Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE POWER OF SIN.
1. We see how sin perpetuates itself. The deeds of Manasseh were just a repetition of the worst deeds of his predecessors. "He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen." He built up again the high places. He made altars for Baal. He worshipped all the host of heaven. He made his son pass through the fire to Moloch. (What we have already said on these sins applies here.)
2. We see also the progressive power of s/n. There is a progress in sin from bad to worse. Manasseh imitated the sins of his predecessors. But he went further than any of them. "He built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord" (ver. 5). Worse than all, he set up a carved image, the idol that he had made, in the very temple of the living God. It is also stated that he shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem with blood from one end to the other (ver. 16). Let us beware of the beginnings of evil.
3. We see also the power of sin to harden men's hearts. We read in 2 Chronicles that "God spake to Manasseh and his people; but they would not hearken." How often God still speaks to men by his Word, by his providences, and yet sin has so hardened their hearts, that they pay no attention to his warnings, remonstrances, and appeals!
II. THE POWER OF PRAYER. There is no reference in this account of Manasseh to any prayer of his. And yet, strange though it may seem, prayer played an important part in Manasseh's history. When we turn to the summary of his life which is given in 2 Chronicles 33., we read (vers. 18, 19), "Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake unto him in the name of the Lord God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel. His prayer also, and how God was entreated of him, and all his sins, and his trespass... before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers." Now, what was this prayer of Manasseh? It was simply a prayer for pardon. Observe how Manasseh learned to pray. For all his wickedness the Lord brought judgments upon him (vers. 10-15). He brought upon him and his people "the captains of the host of the King of Assyria, which took Manasseh prisoner, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon." It was then, in his extremity and calamity, that Manasseh learned to pray. "And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God" (2 Chronicles 33:12, 13). Often it is affliction and trial that first teach men to pray, to turn to God. We see here the power of penitent prayer. We see here that no one is too great a sinner to pray to God for mercy. Your past life may have been given up to sin. So was Manasseh's. You may have dishonored and disobeyed God. So did Manasseh. Yet he obtained mercy. The greatest, guiltiest sinner may get pardon at the cross. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." - C.H.I.
2 Chronicles 33:1-20). His inner life or character will appear as we proceed in the illustration of our subject. In his biography we have three instructive views of the secular and spiritual. We have here -
I. THE ELEVATION OF THE SECULAR AND THE DEGRADATION OF THE SPIRITUAL. "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," etc. Here is a man at the height of the secular elevation. He is raised to a throne, called to bear sway over a people the most enlightened, and in a country as fertile and lovely as any on the face of the earth. In the person of this Manasseh you have secular greatness in its highest altitude and most attractive position. But in connection with this you have spiritual degradation. Penetrate the gaudy trappings of his royalty, look within, and what see you? A low, wretched, infamous spirit, a spirit debased almost to the lowest point in morals. Few names in the history of our sinful world stand out with more prominent features of depravity and vice than this of Manasseh. Look at him:
1. Socially. How acted he as a son? His father, Hezekiah, was a man of undoubted piety - a monarch of distinguished worth. Many earnest prayers he offered, no doubt, for his son, and many tender counsels on religious subjects had he addressed to him. Yet what was the return for all this? His sire was scarcely cold in his grave before the son commenced undoing in the kingdom all that his pious father had for years endeavored to accomplish. His insane fanaticism in the cause of debased religion was not surpassed even by the king in modern times who most resembled him, Philip II. of Spain. How did he act as a parent? Was he anxious for the virtue and happiness of his children? No; "he caused his children to pass through the fire of the son of Hinnom." History represents the god Moloch, to which this Manasseh presented his children, as a brazen statue, which was ever kept burning hot, with its arms outstretched. Into these outstretched arms the idolatrous parent threw his children, which soon fell down into the raging furnace beneath.
2. Religiously. A dupe of the most stupid imposture. "He observed times, and used enchantments [and used witchcraft], and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards." He was the maddened votary of the most cruel and monstrous superstition.
3. Politically. Ruining his own country, provoking the indignation of Heaven. "So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel." The elevation of the secular and the degradation of the spiritual, so manifest, alas! in all times and lands, is not destitute of many grave and startling suggestions.
