Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
(1-18) THE REIGN OF MANASSEH IN JUDAH. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 33)
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.(1) Manasseh.—This king was a tributary to Esar-haddon and Assurbanipal successively. (See Schrader, Keilinschr., pp. 354-357, who says: M The conclusion is imperative that during the last period of the reign of Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, certainly during the first period of the latter, Manasseh was tributary to the great king of Assyria.” (See the Notes on 2Chronicles 33:11.) His name, like that of his successor Amon, suggests Egyptian influence. We know that combinations with Egypt against Assyria were popular during this epoch.
Twelve years old.—This early accession to power may help to explain his deviation from the religious policy of his father. It is not necessary to assume (with Thenius) that the queen-mother swayed the government until he reached a riper age. Manasseh may have been older than his years. According to the datum of the text, he was born a year or two after the Assyrian invasion. Whether he was Hezekiah’s firstborn son or not cannot be ascertained.
Hephzi-bah.—Isaiah 62:4, as a title of Mount Zion. It means “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) And he did that which was evil.—Perhaps under the pernicious influence of his courtiers. (Comp. the case of Rehoboam.)
The heathen . . . cast.—The nations . . . dispossessed—i.e., the peoples of Canaan (2Kings 17:8).
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 LXX. and Vulg. imitate the Hebrew idiom, and he returned and built—i.e., and he rebuilt.
The high places . . . altars for Baal . . . a grove (an Ashērah).—“The idols, the sun-pillars, the ashērim, the sacred trees, and all the other pagan or half-pagan symbols, so plainly inconsistent with the prophetic faith, were of the very substance of Israel’s worship in the popular sanctuaries” (Prof. Robertson Smith).
As did Ahab.—See 1Kings 16:32-33.
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—i.e., idolatrous altars (2Kings 21:5).
In the house of the Lord—i.e., in the two courts of it. This verse contains the general statement of what is particularised in 2Kings 21:5.
In Jerusalem will I put my name.—See 1Kings 14:21.
And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.(5) In the two courts.—Even in the inner and more sacred court, where the sacrifices were offered to Jehovah.
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. has his sons; so Chronicles.
Dealt with familiar spirits . . .—made a necro-mancer—i.e., formally appointed such a person as a court official (1Kings 12:31). (See the Notes on chaps. 16:3, 17:17, and especially 2Chronicles 33:6.)
“In the time from Manasseh onwards, Moloch-worship and worship of the Queen of Heaven appear as prominent new features of Judah’s idolatry. It is also probable that the local high places took on their restoration a more markedly heathenish character than before” (Prof. Robertson Smith).
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 grove.—The graven image of the Ashērah (2Kings 21:3).
In the house of which the Lord said . . .—See 1Kings 8:16; 1Kings 9:3. It is meant that the Asherah was erected within the Temple itself, probably in the holy place—an act which was the climax of Manasseh’s impiety. (Comp. 23:4; Ezekiel 43:7; Jeremiah 7:30 seq.)
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 the feet (foot) of Israel move (wander) . . .—Comp. the promise in 2Samuel 7:10. The reference is to the migration to Egypt; and the thought is that the permanent possession of the Promised Land depends on the permanent adherence of the nation to Jehovah only.
Only if.—If only.
According to all.—Chronicles rightly has simply (to do) all; and so LXX., Syriac, Vulg., Arabic here.
And according to all the law.—Omit and, with Chronicles and the Vatican LXX.
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) Seduced them.—Led them astray. Chronicles renders the same verb made them to err.
To do more evil.—To do the evil more . . . The LXX. adds: “in the eyes of Jehovah.” The idolatry of Judah was worse than that of the Canaanites, because they worshipped only their national gods, whereas Judah forsook its own God and was ready to adopt almost any foreign cultus with which it was brought into contact (Jeremiah 2:11).
And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying,(10) By His servants the prophets . . .—This general expression is used because the historian found no name assigned in his source. It is possible that Isaiah was still living under Manasseh, and protested in the manner here described against his apostacy. More probably, however, the protests in question were those of that great prophet’s disciples: the style is not Isaiah’s. 2Chronicles 33:18 refers to the history of the kings of Israel for “the words of the seers who spake to Manasseh; “and the originality of the language in 2Kings 21:13 might be held to favour the view that we have in 2Kings 21:11-15, an extract from that work embodying the authentic oracle of a contemporary prophet. (So Ewald.) But it appears much more likely that the passage before us is a sort of résumé of the substance of many such prophetic addresses.
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) And hath done.—The and is not in the Hebrew, though the Syriac and Arabic supply it. It is not wanted, for the sense is, namely, because he hath done wickedly, &c.
