2 Chronicles 33:17
Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only.
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2 Chronicles 33:17. Nevertheless, the people did sacrifice still, &c. — “Rabbi Kimchi observes very well here, that though Manasseh’s repentance might be sincere, yet it was attended with a melancholy circumstance, which ought to sound in the ear of every one invested with power, His example and authority easily seduced his people to idolatry; but his royal mandate was unable to reclaim them.” — Dodd. He could not carry the reformation so far as he had carried the corruption. It is an easy thing to debauch men’s manners; but not so easy to reform them again.

33:1-20 We have seen Manasseh's wickedness; here we have his repentance, and a memorable instance it is of the riches of God's pardoning mercy, and the power of his renewing grace. Deprived of his liberty, separated from his evil counsellors and companions, without any prospect but of ending his days in a wretched prison, Manasseh thought upon what had passed; he began to cry for mercy and deliverance. He confessed his sins, condemned himself, was humbled before God, loathing himself as a monster of impiety and wickedness. Yet he hoped to be pardoned through the abundant mercy of the Lord. Then Manasseh knew that Jehovah was God, able to deliver. He knew him as a God of salvation; he learned to fear, trust in, love, and obey him. From this time he bore a new character, and walked in newness of life. Who can tell what tortures of conscience, what pangs of grief, what fears of wrath, what agonizing remorse he endured, when he looked back on his many years of apostacy and rebellion against God; on his having led thousands into sin and perdition; and on his blood-guiltiness in the persecution of a number of God's children? And who can complain that the way of heaven is blocked up, when he sees such a sinner enter? Say the worst against thyself, here is one as bad who finds the way to repentance. Deny not to thyself that which God hath not denied to thee; it is not thy sin, but thy impenitence, that bars heaven against thee.Compare 2 Kings 21:2, note; 2 Kings 18:4, note. 17. the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the Lord their God only—Here it appears that the worship on high places, though it originated in a great measure from the practice of heathenism, and too often led to it, did not necessarily imply idolatry. No text from Poole on this verse.

Nevertheless, the people did sacrifice still in the high places,.... Not in those that were built for idols, at least did not sacrifice to them; for it follows:

yet unto the Lord their God only; the Targum is,"to the name of the Word of the Lord their God.''

Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the {h} LORD their God only.

(h) Thus by ignorance they were deceived, thinking it nothing to keep the altars, so that they worshipped God: but it is idolatry to worship God any other way than he has appointed.

17. yet … only] R.V. but only.… Cp. 2 Chronicles 32:12, note.

Verse 17. - Compare Hezekiah's good work (2 Chronicles 31:1) with his son's bad work (2 Chronicles 33:3); the latter could undo his father's good, but now could not undo his own evil! The illegitimate worshippings and offerings of high places, though they had been "winked at" from time to time by some of even the better of the kings, were of course essentially counter to the one national worship in the one temple, and to the offerings and sacrifices of the one national altar. 2 Chronicles 33:17And he also removed the idols and the statues from the house of the Lord, i.e., out of the two courts of the temple (2 Chronicles 33:5), and caused the idolatrous altars which he had built upon the temple hill and in Jerusalem to be cast forth from the city. In 2 Chronicles 33:16, instead of the Keth. ויבן, he built (restored) the altar of Jahve, many manuscripts and ancient editions read ויכן, he prepared the altar of Jahve. This variation has perhaps originated in an orthographical error, and it is difficult to decide which reading is the original. The Vulg. translates יבן restauravit. That Manasseh first removed the altar of Jahve from the court, and then restored it, as Ewald thinks, is not very probable; for in that case its removal would certainly have been mentioned in 2 Chronicles 33:3. Upon the altar thus restored Manasseh then offered thank-offerings and peace-offerings, and also commanded his subjects to worship Jahve the God of Israel. But the people still sacrificed on the high places, yet unto Jahve their God.

"As to the carrying away of Manasseh," says Bertheau, "we have no further information in the Old Testament, which is not surprising, seeing that in the books of Kings there is only a very short notice as to the long period embraced by Manasseh's reign and that of Amon." He therefore, with Ew., Mov., Then., and others, does not scruple to recognise this fact as historical, and to place his captivity in the time of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon. He however believes, with Ew. and Mov., that the statements as to the removal of idols and altars from the temple and Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 33:15) is inconsistent with the older account in 2 Kings 23:6 and 2 Kings 23:12, the clear statements of which, moreover, our historian does not communicate in 2 Chronicles 34:3. For even if the Astarte removed by Josiah need not have been the הסּמל of our chapter, yet it is expressly said that only by Josiah were the altars built by Manasseh broken down; yet we would scarcely be justified in supposing that Manasseh removed them, perhaps only laid them aside, that Amon again set them up in the courts, and that Josiah at length destroyed them. It does not thence follow, of course, that the narrative of the repentance and conversion of Manasseh rests upon no historic foundation; rather it is just such a narrative as would be supplemented by accounts of the destruction of the idolatrous altars and the statue of Astarte: for that might be regarded as the necessary result of the conversion, without any definite statement being made.