1. It shows the moral disorganization of the human world. This state of things can never be according to the original plan of the creation. Can it be accordant with the original purpose of the Creator that wickedness should sit on thrones and hold the scepters of the world in its grasp? Can it be that Infinite Parity intended to endow depravity with such worldly wealth and power? Impossible. A terrible convulsion has happened to the human world, a convulsion that has thrown every part into disorder. "All the foundations of the earth are out of course." The social world is in a moral chaos. The Bible traces the cause and propounds the remedy of this terrible disorganization.
2. It shows the perverting capability of the son. The greater the amount of worldly good a man possesses, the stronger is the appeal of the Creator for his gratitude and devotion. These earthly mercies urge self-consecration. Moreover, the larger the amount of worldly wealth and power, the greater the facilities as well as the obligations to a life of spiritual intelligence, holiness, and piety. But here, in the case of this monarch, you have, what indeed you find in different degrees everywhere in human life past and present, the soul turning these advantages to the most fiendish iniquity. The perverting capability of the soul within us may well fill us with amazement and alarm. We can darken the light of truth, make the tree of life drop poison, and cause the very breath of God to be pestilential.
3. It shows the high probability of a judgment. Under the government of a righteous monarch, will vice always have its banquets, its purple, and its crown? Will the great Mechanician always allow the human engine thus to ply its wondrous energies in confusion? Will the great Lord allow his stewards to misappropriate his substance, and never call them to account? It cannot be! There must come a day for balancing long-standing accounts; a day for making all that has been irregular in human history chime harmoniously with the original law of the universe.
II. THE DEGRADATION OF THE SECULAR AND THE ELEVATION OF THE SPIRITUAL. The judgment of God, which must ever follow sin, at length overtook the wicked monarch. The Assyrian army, under the direction of Esarhaddon, invaded the country, and carried all before it. The miserable monarch can make no effectual resistance. He is seized, bound in chains, transported to Babylon, and then cast into prison. Here is secular degradation. Here, away in exile, chains, and prison, like the prodigal, he began to think. His guilty conduct passed under sad review - memory brought past crimes and abused mercies in awful and startling forms before him, and his heart is smitten with contrition. He prays; his prayer is heard; and here, bereft of every vestige of secular greatness, he begins to rise spiritually, to become an intellectual and moral man (2 Chronicles 33:12). We may learn from this:
1. That man's circumstances are no necessary hindrances to conversion. If the question were asked - What circumstances are the most inimical to the cultivation of piety? I should unhesitatingly answer - Adversity. I am well aware, indeed, that adversity, as in the case before us, often succeeds in inducing religious thoughtfulness and penitence, when prosperity has failed; that afflictions have often broken the moral slumber of the soul, and led the careless to consider his ways. But, notwithstanding this, I cannot regard adversity itself as the most suited to the cultivation of the religious character. Sufferings are inimical to that grateful feeling and spiritual effort which religious culture requires. It is when the system bounds with health, when Providence smiles on the path, when the mind is not necessarily pressed with anxieties about the means of worldly subsistence, when leisure and facilities for religious reflection and effort are at command, that men are in the best position to discipline themselves into a godly life. But here we find a man in the most unfavorable position, away from religious institutions and friends and books, an imprisoned exile in a pagan land, beginning to think of his ways, and directing his feet into the paths of holiness. Such a case as this meets all the excuses which men offer for their want of religion. It is often said, "Were we in such and such circumstances we would be religious." The rich man says, "Were I in humble life, more free from the anxieties, cares, responsibilities, and associations of my position, I would live a godly life." Whilst the poor, on the other hand says, with far more reason, "Were my spirit not pressed down by the crushing forces of poverty; had I sufficient of worldly goods to remove me from all necessary anxiety, I would give my mind to religion, and serve my God." The man in the midst of the excitement and bustle of commercial life says, "Were I in a more retired situation, in some rural region away from the eternal din of business - away in quiet fields and under clear skies, amidst the music of birds and brooks, I would serve my Maker." Whilst on the contrary, and with greater reason, the tenant of these quiet scenes says, "Were I distant from this eternal monotony, amidst scenes of mental stimulus and social excitement, I should be roused from the apathy, which oppresses me, and I would be a religious man." The fact, after all, is that circumstances are no necessary hindrances or helps to a religious life.
