Sermon preached on 2 Kings 21 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 11/08/2020 in Novato, CA.
The name Manasseh in Israel’s family heritage stems back to the oldest son of the patriarch Joseph. The name Manasseh means “to forget” in Hebrew. Joseph named his firstborn this as a testimony of how God caused him to forget all his hardships when God rose Joseph to prominence in the Egyptian government. After all the betrayal by his brothers and being sold off to slavery in Egypt, God redeemed Joseph’s life and brought him to a position of great honor and power. So, when his son was born, he named him Manasseh. It signaled how Joseph didn’t want to forget that God made him to forget all his past hardships. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this King Manasseh, son of David, did. For most of his life, he forgot the LORD’s great redemption of Israel and his many blessings upon them as his chosen people. Sadly, King Manasseh’s forgetting of the LORD was something Israel had been doing off and on throughout their long history after the exodus from Egypt. Today’s passage reaches a height of such forsaking of God with all the great sin recorded herein. We see then a record of this great sin under Manasseh and also his son Amon. We also see here God’s fitting albeit sobering response.
So then, let’s begin with Manasseh’s record of sin. Notice that in verse 17 we find the narrator’s typical summary statement usually given at the end of a king’s life. It usually references where else the king’s record is chronicled. But there in verse 17 you notice that it also includes “and the sin that he committed.” When typical patterns are broken in the text, the differences are being highlighted. Sadly, the narrator says that the records for Manasseh especially record all the sin that he committed. That is because of the height of sin that was reached under his reign. What a turn Manasseh was from his godly father Hezekiah. He was not like Hezekiah or David. He wasn’t even like his other royal forefathers who were variously wayward in their obedience to God. Rather, Manasseh’s height of evil was the worst to date among the kings of Judah.
So then, we see various sins of Manasseh chronicled here. Notice the first way his sin is categorized here. It was sin like King Ahab and his wicked house. The Book of 1 and 2 Kings spend a considerable amount of time describing the great evil of Ahab and his house and how God eventually did away with that wicked house. Ahab was the most wicked king in the history of the northern kingdom of Israel. Sadly, this son of David, Manasseh, is described to be like Ahab in terms of his wickedness, verse 4. One way Manasseh’s evil was like Ahab is in terms of gross violations of the first commandment. Like Ahab, Manasseh brought the worship of Baal and Asherah into the country. He erected altars to Baal and made an image of Asherah. As if that wasn’t a bad enough rejection of the LORD, he even placed some of these things inside the temple! He made the temple to the LORD God to be some polytheistic pagan house of worship! Even King Solomon back in his day of making shrines for the false gods of his foreign wives had the restraint to at least make their own separate houses of worship. But here Hezekiah desecrates the LORD’s house by bringing altars and images to false gods. You might as well sacrifice pigs to Zeus on the LORD’s altar like the infamous Antiochus Epiphanes would later do. But this was Manasseh, descendant of King David who was doing this. Add to all this polytheistic worship that he also worshiped all the host of heaven, verse 5 – in other words practicing astrology like the pagans did worshipping the sun and the moon and the planets and the stars. Likewise, verse 6 describes all the witchcraft and sorcery he also engaged in. I hope it goes without saying that all these things were forbidden by the law of God and were a rejection of the one true God and the true religion.
In thinking of how Manasseh’s wickedness was like Ahab’s, we should also add to the list what we see in verse 16, that Manasseh shed much innocent blood. The text is brief, but the later historian Josephus helps fill in the details – that Manasseh killed many prophets and many righteous men so that Jerusalem “was overflowing with blood”. Church tradition even recounts that Manasseh murdered the prophet Isaiah, sawing him in two. When we remember how Ahab’s wife Jezebel killed many prophets of the LORD and how they murdered people like Naboth for his vineyard, we can again see a similarity between Ahab’s house and Manasseh. Manasseh rejected the prophets and spilled innocent blood and in doing so showed his wickedness like Ahab.
Let us now notice a second way that Manasseh’s record of sin is categorized in this passage. Not only was it like Ahab, but it was also like the Amorites, verse 11. The Amorites was one of the people groups that had lived in the Promised Land before God expelled them and settled Israel in their place. Technically, the Amorites were just one of several people groups that God removed from the land at that time, but sometimes God used the label of Amorites in summary while really referring to all the people groups. For example, back in Genesis 15:16, God told the patriarch Abraham that it was not yet time for him to give Abraham the land, because the sin of the Amorites was not yet complete. In other words, God there spoke of how he would later judge the inhabitants of the Promised Land for their many sins, and in that text referred to them just as Amorites. But clearly he had the other nations in mind too. We see the same thing here, because while verse 11 references the Amorites, back in verse 2 it mentions more generally the “nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. And there in verse 2 it’s the same point – Manasseh had been sinning in the same sort of fashion of all those previous nations.
