Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem:7. Decline and Apostasy under Manasseh and Amon
1. Manasseh’s wicked reign (2Chronicles 33:1-10)
2. Manasseh’s imprisonment and restoration (2Chronicles 33:11-13)
3. His reign after restoration and his death (2Chronicles 33:14-20)
4. The reign of Amon (2Chronicles 33:21-25)
Manasseh, the twelve year old son of Hezekiah, did not follow the ways of his father, but did evil in the sight of the LORD. He had no godly Jehoiada, like Joash, to stand by him and guide him. He was surrounded, no doubt, by counsellors, but they were evil counsellors. Instead of following the example of his father, he followed that of his wicked grandfather Ahaz. In reading the record of his evil doings we get the impression that he hasted in undoing all his father had done. The corrupt worship on the heights was restored by him, and he added at the same time the Phoenician rites of Baal and Asherah, the Chaldean worship of the host of heaven (the sun and the stars). The altars for this wicked worship were placed in the outer and inner courts of the house of the LORD. More than that, he set a carved image in the house of God. This was an image of an idol; the vilest, unnameable practices were introduced into the place which was to be holy. “And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of Hinnom.” As we saw in Second Kings, his grandfather Ahaz was the first one to introduce this horrible Canaanitish custom in Judah. The sins of the Sodomites were openly practiced.
“Alike the extent and the shameless immorality of the idolatry now prevalent, may be inferred from the account of the later reformation by Josiah (2Kings 23:4-8). For, whatever practices may have been introduced by previous kings, the location, probably in the outer court of the temple, of a class of priests, who, in their unnaturalness of vice, combined a species of madness with deepest moral degradation, and by their side, and in fellowship with them, that of priestesses of Astarte, must have been the work of Manasseh” (A. Edersheim).
Then there were enchantments, witchcraft and wizards, and he dealt also with a familiar spirit. This was demon-power manifested as it is today in spiritualism and similar cults. So wicked was his work that he made Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel (verse 9). “Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much till he filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (2Kings 21:16). “And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people, but they hearkened not” (verse 10). God’s prophets bore faithful witness against these awful deeds. Isaiah, Jewish tradition claims, suffered martyrdom under Manasseh’s reign. But though the LORD sent His messages, they did not hear. In 2Kings 21:10-15, we have preserved the message which the LORD sent by His servants the prophets. But Second Kings has nothing to say of the conversion and restoration of this wicked man, one of the greatest miracles of grace on record. The king of Assyria came and bound Manasseh in fetters and carried him to Babylon. A certain class of higher critics, a number of years ago, used to sneer at this record, and denied its historicity because it is entirely missing in the book of Kings.
“It was called in question for this reason, that there was not ground for believing that the Assyrians exercised supremacy in Judah--far less that there had been a hostile expedition against Manasseh; and because, since the residence of the Assyrian kings was in Nineveh, the reported transportation of Manasseh to Babylon (verse 11) must be unhistorical. To these were added, as secondary objections, that the unlikely account of a king transported in iron bonds and fetters was proved to be untrustworthy by the still more incredible notice that such a captive had been again restored to his kingdom.”
But these objections have been completely refuted by an Assyrian monument. On this monument the Assyrian king is pictured leading two captives with hooks and rings. The inscription runs as follows: “I transported to Assyria men and women ... innumerable.” Among other names given is the name “Minasi sar matir Jaudi” which means “Manasseh, King of Judah.” Then carried away, no doubt much disgrace and suffering put upon him, his conscience awakened. He humbled himself and prayed and found mercy. What a manifestation of divine mercy! Jewish tradition often refers to Manasseh’s conversion as the greatest encouragement to repentant sinners. Such mercy will yet be shown to the remnant of Israel, when they turn unto the LORD “whose mercy endureth forever.” And the evidences of the genuineness of the conversion of Manasseh are not lacking. He acted faithfully after his return and repaired the altar and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God.
The utter corruption of human nature is seen in the case of his son Amon. With the awful experience of his father before him, and no doubt exhorted by Manasseh to serve the LORD and be true to Him, he followed deliberately the bad example of his father’s idolatry. He trespassed more and more and did not repent like his father Manasseh, but died in his sins. Under his reign the wickedness reached a higher mark than under any previous king.