2 Kings 21
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hephzibah.
Chap. 2 Kings 21:1-9. Accession of Manasseh king of Judah. His excessive idolatries (2 Chronicles 33:1-9)

1. Manasseh was twelve years old] ‘At last, some three years after his recovery, Hezekiah hath a son: but such a one, as, if he could have foreseen, orbity had been a blessing’ (Bp Hall).

fifty and five years] A reign longer than his father’s whole life, in spite of the addition of fifteen years; and longer than the reign of any other king of Judah or Israel.

Hephzi-bah] The mother’s name is not mentioned in Chronicles, it is the name which Isaiah in his prophecy (Isaiah 62:4) gives to the restored Zion, ‘my delight is in her’.

And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
2. after the abominations of the heathen] He followed all the idolatrous practices of the nations of Canaan, but as is said below, in verse 2, it was greater sin in him than in them, because he sinned in spite of knowledge.

For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
3. For he built up again the high places] The R.V. omits ‘up’. On Hezekiah’s destruction of the high places, see 2 Chronicles 30:14; 2 Chronicles 31:1.

and he reared up altars for Baal] The Chronicler says for ‘the Baalim’, by which is most likely intended the various aspects or attributes under which Baal was worshipped. The LXX. uses the feminine article and says the altars were reared τῇ Βάαλ; which is due to the use of the word בשת bosheth = shame, which is feminine, to avoid the abominated name בעל Baal. The desire to avoid this word is seen in proper names, among which Ishbosheth is put for Eshbaal, the name of a son of Saul (1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:39), also Mephibosheth is used instead of Meribbaal (cf. 2 Samuel 9:6 with 1 Chronicles 8:34) and Jerubbesheth for Jerubbaal (cf. Jdg 6:32 with 2 Samuel 11:21).

and made a grove] R.V. an Asherah. The Chronicler here too uses the plural ‘Asheroth’ (A.V. groves). On Asherah, which was probably a wooden image of a goddess so called, see note on 1 Kings 14:15 and 2 Kings 13:6.

Ahab king of Israel] Who first, at the instigation of Jezebel his wife, introduced the worship of Baal and Asherah into Israel from Phœnicia.

worshipped all the host of heaven] See note on 2 Kings 17:16.

And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name.
4. he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which] R.V. whereof &c. It seems most likely that the following verse explains what is meant by this. The altars were in the courts of the temple, not within the temple building. Azariah had intruded himself within the holy place (2 Chronicles 26:16). Even for his most solemn prayer Hezekiah prayed toward the sanctuary. Intrusion within the walls would have been specially noted.

And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.
5. the two courts of the house of the Lord] On the two courts of the temple, spoken of respectively as ‘the inner’ or ‘higher’ court, or ‘the court of the priests, and ‘the great court’ which must have enclosed the inner, see note on 1 Kings 6:36.

And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
6. And he made his son] The LXX. represents ‘sons’ here, and the Chronicler has the plural in the parallel passage, ‘He caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom’. Probably the expression in Chronicles only means that he practised this Moloch-worship, and the plural number need not be literally pressed.

pass through the fire] See note on 2 Kings 16:3. ‘The valley of the son of Hinnom’ mentioned by the Chronicler was a ravine on the south and west of Jerusalem, the south-east extremity of which had the name of Tophet. Because of the horrors which had been perpetrated there, the place was defiled, and converted into a receptacle of all that was foul and offensive, for the destruction of which constant fires were kept burning. For this reason the name Ge Hinnom, modified into Gehenna, came to be employed to designate the region of eternal torment.

and observed times] R.V. practised augury. The rendering of A.V. is from the Vulgate, but that version in other places represents the sense as being ‘to use augury’. (See Vulg. of Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 57:3.) In the LXX. the renderings express the gathering of omens, either from sounds heard or from the flight of birds. The Jewish interpreters say it means one who decides by certain signs what days are good for trade, and which to travel on, &c. This is the idea in observing times, but the R.V. appears to embrace the whole of the senses given to the word.

used enchantments] The word is that which is used Numbers 24:1 of Balaam going ‘to seek for enchantments’. It refers to gathering of signs as the superstitious are wont to do, from this or that, whether they are to do or leave undone any undertaking they contemplate.

