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The Monarchy Under Manasseh, Amon, And Josiah
(2 Kings 21:1 to 2 Kings 23:30)
A.—The Reigns of Manasseh and Amon
2 Kings 21:1-26. (2 Chronicles 33:0)
1Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzi-bah. 2And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel. 3For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove [an Astarte-image], as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. 4And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which1 the Lord said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. 5And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts 6of the house of the Lord. And [omit And] he [He also] made his son pass through the fire, and observed times [practised sooth-saying], and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards [patronized necromancers and wizards]2 Kings 2:0 : he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.3 7And he set a graven image [copy] of the grove [Astarte-image] that he had made in the house, of which the Lord 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: 8Neither will I make the feet of Israel move [wander] any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; [,] only [omit only] if they will [only]4 observe [take care] to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.5 9But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel.
10And the Lord spake by his servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh 11king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: 12Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth or it,6 both his ears shall tingle. 13And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe [out] Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down [—he wipeth it and turneth it upside down].7 14And I will forsake [throw away] the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; 15Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.
16Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; besides his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.
17Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and his sin that he sinned, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah? 18And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.
19Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. 20And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh did. 21And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them: 22And he forsook the Lord God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the Lord. 23And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and slew the king in his own house. 24And the people of the land slew all them that had conspired against king Amon; and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead. 25Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah ? 26And he was buried [they buried him] in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza: and Josiah his son reigned in his stead.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Kings 21:1. Manasseh was twelve years old. It is uncertain whether he was the eldest son of Hezekiah, and whether he had brothers; perhaps his elder brothers had died. “Perhaps a Gebirah (queen-mother) (1 Kings 15:13) assumed authority until he attained to years of discretion” (Thenius). At any rate there is no hint of a regency. The name חֶפְצִי־בָהּ, My-delight-is-in-her, is applied symbolically to Mount Zion in Isaiah 62:4.—From 2 Kings 21:2 we see that the idol-worship which Manasseh introduced was, in the first place, that of Canaan (1 Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 17:8; 2 Kings 16:3).—Luther translates וַיָּשָׁב וַיִּבֶן, in 2 Kings 21:3, after the Vulg. (conversusque est et œdificavit), and the Sept. (καὶ ἐπέστρεψε καὶ ᾠκοδόμησε): “und verkehrte sich und bauete” [went astray and built]. The two words, however, form one notion by an idiomatic use: he built again the high places which Hezekiah had removed. For the rest, see 1 Kings 16:32 sq. Ahab was the one who first introduced the worship of Baal and Astarte into Israel [see bracketed notes under Exeg. on 2 Kings 16:3 and 2 Kings 17:16.] אֲשֵׁרָה here refers no doubt to the Astarte-statue mentioned in 2 Kings 21:7. In Chronicles we find the plural בְּעָלִים and אֲשֵׁרוֹת. The cause of this may be that each divinity, the male and the female, incorporated several attributes, each of which was separately worshipped. Manasseh introduced also, besides these two chief divinities, the Assyrio-Chaldean star-worship, the adoration of All the host of heaven (see 2 Kings 23:5; 2 Kings 23:11). [See Exeg. on 2 Kings 17:16. Also 2 Kings 23:12 shows that the astral worship, although extended and cultivated by Manasseh, was first introduced by Ahaz.] “This does not imply that the divinities of the Canaanites had no relation to the heavenly bodies, but this relation was subordinate in them” (Movers). From the star-worship arose sooth-saying and magic. Men saw in the stars the originators of all growth and all decay, and adored in them the controllers and directors of all sublunary affairs.
2 Kings 21:4-7 contain a climax. The idolatrous (2 Kings 21:2-3) Manasseh built idol-altars even in the house of the Lord (2 Kings 21:4), and altars also for all the host of heaven, as well in the inner as in the outer court (2 Kings 21:5, וַיִּבֶן resumes בָּנָה in 2 Kings 21:4), nay, he even went so far that he set up the image of Astarte (2 Kings 21:7) inside of the temple, perhaps in the holy place. On the formula: “I will put my name” (2 Kings 21:7) see Exeg. on 1 Kings 14:21. On הֶעֱבִיר בָּאֵשׁ see notes on 2 Kings 16:3. Sooth-saying and magic are here united with this idolatrous ceremony as they are in 2 Kings 17:17 (cf. Leviticus 19:26). So also in Deuteronomy 18:10-11, where the necromancers and augurs are also mentioned. Manasseh gave to these persons official position (עשׂה is used as in 1 Kings 12:31). On כָּעַם see 1 Kings 14:1-20, Hist. § 3. On 2 Kings 21:7 see 1 Kings 8:16; 1 Kings 9:3. The house of Jehovah could not be so utterly desecrated in any otherway as by setting up an idol in the very sanctuary, the “dwelling,” הֵיכַל קָדְשְׁךָ (Psalms 5:8; Psalms 79:1). The selection of Israel to be God’s peculiar people was thereby rejected.—The words in 2 Kings 21:8 are explained by 2 Samuel 7:10, and are added in order to make more apparent the greatness of the sin. Jehovah had, at first, only a dwelling in a tent in the midst of His people; afterwards He caused a house to be built for His dwelling, as a physical sign of His covenant with Israel (see the Introd. § 3, and 1 Kings 6:0, Hist. § 3, b.); and now in this house Manasseh set up an idol.—More evil than did the nations, &c. (2 Kings 21:9). Not because the Canaanitish nations did not keep the law of Moses, but because they only worshipped their own national deities, while the Israelites adopted, not only the gods of the Canaanites, but also those of the Assyrians and Babylonians, and forsook their own God.
