Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah. He became king at the age of twelve years old. His father had a close relationship with God, one who did “This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God.” (2 Chronicles 31:20). During Hezekiah’s reign, the prophets Isaiah and Micah ministered in Judah. Hezekiah had undertaken reforms in Judah to rid the land of idolatry. The story of his son, King Manasseh, is told in 2 Kings 21:1–18 and 2 Chronicles 32:33–33:20. He is also mentioned briefly in Jeremiah 15:4. Manasseh, was considered a wicked king, not only reversing his father’s reforms but instituting even worse changes. We find the beginning of King Manasseh’s rule as follows:
(2 Kings 21:3-5)1NIV New International Version Translations – “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. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem, I will put my Name.” In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts.”
Manasseh was the child of late marriage. As a young ruler, he was immediately surrounded by a group of court notables who, during Hezekiah’s reign, had gone into hiding. After his father’s death, Manasseh’s weak character and his youthful susceptibility to idolatry made him a willing party in the hands of these selfish people. Despite the ceaseless efforts from the greatest prophets of all times, Isaiah and others, the people of Judea eagerly followed in the steps of their new king. Manasseh not only sinned personally, but he sinned boldly. As the king of Judah, he led his people in abandoning God and worshiping idols. The sins of Judah were so bad that God declared He would wipe out Jerusalem as He had the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 21:13–15). Jeremiah 15:4 notes that it was the sin of Judah, initiated by Manasseh, that brought the judgment that Jeremiah proclaimed (the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the exile of the people). Jewish tradition assigns the murder of Isaiah to King Manasseh. The king’s behavior influenced his entire nation.
(2 Chronicles 33:9-10) – “But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.”
It is important to pause here for a moment and not miss the history behind what would eventually lead the entire nation of Judah into exile. Hezekiah, and his court, had just led Judah into a period of peace and prosperity. The people of Judah had upheld their end of God’s covenant relationship, obeying God’s Laws. Waiting in the “wings” so to speak, were those who were ready to take advantage of an inexperienced ruler. Pouncing upon the opportunity, a new court of advisors moved in right after the change in leadership. This new group proceeded to undo all that Hezekiah had done. The new advisors convinced the inexperienced king put in place a course of action that eventually led to the collapse of Judah. One needs to reflect on how a nation that had been following God could so quickly, within a single generation, abandon God. It only took a few corrupt people, and an inexperienced king and the rest is history! Whom would you blame?
Returning to our biblical story, God continued to reach out to His people. This time, with a heavier hand. God sent the Assyrians who captured Manasseh and took him into exile (2 Chronicles 33:11).
(2 Chronicles 33:12–13) – “In his distress, he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.”
While in exile, Manasseh finally gets it! He repents, and God returns him to Jerusalem. He begins to rebuild Judah, both militarily (2 Chronicles 11:14) and through religious reforms (2 Chronicles 33:15-16). Manasseh tries to bring the people back to God. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and his people did not follow him in his reforms (2 Chronicles 33:17). After Manasseh died, his son Amon takes over. “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. Amon worshiped and offered sacrifices to all the idols Manasseh had made. But unlike his father Manasseh, he did not humble himself before the Lord; Amon increased his guilt.” (2 Chronicles 33:22–23). Amon set the stage for exile.
This is just one of the tragic stories of leadership found in the Bible. Even though Manasseh had a personal conversion, he could not change the hearts of his people. The nation of Judah would eventually endure the pain and suffering of exile and slavery again. When Manasseh died, his son Amon did as his father had originally done. Amon worshiped and offered sacrifices to all the old idols his father had made. The story of Manasseh demonstrates that, while any sin may be forgiven when we repent, forgiveness does not necessarily remove the consequences that flow from disobedience.
- Do you see any parallels in this story to that of today’s leaders?
- Ideas to Explore: Is this a story about our nation today? Are you concerned with the direction of today’s leadership?
- Can you see where our nation is growing away from God?
- Ideas to Explore: Are we becoming self-centered? Is our leadership corrupt? Are you closer today to God or farther away because of your leaders?
- Can you find places in our nation today where the purpose of leadership, bringing a nation closer to God, is being fulfilled?
- Ideas to Explore: Is religious freedom greater? Is freedom of expression greater? Do we have personal freedoms? How is our educational system doing in bringing our children closer to God?
- Who was at fault for Manasseh’s failure?
- Ideas to Explore: Corruption in the king’s court? The people’s failure to adhere to God’s Law and repent? The enemies within the nation? The enemies outside the nation?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations