Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, was the thirteenth king of the Southern Kingdom. Not only was his 55-year reign the longest of any king in the history of the Israelites, but he also had the distinction of being the worst king that Judah ever had. We want to present some facts about his life, then observe some lessons that we can learn [all verses are from 2 Chronicles 33 unless stated otherwise].
Manasseh reigned over Judah for over one-half of a century (2 Chronicles 33:1), and during most of his reign, he was spiritually corrupt. Lesson: Longevity of service does not guarantee one’s faithfulness or quality of service. One who has been in the Lord for many decades does not necessarily possess more zeal, knowledge, or faith than one who became part of the family of God less than a year ago. We certainly appreciate our brothers and sisters who have worked through the heat of the day, so to speak, but one’s current standing with God has nothing to do with how long he/she has served Him.
Manasseh’s father, Hezekiah, was a righteous man. Manasseh was not, as “he did evil in the sight of the LORD” (33:2). Lesson: A righteous father does not always produce righteous children. One should not assume that just because he is faithful to the Lord, this guarantees that his offspring will be, too. There is no 100% certainty. What should be the number one priority of every Christian father? To bring up his children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Manasseh undid much of the good that his father did. Hezekiah had been a great reformer, doing his best to remove sinful activities in Judah. But, when Manasseh took the throne, he brought back idolatry and immorality in the nation (2 Chronicles 33:3-7). Lesson: It only takes one person to mess up a good thing. Reforms – changes that are for the better, must not only be started, they must be maintained also.
Manasseh rejected what God’s law said and did as he pleased, causing “his sons to pass through the fire,” using witchcraft and sorcery, placing an idol in the house of God, and doing a number of things that directed violated the Law of Moses (2 Chronicles 33:6,7). Lesson: When people disregard what the law of God says, there is no end to the type of evil that they will do. It grieves us, but does not surprise us, to see some modern-day members of the church involved in dishonest schemes, adultery, and illicit use of drugs. When men and women cast aside the instructions of God, anything can, and will, happen.
Manasseh shed innocent blood. “Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another . . .” (2 Kings 21:16). Lesson: The Lord has always hated hands that shed innocent blood (Proverbs 6:16,17). Murder is wrong because man is made in the image of Jehovah (Genesis 9:5,6). Those who commit such a sin, including the slaying of unborn, sinless humans, will not be counted as guiltless by God.
Manasseh had an influence on the entire nation. “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” (33:9). Lesson: Each one of us has some type of influence on others. Manasseh certainly did. The question is, how will we use our influence? Will it be for good, as the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), or will we be imitators of the world? (Romans 12:1,2). God wants us to remain a separate, holy nation (1 Peter 2:9,10). It is a sad day when the people of God lose their distinction, but that is exactly what took place during Manasseh’s reign.
Though few, if any, would have expected it, Manasseh changed in a good way. “Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (2 Chronicles 33:12). Manasseh then proceeded to remove idolatry and make other positive changes in Judah (33:15,16). Lesson: Even those that we might label as “really wicked people” have the potential to change their heart and, in turn, change their lives. Manasseh did.
Though Manasseh himself turned from his evil ways and began to do the Lord’s will (2 Chronicles 33:15,16), he was not able to persuade the nation to follow his lead and return to the true God. Lesson: When we are “successful” in getting people to follow a path of corruption or accept false teaching, it is extremely difficult to get those whom we have corrupted to see and forsake their error(s). Many parents have led their children into deep religious error, then later, when the parents have learned and obeyed the truth, they quite often are unable to get their children, who are now adults, to repent of their sins and accept the truth. The same has happened with gospel preachers who went astray and returned to the truth. They, like Manasseh, took the brave move to correct their wrongs, but are usually unable to get those whom they have corrupted to change.
Manasseh is the one that caused Judah to be taken into captivity. God said, “I will hand them over to trouble, to all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 15:4). Yes, Manasseh humbled himself, repented, and changed his ways. Unfortunately, he had left such a mark on the nation that it was like a train going down a steep incline with no brakes: disaster was going to happen. Lesson: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Unfortunately, the efforts that Manasseh made later in his life were a case of too little, too late.
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.