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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hephzibah.
Manasseh was twelve years old - Manasseh, therefore, was not born at the time of Hezekiah's dangerous illness; and it is probable that Hezekiah had at that time no son to succeed him. According to Josephus, this was the principal cause of his grief.
Hephzibah - Jewish tradition makes Hephzibah, Hezekiah's wife, the daughter of Isaiah; but this is scarcely probable. She was, however, no doubt, known to the prophet, and it may well have been in special compliment to her that Isaiah introduced her name Isaiah 62:4 as one that Jerusalem would bear after her restoration to God's favor. The name means, "My delight (is) in her."
2And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
Manasseh during his minority naturally fell under the influence of the chief Jewish nobles, with whom the pure religion of Yahweh was always unpopular (compare 2 Chronicles 24:17-18; Jeremiah 8:1-2). They seem to have persuaded him, not only to undo Hezekiah's work, but to proceed to lengths in polytheism, magic, and idolatry, unknown before. The sins of Manasseh's reign appear to have been those which filled up the measure of Judah's iniquity, and brought down the final sentence of doom on the last remnant of the chosen people (2 Kings 23:26; compare Jeremiah 15:4).
3For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
The first step in the re-establishment of idolatry seems to have been the restoration of the high places where Yahweh was professedly worshipped 2 Kings 18:22, but with idolatrous rites 1 Kings 14:23. The next was to re-introduce the favorite idolatry of Israel, Baal-worship, which had formerly flourished in Judaea under Athaliah 2 Kings 11:18, and Ahaz 2 Chronicles 28:2. After this, Manasseh seems to have especially affected Sabaism, which had been previously unknown in Judaea (compare 2 Kings 17:16 and note).
Worshipped all the host of heaven - Sabaism, or pure star-worship, without images, and without astrological superstitions, included a reverence for the sun, the moon, the chief stars, and the twelve signs of the Zodiac (2 Kings 23:5 note). The main worship was by altars, on which incense was burned Jeremiah 19:13. These altars were placed either upon the ground 2 Kings 21:5, or upon the house-tops 2 Kings 23:12; Zephaniah 1:5. The sun was worshipped with the face toward the east Ezekiel 8:16; chariots and horses were dedicated to him 2 Kings 23:11. The star-worship of the Jews has far more the character of an Arabian than an Assyrian or Chaldaean cult. It obtained its hold at a time when Assyria and Babylonia had but little communication with Judaea - i. e., during the reign of Manasseh. It crept in probably from the same quarter as the Molech worship, with which it is here (and in 2 Chronicles 33:3-6) conjoined.
4And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name.
The "altars" of this verse seem to be the same with those of 2 Kings 21:5, and consequently were not in the temple building, but in the outer and inner courts.
5And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.
6And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
On the meaning of the phrase "passing through the fire," see 2 Kings 16:3, and Leviticus 20:2-5.
To "observe times" was forbidden in the Law (marginal references), and was no doubt among the modes of divination practiced by the Canaanite nations. It has been explained as,
(1) Predicting from the state of the clouds and atmosphere;
(2) Fascination with the eye;
(3) Watching and catching at chance words as ominous.
Dealt with familiar spirits - This practice was forbidden by Moses Leviticus 19:31 under the penalty of death Leviticus 20:27. Its nature is best learned from Saul's visit to the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7, etc.).
Wizards - "Wizards" - literally, "wise men" - are always joined with those who have familiar spirits. Probably they were a sort of necromancers.
7And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:
A graven image of the grove - Rather, "the carved work of the Asherah." This Asherah which Manasseh placed in the very temple itself, from where it was afterward taken by Josiah to be destroyed 2 Kings 23:6. Such a profanation was beyond anything that had been done either by Athaliah 2 Kings 11:18, or by Ahaz 2 Kings 16:14-18; 2 Chronicles 29:5-7.
8Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.
9But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel.
During the long reign of Manasseh idolatry in all manner of varied forms took a hold upon the Jewish people such as had never been known before. Compare Jeremiah 7:18, Jeremiah 7:31; Ezekiel 23:37; Zephaniah 1:5. The corruption of morals kept pace with the degradation of religion. Compare 2 Kings 23:7; Zephaniah 3:1-3; Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 5:1.
10And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying,
The prophets - None of the prophets of this reign are certainly known. One may possibly have been Hosai or Hozai (2 Chronicles 33:19, margin), who perhaps wrote a life of Manasseh.
11Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:
12Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.
13And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.
The general meaning is plain, but the exact force of the metaphor used is not so clear. If the "line" and the "plummet" be "symbols of rule" or law, the meaning will be - "I will apply exactly the same measure and rule to Jerusalem as to Samaria - I will treat both alike with strict and even justice."
14And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies;
15Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.
16Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.
Compare Jeremiah 2:30; Hebrews 11:37; Isaiah 57:1-4. According to tradition, Isaiah was among the first to perish. More than a century afterward, the final judgment upon Jerusalem was felt to be in an special way the punishment of Manasseh's bloody persecution of God's people (marginal reference).
17Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and his sin that he sinned, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
The writer of Kings relates in eighteen verses the history of 55 years, and consequently omits numerous facts of great importance in the life of Manasseh. Among the most remarkable of the facts omitted are the capture of Manasseh by the king of Assyria, his removal to Babylon, his repentance there, his restoration to his kingdom, and his religious reforms upon his return to it. These are recorded only in Chronicles (marginal reference, see the note). The writer of Kings probably considered the repentance of Manasseh but a half-repentance, followed by a half-reformation, which left untouched the root of the evil.
18And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.
Was buried - The catacomb of David was probably full, and the later kings, from Ahaz downward, had to find sepulture elsewhere. Ahaz was buried in Jerusalem, but not in the sepulchres of the kings 2 Chronicles 28:27. Hezekiah found a resting place on the way that led up to David's catacomb 2 Chronicles 32:33. Manasseh and Amon were interred in "the garden of Uzza," a portion (apparently) of the royal palace-garden; perhaps so called after the name of the previous owner. Josiah was buried in "his own sepulchre" 2 Kings 23:30.
Amon his son - This name, which occurs only at this time and in the reign of the idolatrous Ahab 1 Kings 22:26, is identical in form with the Hebrew representative of the great Egyptian god, Amen or Amun (Nahum 3:8 margin); and it is therefore probable that Manasseh selected it and gave it to his son in compliment to the Egyptians.
19Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah.
20And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his father Manasseh did.
21And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them:
At Manasseh's death, the idolatrous party, held in some check during his later years 2 Chronicles 33:15-17, recovered the entire direction of affairs, and obtained authority from Amon to make once more all the changes which Manasseh had made in the early part of his reign. Hence, we find the state of things at Josiah's accession 2 Kings 23:4-14; Zephaniah 1:4-12; Zephaniah 3:1-7, the exact counterpart of that which had existed under Manasseh.
22And he forsook the LORD God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the LORD.
23And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and slew the king in his own house.
This conspiracy may have been due to the popular reaction against the extreme idolatry which the young king had established.
24And the people of the land slew all them that had conspired against king Amon; and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead.
The intention of the conspirators had perhaps been to declare a forfeiture of the crown by the existing line, and to place a new dynasty on the throne. This the people would not suffer. They arrested them and put them to death; and insisted on investing with the royal authority the true heir of David, the eldest son of Amon, though he was a boy only 8 years old.
25Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
26And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza: and Josiah his son reigned in his stead.