2 Kings 21:10. And the Lord spake by His servants, &c. It is impossible to tell which prophets are meant, for no one of those whose writings we possess can be assigned with certainty to the reign of Manasseh. It is not certain that even Isaiah lived during any part of Manasseh’s reign; still less is it certain that Habakkuk did so (though Keil supposes that Habakkuk 1:5 refers to this reign), for it is probable that he first appeared under Josiah (Winer, Delitsch), or under Jehoiakim (Knobel). The Amorites (2 Kings 21:11) stand for Canaanites in general; see notes on 1 Kings 21:26; cf. Ezekiel 16:3; Amos 2:9. The expression: both his ears shall tingle, 2 Kings 21:12, also occurs in 1 Samuel 3:11 and Jeremiah 19:3. As a sharp, discordant note pains one’s ears, so the news of this harsh-punishment shall give pain to all who hear of it.
2 Kings 21:13. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria. According to Grotius this means: eadem mensura earn metiar, qua Samariam mensus sum. So also Thenius: “Measuring line and plummet are here only symbols for testing by a standard,” for, he says, a building is built with measuring line and plummet, but not torn down with them. However in Isaiah 34:11 we read: He shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion (devastation) and the stones of emptiness [“plummet of desolation,” Bähr], cf. also Lamentations 2:8. Now in the text before us, also, the reference is to devastation. The two implements of construction are employed where there is an empty space of ground, whether it be that no building has ever stood upon it, or that one which stood there has been torn down. “We have to understand here a state of things symbolized by the latter of” these cases. The metaphor therefore means: I will make Jerusalem even with the ground, like Samaria, so that a measuring line can be drawn over it, and its houses (families) shall perish like the family of Ahab. [Why is a measuring line or a plummet applied to a bare space of ground? Only as a preliminary to building, or re-building, upon it. There is no great applicability, therefore, in the metaphor as Bähr interprets it.—It means that God will come and apply severe standards of judgment to Jerusalem as He had to Samaria; that He will insist that it shall satisfy these standards; and that He will punish inexorably all shortcomings. Samaria had been thus tested, found wanting, and swept from the face of the earth,—so also should it be with Jerusalem.—W. G. S.] The following figure of the dish is parallel and similar, but stronger if anything. צַלָּחָה means really something hollowed out, hence, a dish (2 Chronicles 35:13; Proverbs 19:24), not a wax-tablet (Calmet). Thenius thinks that “the lower city, by its configuration, might well suggest the figure of a dish.” However the fact may be in regard to that, we have not to understand that it was what suggested this figure. Neither is the metaphor that of “a hungry man who empties a dish and turns it wrong side up” (Ewald), but that of a person who, when he no longer wants to use a dish, wipes it out, and turns it over, that not a drop may remain in it. Kimchi expressly states that this was the usage of the Jews with dishes. The figure therefore “implies the complete overthrow and destruction of Jerusalem with all its inhabitants” (Keil). The comparison with a dish also involves some contempt פָּנֵיהָ is the “upper side, as it were the face, in distinction from the back” (Thenius).
2 Kings 21:14. The remnant of my possession is the two tribes which composed the kingdom of Judah, ten having been led into captivity. נָטַשׁ, i.e., to abandon, but with the accessory notion of throwing away (1 Kings 8:57; Judges 6:13; Ezekiel 29:5). The nation, when abandoned by Jehovah, necessarily becomes a spoil for its enemies (Isaiah 42:22).
2 Kings 21:16. Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood. This verse is not a “continuation of the extract from the annals which was broken off at 2 Kings 21:9” (Thenius). It is closely connected with what is read in 2 Kings 21:10-15, and forms in a certain sense the crisis of what is narrated of Manasseh. This king not only introduced all sorts of idolatrous worship (2 Kings 21:1-9), but also, when Jehovah rebuked and warned him by His prophets (10–15), he not only did not profit by it, but filled the city with their blood and that of all the innocent persons who sided with them, and opposed his godlessness. פֶּה לָפֶה as in 2 Kings 10:21 “from one edge to the other.” Josephus (Antiq. x. 3, 1) affirms: πάντας ὠμῶς τοὺς δικαίους τοὺς ἐν τοῖς ‘Εβραίοις , ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ τῶν προφητῶν ἔσχε φειδώ· καὶ τούτων δέ τινας καθ’ ἡμέραν . The latter statement does not, of course, apply to the whole duration of his reign; but there may have been a time during which innocent blood was daily shed. According to the Jewish tradition (Guemara Jebam. iv. 13; cf. Sanhedr. f. 103), which was taken up by the church fathers (Tertul. De Patientia 14. August. De Civit. Dei xviii. 24), Isaiah was put to death under Manasseh. It is said that he was sawed in two while fastened in a cedar tree in which he had taken refuge, cf. Hebrews 11:37. [For the details of the legend see Stanley, II. p. 544.] But it is doubtful whether he lived under Manasseh Isaiah 1:1 does not say that he lived so long. He must, at any rate, have been very old. It is possible that he may have suffered a martyr’s death, though not in the form asserted (cf. Winer, R.-W.-B. I. s. 554. Umbreit in Herzog’s Encyc. IV. s. 508 sq.).
2 Kings 21:17. sq. Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, &c. Some further and very important facts in regard to Manasseh are recorded in 2 Chronicles 33:11-20. The historical truth and credibility of what is there recorded has indeed been denied (Gramberg, Winer, Hitzig, and others). On the other hand, Ewald, Thenius, Hävernick, Keil, and Bertheau, have, with justice, maintained the historical truth of those statements. The Chronicler appeals to the “annals of the, kings of Israel,” and to the דִּבְרֵי חוֹזָי as his authorities, and the entire Jewish tradition is built upon the facts which he records. “It is not astonishing that we do not find any reference to those facts in the book of Kings, when we consider the brevity of the narrative there given, a brevity which is to be explained by the fact that the author passes as curtly as possible-by all periods of misfortune” (Bertheau). The apparent contradiction between 2 Chronicles 33:15 and 2 Kings 23:12 disappears, if we suppose (what is very possible) that Amon set up again the idols which Manasseh had removed, and that Josiah was the first who entirely did away with them (cf. E. Gerlach in the Studien und Kritiken, 1861, III.).
2 Kings 21:18. In the garden of his own house. “בֵּיתוֹ cannot be the royal palace built by Solomon, because the garden belonging to it is called that of Uzzah, evidently referring to its former owner. בֵּיחוֹ must, therefore, refer to a pleasure-house belonging to Manasseh” (Keil). Thenius thinks that the “garden of Uzzah” (the name occurs several times: 2 Samuel 6:8; 1 Chronicles 8:7; Ezra 2:49; Nehemiah 7:51) was situated “in the Tyropœon, at the foot of the spur of Ophel.” Robinson finds it on Mt. Zion. See further the notes on 2 Kings 20:21.
2 Kings 21:19. Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign. The assertion that this king reigned twelve instead of two years (Ebrard in Stud. und Kritik. 1847, III. s. 644 sq.) rests upon very weak evidence, as Thenius has shown.—The city of Jotbah, from which his mother, Meshullemeth (that is, Friend, sc. of God, = Pia) came, was situated, according to Jerome, in Judah.
2 Kings 21:23. The servants of Amon were unquestionably his court attendants. We have to understand, therefore, that it was a conspiracy in the palace. We cannot determine what causes led to this conspiracy.—By the people of the land (2 Kings 21:24) Thenius understands, here as in 2 Kings 11:14, the military forces of the nation, and he infers that Amon had made himself popular with the troops, and that Josiah had inspired some such hopes as Uzziah once did (2 Kings 14:21). There is no more reason to think of the army here than in 2 Kings 11:14. The murder of the king, who had only ruled for such a short time, by the attendants in the palace, may have embittered the people of Jerusalem so that they took revenge upon the murderers. Religious differences can scarcely have had anything to do with the matter, for the immediate attendants of the idolatrous king certainly did not belong to the persecuted Jehovah-party, and, if the king’s idolatry had been displeasing to the people, they would not have put his murderers to death.
[Supplementary Note on contemporaneous history, with further information as to Manasseh from Assyrian sources. As we approach the catastrophe of the history of Judah it is necessary to pay attention to those movements among neighboring nations which (humanly speaking) caused it, and determined its form.
