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2 Kings 21:1-26 – Manasseh and Amon


Manasseh (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.


Good 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.

2 Kings 21:1-26

Manasseh Reigns over Judah

21Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign; he reigned for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, following the abominable practices of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. 3For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he erected altars for Baal, made a sacred pole,* as King Ahab of Israel had done, 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 I will put my name.’ 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; he practised soothsaying and augury, 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 Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the Lord 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 not cause the feet of Israel to wander any more out of the land that I gave to their ancestors, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.’ 9But they did not listen; Manasseh misled them to do more evil than the nations had done that the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.

10 The Lord said by his servants the prophets, 11‘Because King Manasseh of Judah has committed these abominations, has done things more wicked than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has caused Judah also to sin with his idols; 12therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line for Samaria, and the plummet for the house of Ahab; I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14I will cast off the remnant of my heritage, and give them into the hand of their enemies; they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, 15because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their ancestors came out of Egypt, even to this day.’

16 Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he caused Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.

17 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, all that he did, and the sin that he committed, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 18Manasseh slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza. His son Amon succeeded him.

Amon Reigns over Judah

19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign; he reigned for two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. 20He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. 21He walked in all the way in which his father walked, served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them; 22he abandoned the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in the way of the Lord. 23The servants of Amon conspired against him, and killed the king in his house. 24But the people of the land killed all those who had conspired against King Amon, and the people of the land made his son Josiah king in place of him. 25Now the rest of the acts of Amon that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 26He was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza; then his son Josiah succeeded him.

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