(Note: From this supposed contradiction, R. H. Graf, "die Gefangenschaft u. Bekehrung Manasse's, 2 Chronicles 33," in the Theol. Studien u. Kritiken, 1859, iii. S. 467ff., and in the book, die geschichtl. Literatur A. Test. 1866, 2 Abhdl., following Gramberg, and with the concurrence of H. Nldeke, die alttestl. Literatur in einer Reihe von Aufstzen dargestellt (1868), S. 59f., has drawn the conclusion that the accounts given in the Chronicle, not only of Manasseh's conversion, but also of his being led captive to Babylon, are merely fictions, or inventions - poetical popular myths. On the other hand, E. Gerlach, in the Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1861, iii. S. 503ff., has shown the superficiality of Graf's essay, and defended effectively the historical character of both narratives.)

Against this we have the following objections to make: Can we well imagine repentance and conversion on Manasseh's part without the removal of the abominations of idolatry, at least from the temple of the Lord? And why should we not suppose that Manasseh removed the idol altars from the temple and Jerusalem, but that Amon, who did evil as did his father Manasseh, and sacrificed to all the images which he had made (2 Kings 21:21.; 2 Chronicles 33:22), again set them up in the courts of the temple, and placed the statue again in the temple, and that only by Josiah were they destroyed? In 2 Kings 23:6 it is indeed said, Josiah removed the Asherah from the house of Jahve, took it forth from Jerusalem, and burnt it, and ground it to dust in the valley of Kidron; and in 2 Chronicles 33:12, that Josiah beat down and brake the altars which Manasseh had made in both courts of the house of Jahve, and threw the dust of them into Kidron. But where do we find it written in the Chronicle that Manasseh, after his return from Babylon, beat down, and brake, and ground to powder the סמל in the house of Jahve, and the altars on the temple mount and in Jerusalem? In 2 Chronicles 33:15 we only find it stated that he cast these things forth from the city (לעיר חוּצה ישׁלך). Is casting out of the city identical with breaking down and crushing, as Bertheau and others assume? The author of the Chronicle, at least, can distinguish between removing (הסיר) and breaking down and crushing. Cf. 2 Chronicles 15:16, where הסיר is sharply distinguished from כּרת and הדק; further, 2 Chronicles 31:1 and 2 Chronicles 34:4, where the verbs שׁבּר, גּדּע, and הדק are used of the breaking in pieces and destroying of images and altars by Hezekiah and Josiah. He uses none of these verbs of the removal of the images and altars by Manasseh, but only ויסר and לעיר חוּצה וישׁלך (2 Chronicles 33:15). If we take the words exactly as they stand in the text of the Bible, every appearance of contradiction disappears.

(Note: In this matter Movers too has gone very superficially to work, remarking in support of the contradiction (bibl. Chron. S. 328): "If Manasseh was so zealous a penitent, it may be asked, Would he not have destroyed all idolatrous images, according to the Mosaic law, as the Chronicle itself, 2 Chronicles 33:15 (cf. 2 Chronicles 29:17; 2 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Kings 23:12), sufficiently shows? Had idolatry ceased in all Judah in the last year of Manasseh's reign, as is stated in 2 Chronicles 33:17, could it, during the two years' reign of his son Amon, have spread abroad in a manner hitherto unheard of in Jewish history, as it is portrayed under Josiah, 2 Kings 23:4.?" But where is it stated in the Chronicle that Manasseh was so zealous a penitent as to have destroyed the images according to the Mosaic law? Not even the restoration of the Jahve-worship according to the provisions of the law is once spoken of, as it is in the case of Hezekiah and of Josiah (cf. 2 Chronicles 30:5 and 2 Chronicles 30:16, 2 Chronicles 34:21; 2 Chronicles 35:26); and does it follow from the fact that Judah, in consequence of Manasseh's command to serve Jahve, still sacrificed in the high places, yet to Jahve, that under Manasseh idolatry ceased throughout Judah?)