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) Whosoever heareth of it.—Literally, his hearers. Many MSS. And the Heb. margin read her (i.e., its) hearer.
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) And I will stretch over Jerusalem . . .—Comp. Amos 7:7-9; Isaiah 34:11; Lamentations 2:8. The sense is, I will deal with Jerusalem by the same rigorous rule of judgment as I have dealt already with Samaria. The figure of the measuring line and plummet suggests the idea that Jerusalem should be levelled and “laid even with the ground.”
As a man wipeth a (the) dish . . .—The wiping of the dish represents the destruction of the people, the turning it upside down, the overthrow of the city itself. Or perhaps, as Thenius says, the two acts together represent the single notion of making an end.
Wiping it and turning it . . .—This implies a different pointing of the text (infinitives instead of perfects, which is probably right).
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) Forsake.—Or, cast off; LXX., ἀπώσομαι. Judges 6:13.
The remnant of mine inheritance.—The Northern Kingdom had already been depopulated.
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) Have provoked me.—Have been provoking; i.e., continually.
Their fathers came forth.—The LXX. has probably preserved the original reading: I brought forth their fathers.
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) Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood . . .—The narrative is taken up again from 2Kings 21:9. The “innocent blood” shed by Manasseh was that of the prophets of Jehovah and their followers. “As the nation fell back into the grooves of its old existence, ancient customs began to reassert their sway. The worship which the prophets condemned, and which Hezekiah had proscribed, was too deeply interwoven with all parts of life to be uprooted by royal decree, and the old prejudice of the country folk against the capital, so clearly apparent in (the pages of the prophet) Micah, must have co-operated with superstition to bring about the strong revulsion against the new reforms which took place under Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh. A bloody struggle ensued between the conservative party and the followers of the prophets, and the new king was on the side of the reaction (Robertson Smith). Talmudic tradition relates that Isaiah himself was sawn asunder in the trunk of a cedar tree in which he had taken refuge. (Comp. Hebrews 11:37. This is, perhaps, not impossible, but hardly probable. Ewald considers that Jeremiah 2:30, Psalm 141:7, and Isaiah 53, allude to the persecution of the prophets by Manasseh.
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) Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh . . .—See 2Chronicles 33:11-19 for the story of his captivity, repentance, and restoration, which is now allowed by the best critics to be genuine history, though at one time it was the fashion to consider it an edifying fiction of the chronicler’s.
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, in the garden of Uzza.—His house was apparently not the royal palace built by Solomon, but another which Manasseh had built for himself. Thenius argues that the garden of Uzza lay in the Tyropœon, at the foot of the spur of Ophel. (Comp. 2Samuel 6:8; 1Chronicles 8:7; Ezra 2:49; Nehemiah 7:51).
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.THE REIGN OF AMON (2Kings 21:19-26).
(19) Amon.—The Vatican LXX. reads Αμώς, Amos (So Josephus Άμωσός). The name is perhaps that of the Egyptian sun-god Amen (Greek Αμμών), as Anion’s father was an idolater.
Meshullemeth.—Feminine form of Meshullam, “friend” i.e. of God; Isaiah 42:19. Ewald compares the Latin Pius, Pia, as a proper name.
And he forsook the LORD God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the LORD.(22) And he forsook the Lord . . .—And he forsook Jehovah, the God of his fathers; abandoned his worship altogether, and gave himself up to foreign superstitions which his father had introduced. It is noteworthy that the long reign of Manasseh-Amon is described by the sacred historian simply on the side of its relation to the religion of Israel. The astonishing corruption of worship which broke out during this period; the perverted hankering after foreign rites, which appears to have been only intensified by the restraints endured under Hezekiah; the bloody persecution of those who maintained the ancient faith; the prophetic menaces of coming retribution—such are the main points of the brief but impressive story. As usual, moral and religious license went hand in hand. The prophet Zephaniah denounces all the ruling classes of “the rebellious and polluted city;” princes and judges, prophets and priests, are involved in the same condemnation (Zephaniah 1:4-5; Zephaniah 3:1-4; comp. Micah 6:10 seq., Micah 7:2-6).
And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and slew the king in his own house.(23) The servants of Amon—i.e., according to the common use of the phrase, his courtiers or palace officials. Nothing further is known of the circumstances of the murder. For a conjecture, see 2Chronicles 33:25.
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.(24)The people of the land.—Thenius thinks these are the militia, as in 2Kings 11:14; but in neither case does his opinion appear likely.
And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza: and Josiah his son reigned in his stead.(26) In his sepulchre . . .—Which he had caused to be prepared near his father’s (2Kings 21:16).