The Man Who Killed Isaiah
“...then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God”

By Jon W. Quinn

Manasseh, descendant of David, king of Judah and ancestor of Jesus Christ, was the embodiment of evil. During his reign, he sought to undo all the good his father Hezekiah had done. He stood in stark contrast to king Hezekiah, as well as his grandson, the good king Josiah.

Manasseh's life is sadly summed up with the words “He did evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 33:2). But, of course, one does not have to be a king for that to be a fitting summary of one's life. And the summary “He was mediocre in the eyes of the Lord” isn't any better. Jesus said we cannot be in the middle. We are either for him or against him. Let's live “for the Lord” because any other attitude will bring failure. It was often during the reign of mediocre kings that evil gained a foothold in the land of Judah and then took complete control during the reigns of evil kings like Manasseh.

There is much to learn from history. That is precisely why the Lord has preserved so much of it in the Scriptures. We know that these trends in Judah toward apostasy continued, occasionally being broken by the reign of a good king, but the momentum away from God was only slowed, not halted. The nation paid for it dearly, ultimately being destroyed.

Manasseh's Failures Become Judah's Tragedy
You can find the historical summaries of Manasseh's reign in 2 Kings 21:1-18 and 2 Chronicles 33:1-11. We find that he lived like the idolaters of the nations around him, and his life is described as a series of “abominations”. He built again the high places which his good father had broken down. These are hills throughout the land where altars were built to worship. Often the altars were dedicated to the false gods of the imagination of men. Manasseh raised up altars for Baalim (the plural of “Baal”), and made groves and worshipped and served all the host of heaven. Modern astrology is based on these ancient practices of worshipping the stars (2 Chronicles 33:1-3). He even built altars for his idols in the house of the Lord and for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 33:4,5).

As a horrible, terrible testimony of how corrupt he had become, the Bible says that Manasseh even caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom (2 Chronicles 33:6). This depraved king offered some of his own children as burnt sacrifices to heathen gods. In fact, so hated would the valley of Hinnon become in the future that it would be turned into a garbage dump. The smoke of the trash fires that burnt there constantly rose in the valley, and Jesus used it as an illustration of hell (the valley of Hinnom is the “Gehenna” in Jesus' teachings).

Manasseh used enchantments, witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit (33:6). He set a carved image in the house of God (33:7). He made Judah to err and do worse than the heathen (33:9). He shed innocent blood (2 Kings 21:16). In fact, according to oral Rabbinical tradition, Manasseh executed the prophet Isaiah by having him sawn asunder (cf. Hebrews 11:37). These oral traditions were put into writing and this information can be found in both the Jerusalem Talmud as well as the Babylonian Talmud.

The Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the kings of Assyria. They took Manasseh and bound him with fetters and carried him into captivity (2 Chronicles 33:11).

We serve a God who is longsuffering and merciful, but understand, God will punish those who persist in evil (2 Peter 3:9,15). I sometimes fear for my own nation today because I see people in “high places” becoming increasingly godless and attacking the faith and the faithful with increasing hatred and contempt. And still, the Lord waits and calls. Let us not be as Manasseh and the nation of Judah, of whom the Bible says, “The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention” (2 Chronicles 33:10).

From Manasseh we also learn about influence. When those in leadership positions behave corruptly, then the society which they lead will follow their example. In our nation, individuals become leaders when enough of the population make them leaders, whether political or religious or entertainment icons. In the present situation there is much influence being exerted that encourages others to be evil, just as Manasseh did. (2 Chronicles 33:9,10). It would have taken great faith and courage to remain loyal to God in Manasseh's day. It also does today in our own nation. Be a good example of faith for others, as you follow the Lord's own example (1 John 2:6).

Manasseh Repents
In affliction, Manasseh implored the Lord, and humbled himself (2 Chronicles 33:12-16). In a testament of God's mercy, and without any merit on Manasseh's part, God heard Manasseh's prayer and brought him back to Jerusalem (33:13). The Scriptures say "Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God" (2 Chronicles 33:13). But the nation had suffered greatly. The moral plunge had been deep and its ignorance of God was profound. It is difficult to stop a train wreck once it begins.
Manasseh fortified the cities of Judah to help protect it from future invasions. He also took away the foreign gods and altars and repaired the altar of the Lord and made peace and thank offerings upon it. The people still offered sacrifices on the high places, but only to the Lord (33:14-17). This was still contrary to the Law, so Manasseh did not make a complete break from disobedience. It may well be that he did so ignorantly. The Lord's will had been so neglected that this generation was unfamiliar with much of the Law of God.

People often turn to God in times of trouble. We often pray for peace in our own troubled times; peace in the Middle East and for protection of those in hostile. We pray for our nation and government even with its shortcomings. This is proper: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1,2).
But, at the same time, sometimes people need trouble more than they need peace. Let there be peace, if that is the Lord's will, but if not, then let trouble be a wakeup call that people answer by turning to the Lord! “Lord, if it be your will, let there be peace… but more importantly, let more people turn to you.” God is merciful and is ready to forgive, if people will repent. Let the present troubles cause men and women everywhere, like the prodigal son, to “come to their senses” with reference to the true and living God. “But when he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;” (Luke 15:17,18). Return to the Father!

From The Bradley Banner 12/16/2007
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
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