By Ken Yates
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 fifty-five 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 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, instituted the worship of the stars and planets, and turned God’s temple into a place of idol worship.
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 the advice of the spirits of dead people. The author of 2 Kings says that Manasseh shed much innocent blood. We are not given specifics, but this probably means 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 sins; He had removed Israel for the same reason. Manasseh committed worse sins and was deserving of God’s wrath. He set a terrible example for his people in his role as the king. He caused the nation to rebel against the Lord and made its people 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 due to his actions and the evil example he set.
The author of 2 Kings does not give all the details of Manasseh’s life, but 2 Chronicles contains some details. Towards the end of his life, God disciplined him for his many sins, using the king of Assyria. 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. The book of 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 sacrificed to the Lord, thanking Him for His grace and mercy (2 Chron 33:15-16).
Manasseh shows us that anybody, and I mean anybody, can be a recipient of the grace of God. No matter what he has done, any unbeliever 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 another 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 for 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 he died. For most of his life, Amon had seen his father’s depravity. We are told he was an evil king, just like his father had been for fifty years (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 have been if he hadn’t lived such an evil life for fifty years?
Ken Yates is a retired Army chaplain (Lt. Col). He has many theological degrees, including a Ph.D. from D.T.S. in New Testament. He leads the GES international ministry, cohosts the daily podcast, and assists Bob in all aspects of the GES ministry. His new book, Elisabeth, is a powerful testimony to the power of God manifested in a Christ-centered family. He and his wife, Pam, live in Columbia, SC.