1. Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years.
Yet who could have had a better father than Manasseh had? He was given to Hezekiah during those fifteen years which God graciously added to that good king’s life. Manasseh was, therefore, doubtless carefully trained, and looked upon as being one who would maintain God’s worship, and the honor of his father’s name. But grace does not run in the blood; and the best of parents may have the worst of children. Thus Manasseh, though he was the son of Hezekiah, "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord,"
2. He did what was evil in the Lord's sight, imitating the detestable practices of the pagan nations whom the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.
It often happens that, when the sons of good men become bad, they are among the worst of men. They who pervert a good example generally run headlong to destruction.
3. He rebuilt the pagan shrines his father Hezekiah had destroyed. He constructed altars for the images of Baal and set up Asherah poles. He also bowed before all the stars of heaven and worshiped them.
One form of idolatry was not enough for him; he must have all forms of it, even rearing altars to Baal, and making the stars also to be his gods.
4. He even built pagan altars in the Temple of the Lord, the place where the Lord had said his name should be honored forever.
Manasseh was worse than an ordinary idolater, for he polluted the very place which was dedicated to the service of the only living and true God.
5, 6. He put these altars for the stars of heaven in both courtyards of the Lord's Temple. Manasseh even sacrificed his own sons in the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom.
Perhaps he gave some of them actually to be burned in honor of his false gods; or if not, some of his children were made to pass through the fire and were thus dedicated to the idol deities.
6. He practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and he consulted with mediums and psychics. He did much that was evil in the Lord's sight, arousing his anger.
You cannot imagine, I think, a worse character than this Manasseh was. He seems to have raked the foulest kennels of superstition to find all manner of abominations. Like false-hearted Saul, he had dealings with a familiar spirit, he had entered into a covenant with Satan himself, and made a league with hell, and yet, marvel of grace! this very Manasseh was saved, and is now singing the new song before the throne of God in glory.
7-9. Manasseh even took a carved idol he had made and set it up in God's Temple, the very place where God had told David and his son Solomon: "My name will be honored here forever in this Temple and in Jerusalem—the city I have chosen from among all the other tribes of Israel. If the Israelites will obey my commands—all the instructions, laws, and regulations given through Moses—I will not send them into exile from this land that I gave their ancestors." But Manasseh led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do even more evil than the pagan nations whom the Lord had destroyed when the Israelites entered the land.
You see, dear friends, that he was not only a monster in iniquity himself, but he led a whole nation astray! Some people who, under the gracious rule of his father Hezekiah, had kept the passover in so joyous a manner, now, under this false son of so good a father, turned aside.
10. The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings.
This was all that was necessary to fill up the measure of his guilt. He and his people were warned by God, but they would not hearken.
Since words were not sufficient, and God intended to save him, he came to blows: "Therefore"—
11. the Lord sent the Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner. They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon.
They very likely whipped him with thorns, for the kings of Babylon were very cruel; and it may be that, when his back was lacerated by thorny scourges, he was put in prison with heavy fetters upon him.
12, 13. But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and cried out humbly to the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request for help. So the Lord let Manasseh return to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Manasseh had finally realized that the Lord alone is God!
There surely can be no person in this assembly who can say that he has sinned worse than Manasseh did. He seems to have gone as far as any human being could go; and yet, you see, when he humbled himself before the Lord, and lifted up his heart in supplication, God forgave his sin, and restored him to his former position in Jerusalem.
14. It was after this that Manasseh rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, from west of the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley to the Fish Gate, and continuing around the hill of Ophel, where it was built very high. And he stationed his military officers in all of the fortified cities of Judah.
This is not of very much importance, but what else did he do?
15. Manasseh also removed the foreign gods from the hills and the idol from the Lord's Temple.
When grace comes into any man’s heart, there is sure to be a change in his action. Manasseh "took away the foreign gods,"—
15. He tore down all the altars he had built on the hill where the Temple stood and all the altars that were in Jerusalem, and he dumped them outside the city.
Sins which were before so pleasing to him are now abominations in his sight, and he flings them over the city wall like unclean things. In the very valley of the son of Hinnom where he had dedicated his sons to idols he now consumes his idol gods as foul and offensive things, to be cast away with all the refuse of the city.
16. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings on it. He also encouraged the people of Judah to worship the Lord, the God of Israel.
It was not possible for him to undo all the evil which he had wrought, as he soon found out.
17. However, the people still sacrificed at the pagan shrines, but only to the Lord their God.
The work of reformation is slow; you can lead men to sin as rapidly as you like, that is down-hill work; but to get them to toil with you up-hill toward the right is not so easy.
18, 19. The rest of the events of Manasseh's reign, his prayer to God, and the words the seers spoke to him in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Israel. Manasseh's prayer, the account of the way God answered him, and an account of all his sins and unfaithfulness are recorded in The Record of the Seers. It includes a list of the locations where he built pagan shrines and set up Asherah poles and idols before he repented.
So we must remember that all the deeds that we have done, both good and evil, are written in God’s Book of Remembrance.