Some of my favorite Biblical characters go back to the time of Judah’s kings. Hands down for me is King Hezekiah. The Bible sums up Hezekiah’s life this way: “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments which the Lord commanded Moses. The Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went.” (2 Kings 18:5-7) This man was set apart by his steadfast trust, obedience and complete reliance on God in every situation.
Then there is Hezekiah’s great-grandson, Josiah, who received the same kind of accolades as did his great- grandfather. Josiah… “ did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left…(he) turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might.” (2 Kings 22:2, 23:25). Josiah led Judah to a stupendous revival. He restored the Word of God which had been dust-covered and forgotten for too long. He led the people away from idolatry to worship the Lord God. Josiah had such an impact on so many that when he died in battle “…all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. Jeremiah also lamented for Josiah. And to this day all the singing men and singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations.” (2 Chron 35:24-25)
And finally, there is the son of Hezekiah and grandfather of Josiah. What a great man he must have been! He reigned the longest of any King – 55 years. He no doubt had a tremendous effect on the populace of Judah. His name is Manasseh. The Bible (2 Chron 33:2-9) describes him in this way:
• He did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
• He rebuilt the high places Hezekiah had torn down. He put up altars for the Baal’s, set up a carved idol of a Canaanite goddess in the temple, and put up other altars to worship the sun and moon and stars.
• He sacrificed some of his sons, burning them alive in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom.
• He practiced soothsaying, witchcraft, sorcery and consulted mediums and spiritualists.
• He seduced Judah to do great evil, and he shed innocent blood all over the land.
Decades later God was still pouring out judgment on Judah for the sins of Manasseh. When the time of Judah’s seventy-year captivity in Babylon approached, God told the prophet, Jeremiah: “I will hand them over to trouble, to all the kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem.” (Jer 15:4)
“Hey, wait a minute!” you say to me. “At the beginning of this article you’re talking about your favorite Biblical characters – okay, Hezekiah and Josiah I can see, but Manasseh, why on earth would you include – Manasseh?”
Ahhh, yes, Manasseh, what a career description this guy had! How would you like to stand before a holy and righteous God with his resume? Is there any evil this guy didn’t do? Manasseh committed one atrocity after another. As pointed out previously, the consequences for the Jews (God’s witnesses to all the nations) were terrible and went on for generations, even long past Manasseh’s lifetime.
One big question is why did God allow this monster to reign longer than any other king? A smaller question is why is this man one of my favorite Biblical characters?
I think the answers to those two questions run on the same track. In the 33rd chapter of 2nd Chronicles, we find the answers. Here is what happened:
“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. Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.” (Vs. 10-13)
When Manasseh arrived back in Judah, “He took away the foreign gods and the idol from 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 he cast them out of the city. He also repaired the altar of the Lord, sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.” (Vs. 15-16) There was much written down about the conversion experience of King Manasseh and his life afterward according to verses 18 through 20. The last mention of him in Scripture is in the gospel of Matthew amongst the genealogy of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:10)
In Manasseh, we see once again, the worst in man, and once again, the best in God. The Lord our God’s patience and grace are certainly on display here. The last person on earth you would ever imagine would become a child and man of God – wicked Manasseh – did just that. Yes, the consequences of his sinful sowing still had to be reaped, even by many innocent people. But his life is a picture of hope to all of us sin sowers, including those “last persons on earth” that we all know and in many cases love.
Three Kings: Manasseh speaks of man’s repentance and God’s redemption. Josiah speaks of man’s revival and God’s reward. Hezekiah speaks of man’s reliance and God’s reliability. And they all speak of God’s infinite goodness and amazing grace.