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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

2 Kings 21

Verses 1-9

Manasseh King of Judah

The God-fearing Hezekiah is followed after his death by his godless son Manasseh. Manasseh was only twelve years old when he began to reign (2Kgs 21:1). His reign lasted no less than fifty-five years, a period exceeding that of all the other kings. It is one of the enigmas of God’s government that He allowed such a wicked man as Manasseh to rule over His people for so long.

The name of his mother is also given. Hephzibah means ‘My lust is in her’. In that name we hear what Jerusalem means to the LORD. What kind of woman she was, is not told. Whether she was a good or a bad mother, we do not know. Judging by the development of Manasseh, she certainly could not prevent him from developing into such an ungodly king. We cannot point to a cause for all time when children go against what their God-fearing parents have told them.

Manasseh did not take his father Hezekiah as an example, but followed in the ways of the kings of Israel, of whom we have read over and over again, what is said here of Manasseh, that they did “evil in the sight of the LORD” (2Kgs 21:2). He did “according to the abominations of the nations”.

He quickly undid his father’s reforms and “he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed” (2Kgs 21:3). He was also inspired by Ahab, the most godless king of Israel. It is quite possible that his worship and serving of sun, moon and stars (“all the host of heaven”) came through Assyrian influence. So we see that Manasseh adopted the worst of everything and everyone and put it into practice. The judgment that God had given both to the nation and to Ahab didn’t matter him at all.

That the wicked Manasseh seemed to be able to do unhindered whatever it took also says something about the people. The revival under Hezekiah had apparently not rooted deeply in the population. The people were easily carried away on the bad road where Manasseh was leading them.

He openly provoked the LORD by building idol altars in the house of the LORD (2Kgs 21:4-5). The greatness of this evil is clearly expressed by saying that Manasseh did this in the house “of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.””. Manasseh didn't care about that. He ignored the rights of the LORD to His house and just made it a dwelling place for demons. Manasseh didn’t act out of ignorance concerning the will of the LORD, but he didn’t care at all about that will.

His whole performance shows his voluntary surrender to demonic powers (2Kgs 21:6). This showed in him sacrificing his children to the devil, engaging in occultism – he practiced witchcraft and used divination – and stimulating all forms of sorcery – he appointed mediums and spiritists. The conclusion is that he did not ‘only’ ignore the LORD. It was much worse. Not only did he pass by the LORD with contempt, but he intentionally acted in this way to defy the LORD: “He did much evil in the sight of the LORD provoking [Him to anger].”

2Kgs 21:7 gives another example of his gross violation of the rights of the LORD and his defiance of Him. Even more emphatically than in 2Kgs 21:4 we hear the indignation of God about Manasseh’s shameless courage to set the carved image of Asherah in the temple. We hear God’s indignation in what He said of His house and of His city. God’s feelings about where He had chosen to put His Name forever were deeply offended by Manasseh’s contemptuous actions.

In 2Kgs 21:8 the LORD continued, in connection with 2Kgs 21:7, to speak about what He would have liked to do. He had wanted to put His Name forever among a people whom He would never drive out of this land, if they at least listened to His law. And there it went wrong: “But they did not listen” (2Kgs 21:9). They followed Manasseh and wandered in a way that made them sin worse than the heathen peoples who first had lived in the land. There was now a godless mass of people, so soon after we had seen the history of a faithful remnant during Hezekiah’s reign.

Even now, Christianity has been more corrupted by people than any other faith, just as Israel here was committing more sin than the gentile nations around them. That is why God’s judgment over Christianity will be all the more severe.

Verses 10-16

The LORD Announces Judgment

Because of all the wickedness of Manasseh and his perseverance in it, the LORD had to announce judgment. He did so “through His servants the prophets.” The contents of His words are in 2Kgs 21:11-15. God did not remain silent and sent His warnings. When the judgment, to be carried away by Babylon, did come, no one could say that he did not know.

2Kgs 21:11 first gives a summary of the sins of Manasseh. In this summary he is emphatically called “king of Judah”. He should have appreciated that he was king of Judah. Judah means ‘God lover’. Manasseh had overlaid this name with the greatest shame. He committed atrocities, even putting the deeds of the pagan Amorites in the shade. By his wrong example he made Judah sin.

There is an announcement in 2Kgs 21:12-14, of what the LORD would do as punishment for these sins, while 2Kgs 21:15 gives the reason for the punishment. The judgment that the LORD would bring over Jerusalem and Judah would astonish those who hear of it. The standard set for judgment was the same as the one the LORD had set for Samaria and the house of Ahab. God is perfectly righteous in His judgment. He doesn't measure by double standards.

By this judgment there would be nothing left of Jerusalem. The city would be like a dish wiped clean and turned upside down (2Kgs 21:13). The LORD would withdraw from the remnant of His inheritance and give it into the hands of their enemies. He would no longer be involved with them and leave them to their fate. For this fate they had chosen themselves. The “remnant of My inheritance” (2Kgs 21:14) refers to the inhabitants of Jerusalem who had not perished in a previous judgment. So this was not about the faithful remnant, but who remained after the first judgment.

Many of the remnant who had lived in the days of Hezekiah were killed by Manasseh. According to tradition, Manasseh ordered Isaiah to be “cut into pieces” (Heb 11:37). He would have committed this terrible murder with a wooden saw. We also live in days comparable to the days of Manasseh. If we want to be faithful to the Lord and His Word, we must count on being persecuted (2Tim 3:12) and we will have to be willing to pay dearly for our faithfulness.

Verses 17-18

Death of Manasseh

The brief previous description of all the atrocities of Manasseh is all that the author of 2 Kings had to say. We read nothing about his conversion in this account, as is reported in 2 Chronicles 33 (2Chr 33:10-20). We only read here about his government, about his responsibility, how he ruled. In the books of Chronicles we read about the grace of God.

Verses 19-26

Amon King of Judah

After the wicked Manasseh, who had ruled for a long time, came his son Amon, another wicked king. These two kings ruled between two God-fearing kings. Grace is not an inheritance, one cannot demand it. Grace is given by God without reason in man.

In the description of Amon’s reign, the full emphasis is on the fact that Amon completely followed his father Manasseh in his wickedness: “He walked in all the way that his father had walked” (2Kgs 21:21). That is worse than “not walk in the way of the LORD” (2Kgs 21:22). He did this as a conscious choice, because we read that he “forsook” the LORD. Forsaking is leaving consciously. The LORD is called here “the God of his fathers”. He turned his back on everything God had been to his fathers, thinking especially of David and Hezekiah in the first place.

The LORD allowed his father Manasseh to reign for fifty-five years. In all his godlessness He did not intervene. That does not mean that everyone can do what he wants. Amon received a quick judgment. After only two years reign, he was murdered by his servants.

The people of the land, the hard-working people, killed Amon’s killers. They then made his son Josiah, king in his stead. They took the law into their own hands. Somehow they wanted a king from David’s house to remain in power. Possibly they acted, because a small part of the good influence of a converted Manasseh was still present in them. In any case God used it to place Josiah, whom He would use as a special instrument for a last revival among His people, as king on the throne of David. God controls everything, including the autocratic actions of population groups, to fulfill His plan.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Kings 21". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.