2. That Heaven's mercy is greater than man's iniquities. When conscience-stricken with the enormity of his wickedness, this one of the chief of human sinners betakes himself to his knees in humble prayer "before the God of his fathers," how is he treated? Is he scathed with a flash of retributive displeasure? Who would have wondered if he had been so? But no. Is he upbraided for his past wickedness? Who would have been surprised if he had been stunned with thunders of reproof? But no. Is he received with cold indifference? No. "He was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom." What a confirmation is here of that promise, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon!" "Abundantly!" This is a glorious word, a word that, like the boundless heavens of God, towers and expands over a universe of sin.
III. THE CONCURRENT ELEVATION BOTH OF THE SPIRITUAL AND THE SECULAR. The Almighty hears his prayer. He is emancipated from bondage, brought back to his own country, and restored to the throne of Israel. There he is now with a true heart, in a noble position - a real great man occupying a great office. This is a rare scene; and yet the only scene in accordance with the real constitution of things and the will of God. It seems to me that if man had remained in innocence, his outward position would always have been the product and type of his inner soul; that he who got a throne would do so because of the moral nobility of his nature, and that in all cases secular circumstances, whether elevated, affluent, or otherwise, would ever be the effects and exponents of spiritual character. Manasseh's restoration to the throne, and the work of reformation to which he sets himself, suggest two subjects of thought.
1. The tendency of godliness to promote man's secular elevation. The monarch comes back in spirit to God, and God brings him back to his throne. As the material condition of men depends upon their moral condition, improve the latter, and you improve the former. As the world gets spiritually holier, it will get secularly happier. Godliness is material as well as moral "gain." The system that best promotes godliness is the system that best promotes man's temporal well-being. And that system is the gospel Hence, let philanthropists adopt this as their grand instrument. When Christianity shall have won its triumph over all souls, men's bodies will be restored to their lost inheritance of health, elasticity, force, and plenty, as Manasseh was now restored to his lost throne. There is a physical millennium for the world as well as a spiritual; the former will grow out of and reveal the latter, as trees and flowers their hidden life.
2. The tendency of penitence to make retribution; Concerning Manasseh, it is thus written: "Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah. And he took away the strange gods," etc. Here is restitution, and an earnest endeavor to undo the mischief which he had wrought. Thus Zacchaeus acted, and thus all true penitents have ever acted and will ever act. True penitence has a restitutionary instinct. But how little, alas I of the mischief done can ever be undone! What can we do? We cannot destroy the fact of wrong. That fact will never be erased from the moral annals of the universe; it is chronicled with unfading ink on an imperishable substance. What can we do? We cannot destroy the influence of our wrong. The wrong that is gone out from us will roll its pestilential streams down through the ages. What can we do? We can "cease to do evil;" and, thank God! we can do more - we can make some compensation for the injury we have done the creation. We can, by Heaven's grace, open up within us a fountain for the washing away of sin and uncleanness - a fountain whose streams will bless with life and beauty many generations yet to come. - D.T.
I. HIS PRECOCITY IN EVIL.
1. His tendencies were evil. Manasseh's tender years when he became king do not wholly explain the strong bent he showed towards evil He became king, it is true, when he was but twelve, a mere boy, with character unformed, and open to the seductions of wicked courtiers; but Josiah, his grandson, was only eight when he ascended the throne, and he showed a disposition the very opposite. Nor does environment explain everything. Josiah had far fewer advantages than Manasseh. Evil influences were round the young prince, but there were good ones also. Hezekiah his father would give him the best of training; his mother, Hephzibah, if it was she that suggested the prophet's allusion in Isaiah 62:5, seems to have left a fragrant memory behind her; Isaiah was still living to be his instructor, if he had been willing to be guided as Josiah was (2 Kings 12:2); there were also the remarkable mercies God had shown to his father and to the nation but a few years before. Contrast Josiah's position, with Amon for a father, and the country in the state to which it was reduced after half a century of heathenism. There is no accounting for these differences through heredity, environment, or in any other way which ignores personality. While as a rule the children of the good turn out well, and the children of the wicked badly, there are startling exceptions on either side. Some from their childhood seem to be the subjects of an innate, virulent depravity, which only needs opportunity to break out into violent forms of evil.
