Manasseh, one of the kings of Judah, was not a good man. He brought a great deal of grief upon his people. He ruled for 55 years and is described by the author of 2 Kings as the evilest king in the nation’s history (2 Kgs 21:1-16).
When God gave the Jews the Promised Land, He drove out the nations that were in it because of their sin. Manasseh did all that those pagan nations had done—and even worse. He rebuilt places for worshiping idols throughout the land of Judah. He promoted the worship of Baal and even instituted the worship of the stars and planets. God’s temple in Jerusalem was turned into a place of idol worship as well.
Manasseh even sacrificed one of his sons to an idol. He did not rely on the Word of God for guidance but turned to witchcraft and sought out the advice of the spirits of dead people. The author of 2 Kings says that Manasseh shed a great deal of innocent blood. We are not given specifics, but this probably means that he took advantage of the weak and powerless. He probably persecuted and killed the prophets of God. A Jewish legend says that he was the one who killed Isaiah by sawing him in two.
Israel, Judah’s Jewish sister-nation to the north, was defeated by its enemies and taken into captivity. Even though Manasseh had the advantage of knowing what happened to the Israelites because of their disobedience, he did not learn from them. When He gave the land to His people, God had removed the nations from Canaan because of their sin; He had removed Israel for the same reason. Manasseh committed worse sins and was clearly deserving of God’s wrath. To make matters worse, in his role as the king he set an example for his people. He caused the nation as a whole to rebel against the Lord and led its people to be deserving of God’s wrath. As a result, God declared that He would drive all of them out of the Promised Land and that they would experience great calamity at the hands of their enemies.
It would be difficult to find a more loathsome individual in the pages of the OT. After fifty years, Manasseh had plunged his people into a pit of destruction. Many men, women, and children would lose their lives as a result of his actions and the evil example he set.
The author of 2 Kings does not give all the details of Manasseh’s life, but the author of 2 Chronicles fills in some of those details. Towards the end of his life, God disciplined him because of his many sins, using the king of Assyria to do so. Assyria took Manasseh away as a prisoner, bound with chains. That is to be expected; Manasseh deserved what happened to him because of his sins (2 Chron 33:10-11). The reader would be tempted to say, “I hope he dies in prison.” He was an evil, murdering, idolater who led many others to destructive behavior and death.
But then something amazing happened. Second Chronicles records how, in his chains, Manasseh called out to God and humbled himself before Him. He prayed to God, and God heard him. The Lord brought him back to Jerusalem and placed him back on the throne. He ended his reign in Jerusalem on a high note. He removed the idols he had placed in Judah and in the temple of God. He made sacrifices to the Lord, thanking Him for His grace and mercy (2 Chron 33:15-16).
Obviously, Manasseh shows us that anybody, and I mean anybody, can be a recipient of the grace of God. Any unbeliever—no matter what he has done—can believe in Christ and receive eternal life. Any believer—no matter what sins he has committed—can confess his sins, find forgiveness, and have fellowship with the Lord. I had a teacher in seminary who summarized these facts nicely: Nobody has ever out-sinned the grace of God.
But there is another lesson here. The author of 2 Chronicles gives us one other piece of information about the life of Manasseh. Even though he called upon the Lord and found forgiveness, his fifty years of evil had devastating consequences on his country. At the end of his life, he served the Lord. But we are told that the people did not follow his example. They would continue in the evil practices that Manasseh modeled for fifty years. This would lead to the whole nation’s being taken captive in the near future.
Fifty years of evil also impacted Manasseh’s family. His son, Amon, took the throne when Manasseh died. For most of his life, Amon had seen the depravity of his father. We are told that he was an evil king himself, just like his father (2 Kgs 21:20).
What is the lesson? Even though anybody can experience the mercy and grace of the Lord, the consequences of our sins still remain. The forgiveness of sins is available to us. But this is not a license to sin. How much better off would the people of Judah and the family of Manasseh family have been if he hadn’t lived such an evil life for fifty years?