We saw in the Supp. Note on chap. 20 that Sennacherib, having finally reduced Babylon to submission in 682, put his son Esarhaddon on the throne of that city as viceroy; also that Sennacherib was assassinated by two other of his sons in 681. The assassins were obliged to fly; Esarhaddon hastened to Nineveh and ascended the throne. He reigned from 681 to 667. Extensive records of his reign exist in the British Museum, only part of which have, as yet, been published or read (Lenormant). His first campaign was in Syria and Phœnicia (see Supp. Note on chap. 17). He conquered and plundered Phœnicia, and deported the inhabitants of Syria. He repopulated the country with Chaldeans and Elamites.
During this campaign he attacked Judah; took Manasseh captive, confined him in Babylon for a time, but then set him at liberty and restored him to the throne as a vassal (2 Chronicles 33:11). Manasseh is mentioned on one of his inscriptions as tributary. Esarhaddon became attached to Babylon from his early residence there, and made it his home. That is probably the reason why he took Manasseh there, and not to Nineveh.
Esarhaddon’s reign was spent in extensive and successful wars in Asia Minor, Arabia, Egypt (which he conquered), in suppressing stubborn revolts in Chaldea, and in punishing the Elamites and Susianians who assisted in them. We are not here interested in these wars further than this, that the Assyrian power was, during his reign, at its height, but that Babylon kept up a continual resistance.
Very much the same state of things continued under his successor. Esarhaddon abdicated in 668 in favor of his son, Asshurbanipal, who reigned until 647. He was warlike and able. Babylon was ruled by his brother, Shamulshamugin, as viceroy, but he revolted and headed an insurrection which included nearly all the tributary provinces. Egypt was permanently lost, Psammetichus becoming king. The remainder of the revolt, however, was speedily suppressed, though it took years to follow up and punish all the parties to it.
His successor was his son, Asshuredililani, who reigned from 647 to 625. Under him the Assyrian power declined (Lenormant). See Supp. Note on p. 285.
The explanation of the incessant revolts of Babylon is, that that city had a sacred character as the “home of the gods.” It was so regarded by the Assyrians themselves, who knew how ancient it was, and revered it as their own place of origin. This veneration for Babylon served to keep the Babylonians continually restive under the supremacy of Assyria, and also to stay the hands of the conquerors whenever they were ready to destroy the city as a punishment for rebellion.
At the point which we have now reached (640), the time of Amon’s death and Josiah’s accession, the Assyrian power had barely begun to decline. The Median empire had been founded by Phraortes in 657. It had secured independence, and had made important conquests in Central Asia. Just about this time Phraortes thought himself strong enough to attack Assyria, but he was totally defeated in 635 (Lenormant). In Egypt, Psammetichus became independent of Assyria, and put an end to the “Dodekarchy,” about 650. Babylon was, for the time being, crushed, but it was only recovering strength for another revolt.—W. G. S.]
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. King Manasseh’s reign lasted longer than that of any other king in either kingdom, but we have relatively the very briefest account of it. The author restricts himself to a statement of Manasseh’s disposition towards Jehovah and the Jehovah-worship. The explanation of this may be that, in general, “the Old Testament historians pass more hastily over periods which it is sad for them to recall” (Ewald). This shows, however, at the same time, that the disposition towards Jehovah is the main point of interest to the author in the history of each reign, and that everything else is subordinate to this, inasmuch as nothing else touches the soteriological development in the history. Manasseh’s reign forms an epoch in that development, for, under him, the apostasy reached its height. If David was the model king, then Manasseh was his inverted image. It is true that many of his ancestors had tolerated idolatry, and practised it themselves. His grandfather, Ahaz, had even removed the ancient altar of burnt-offering and set up in its place another one which he had himself caused to be made on a heathen pattern, and had also sacrificed his son to Moloch (chap. 16); but Manasseh went so far as even to establish a special place of sacrifice for this god in the valley of Hinnom (2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:6). Moreover he set up an idol in the temple itself, and that, too, an image of that goddess whose worship was connected with licentious rites and practices. In fact he made Jerusalem, the city which Jehovah had chosen for His own abode, the place for collecting and practising all forms of idolatry. He was a violent enemy of the Jehovah-worship, which he sought to abolish. He formally introduced all sorts of idolatrous abominations, and he compelled his people to practise them. This had never been done even in the kingdom of the ten tribes, “but now, there arose in Judah, the only remaining support of the true religion, the most open and violent hostility to its most sacred principles, on the part of the king himself! … The heart of the ancient religion had never before been so sharply and violently smitten” (Ewald). The “sin of Manasseh,” in which apostasy reached its culmination, became typical (2 Kings 21:16; 2 Kings 23:26; 2Ki 24:3; 2 Chronicles 33:9; Jeremiah 15:4), just like the “sin of Jeroboam,” who made Israel to sin by introducing the worship of the calves (1 Kings 12:28 sq.; 2 Kings 14:16; 2Ki 15:26; 2 Kings 15:30, &c.), and the “way of Ahab,” who first introduced the worship of Baal (1 Kings 16:30 sq.; 1 Kings 22:53; 1 Kings 8:27). “With his reign, therefore, began a new epoch in the history of the kingdom of Judah, during which it moved on steadily towards its fall” (Von Gerlach). Under his rule the kingdom became the very contrary of that which, according to its original plan, it was intended to be (Deuteronomy 17:20).