2. His environment was evil. At the same time, it is to be admitted that the circumstances in which he was placed only afforded too much encouragement to the development of Manasseh's ungodly tendencies. It was undeniably a disadvantage to be so early deprived of a father's guidance, and saddled with the responsibilities of a throne. The courtly aristocratic party had never been in real sympathy with Hezekiah's reforms, and they doubtless eagerly embraced the opportunity afforded by the accession of a young king of influencing him to a different line of conduct. Throughout the country also Hezekiah's reformation had been largely external, and people were tired of the restraints which it imposed. The reaction which ensued has been compared to that of queen Mary's reign after the death of Edward VI., or of the Restoration after the Puritan strictness of the Commonwealth. The upper and aristocratic classes of a country have seldom been marked by their fondness for earnest religion. The way of the world and fashion are far more ruling influences with them, and as at this time "Nineveh was to Western Asia what the Paris of Louis XIV. was to Europe," it can easily be understood that "not to imitate it was to be provincial and vulgar" (Geikie). The moment the heathen spirit got the upper hand, and secured the countenance of the king, it was sure to prevail. The earnest followers of Jehovah shrank down into an inconsiderable minority.
II. HIS EXCESSES IN IDOLATRY. The account given of Manasseh's doings shows to what lengths he went in undoing the arrangements of his father. He seems, in fact, to have aimed at nothing less than a complete suppression of the worship of Jehovah, and the reorganization of the religious cult of the nation upon foreign models.
1. He rebuilt the high places. These Hezekiah had pulled down - a point of attainment to conformity with God's Law not reached by any previous king. Manasseh now reversed that action of his father, and rebuilt the shrines. The centralization of worship in Jerusalem may have been felt to be irksome; perhaps, too, the bad character of many of the priests added to its unpopularity. Manasseh may have claimed to he going back to old custom, with the end of making religion more free, popular, and joyous in its character. In this he had the mass of the people, and most of the official classes with him, as "in England the bulk of the nation and of the clergy returned at once to Romanism, when restored by Mary, after the death of Edward VI." It is a sad thing to see a nation going back from any high point of attainment - Reformation or other - as, again, it is a sad thing to see one individual building again the things which he destroyed (Galatians 2:18).
2. His wholesale importation of idolatries.
(1) Foreign idolatries. Manasseh exceeded even Ahaz in the zeal with which he imported idolatries of every kind from foreign nations. Baal and Astarte worship, of course, was introduced after the pattern of Ahab, and the Asherah symbol again reared itself in public view in Jerusalem. The taste of Ahaz for new altars was more than surpassed under the auspices of his successor. There was imported also, in grander style than ever, the worship of the sun and moon and heavenly bodies - the white horses and chariots of the sun being now one of the institutions of the temple (2 Kings 23:10, 11). "Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods?" asks a prophet (Jeremiah 2:11); but Judah had changed her God for senseless idols. A policy of this kind is bound to end in the dissolution of a nation. The deepest bond of nationality is religion, and when a people renounces its traditional faith, and becomes a mere receptacle for a chaos of foreign religious ideas, it is sure, ere long, to fall to pieces. The Roman Empire was in this condition before its fall.
(2) The worst idolatries. It was not merely foreign idolatries which Manasseh introduced, but the worst, the vilest, and the most cruel of these idolatries. In particular, license was given to the practice of the worst and vilest rites of the Astarte-worship, and that close by the very house of the Lord (2 Kings 23:6, 7); while the fearful worship of Moloch, with its human sacrifices, was revived, and the king himself gave sanction to it by devoting at least one of his sons to the fire. These were the abominations for which God had cast out the original inhabitants of the land, and now they were reintroduced in full force.