dealt with [R.V. with them that had] familiar spirits] The Hebrew word Ob, usually translated ‘one that hath a familiar spirit’, means originally ‘a bottle’. It is applied first of all to the spirit supposed to reside within the persons so possessed; then to the person himself. After that because the answers were supposed to be derived from the spirits of the dead, it was applied to one called up from the dead. So 1 Samuel 28:8 Saul asks at Endor ‘Divine unto me by the familiar spirit’. The second use of the word is exemplified in the verse before us, where those that deal with the spirit are called Ob, and the third sense is found in Isaiah 29:4 where the voice of an Ob is said to come out of the ground and to whisper out of the dust. The LXX. renders the word by ἐγγαστρίμυθος, ventriloquist, probably because the utterances of ventriloquists seem to come from within the speaker without motion of the lips.

The verb rendered ‘deal with’ is literally ‘made’. Hence it has been thought that Manasseh gave offices to such persons as are here spoken of, and appointed (see R.V. marg.) them as official diviners.

wizards] The Hebrew word is connected with the verb ‘to know’. Hence wizard, which implies one who is supposed to be preternaturally wise well represents the word.

And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:
7. A graven image of the grave] R.V. the graven image of Asherah. Though usually of wood, such images were also made of silver and carved in stone. The image in question here would be specially grand in view of the position it was to occupy.

the Lord said to David] For the words to David cf. 2 Samuel 7:13; and to Solomon 1 Kings 8:20.

Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.
8. neither will I make [R.V. cause] the feet of Israel move] R.V. to wander. The verb has the notion of a restless unsettled state. It is used (Genesis 4:12; Genesis 4:14) of Cain as a ‘vagabond’.

only if] R.V. if only. At the end of this clause there are not two sets of commands spoken of. ‘That which I have commanded them’ is only explained by ‘the law that my servant Moses commanded them’.

But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel.
9. Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than &c.] R.V. to do that which is evil more than, &c. The R.V. represents the Hebrew more closely. The phrase in Chronicles is ‘to err and to do worse than the heathen’. For Judah sinned against light and knowledge.

And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying,
10–15. God’s message of punishment (2 Chronicles 33:10)

10. the Lord spake] The Chronicler says God’s warnings were sent both to the king and to his people but they would not hearken.

Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:
11. all that the Amorites] The Amorites are put for the inhabitants of Canaan generally, though strictly the Amorites, with the Hittites and the Jebusites, were the mountaineer portion of the people, whilst the Canaanites dwelt by the sea and by the Jordan. See Numbers 13:29.

Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.
12. therefore] Here again the LXX. translates the Hebrew word by οὐχ οὑτῶς. See note on 2 Kings 1:3.

I am bringing [R.V. I bring] such evil] The R.V. prints ‘such’ in ordinary type. For the expression ‘the ears shall tingle’ cf. 1 Samuel 3:11; Jeremiah 19:3. In both these passages the phrase is used in connexion with utter overthrow, in the one, of Eli’s house, in the other, of Jerusalem. The sins there enumerated by Jeremiah afford a parallel to the wickedness of Manasseh’s reign.

And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.
13. the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab] The figures are taken from the occupation of the builder. The builder employs line and plummet that he may carry out his work exactly according to the plan prescribed. But here the pattern is one of utter destruction, which God Himself threatens to carry out after the fashion of Samaria and the house of Ahab, which the previous generation had beheld utterly destroyed. Samaria and the house of Ahab were famous for building (see 1 Kings 22:39 note). Hence the peculiar fitness of the figure. These great builders, with all that they had built, were swept away and just so should it be with Jerusalem. The way in which a portion of the judgement was carried out is described by the Chronicler: ‘The Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh in chains (R.V.) and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon’.

as a man wipeth a dish] The description is of a thing that is done with, and will be used no more. ‘To turn it upside down’, is literally ‘to turn it upon the face thereof’, a rendering which brings out very completely the intention of using the dish no more. Such God declares will be His manner of dealing with Jerusalem. The verb rendered ‘wipe’ is the same which is used Genesis 7:4, ‘Every living substance … will I destroy’, and in Numbers 5:23 ‘he shall blot them out’, and in the solemn sentence, Exodus 32:33, ‘him will I blot out of my book’. The original very markedly shews that God’s wiping was to be a wiping out.