2. A great change seems to have taken place under Manasseh in the circumstances of the people, when we compare the status under him with that under Hezekiah. No king since David had labored, as Hezekiah did during his reign of twenty-nine years, for the pure and legitimate Jehovah-worship. The people had approved of and participated in his efforts, and had come together from all sides to the passover festival which he instituted (2 Chronicles 30:12-13). The reformation seemed to be thorough and complete; idolatry was forever uprooted. Immediately after his death there was a complete change. The new king made idolatry, with all its abominations, the established religion of the kingdom, and was violent against the national worship and law, and against all who supported them. The people made no opposition to this, but joined in it for a half century. It had indeed come to pass before this time, that the people had fallen into idolatry which was favored by the rulers, as, for instance, under Athaliah and Ahaz, but such a general and complete change, especially after the saving power of Jehovah had just been so clearly and startlingly manifested, has no parallel in history. Yet this remarkable fact is explained, although no explanation of it is offered in the historical books, when we take into consideration the descriptions of the state of things at that time which are offered by the prophets. There had been for a long time, at least since the reign of Ahaz, a party in Judah which sought support for the little kingdom from one of the two great world-monarchies of the time—either from Egypt or Assyria. The persons of rank, and office, and wealth, and influence especially belonged to this party. They had adopted heathen notions, and had fallen into immoral and licentious modes of life. Isaiah says of the people, even before Manasseh’s accession: “The whole head is sick and the-whole heart faint,” &c. (Isaiah 1:4-6). King Hezekiah had held this party in restraint, and had therefore been supported by the prophet Isaiah. After the death of the pious king and the great prophet, the opposition made a strenuous effort to control the policy of the nation. It was not difficult to insnare and seduce the king, a boy of twelve years, especially as he appears to have been inclined by nature to sensual enjoyments. When he was once caught he became the seducer of his people, while he himself sank lower and lower. It appears, therefore, that Hezekiah’s reformation was one accomplished by external pressure. It did not spring naturally from a religious need which was deeply felt in the popular heart. It had, therefore, no firm ground, and the cultus continued to be only an external ceremony. On the other hand, the luxurious and sensuous idol-worship was far better adapted to please the people than the austere Jehovah-worship. We have-still further to take into consideration the inconsistent character of the people (Deuteronomy 9:12-13; Deuteronomy 31:20; Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 1:2-3, &c.), at one moment obstinate, at the next fickle and capricious. If we take all this into consideration, the sudden change under Manasseh is not so astonishing, but is satisfactorily explained by the circumstances. Duncker’s conception of the course of the development of the national religion (Gesch. des Alterthums, I. s. 502) is entirely false. He asserts that for the first two centuries after the settlement of the Hebrews in Palestine the worship of Jehovah and that of Syrian divinities existed side by side; that the first Hebrew prophets opposed with the most violent zeal and fanaticism the introduction of the Baal-worship; that then the later prophets opposed the deepened and sharpened conception of the national. God to the renewed attempt of idolatry to find a foothold and succeeded in keeping it out; and that now, under Manasseh, these two hostile tendencies once more appeared in open conflict. This conception, which overturns the entire soteriological development, rests upon the assumption that, in Israel, monotheism and polytheism stood originally side by side in equal honor. It cannot be established unless we strike Moses out of history, throw aside the Israelitish law—the constitution of the nation, deny the calling of the nation in human history, and make of the prophets fanatical disturbers of the public peace. Ewald has explained the changed circumstances under Manasseh somewhat differently (Gesch. III. 666 [third Ed. 716 sq.]). He says: “He [Manasseh] sought to become acquainted with all foreign heathen religions, and to introduce them into Judab. He therefore sent to the most distant lands wherever a celebrated worship was practised, and spared no pains to acquire it. Every new religion brought not only a new form of oracle, or of sensuous indulgence and lust, but also its own form of wisdom, and the desire for ‘wisdom’ had grown so much since the time of Solomon, that it is not strange if the desire awoke to learn the secrets of all religions, and so to acquire a wealth of wisdom which the simple Jehovah religion did not seem to offer. Then, too, Manasseh sought to make all these religions accessible and agreeable to the people.” It would appear then, on this showing, that the abominable and unheard-of apostasy of Manasseh and his people, the cultus of licentiousness and child-sacrifice, the cultivation of augury and sooth-saying, the patronage of necromancers and augurs, and all the rest of his senseless, superstition, arose from a desire for wisdom, and a wish to penetrate into all secrets, and become acquainted with all knowledge. No proof is needed to show that this conception contradicts the Scriptures flatly. There is no hint in them that Manasseh sent into foreign lands to import heathen religions. “Isaiah 57:5-10; Jeremiah 2:10-13,” from which this is said to be evident, does not contain a word about it. Manasseh did not, for instance, borrow anything from Egypt. He introduced especially the cultus of the “nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Kings 21:9), that is of the Canaanites. Neither is there any proof that he tried to make the heathen religions acceptable to the people; on the contrary, he used violence and shed innocent blood, so that Jerusalem was filled with it from one end to the other (2 Kings 21:16).
