Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem:
Verse 1. - The parallel adds the name of Manasseh's mother, the well-omened name Hephzibah, "My delight is in her" (Isaiah 62:4).
But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
Verse 2. - The abominations of the heathen (see Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
Verse 3. - He built again; literally, returned and built - the ordinary Hebrew idiom for "took again to building," etc. Made groves; i.e. as often before the stocks that set forth Ashtoreth (Deuteronomy 16:21). The parallel gives prominence to the one Asherah, ten times offensive, as set up in the house of the Lord (ver. 7 there). The mention of his pantheon of the host of heaven is an addition to the wickedness of former wicked kings. It is also noted in the parallel.
Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.
Verse 4. - In Jerusalem (so 2 Chronicles 6:6; 2 Chronicles 7:16). The quotation is from Deuteronomy 12:11.
And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.
And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
Verse 6. - Caused his children. Parallel (2 Kings 21:6), "his son," in the singular number (see also 2 Kings 16:3 compared with our 2 Chronicles 28:3). There can be no doubt that this worst of cruel abominations, learned from Ammon and Moab, amounted to nothing less than the sacrifice of the child in the fire. It is, perhaps, something remarkable that we do not encounter anywhere any description of the exact manner of administration of this cruelty, and of its taking effect on the pitiable victim. The solemn commands of Leviticus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 18:10 bespeak sufficiently distinctly the prevision and earnest precaution of the Divine Ruler of Israel, through Moses, on behalf of his people. The following references all bear on the subject, and will be studied with advantage in order given: 2 Kings 3:27; 2 Kings 17:17; Ezekiel 20:26; Micah 6:7; Amos 5:26; Jeremiah 7:32; Jeremiah 19:4; Ezekiel 16:20; Ezekiel 20:26. In the valley of the son of Hinnom (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16). On an elevation at the eastern extremity of this valley it was that Solomon erected "high places" to Moloch, entailing on himself a long and dire responsibility (1 Kings 11:7). Consult also our 2 Chronicles 28:3 and note there; with added reference, Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' pp. 172, 482. Also he observed times; Revised Version, and he practised augury. The Hebrew word is ועְונֵן. This root is found once in piel infinitive (Genesis 9:14), and is rendered (Authorized Version), "when I bring a cloud," etc.; beside, it is found in all ten times, always in poel, in preterite twice (the present passage and parallel), future once (Leviticus 19:26), participle seven times (Deuteronomy 18:10, 14; Judges 9:37, margin), in which six places it is rendered (Authorized Version) "observing times," once in Isaiah and Micah with rendering "soothsayers," again in Isaiah "sorcerers," and in Jeremiah "enchanter." There is difficulty in fixing its exact meaning, though its general meaning may be embraced in the words of the Revised Version. A likely meaning, judging from derivation, may be the practising augury from observing of the clouds. The passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy are those that of old solemnly prohibited it. And used enchantments; Hebrew, וְנִחֵשׁ; the root is the familiar word for "serpent." The verb occurs eleven times, always in piel. The prohibition to practise such "enchantment" or divination is found in Leviticus 19:26 and Leviticus 18:10; the five occasions of the use of the word in Genesis, however (Genesis 30:27; Genesis 44:5, 15), argue that it was not a thing intrinsically bad, but bad probably from . certain, so to say, simoniacal possibilities to which it lent itself. There lay in it some assumption, no doubt, of superhuman help, and the wickedness may have consisted in assuming it where it was not real. And used witchcraft; Hebrew, וְכִשֵּׂפ; Revised Version, and practised sorcery. The word is found six times in piel. The prohibition is found in Deuteronomy 18:10; the rendering of the word (Authorized Version) is by the term "sorcery" three times, and "witch" or "witchcraft" the other three times. Dealt with a familiar Spirit, and with wizards. The prohibitions are in Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:11. See as illustrations 1 Samuel 28:3-21; and notice the language of Isaiah 8:19, "that chirp and mutter;" and Isaiah 19:3.
And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:
Verses 7, 8. - (Comp. Psalm 132:13, 14; 2 Samuel 7:10.) Verse 7. - A carved image, the idol; translate, a carved image of the idol; i.e. the Asherah; for see the parallel (2 Kings 21:7). The idol; Hebrew, סֶמֶל. This name is found here and in ver. 15; in Deuteronomy 4:16, translated (Authorized Version) "figure;" and Ezekiel 8:3, 5, translated (Authorized Version) "image."
Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.
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.
And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.
Verse 10. - (See parallel, vers. 11-15.)
Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.