In many ways, the list of the specific sins given for how Manasseh was like Ahab is also the same list for how Manasseh was like these Amorite nations who had lived there before. I might also note on the list that child sacrifice referenced in verse 6. I don’t recall even Ahab ever doing that. But Scripture definitely records this as a practice of these former Amorite and Canaanite nations that were in the land before Israel. And as we acknowledge this, notice that in verse 11 it says that they did even more evil than all these former pagan nations. They didn’t just match their evil. In God’s assessment, they took it to an all-time high in terms of evil. That is sobering to consider how wickedly astray Manasseh brought Judah. So many first and second commandment violations under Manasseh’s reign. And yet just like God had previously said to Abraham that the Amorites sin was something that accumulated more and more over time – so too was the case with Israel. While this chapter especially finds fault with Manasseh, verse 15 says that Israel had been sinfully provoking God to anger ever since he brought them out of Egypt. Like the Amorites before, God had been very patient with Israel, but their sin and guilt continued to accumulate more and more over the generations, coming to a height here.
Part of what makes Manasseh and Judah’s sin so bad here is the way in which they had forgotten their special heritage with the LORD. There is a lot of redemptive history referenced in this chapter. While they seem to have forgotten such in their day, our passage won’t let us forget. Verse 15 references the Exodus from Egypt. Verse 8 references Moses receiving the law at Sinai. We’ve already seen the conquest of Canaan referenced in verse 2. Verse 8 references how God brought them out of the wandering wilderness to plant them in the land. Verse 7 references David and Solomon and how God had put his holy name in Jerusalem and in the temple as a light of his presence among his people.
As we see this history recounted in this chapter, we remember how the three big pilgrimage feasts in Israel were supposed to remind God’s people of all he had done for them, so they would not forget him or forsake him. Passover recalled the exodus and the freedom from bondage in Egypt. Pentecost reminded them of the giving of the law at Sinai and his Presence going with them in the Tabernacle. The Feast of Tabernacles reminded them how God planted them in the Promised Land after all the wilderness wandering. These were lessons not to be forgotten. Interestingly, this chapter is bookended with Kings Hezekiah and Josiah reinstituting the Passover celebration which had fallen into neglect. Such apparently was not the case during Manasseh and Amon’s reign. They had forgotten the LORD and all he had done for Israel and went after other gods instead and disregarded his holy laws.
That leads us now to our second point to consider God’s response. After so much patience God had shown to Israel over the generations, we see a turning point in this generation in terms of declaring judgment on Judah and Jerusalem. And while God will yet patiently delay the full execution of this judgment, there seems a inevitability at this point on what God here threatens. Of course, it’s not like he hasn’t been warning them. Not only has prophet and after prophet warned them through the years, but verse 10 we see a multitude of prophets referenced for the current time. Not only that, but it’s not like God hasn’t already sent chastening upon them to try to wake them up. We see a reminder of that in verse 14. There God mentions that this new threatened judgment is to come upon the remnant. Judah was already in a remnant state. Remember under Hezekiah’s reign, Assyria had already come through and wiped out much of the nation. But God spared Jerusalem. What was left of Judah was already just a remnant. But now God is declaring a mighty judgment to now fall on this remaining remnant.
What will this judgment entail? Well, it very much matches up with their role models. Manasseh had turned to be like the nations before that God had driven out of the land. And Manasseh had turned to be like the apostate house of Ahab whom God had allowed Assyria to destroy and exile out of the Promised Land. We see here that such will be the outcome now for Judah. The description here in verse 12 is that the disaster he’s bringing will tickle or ring the ears of any who hear of it. It will be so shocking you will want to cover you ears from the report of it. Verse 14 says that God will forsake Judah like it has forsaken him. They’ll be given into the hand of their enemies and become prey and spoil. The point is that they are going to be conquered and exiled, just like God had done with the Amorite and Canaanite nations before. Just like he had done with Abab and Samaria, verse 13. I love God’s righteous sense of poetic justice. Manasseh followed in the footsteps of Ahab and the Amorites and so God will give him what he had given them.
We mentioned in our first point how Judah had failed to remember their special heritage and history with God. We said how their three big feasts were supposed to teach them that. We pointed to the various references to their history that are in this chapter. Well, as we think of this judgment being declared upon them, we can think it in terms of reversal of that history. And thus we can think of those three feasts and think of how what is represented in each of those also is being reversed. The feast of Tabernacles finds its reversal as they will be uprooted from the land of rest that God had settled them in, giving them the same fortune as Samaria, verse 13. The feast of Pentecost finds its reversal in that God’s blessed Presence would be withdrawn from them as he forsakes them and leaves them to their enemies, verse 14. The feast of Passover finds its reversal as they will find themselves yet again in the bondage of slavery to another nation, as their spoil, verse 14. They had forgotten and forsaken their special heritage with the LORD and neglect his law and covenant. So then, God was reversing all the special privileges they had come to know in him.