[The Scriptures contain no explanation of the facility with which the people followed and acquiesced in the different attitudes of different kings toward the Jehovah religion, whether they were enthusiastically faithful or fanatically hostile. It does not seem worth while, therefore, to wage a polemic against an hypothesis like this of Ewald, which certainly has as much, if not more, in its favor than the one offered by the author. Ewald’s theory does not “flatly contradict” Scripture, because Scripture makes no statement in regard to the matter. The passages quoted from Isaiah and Jeremiah bear very strong testimony to such a disposition on the part of the people to follow strange gods, to go to a distance to seek strange forms of worship, and to take up with any foreign novelty or device rather than to adhere to their own religion. The “wisdom” of the ancients was almost always bound up in religion. It was the “mystery” at the heart of a cultus. It was esoteric and select, only imparted to the chosen few. It had the fascination, therefore, of an acquisition in knowledge and of the discovery of a secret closely kept by an elect few. It was at once a sign of the truth of the Jehovah-religion and a reason why the Hebrews were so easily led to despise it in comparison with the religions of the heathen, that it was simple and open. No doubt also it seemed to them hard and cold and austere. The heathen religions were warm, voluptuous, and æsthetic. The latter, therefore, had all the weaknesses of human nature on their side of the balance. Still further, it is very-probable that Manasseh did introduce Egyptian novelties. The name of his son Amon is the strongest testimony to a familiarity with and taste for Egyptian religion. 2 Kings 21:9 does not say that he introduced Canaanitish gods, but that he made the Jews sin worse than the Canaanites, probably by practising still more foreign and abominable rites. See Exegetical notes on that verse. Moreover the idols which are enumerated in 2 Kings 23:13 as having been destroyed by Josiah bear witness to the fact that Manasseh had sought out and introduced numerous foreign divinities of various kinds. Finally, the shedding of innocent blood does not prove that he did not try to make heathenism acceptable to his people. Persecution always has the aim to recommend the rival of the persecuted religion, strange and unwise as the attempt may be. There are, therefore, suggestions in this theory of Ewald which are well worth attention from any one who desires to understand the phenomenon in question, and the counter-considerations above adduced have little if any force.—W. G. S.]
3. The reign of Manasseh was, to say the least, the saddest period in Jewish history since the time of David. We hear of no important events, of no victory over enemies, of no extension of the frontier, of no new beneficent institutions, during his time. The only event recorded is that an Assyrian army took Manasseh prisoner and carried him away in chains to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:11). The nation had never before sunk so low, religiously and morally, as at this time. “In the national life the most terrible decay extended continually farther and farther.” A “deep and deadly corruption” had affected the nation (Eisenlohr, Das Volk Isr. II. s. 310). The wildest superstition and the coarsest unbelief went hand in hand. The corruption had pervaded all ranks. “Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!” cries the prophet Zephaniah. “She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God. Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones until the morrow [they spare not for the morrow]. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons; her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law” (Zephaniah 3:1-4; cf. Micah 3:11). The origin of many important parts of the Old Testament canon has recently been ascribed to this time of corruption, decay, moral disease, and death. First of all, the book of Deuteronomy is said to have been written at this time (Ewald, Riehm, Bleek), also the book of Job, an entire series of the most noble Psalms, part of the Proverbs, and detached fragments of the book of Isaiah, especially Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12 (Ewald and Eisenlohr). It is said: “The deeper the corruption became and the farther it spread the more decidedly did the genuine spirit of prophecy rise up, with all the divine force with which it was endowed, in opposition to it.” This is not the place to enter into a critical investigation of the time when these books were written. We have to do here only with the time of Manasseh, but in regard to it the test applies: “Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?” It is true that faithful servants and prophets of Jehovah were not wanting at this time (2 Kings 21:10), but not a single great prophet, not one of those whose writings we still possess, was active during Manasseh’s reign. Isaiah’s life closed soon after his accession, if not indeed still earlier. Zephaniah’s first appearance was in Josiah’s reign, and Jeremiah’s still later. How could a time of “deep corruption,” which ran through all ranks of society, be a time of great literary activity and produce works of the intellect which are only possible in the midst of the richest and most active intellectual life? It has been justly said that this was a time in which “bloody persecution raged.” Blood flowed in streams. Of course this persecution fell first of all upon the prophets, and especially upon the most prominent amongst them. The number of the faithful must, therefore, have been small, and we know of not a single prominent person amongst them. It may be that in this small circle hymns of affliction and persecution arose, but it is inconceivable that such persons should have produced the book of Job, that “model of religious reflection, and of the literary art which proceeds in its creations according to the most definite plan,” and which marks the “Chokmah-literature” of the Hebrews (Delitsch). Still less can the book of Deuteronomy have been written at this time of oppression and misery, a book which is described as marked by “a tranquil fulness of detail,” “an extraordinarily light and flowing style,” as well as by “breadth and fluency” (Vaihinger). In its long repetition and development of the Mosaic Law there is not a sign of lamentation, nor a sound of affliction. It might be asserted with far more justice that there was no period in Hebrew history less capable of producing the book of Deuteronomy than the degenerate times of Manasseh.