Verse 11. - The contents of this and the following six verses (to the seventeenth) are not in the parallel, though their place there is plain. That parallel, however, supplies in its ver. 16 a very forcible narration of the evil conduct of Manasseh in Jerusalem itself, so that he "filled" it with "innocent blood" from "one end to another." The King of Assyria; i.e. either Esarhaddon, B.C. 680, or (though it is not probable) his son, Assur-banipal, B.C. 667-647. Among the thorns; i.e. with hooks or rings (so 2 Kings 19:28, where the same word is used; as also in Exodus 35:22; Isaiah 37:29; Ezekiel 19:4, 9; Ezekiel 29:4; Ezekiel 38:4).
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 intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.
Verse 13. - And prayed unto him. The apocryphal "Prayer of Manasses" is not at all likely to be authentic. And brought him again to Jerusalem. The Targum gives many mythical tales as to how this deliverance was effected. Then Manasseh knew that. Did he not know, well know, before? So far as the mode of expression may in any degree warrant such a stretch of charity, what an idea it gives of the force with which grossest error will captivate even the taught; and with what force of a furious wind did the contaminating influence of idolatries all around sweep betimes before them - these very kings and chief men of Judah and Jerusalem! It is evident that there was always among the people a "remnant" who kept the faith. See here, e.g., the reference to the "innocent blood" shed in Jerusalem, no doubt bleed of those who would not consent to idolatry - blood of noble martyrs.
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.
Verse 14. - The wall without; or, Revised Version, the outer wall, is probably one with that of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:5), which now Manasseh repairs, or rebuilds, and perhaps lengthens as well as heightens. The fish gate (Nehemiah 13:16), left on the north of Jerusalem, and opened on the main road for the sea (Conder's 'Handbook,' etc., p. 343). The wall traversed the north and east sides to Ophel, "on the wall" of which, it is said (2 Chronicles 27:3), "Jotham built much." Hezekiah also built much there, and now Manasseh raised it up a very great height.
And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city.
Verse 15. - It will be noted how the mount of the house of the Lord is here differenced from the city. "The city" seems to have comprised the two hills east and west of the Tyropoean valley, and the "fore" city enclosed by the new wall (see Dr. Murphy's valuable little 'Handbook to Chronicles'). The strange gods, the idol, and the altars have all been mentioned in vers. 3-7.
And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.
Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only.
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.
Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel.
Verse 18. - The parallel again obtains (2 Kings 21:17, 18), but in shorter form. His prayer. This is for the present, at any rate, lost, the apocryphal and the Septuagint manuscript version of it alike not genuine. The words of the seers. So again our compiler shows undesigned correspondence with the writer of the parallel, as above quoted (2 Kings 21:10-15). As to the original authorities quoted here, book of the kings, etc., and next verse, "the sayings of the seers," see Introduction, vol. 1. § 5.
His prayer also, and how God was intreated of him, and all his sin, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers.
So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.
Verse 20. - In his own house. The parallel has, "In the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza;" i.e., with little doubt, what had been formerly the garden of one Uzza.
Amon was two and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned two years in Jerusalem.
Verse 21. - The long reign of Manasseh of fifty-five years - a signal and merciful instance of space given for repentance - ended, his death met him presumably at the age of sixty-seven. The son who succeeded him was twenty-two years old, born therefore not before his father was forty-five years old. This may be an indication that it was indeed not one son only whom Manasseh "caused to pass through the fire" (ver. 6). He emulated the sins of the former life of his father, but did not, like him, repent. It will be noted that in ver. 19 of the parallel his mother's name is given as "Meshulle-meth, the daughter of Haruz, of Jotbah," of whom nothing is known.
But he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father: for Amon sacrificed unto all the carved images which Manasseh his father had made, and served them;
And humbled not himself before the LORD, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.
And his servants conspired against him, and slew him in his own house.
Verse 24. - His servants conspired. So also Joash and Amaziah had been punished, the latter avenging the death of his father on those servants who had caused it (2 Kings 1:14:5; 2 Chronicles 24:25, 26; 2 Chronicles 25:27).
But 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.
Verse 25. - The people of the land. The emphatic expression here used (as also in the parallel), with its repetition in same verse malting it more so, may either betray the unfortunate sympathy that the worse element of the nation felt with the bad king and his evil ways, or it may mean that the healthier element of the people insisted on the right respect being observed to the proper succession. The conduct of Josiah from very tender years, which could not have been entirely his own, but must be credited in part to those who taught and influenced him, throws the balance of probability, perhaps, into this latter and more charitable view. The parallel contains two closing verses (25, 26) additional to what we have, giving the authority as the "book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah," and stating that Amen also "was buried in his sepulchre, in the garden of Uzza."