Manasseh, son of Hezekiah

Manasseh certainly lived up to the meaning of his name by totally forgetting the righteous example of his father Hezekiah. The debauchery of his wicked rule directly precipitated the Babylonian exile. He was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years. He early fell under the influence of the heathen court rule, and his reign was characterized by a sad relapse into the idolatry of his grandfather Ahaz. The terror of Assyrian might fostered a fascination for her cults. This resulted in a syncretism of Baalism, a cult of Asherah as goddess of fertility, astral worship, with spiritism and divination (II Kings 21:3-7). Manasseh installed an engraved image of Asherah in the house of the LORD, and even went so far as to cause his own sons to 'pass through the fire' in the valley of the son of Hinnom. This was a particularly wicked practice connected with the worship of Molech, the Ammonite god — and a practice expressly forbidden by the Law of Moses (Leviticus 18:21).

“Moreover Menashsheh shed innocent blood very much, until he had filled Yerushalayim from one end to another; besides his sin with which he made Yehudah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.” (I Kings 21:16, HNV) Despite the rebuke and warnings of contemporary prophets Isaiah and Micah, Manasseh persisted in his attempt to corrupt the people and banish the worship of the one true God from the land. According to Jewish tradition, the prophet Isaiah was put to death at this time, having been sawn asunder in the trunk of a tree (see also II Kings 24:3, 4; Jeremiah 2:30). While Scripture does not expressly state this, it does tell us that this fate befell some of the ancient prophets (Hebrews 11:37).

“So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon.” (II Chronicles 33:9-11, NKJV)

Esarhaddon, Sennacherib's successor on the Assyrian throne, who resided in Babylon for thirteen years (the only Assyrian monarch to ever reign from Babylon), took Manasseh prisoner (B.C. 681) to Babylon. Such captive kings were treated with great cruelty, often led on chain before the conqueror with a hook or ring passed through their lips or their jaws. The severity of Manasseh's imprisonment brought him to repentance.

“When he was in distress, he begged the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him; and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Yerushalayim into his kingdom. Then Menashsheh knew that the LORD he was God.” (II Chronicles 33:12-13, HNV)

The now humbled King of Judah abandoned his idolatrous ways, tore down the altars he had erected to the many false gods, and cast them out of Jerusalem. He built up the wall surrounding the city of David, and stationed brave captains in all the fortified cities of Judah. He built up the altar of the LORD, and offered sacrifices of peace-offerings and thanksgiving. An edict went out to all the people of Judah commanding them to serve the LORD their God, the God of Israel. However, the high places remained.

After the longest reign in the history of Judah, Manasseh died and was buried in the garden of Uzza, the “garden of his own house” (II Kings 21:17-18, II Chronicles 22:20), and not in the city of David, among his ancestors. He was succeeded by his son Amon, and the apparently superficial reforms of his father were quickly swept away.

ARCHEOLOGICAL NOTE: The name 'Manasseh, king of Judah' appears on the Prism of Esarhaddon (Me-na-si-i sar la-u-di), and on the Prism of Ashurbanipal (Mi-in-si-esar la-u-di), among twenty-two tributaries of Assyria. The Chronicler narrates Manasseh's deportation to Babylon, his repentance and release from prison.