And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies;
14. And I will forsake [R.V. cast off] the remnant] ‘Forsake’ need not necessarily imply ‘a punishment that has been deserved’ which is what is here intended. Hence R.V. has substituted ‘cast off’ or ‘reject’ in many instances. Cf. Jdg 6:13; Jeremiah 15:16; Jeremiah 23:33; Jeremiah 23:39, &c.

Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.
15. that which was [R.V. is] evil] As the words are God’s the present is the more appropriate tense.

Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.
16–18. Other wickedness of Manasseh. His death (2 Chronicles 33:18-20)

16. Manasseh shed innocent blood very much] This is alluded to again in 2 Kings 24:4 as the cause of God’s continued anger against Judah. It is singular that the Chronicler makes no special mention of this particular offence. Josephus on the contrary (Ant. x. 3, 1) says ‘He did not even spare the prophets, but even of these he slew some daily (καθʼ ἡμέραν) so that Jerusalem ran with blood’. The tradition that Isaiah himself was one of the sufferers in this slaughter was current among early Christian legends, and some have taken the mention of ‘sawing asunder’ (Hebrews 11:37) as an allusion to his fate.

from one end to another] Lit. ‘from mouth to mouth’. See note on 2 Kings 10:21.

Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and his sin that he sinned, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
17. the rest of the acts of Manasseh] The compiler of Kings says no word about Manasseh’s repentance, which forms a considerable part of his history in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 33:12-19). There we read that in his distress he besought the Lord and the Lord heard him and brought him back out of Babylon. ‘Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God’. He also built parts of the walls of Jerusalem, and strengthened the cities of Judah. He took away the strange gods and built up the altar of the Lord. Mention is also made of his prayer, of which we have an apocryphal version preserved, and of the seers which spake unto him. There is quoted also as authority the history of Hozai (R.V.). Why the writer of Kings tells neither of Manasseh’s captivity nor of his repentance and return is not easy to understand. Perhaps as these events made no difference in the succession, and as he deals with the political rather than with the religious history of the nation, he preferred to omit any record of either the imprisonment of the king or his release.

And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.
18. in the garden of his own house] See note on 2 Kings 20:21 above.

Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah.
19–26. Amon king of Judah. His wicked reign and death (2 Chronicles 33:21-25)

19. Jotbah] This place is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. It is generally thought to be the same as Jotbath or Jotbathah, mentioned (Numbers 33:33; Deuteronomy 10:7) as a station of the Israelites in their wanderings. It is called ‘a land of torrents of water’, so that it would be most likely a sort of oasis in the desert.

And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his father Manasseh did.
20. as his father Manasseh did] We can see from the notice of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33:17 that his repentance did not undo all the evil he had brought into the nation. ‘The people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the Lord their God only’. And on Amon, his son, the reformation of the father seems to have had no effect. ‘An ill guise is easily taken up, it is not so easily left. After a common depravation of religion, it is hard to return unto the first purity: as when a garment is deeply soiled it cannot without many lavers recover the former cleanness’ (Bp Hall).

And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them:
21. served the idols that his father served] i.e. Making again the same sort of graven images, which we must suppose Manasseh in his repentance had broken in pieces.

And he forsook the LORD God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the LORD.
22. and he forsook the Lord God] The Chronicler says ‘Amon trespassed more and more.’

And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and slew the king in his own house.
23. the servants of Amon conspired against him] The servants must be the court officers who were close about the king. The place where he was killed, ‘his own house’, shews this, and the present destruction of Amon’s murderers by ‘the people of the land’ proves that it was no popular movement against the king, but only some private intrigue. The people also shewed their attachment to the house of David by immediately placing Amon’s son, Josiah, on the throne.

and slew the king] R.V. put the king to death. The change is made to shew that the word is not the same as that translated ‘slew’ in the next verse.

And the people of the land slew all them that had conspired against king Amon; and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead.
Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza: and Josiah his son reigned in his stead.
26. in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza] See above, verse 18. This was evidently a new burial-place contrived for themselves by the kings, in close neighbourhood to the royal palace.

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