From what is said in the Chronicle of Manasseh's deeds, we cannot conclude that he was fully converted to the Lord. That Manasseh prayed to Jahve in his imprisonment, and by his deliverance from it and his restoration to Jerusalem came to see that Jahve was God (האלהים), who must be worshipped in His temple at Jerusalem, and that he consequently removed the images and the idolatrous altars from the temple and the city, and cast them forth-these facts do not prove a thorough conversion, much less "that he made amends for his sin by repentance and improvement" (Mov.), but merely attest the restoration of the Jahve-worship in the temple, which had previously been completely suspended. But the idolatry in Jerusalem and Judah was not thereby extirpated; it was only in so far repressed that it could not longer be publicly practised in the temple. Still less was idolatry rooted out of the hearts of the people by the command that the people were to worship Jahve, the God of Israel. There is not a single word of Manasseh's conversion to Jahve, the God of the fathers, with all his heart (שׁלם בּלב). Can it then surprise us, that after Manasseh's death, under his son Amon, walking as he did in the sins of his father, these external barriers fell straightway, and idolatry again publicly appeared in all its proportions and extent, and that the images and altars of the idols which had been cast out of Jerusalem were again set up in the temple and its courts? If even the pious Josiah, with all his efforts for the extirpation of idolatry and the revivification of the legal worship, could not accomplish more than the restoration, during his reign, of the temple service according to the law, while after his death idolatry again prevailed under Jehoiakim, what could Manasseh's half-measures effect? If this be the true state of the case in regard to Manasseh's conversion, the passages 2 Kings 24:3; 2 Kings 23:26; Jeremiah 15:4, where it is said that the Lord had cast out Judah from His presence because of the sins of Manasseh, cease to give any support to the opposite view. Manasseh is here named as the person who by his godlessness made the punishment of Judah and Jerusalem unavoidable, because he so corrupted Judah by his sins, that it could not now thoroughly turn to the Lord, but always fell back into the sins of Manasseh. Similarly, in 2 Kings 17:21 and 2 Kings 17:22, it is said of the ten tribes that the Lord cast them out from His presence because they walked in all the sins of Jeroboam, and departed not from them.

With the removal of the supposed inconsistency between the statement in the Chronicle as to Manasseh's change of sentiment, and the account of his godlessness in 2 Kings 21, every reason for suspecting the account of Manasseh's removal to Babylon as a prisoner disappears; for even Graf admits that the mere silence of the book of Kings can prove nothing, since the books of Kings do not record many other events which are recorded in the Chronicle and are proved to be historical. This statement, however, is thoroughly confirmed, both by its own contents and by its connection with other well-attested historical facts. According to 2 Chronicles 33:14, Manasseh fortified Jerusalem still more strongly after his return to the throne by building a new wall. This statement, which has as yet been called in question by no judicious critic, is so intimately connected with the statements in the Chronicle as to his being taken prisoner, and the removal of the images from the temple, that by it these latter are attested as historical. From this we learn that the author of the Chronicle had at his command authorities which contained more information as to Manasseh's reign than is to be found in our books of Kings, and so the references to these special authorities which follow in 2 Chronicles 33:18, 2 Chronicles 33:19 are corroborated. Moreover, the fortifying of Jerusalem after his return from his imprisonment presupposes that he had had such an experience as impelled him to take measures to secure himself against a repetition of hostile surprises. To this we must add the statement that Manasseh was led away by the generals of the Assyrian king to Babylon. The Assyrian kings Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser (or Sargon) did not carry away the Israelites to Babylon, but to Assyria; and the arrival of ambassadors from the Babylonian king Merodach-Baladan in Jerusalem, in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:12; Isaiah 39:1), shows that at that time Babylon was independent of Assyria. The poetic popular legend would without doubt have made Manasseh also to be carried away to Assyria by the troops of the Assyrian king, not to Babylon. The statement that he was carried away to Babylon by Assyrian warriors rests upon the certainty that Babylon was then a province of the Assyrian empire; and this is corroborated by history. According to the accounts of Abydenus and Alexander Polyhistor, borrowed from Berosus, which have been preserved in Euseb. Chr. arm. i. p. 42f., Sennacherib brought Babylon, the government of which had been usurped by Belibus, again into subjection, and made his son Esarhaddon king over it, as his representative. The subjection of the Babylonians is confirmed by the Assyrian monuments, which state that Sennacherib had to march against the rebels in Babylon at the very beginning of his reign; and then again, in the fourth year of it, that he subdued them, and set over them a new viceroy (see M. Duncker, Gesch. des Alterth. i. S. 697f. and 707f. and ii. S. 592f., der 3 Aufl.). Afterwards, when Sennacherib met his death at the hand of his sons (2 Kings 19:37; Isaiah 37:38), his oldest son Esarhaddon, the viceroy of Babylon, advanced with his army, pursued the flying parricides, and after slaying them ascended the throne of Assyria, 680 b.c.