(3) The attendant superstitions of idolatry. Idolatry here, as elsewhere, brought in its train a host of other baleful superstitions. Those who forsake God have ever been prone to fall a prey to the most childish delusions and impostures. The worship of the heavenly bodies brought with it the practice of astrology; the craving for communion with the unseen world led to necromancy, witchcraft, and enchantments; boasting a false freedom, the mind fell into an abject slavery to demonism (cf. the development of spiritualism in our own day). The movers in this new introduction of idolatry would no doubt claim the praise due to minds enlightened and emancipated from the narrow ideas in which the people of Judah hitherto had been bound. They were bringing in a new era of toleration, culture, breadth of view and sentiment, and the result was to be a great improvement in the state of the nation. In reality they were loosening all religious and social bonds, and opening the floodgates to corruption.
3. His desecration of the temple. The tale of Manasseh's iniquities is not yet ended. Not content with bringing new idolatries into vogue, Manasseh set to work systematically to overthrow the worship of Jehovah, and put his foreign gods in the place devoted to Jehovah's honor. Neither Athaliah nor Ahaz had ventured to introduce idolatry into the temple, but Manasseh took this step beyond either of them. He set up his numerous altars in the house of the Lord. Specially he erected altars for the worship of the host of heaven in the two courts of the temple. Then, to cap all, he introduced into the very building itself an image of the Asherah he had made, replete as that was with vile associations. Insult to Jehovah could go no further. In that very place of which Jehovah had said, "In Jerusalem will I put my Name there;" "In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my Name forever; " - even there, in the very dwelling-place of the holy God among men, this impure symbol was erected. The Asharah-image in the temple was, as it were, the summing-up in symbol of the whole apostasy of the people, the formal token of their breach of the covenant, on fidelity to which depended their possession of the land, and as such, the desecration is frequently alluded to (Jeremiah 7:30; Jeremiah 19:3-5).
4. His shedding of innocent blood. This is the final and culminating charge against Manasseh, "Be shed innocent blood very much, Sill he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another." The words speak to a deliberate and organized persecution of Jehovah's servants - perhaps a massacre such as that of St. Bartholomew in France, a determined attempt to crush out in blood all dissent from and opposition to the king's measures. This is the persecution in which it is said that Isaiah perished. It is the shedding of innocent blood which, we are told further, "the Lord would not pardon" (2 Kings 24:4). "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15). We see from this example what the spirit of false toleration, of spurious culture, of the breadth of view which confounds truth and error, leads to; what real intolerance and hatred of God underlie it. Rights of conscience will meet with scant recognition under any system which denies the true God.
III. HIS LATE REPENTANCE. It is a valuable appendix to this history which we find in the Book of Chronicles. There we are told what we should not have suspected from the narrative before us, that Manasseh late in life repented of his sin, and obtained mercy from God (2 Chronicles 33:11-17). We have had instances of kings reigning well through the greater parts of their lives and failing at the close; this is the first and only case of a Jewish king reigning ill and finally repenting. We are taught by the story of Manasseh's repentance:
1. The seeds of early instruction may blossom after many days. Who can doubt but that it was the impressions received in early days which at last revived, and brought Manasseh back to Jehovah.
2. There is hope for the worst sinners. After Manasseh, surely any one. Nor did his conversion take place till his course was nearly run. We should despair of none. Miracles of grace as great as this have perhaps rarely been witnessed, but they have been witnessed.
3. God subdues men to himself by affliction. It was while a prisoner in Babylon - taken there by the captains of the King of Assyria - that Manasseh found the Lord.
4. Repentance does not always secure the reversal of the temporal effects of sin. The wickedness of Manasseh through a long reign wrought out its effects independently of him. His conversion came too late to undo them. The blood he had shed "the Lord would not pardon." The nation was inculpated as well as he, and though he repented, it did not. It is an awful thought that no after-repentance can obliterate the effects of words spoken and deeds done while sin still had dominion over us. Nor can the effects of sin on our own health, characters, usefulness, etc., ever be completely recalled. - J.O.