4. The brief reign of king Amon was in every respect a continuation of the wicked and untheocratic reign of his father, Manasseh. It was distinguished by no fact or event. From the words, 2 Chronicles 33:23 [see Supp. Note after the Exeg. section above]: “And humbled not himself before the Lord, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself, but Amon trespassed more and more,” we infer that he was even worse than Manasseh. The description of the moral and religious status which is given by the prophet Zephaniah, who made his appearance under the next following king, Josiah (Zephaniah 1:1; Zephaniah 1:4 sq.; 12; 2 Kings 3:1 to 2 Kings 5:11), shows that no improvement had taken place. This also appears from the description in 2 Kings 23:4 sq. of all the steps which Josiah had to take in order to restore the state of things prescribed by the Law. The statement of the Chronicler (l. c.) in regard to Manasseh’s reformation must, therefore, be understood as referring to his own person, for it had no effect upon the mass of the people, else it would have been impossible to say that Amon had surpassed his father’s guilt. [The meaning of that passage is that Manasseh, in spite of all his wickedness, humbled himself and repented, but Amon never did so. He persisted in his wickedness. He went on from trespass to trespass without interruption. Hence he was worse than his father.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Kings 21:1-16. The Kingdom of Judah under Manasseh. (a) King and People (return to heathenism and the cause thereof, 2 Kings 21:1-9). (b) The Prophets (their courageous opposition and their testimony against the general corruption in spite of persecution, 2 Kings 21:10-16). 2 Kings 21:1-9. Manasseh the seduced and the seducer.—Even God-fearing parents often have perverse children without any fault of their own. So much the greater is the guilt of those who lead infant children astray, after the death of their parents, instead of giving them care and good training. It is especially important that princes should be guided in their youth by good counsellors and governors. God is not confined with His word to any land or people. If His word is not received with love and gratitude, and if it is not feared, then He will come soon and remove the candlestick from its place (Revelation 2:5), so that men may go astray and become a prey to terrible errors. As Judah, which the Lord had chosen to be His people and to bear His name before the heathen, and before kings, and before the children of Israel, committed more terrible abominations than any of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out, so now also, a people, although it has the word of God and the means of grace, may fall lower than another which has never heard of His word (e.g., the horrors of the French revolution).—To fall is easier than to rise. If the infection comes from above it spreads with greater celerity. Where God punishes a people he gives them bad rulers (Isaiah 3:4; Ecclesiastes 10:16).—When the evil spirit is cast out and then returns, he brings with him seven others worse than himself. It is so with individuals, and it is so with families; they become worse and worse from generation to generation (Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh), Matthew 12:43 sq.—Würt. Summ.: There are nowadays Evangelical Christians who are in many respects worse than Papists, or even than Jews and Turks, for they curse and blaspheme, they drink and commit adultery, and do other things which Turks and Jews avoid. How will such Christians stand before God’s judgment-seat when Jews and Turks are placed by their side?—Cramer: Those who are ungrateful towards God, and blind to the clear light of truth, are given over to the dominion of error, so that they give their faith to falsehoods (2 Thessalonians 2:11).
2 Kings 21:6. The Scriptures place sooth-saying and augury by the side of sacrifices to Moloch. They belong properly to the darkest times of heathenism. Nevertheless they are found in the midst of modern Christendom. Those who believe in them and practise them have become heathen.