(Note: So Jul. Oppert, "die biblische Chronologie festgestellt nach den Assyrischen Keilschriften," in d. Ztschr. der deutsch. morgenl. Gesellsch. (xxiii. S. 134), 1869, S. 144; while Duncker, loc. cit. i. S. 709, on the ground of the divergent statement of Berosus as to the reign of Esarhaddon, and according to other chronological combinations, gives the year 693 b.c., - a date which harmonizes neither with Sennacherib's inscriptions, so far as these have yet been deciphered, nor with the statements of the Kanon Ptol., nor with biblical chronology. It, moreover, makes it necessary to shorten the fifty-five years of Manasseh's reign to thirty-five, which is all the more arbitrary as the chronological data of the Kanon Ptol. harmonize with the biblical chronology and establish their accuracy, as I have already pointed out in my apolog. Vers. ber die Chron. S. 429f.)

Of Esarhaddon, who reigned thirteen years (from 680 to 667), we learn from Ezra 4:2, col. with 2 Kings 24:17, that he brought colonists to Samaria from Babylon, Cutha, and other districts of his kingdom; and Abydenus relates of him, according to Berosus (in Euseb. Chron. i. p. 54), that Axerdis (i.e., without doubt Esarhaddon) subdued Lower Syria, i.e., the districts of Syria bordering on the sea, to himself anew. From these we may, I think, conclude that not only the transporting of the colonists into the depopulated kingdom of the ten tribes is connected with this expedition against Syria, but that on this occasion also Assyrian generals took King Manasseh prisoner, and carried him away to Babylon, as Ewald (Gesch. iii. S. 678), and Duncker, S. 715, with older chronologists and expositors (Usher, des Vignoles, Calmet, Ramb., J. D. Mich., and others), suppose. The transport of Babylonian colonists to Samaria is said in Seder Olam rab. p. 67, ed. Meyer, and by D. Kimchi, according to Talmudic tradition, to have taken place in the twenty-second year of Manasseh's reign; and this statement gains confirmation from the fact - as was remarked by Jac. Cappell. and Usher - that the period of sixty-five years after which, according to the prophecy in Isaiah 7:8, Ephraim was to be destroyed so that it should no more be a people, came to an end with the twenty-second year of Manasseh, and Ephraim, i.e., Israel of the ten tribes, did indeed cease to be a people only with the immigration of heathen colonists into its land (cf. Del. on Isaiah 7:8). But the twenty-second year of Manasseh corresponds to the year 776 b.c. and the fourth year of Esarhaddon.

By this agreement with extra-biblical narratives in its statement of facts and in its chronology, the narrative in the Chronicle of Manasseh's captivity in Babylon is raised above every doubt, and is corroborated even by the Assyrian monuments. "We now know," remarks Duncker (ii. S. 92) in this connection, "that Esarhaddon says in his inscriptions that twenty-two kings of Syria hearkened to him: he numbers among them Minasi (Manasseh of Judah) and the kings of Cyprus." As to the details both of his capture and his liberation, we cannot make even probable conjectures, since we have only a few bare notices of Esarhaddon's reign; and even his building works, which might have given us some further information, were under the influence of a peculiarly unlucky star, for the palace built by him at Kalah or Nimrod remained unfinished, and was then destroyed by a great fire (cf. Spiegel in Herz.'s Realencykl. xx. S. 225). Yet, from the fact that in 2 Chronicles 33:1, as in 2 Kings 21:1, the duration of Manasseh's reign is stated to have been fifty-five years, without any mention being made of an interruption, we may probably draw this conclusion at least, that the captivity did not last long, and that he received his liberty upon a promise to pay tribute, although he appears not to have kept this promise, or only for a short period. For that, in the period between Hezekiah and Josiah, Judah must have come into a certain position of dependence upon Assyria, cannot be concluded from 2 Kings 23:19 (cf. 2 Chronicles 33:15 with 2 Chronicles 17:28) and 2 Chronicles 23:29, as E. Gerlach thinks.

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