I. MANASSEH MORE WICKED THAN THE CANAANITES. He had "done wickedly above all that the Amorites did." His deeds may have been the same, but his guilt was greater than theirs, inasmuch as:
1. His light was greater than theirs. The Canaanites had the light of nature, and that, indeed, sufficed to render them inexcusable (Romans 1:18-32; Romans 2:14, 15). But Manasseh had the light of revelation. He was king of a nation to which God had made fully known the truth of his Being, character, and attributes; which had laws and statutes given to it such as no other nation possessed (Deuteronomy 4:6-8); and which enjoyed the living ministry of holy prophets. He had also had the advantage of a pious father's example and training. For such a one to go back to the sins of the Amorites was a heinous offence. It made his wickedness greater than theirs. We shall be judged by the light we possess (Luke 12:47, 48), and if our light is not improved it will be more tolerable for heathen nations than for us (Matthew 11:21-24; Matthew 12:41, 42).
2. He was guilty of apostasy; they were not. If the Amorities did these abominations, and served these idols, it could at least be said that they had never lived under any other system. God had suffered them to walk in their own way (Acts 14:16; Acts 17:30). But in his evil Manasseh was guilty of a direct act of apostasy. He was going back from past attainments. He was violating a covenant made at Sinai, and repeatedly renewed. It is a different thing for a heathen to commit the vile acts in which he has been brought up, and for a Christian to renounce Christian training and baptismal engagements, and do the same acts.
3. The corruption of the best is the worst. This is another principle which explains why Manasseh's abominations are represented as worse than those of the Amorites. A nation, being once enlightened, cannot sin as the semi-ignorant heathen do. It develops worse and more virulent evils. As a brute cannot sin in the same way as a man, or a child in the same way as an adult, so a nation enlightened by revelation can no longer sin as a nation does which has not this light. The higher consciousness reacts upon the sin and modifies it. There are evils possible under a Christian civilization which surpass anything known in heathenism. If our great cities show higher heights of virtue, they could also reveal lower depths of vice than Nineveh, Rome, Pekin, or Calcutta.
II. THE SEVERITY OF JERUSALEM'S PUNISHMENT.
1. The grounds of the punishment. These are twofold:
(1) Manasseh's sins as above described. "Because Manasseh King of Judah hath done these abominations," etc. (ver. 11). In this sin of the king, however, the people shared. He "made Judah also to sin with his idols." King and people, therefore, must suffer together. There is a corporate responsibility, which involves a community in common guilt, whether the sin proceeds from the head or the members.
(2) The entail of past transgression. "Because they have done evil in my sight since the day their fathers came forth from Egypt, unto this day" (ver. 15). That entail would have been cut off by timely repentance, but, in default of repentance, the guilt continues to be handed down. This is another phase of corporate responsibility. The life of the nation is continuous, and one generation has to accept its responsibilities from another. We see the same principle, e.g., in the handing down of national doubt. Christ views the Jewish nation of his day as chargeable with all the righteous blood that had been shed from the days of Abel downwards (Matthew 23:35).
2. The character of the punishment. It would be:
(1) Startling. "Such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle." Wars, sieges of cities, and captivities, with the horrors attendant on them, were common enough in those days, but this vengeance of God on Jerusalem would be so awful as to shock and amaze even those familiarized with such scenes. The very report of it would produce a stinging sound in their ears. The fulfillment of the threat was partly under Nebuchadnezzar, but completely under the Romans (Matthew 24:21).
(2) Measured. "I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab." The idea is that God would take strict account of Judah's sin, as already he had done of that of Samaria. The measuring-line and 'plummet are introduced for purposes of precision. God would measure exactly the transgression of the people; would note precisely the degree of their deviation from righteousness (cf. Amos 7:7-9); and to this measured guilt the punishment would be proportioned. The reason of measurement was that judgment was no more to be qualified by mercy. The nation was to bear the full load of its iniquity. It is a terrible thing when God thus "marks iniquity" (Psalm 130:3); for then the case of the sinner is hopeless.
