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2 Chronicles 33:1-20 – Manasseh

Summary

In 2 Kings, Manasseh is portrayed as Judah's worst king. In Chronicles we hear of a startling repentance during his exile in Babylon, followed by extensive reforms.

Analysis

The Chronicler's portrayal of Manasseh is one of the most interesting in the book. As with several other kings, the reign of Manasseh is divided into two periods. But here, the periods are reversed: Manasseh's sinful period precedes his pious period. This dramatic reversal is usually explained as the Chronicler's attempt to account for Manasseh's fifty-five-year reign (v. 1). Since long reigns are not a sign of blessing in Chronicles, however, it is preferable to see Manasseh's reign as a parade example of the Chronicler's theme of exile and restoration that serves to highlight the efficacy of prayer and repentance.

This is clearly illustrated in the concentric structure of the passage: Manasseh's surprising prayer of repentance--replete with the vocabulary of Solomon's paradigmatic prayer (2 Chronicles 7:14)--together with God's response occupy the heart of the passage (vv. 12-13). On either side we see the contrast between Manasseh's "exile" in Babylon (vv. 10-11) and his building programs (v. 14). Exile is a sign of judgment in Chronicles (for example, 1 Chronicles 5:25-26; 2 Chronicles 28:5; 36:14-18), and building programs signal God's blessing (11:5; 14:6-7; 17:12). One can hardly miss the anachronistic use of "Babylon" in verse 11; the Assyrians did not exile people to Babylon. This seems to be strong evidence of the paradigmatic nature of the Chronicler's report, a report designed to bring home the contemporary significance of Manasseh's story. The contrast in judgment and reward is matched and surrounded by a second set of contrasts that compare Manasseh's behavior prior to his repentance (vv. 2-9) and his subsequent religious reforms (vv. 15-17). Typical introductory and closing notices enclose the narrative as a whole (vv. 1; 18-20). Here it should be noted that from now on the Chronicler omits reference to the Queen mother. This has recently been explained as due to the Arabian origin of the mothers of Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah. The Chronicler is regularly opposed to foreign influence, whether of a political or religious nature.

Later tradition, curious about this marvelous prayer of repentance, has preserved what purports to be the "Prayer of Manasseh" in the Septuagint, as have the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran (4Q381), though they are different prayers.

2 Chronicles 33:1-20

Reign of Manasseh

33Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign; he reigned for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. 2He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. 3For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had pulled down, and erected altars to the Baals, made sacred poles,* worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. 4He built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, ‘In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.’ 5He built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. 6He made his son pass through fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom, practised soothsaying and augury and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 7The carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God, of which God said to David and to his son Solomon, ‘In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name for ever; 8I will never again remove the feet of Israel from the land that I appointed for your ancestors, if only they will be careful to do all that I have commanded them, all the law, the statutes, and the ordinances given through Moses.’ 9Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that they did more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the people of Israel.

Manasseh Restored after Repentance

10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they gave no heed. 11Therefore the Lord brought against them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh captive in manacles, bound him with fetters, and brought him to Babylon. 12While he was in distress he entreated the favour of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13He prayed to him, and God received his entreaty, heard his plea, and restored him again to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord indeed was God.

14 Afterwards he built an outer wall for the city of David west of Gihon, in the valley, reaching the entrance at the Fish Gate; he carried it around Ophel, and raised it to a very great height. He also put commanders of the army in all the fortified cities in Judah. 15He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built on the mountain of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem, and he threw them out of the city. 16He also restored the altar of the Lord and offered on it sacrifices of well-being and of thanksgiving; and he commanded Judah to serve the Lord the God of Israel. 17The people, however, still sacrificed at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.

Death of Manasseh

18 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the Lord God of Israel, these are in the Annals of the Kings of Israel. 19His prayer, and how God received his entreaty, all his sin and his faithlessness, the sites on which he built high places and set up the sacred poles* and the images, before he humbled himself, these are written in the records of the seers.* 20So Manasseh slept with his ancestors, and they buried him in his house. His son Amon succeeded him.

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10 February 2011

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