2 Kings 21:1-26 – Manasseh and Amon
SummaryManasseh (687-642) is the worst of the worst in the judgment of the Deuteronomistic editors. He revoked the religious reforms of his pious father, Hezekiah, rebuilt the high places (thus decentralizing the cult), introduced foreign worship practices, sacrificed his son, and consulted mediums. In his two-year reign, his son Amon (642-640) followed the practices of his father.
AnalysisGood King Hezekiah reigned for 29 years. His evil son reigned for 55 years, almost twice as long and the longest reign of any Davidic king. More than its length, however, this reign is noteworthy for its wickedness. During this period of Assyrian domination in the region, Manasseh is thoroughly "Assyrian" in that which he introduces into the Jerusalem cult: rebuilding the high places and the altars for Baal, placing an image of Asherah in the temple, worshiping the host of heaven (astral deities), and practicing child sacrifice and various types of divination (vv. 1-7). In other words, not only did Manasseh undo all the reforms of his father Hezekiah, he reinstituted the pro-Assyrian practices of Ahaz; by defiling the temple he jeopardized Judah's security in the land, and by practicing divination and child sacrifice, condemned as Canaanite practices in Deuteronomy 18:9-14 when the Israelites entered the land, he reduced his people to a status below the original Canaanite inhabitants of the land. No wonder the book of Kings totally condemns Manasseh and names him as the ultimate cause of the collapse of the south. Even the unparalleled righteousness of Josiah is unable to ward off the disaster, "for the sins of Manasseh…the LORD was not willing to pardon" (2 Kings 24:3-4).
The personification of sin in Kings becomes the personification of repentance in Chronicles. The Chronicler, while agreeing with the dismal rehearsal of Manasseh's sin in Kings, records that Manasseh was handed over to the Assyrians for his sin, and repented! Upon his return to the throne, he instituted a number of political and religious reforms (2 Chronicles 33).
Both accounts are using the reign of Manasseh for theological purposes. Kings exaggerates Manasseh's apostasy in order to explain the failure of Josiah's reforms. Chronicles may have introduced his repentance to explain the unprecedented length of his reign (though length of reign is never a sign of blessing in Chronicles).
Amon, Manasseh's son, reigned for two years before he was assassinated. It is possible that his continuation of his father's pro-Assyrian policies motivated his assassins who wished for a return to Judean independence.