Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. [2 Chronicles 33:1-2 ESV]
God worked in the life and reign of Hezekiah, Manassah’s father. Hezekiah was a wise man at 25 years old because he listened to those counseling him and sought God like king David, doing what was right in God’s eyes. He felt the weight of his responsibility as king, serving God seriously. He led stubborn Israel in the ways of God. Did he not teach his son Manassah to do the same? If he did, Manassah did not learn from his father. Everything his father had done Manassah undid.
Manaassah’s anger toward God is obvious. What else would drive a man toward evil who had been raised to worship the God of Israel? Manassah was wicked.
God’s promises are stated explicitly in Scripture. Scripture are the words of God every king was to write down for themselves, to know and follow. Scripture were the words the people promised God they would follow after He brought them out of Egypt, led them through their wanderings in the desert, then into the Promised Land. He told them to teach His words to their children. He told them to follow His words and He would bless them. He told them if they did not follow His words His wrath toward them would exceed His wrath toward the nations they displaced. “I will no more remove the foot of Israel from the land that I appointed for your fathers, if only they will be careful to do all that I have commanded them, all the law, the statutes, and the rules given through Moses” [2 Chronicles 33:8; cf. 2 Kings 21:8 ESV].
Manassah exceeded the evil of those who lived in the land before Israel. “Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel” [2 Chronicles 33:9; cf. 2 Kings 21:9 ESV]. Manassah led the people into greater evil than any other king of Judah.
God gives to people leaders who will accomplish His decrees. Where His people are stubborn and complaining He will give them leaders to quench their stubbornness and silence their complaining. Moses was such a leader. David was such a leader. But, if the people will not listen and continue to rebel, for stubbornness and complaining are evidence of rebellion, He will give them a leader to teach them their rebellion is sin and convince them to return to Him. Manassah and Ahab were such leaders. Ahab, king of the Northern Kingdom never brought the people back to God. In God’s grace, and the harshness of the disciple, Manassah did.
Throughout Scripture are examples of God’s mercy and grace and the personal responsibility those who are His carry before Him. God’s mercy and grace do not absolve anyone from their responsibilities. Grace and mercy freely release the person from the justified sentence of separation from God because of their rebellion when the consequence of the sentence was felt and born by Jesus on the cross. Release from the immediate and temporal cost of rebellion does not happen. What we sow, we will reap. Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of one sin. David suffered the consequences of his repeated adulteries though he repented and receive mercy and grace. Manassah sowed sin and rebellion against God and reaped the consequences as determined by the known words and will of God.
Manassah was an evil man. He lead and encouraged Israel to commit idolatry, to worship a lie. He sacrificed his own children in the fire to a detestable idol demon. He consulted those who practiced the occult instead of God’s prophets and priests. He did these things for years. Manassah murdered people. When God spoke to Manassah he ignored Him. When God spoke to His people during Manassah’s reign they ignored Him. Israel followed their leader. “The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention” [2 Chronicles 33:10 ESV]. God told them they would be punished but they did not listen to the warning, repent and turn away from their sin.
Enter God’s rod of punishment, the King of Assyria. “Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon” [2 Chronicles 33:11 ESV]. The word “hooks” means to pierce, as in through the nose. Manassah was bound with bronze shackles and led to Babylon by a chain attached to a hook in his nose. His humiliation was complete.
God knew Manassah would learn from the harsh discipline, repent and turn toward Him, seeking to know Him both intellectually and intimately. Lessons learned from Hezekiah his father were not completely forgotten, rising to the surface in his humiliation and agony. “And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God” [2 Chronicles 33:12-13 ESV].Though his repentance is not found in 2 Kings it is real, a historical fact in Scripture.
God showed mercy to Manassah, one of the most corrupt kings to reign over Judah. His corruption dissolved in the harsh disciplines of God at the hands of an enemy king, the king of Assyria, who was even more corrupt than Manassah. All are used by God to accomplish His decrees. As evidence of God’s mercy, Manassah was returned to Jerusalem as king, and of his repentance he tore down the idols and false alters and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. But, the consequences of his leading the people astray, for they continued to worship idols, is also evident. Manassah was released from experiencing the wrath of God and showed his changed character by trying to undo all the effects of his rebellion. He was unable to. God used his evil actions, and his repentance, to teach a stubborn and complaining people about mercy, His active love.
Manassah learned his lesson. Most of the people of Judah refused to learn. God does not change but acts according to His love and justice. His purpose is to bring people back to Himself and will use the right means to accomplish His ends which are always for our benefit. Unless we refuse to learn.