The Lesson of Manasseh
Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, is one of the more intriguing kings in the history of God’s people. He began his fifty-five year reign at the age of twelve. His time as king is introduced with this description:
“And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord” (2 Kings 21:2–5).
Manasseh’s evil was so great that he placed pagan idols in Solomon’s temple. And not just any gods. Asherah was a goddess devoted to fertility. The worship of Asherah was often manifested through sexual perversion. The symbols used to worship Asherah were sexual in nature. Manasseh’s evil was a perversion far greater than anything Judah had experienced.
As if that were not bad enough, Manasseh seems to surpass that evil: “And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger” (2 Kings 21:6). Manasseh offered his son by placing him in the burning hot hands of a metal idol. He also practiced witchcraft.
God sees the wickedness of Manasseh and takes action. His justice demands punishment for the king and his people. God says He will measure out Judah and send them the appropriate chastisement:
“therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down” (2 Kings 21:12–13).
In 2 Kings 21:17–18, we read the equivalent of Manasseh’s obituary. We are left with the picture of a failed evil king. But there is another part to this story found in 2 Chronicles 33. The Assyrian captain comes and leads Manasseh away by a hook and bronze shackles (2 Chron. 33:10–11). And then we read this:
“And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chronicles 33:12–13).
Manasseh repents. He confesses. And even more surprisingly, God forgives Manasseh and reinstates him as king. When you consider the massive evil Manasseh had committed, it seems absurd that God would forgive him.
But the story of Manasseh is recorded to teach us this valuable lesson: genuine repentance unlocks the door of God’s mercy. Manasseh removed all of his perversions and evils from Judah (2 Chron. 33:14–16). He completely changed and served God until he died.
It does not matter what you have done in your past. You can change your tomorrow—just like Manasseh did. All you need to do is confess to God and repent (1 John 1:9). Learn the lesson of Manasseh.