2 Kings 21:7. Calw. Bibel: Ahaz had once closed the temple and built altars in the city. Manasseh set up idols in the temple itself. Thus Antichrist shall advance (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).—Manasseh set up an image of the goddess of licentiousness in the temple of the living God. “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy” (1 Corinthians 3:17). Those houses of God are desecrated in which, instead of the living God who revealed Himself to us in Christ, a God of man’s invention is preached.
2 Kings 21:8. Starke: Men are such that they hold fast the covenant of God’s rich promises, but will not remember the other covenant of the obedience which He requires.
2 Kings 21:10. Even in the worst times God takes care (since He does not desire that any one should perish, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live, Ezekiel 18:23) that faithful persons shall not be wanting to warn the wicked, to exhort them to repentance, and to make known to them the coming judgment of God.
2 Kings 21:12-13. Würt. Summ.: The just God threatens the idolatrous city, Jerusalem, with the line and plummet of Samaria;—like sins deserve like punishment (Luke 23:41).—The Lord is “good” and “ready to forgive” (Psalms 86:5), but He does not cease to be a just God, who causes every individual as well as whole cities and peoples to reap that which they have sown, for “righteousness and judgment are the habitation [foundation] of his throne” (Psalms 97:2). This generation wants to hear only of a God who is nothing but love, but it will not hear, in spite of its apostasy, of a God who is also a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). Whose ears tingle nowadays when he hears of the judgments of God? (Hebrews 10:26-27).—Berleb. Bibel: A dish is turned over when there is nothing more in it. That is the hardest punishment which God can inflict on a soul which turns away from Him. There is then no longer a drop to be found in it of that which was in it before.
2 Kings 21:16. Starke: Idolatry and tyranny are closely allied.—Osiander: Those whom Satan has in his toils he leads from one sin to another. Enmity to the word of God is not merely a different opinion or contradiction in regard to religious matters, but a devilish power which impels even to the shedding of innocent blood. It is possible to kill the preachers of truth, but not the truth itself. He who was the truth was nailed to the cross, but His words remain, though heaven and earth pass away. The blood of the martyrs only fertilized the soil of the Church, so that it has borne richer and more abundant fruit.—All innocent blood cries to heaven as that of Abel did. He who dwells in heaven answers: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”
2 Kings 21:19-26. How wretchedly a king appears of whom history has nothing more to record than his godlessness.—Würt. Summ.: When men will not heed either good words or bad, and will not be induced to repent by warning or example, then God comes with His punishment and recompenses wickedness as it deserves. Let men take heed and repent, let them become wise by the sight of others’ calamities, that they be not overtaken in their sins by death before they have repented. As is the king so are his officers; as is the governor so are the citizens; a depraved king ruins his country (Sir 10:2-3).—Würt. Summ.: Unfaithfulness is punished by unfaithfulness. Amon was not faithful to God; unfaithfulness was his punishment. He was murdered by his own servants, and these in their turn were punished by their own sin—they also were murdered. (See Matthew 26:52; Luke 6:28.) Therefore be faithful both to God and man and do good, then thou shalt be rewarded with good both in time and eternity. Tumult and murder, perpetrated now by the authorities, now by the people, those are the natural fruits which are produced in a land which has abandoned God, and in which His word is no longer respected.
2 Kings 21:4; 2 Kings 21:4. [אשׁר accus. after a verb of speaking, denoting that in respect to which. Cf. 2 Kings 21:7 and Genesis 22:14 (Ew. § 282, a. 2).
2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 21:6. [That is, he trained men by special education for this work and then gave them official position.
2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 21:6. [The flow of the narrative is arrested in this verse in order to enumerate Manasseh’s faults. Hence the use of the perf. consec. Ew. § 342, 6, 1.
2 Kings 21:8; 2 Kings 21:8. [רַק אִם, if only, cf. Deuteronomy 15:5; 1 Kings 8:25.
2 Kings 21:8; 2 Kings 21:8. [וּלְכָל וגו.—”That which I commanded” and “the law which Moses commanded” are not two different things. וּלְכָל serves to gather up and recapitulate, so that it is equivalent to “namely” or “I mean,” cf. Genesis 9:10; Gen 23:10; 1 Chronicles 13:1; 1 Chronicles 28:1 : 2 Chronicles 7:21 (לְ is wanting in 1 Kings 9:8); Ezra 1:5; Jeremiah 19:13 (Ew. 310, a).
2 Kings 21:12; 2 Kings 21:12. [The chetib presents an irregularity of gender, the masc. suff. referring to רעה. The keri corrects this.
2 Kings 21:13; 2 Kings 21:13. [“The perf. מָחָה is very noticeable, especially in view of the accents. We should expect מָחֹה and that it would be connected with what follows” (Ew. s. 833, nt. 2).—W. G. S.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 21". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26