history, presumably written by a prophet called Hozai, isn't preserved. The LXX stresses that this included a geographical inventory of "the spots on which he built the high places, and set there groves and graven images". This list was presumably produced by Manasseh as part of his repentance, and would have been the basis of his practical attempt to put right what he had done wrong. Writing an inventory of people we've hurt or the ways in which others have suffered from our sins is something used in counseling alcoholics in the 12 step program, and it has value for all repentance. 

2Ch 33:20 So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house; and Amon his son reigned in his place-
LXX "in the garden of his house".

2Ch 33:21 Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign; and he reigned two years in Jerusalem-
He had been raised in the spirit of his father's apostacy, and was apparently unimpressed by Manasseh's amazing repentance.

2Ch 33:22 He did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, as did Manasseh his father; and Amon sacrificed to all the engraved images which Manasseh his father had made, and served them-
Manasseh had removed the images, but not apparently destroyed them. The history of the kings abounds with such references to idolatry being reformed, and then so quickly revived. The speed of its revival reflects the fact that the heart of the people generally was with the idols. And we must assess our own episodes of apparent repentance in this light. Manasseh had repaired the temple (:16), but by Josiah's time it needed repairing again; so it could be that Amon also desecrated and damaged the temple yet further.

2Ch 33:23 He didn’t humble himself before Yahweh, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but this same Amon trespassed more and more-
Manasseh goes down in the record as the parade example of a man who manages to put the brakes on as he slides downhill to destruction. For the antithesis to Manasseh's humility and repentance is that Amon sinned "more and more". "Humble himself" is parallel with 'repentance' (LXX uses the term 'repentance' here). This is the essence of repentance- self humbling.

2Ch 33:24 His servants conspired against him, and put him to death in his own house-
There seems a special stigma and shame attached to being murdered in ones' own home, rather than on a battlefield or dying from old age.

2Ch 33:25 But the people of the land killed all those who had conspired against king Amon; and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place
Josiah means 'foundation of Yah'. It's unlikely this was the name Amon gave him, although a repentant Manasseh may have influenced it. However, at no point did even kings like Amon and Manasseh formally deny Yahweh. They worshipped Him, so they thought, through worshipping idols. So it is not impossible that indeed this was Josiah's birth name. And from that we can take yet another warning, to serve Yahweh with our whole hearts; and not assume that our service of the flesh is serving Him.