(3) Complete. "I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish," etc. "I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance," etc. The figure of cleansing out a dish till it is as clean as wiping can make it is a very graphic one for the utter emptying and desolation that was to overtake Jerusalem. The city would not simply be humbled, as on many previous occasions, but would be completely destroyed, and the people led away by their enemies as a prey and a spoil. The predictions, as we know, were fulfilled to the letter. Manasseh might kill the men who uttered them, but he could not hinder their words from coming true; nay, his violence put a new seal on the certainty of their fulfillment. In the temporal calamities that were to overtake Jerusalem, we find a proof that verily there "is a God that judgeth in the earth" (Psalm 58:11), and we are warned lest we provoke his "wrath to the uttermost" (1 Thessalonians 2:16) by our own impenitence.
III. MANASSEH'S DEATH. The reign of more than half a century came at length to a close, and, though the last years of it were marked by repentance, it left indelible traces of evil on the condition of the people. That by which Manasseh was specially remembered was "his sin that he sinned." He was buried in "the garden of his own house, the garden of Uzza." Amen also was buried in this garden (ver. 26). There was another garden which had a sepulcher in it (John 19:41); but how different the sleepers! - J.O.
I. THE POWER OF EVIL OFTEN COUNTERACTS THE GOOD. Manasseh had humbled himself before God. He obtained pardon. But he could not undo the guilty past. He could not undo the effects of his evil example and influence. We see how his sins were imitated and continued by his son Amen. How careful we should be what influence we exercise, what an example we leave behind us! Many a penitent sinner would give worlds if he could undo the consequences to others of his own past sins.
II. THE LAW OF RETRIBUTION ONCE MORE. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Every case of disobedience against God on the part of Israel and her kings brought its corresponding penalty. Amen was very defiant in his sin. "He humbled not himself before the Lord... but trespassed more and more" (2 Chronicles 33:23). He cast off the authority of God. The day came when his own servants rose in rebellion against his authority, and conspired against him, and slew him. The conspirators also met with their punishment. "The people of the land slew all them that had conspired against King Amen" (ver. 24). Amid all its corruptions, the nation had not yet utterly lost the sense of justice. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." - C.H.I.
I. HIS REIGN WAS VERY SHORT. "He reigned two years," etc. The wonder is that such a man should have been permitted to breathe the breath of life. The sooner a bad king dies the better.
1. The better for his own sake. It restrains his own responsibilities and the aggravation of his guilt.
2. The better for his race. A fountain of moral poison has been dried up for him; the social air is less poisonous.
II. HIS REIGN WAS VERY WICKED. "And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them." Of the wickedness of kings we have had abundant examples in these sketches. It is, indeed, a fire that burns athwart the ages.
III. THE REIGN WAS VERY TRAGICAL. "And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and slew the king in his own house." How tragic the end of this man! His "servants," who should have guarded him, murdered him. "His own house," that should have been his castle of defense, was the place of his execution. In this verse the people:
1. Did justice to the traitors who murdered their king.
2. Did kindness to themselves in preparing the way for Josiah. - D.T.
I. A PALER COPY OF HIS FATHER. The only noteworthy facts about Amen, during his brief two years' reign, are:
1. His imitation of Manasseh's wickedness. His father, during the greater part of his reign, had set an evil example, but towards its close he had repented. Amen did not imitate the repentance, but imitated the sin. He walked in all the ways his father had walked in, apparently setting up again the idols which his father had latterly removed (2 Chronicles 33:15).
2. He was the father of a good son, viz. Josiah, his successor. This is another of the surprising alternations of character already alluded to. How Josiah came out of such a home with the character he did must remain inexplicable, unless we are to attribute it to his grandfather's influence after his return from Babylon.
II. ANOTHER VICTIM OF COURT CONSPIRACY. Joash and Amaziah among the kings of Judah had met their death by conspiracy (2 Kings 12:20, 21; 2 Kings 14:19), and many of the king of Israel had thus perished. But no king of Judah came to this end till he had first fallen away from God. Amen had a like miserable death. His servants conspired against him, and slew him in his own house. The fact that they dared to do so may indicate a tendency to reaction in the public mind against the excesses of idolatry in which the king indulged. The people, however, had no intention of allowing conspirators to seize the throne, so they slew the murderers, and set up Josiah as king. This, again, for a time led to a great reaction for the better. - J.O.