And so, judgment was at hand for Judah and Jerusalem. As verse 13 says, God’s going to treat them like a dish that he is wiping clean in judgment. We know this will historically be fulfilled by the Babylonians in less than a century. While God yet exercised patience in executing this judgment, by this point the tone of the prophecies seem that there is no turning back; that such a judgment is now inevitable and that the faithful remnant of the remnant should prepare accordingly.
In our last point for today, I’d like to turn and look at Manasseh’s son and successor, King Amon. This is verses 19-26. Let me begin by telling you something that this book doesn’t record but 2 Chronicles does. Later in his life, Manasseh repents of his great wickedness. God chastens him by allowing the Assyrians to somehow capture him and cart him off to Babylon. This causes Manasseh to repent and cry out to God and somehow he manages to be freed. He comes back to Jerusalem and actually begins to make reforms, including starting to repair the temple he desecrated. While this is a very good thing, we note that 1 and 2 Kings doesn’t choose to report on that fact, and so we won’t dwell on it for today’s sermon. But I bring it up as a point about Amon. While Manasseh had a late in life repentance, he still left a lot of damage upon Israel for his legacy of sin. That includes his son Amon. Because notice what verse 20 tells us. Amon’s short two year reign was conducted in the same way that pre-conversion Manasseh conducted his reign. Pre-conversion Manasseh’s role models had been the Amorites and Ahab. Amon’s role model had been his father – pre-conversion father.
As a side note of application, may this speak against the foolish thinking some people have had when they try to put off turning to the Lord. Maybe you’ve heard it. Maybe you’ve thought it. Some have said, “Yes, I know I should repent of my sins and follow Jesus. But I don’t want to do that yet. I’ll live my life on my own sinful terms a little longer, then I’ll repent when I’m nearing death.” Maybe they don’t say it exactly like that, but you’ve likely heard thinking along these lines before. Well, I’m thankful that Manasseh did repent late in life. There are even some apocryphal prayers of repentance out there that claim to be his prayers. But a life lived by him with such sin left a horrible legacy. His son Amon never turned from his bad example – 2 Chronicles even tells us that explicitly. And we’ll see as we keep studying in 2 Kings a couple more references of how the guilt he brought onto Jerusalem would never fully be expunged until the Babylonian destruction and exile. Manasseh’s personal late-in-life repentance was good for him and his soul, but his lifetime of wickedness left ongoing consequences well after he died.
So then, returning back to the text, we see that apparently some in Israel had had enough of such wickedness. While Manasseh himself was tolerated for such a long reign, the Manasseh 2.0 named Amon did not see such a long reign. Just two years into his time as king, some of his own servants conspired against him and put him to death.
Brothers and sisters, we’ve studied here a chapter that records so much wickedness over two kings and really over the whole history of Israel. We’ve studied here a chapter that declares such a terrible judgment upon them that you just want to cover your ears. What possible hope can we bring from this passage? What possible comfort might we take in a passage like today? I find it in verse 24. You know, the idea of a wicked king’s son being assassinated after just two years should ring a bell. It’s just like what happened to wicked Jeroboam’s son in the northern kingdom. It was also just like what happened to wicked Baasha’s son in the northern kingdom. They get killed and then all the other male heirs of that house are also killed and Israel says they’ve had enough of such a wicked house. Ahab’s house also was completely wiped out. And so here the horribly wicked Manasseh’s son who was just like him is assassinated after just two years. But what do the people of Judah then do? They don’t wipe out the house and dynasty of David. Rather they proceed to install the next heir of David’s line to the throne. They forsake the heir of Manasseh but not the line of David. They anoint Josiah who in fact will be arguably the greatest religious reformer in Israel’s history. Despite all the wickedness, they apparently had not forgotten God’s promise to David of the messiah who would come from his lineage. If they had cut off David’s house at that point, they would have hypothetically severed themselves from that promise. But the God’s promises under the Davidic Covenant here do not fail. And so, we yet find hope of redemption and salvation here in today’s chapter.
Such hope found its fulfillment in the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So too, may we not forget the LORD or his promises which are yes and amen in Christ Jesus. Our hope continues in King Jesus. We continue to hope in the root of Jesse and the throne of David. In Jesus, God has forgotten our sins as he remembers the atoning blood of Jesus Christ shed for us. Let us remember and never forget the heritage and history of redemption that has come to its heights in Jesus Christ. And we’ve been given a feast to help us remember this. We have the Lord’s Supper to proclaim his death and resurrection until he comes.
In conclusion, may we take the practical applications and reminders that come to us today in this passage. We are warned here against going the way of the world like Manasseh and Judah had been doing. We are also warned here against following in the footsteps of apostate denominations who have turned from the truth to no longer be congregations of the Lord but synagogues of Satan. These are real temptations. Churches have fallen prey to such temptations. Let us keep remembering and never forgetting the LORD and the mighty redemption we have in his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Copyright © 2020 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.