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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Manasseh reigns fifty-five years, and restores idolatry, pollutes the temple, and practises all kinds of abominations, 2 Chronicles 33:1-9. He and the people are warned in vain, 2 Chronicles 33:10. He is delivered into the hands of the Assyrians, bound with fetters, and carried to Babylon, 2 Chronicles 33:11. He humbles himself, and is restored, 2 Chronicles 33:12, 2 Chronicles 33:13. He destroys idolatry, and restores the worship of God, 2 Chronicles 33:14-16. The people keep the high places, but sacrifice to the Lord on them, 2 Chronicles 33:17. His acts, prayer, and death, 2 Chronicles 33:18-20. His son Amon succeeds him; and after a wicked idolatrous reign of two years, is slain by his own servants in his own house, 2 Chronicles 33:21-24. The people rise up, and slay his murderers, and make Josiah his son king in his stead, 2 Chronicles 33:25.
1Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem:
Manasseh was twelve years old - We do not find that he had any godly director; his youth was therefore the more easily seduced. But surely he had a pious education; how then could the principles of it be so soon eradicated?
2But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
3For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
Altars for Baalim - The Sun and Moon. And made groves, אשרות Asheroth, Astarte, Venus; the host of heaven, all the Planets and Stars. These were the general objects of his devotion.
4Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.
5And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.
He built altars - See the principal facts in this chapter explained in the notes on 2 Kings 21:1-17 (note).
6And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
7And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:
A carved image - "He set up an image, the likeness of himself, in the house of the sanctuary." The Targumist supposes he wished to procure himself Divine honors.
8Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.
9So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.
10And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.
11Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.
12And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
And when he was in affliction - Here is a very large addition in the Chaldee: "For the Chaldeans made a brazen mule, pierced full of small holes, and put him within it, and kindled fires all around it; and when he was in this misery, he sought help of all the idols which he had made, but obtained none, for their were of no use. He therefore repented, and prayed before the Lord his God, and was greatly humbled in the sight of the Lord God of his fathers."
13And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.
And prayed unto him - "While he was thus praying, all the presiding angels went away to the gates of prayer in heaven; and shut all the gates of prayer, and all the windows and apertures in heaven, lest that his prayer should be heard. Immediately the compassions of the Creator of the world were moved, whose right hand is stretched out to receive sinners, who are converted to his fear, and break their hearts' concupiscence by repentance. He made therefore a window and opening in heaven, under the throne of his glory; and having heard his prayer, he favourably received his supplication. And when his Word had shaken the earth, the mule was burst and he escaped. Then the Spirit went out from between the wings of the cherubim; by which, being inspired through the decree of the Word of the Lord, he returned to his kingdom in Jerusalem. And then Manasseh knew that it was the Lord God who had done these miracles and signs; and he turned to the Lord with his whole heart, left all his idols, and never served them more." This long addition gives the Jewish account of those particulars which the sacred writer has passed by: it is curious, though in some sort trifling. The gates of prayer may be considered childish; but in most of those things the ancient rabbins purposely hid deep and important meanings.
14Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah.
He built a wall - This was probably a weak place that he fortified; or a part of the wall which the Assyrians had broken down, which he now rebuilt.
15And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city.
He took away the strange gods - He appears to have done every thing in his power to destroy the idolatry which he had set up, and to restore the pure worship of the true God. His repentance brought forth fruits meet for repentance. How long he was in captivity, and when or by whom he was delivered, we know not. The fact of his restoration is asserted; and we believe it on Divine testimony.
16And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.
17Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only.
The people did sacrifice - "Nevertheless the people did sacrifice on the high places, but only to the name of the Word of the Lord their God." - Targum.
18Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel.
The words of the seers that spake to him - "Which were spoken to him in the name of the Word of the Lord God of Israel." - Targum.
19His prayer also, and how God was intreated of him, and all his sin, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers.
His prayer also - What is called the Prayer of Manasseh, king of Judah, when he was holden captive in Babylon, being found among our apocryphal books, I have inserted it at the end of the chapter, without either asserting or thinking that it is the identical prayer which this penitent king used when a captive in Babylon. But, as I have observed in another place, there are many good sentiments in it; and some sinners may find it a proper echo of the distresses of their hearts; I therefore insert it.
Written among the sayings of the seers - "They are written in the words of Chozai." - Targum. So says the Vulgate. The Syriac has Hunan the prophet; and the Arabic has Saphan the prophet.
20So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.
21Amon was two and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned two years in Jerusalem.
Amon - reigned two years - See on 2 Kings 21:19 (note).
22But he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father: for Amon sacrificed unto all the carved images which Manasseh his father had made, and served them;
Sacrificed unto all the carved images - How astonishing is this! with his father's example before his eyes, he copies his father's vices, but not his repentance.
23And humbled not himself before the LORD, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.
Trespassed more and more - He appears to have exceeded his father, and would take no warning.
24And his servants conspired against him, and slew him in his own house.
His servants conspired against him - On what account we cannot tell.
25But 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 people of the land slew all them - His murder was not a popular act, for the people slew the regicides. They were as prone to idolatry as their king was. We may rest satisfied that idolatry was accompanied with great licentiousness and sensual gratifications else it never, as a mere religious system, could have had any sway in the world.
For an explanation of the term groves, 2 Chronicles 23:3, see the observations at the end of 2 Kings 21:26 (note).
I have referred to the prayer attributed to Manasseh, and found in what is called the Apocrypha, just before the first book of Maccabees. It was anciently used as a form of confession in the Christian Church, and is still as such received by the Greek Church. It is as follows: -
"O Lord, Almighty God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed, who hast made heaven and earth, with all the ornament thereof; who hast bound the sea by the word of thy commandment; who hast shut up the deep, and sealed it by thy terrible and glorious name; whom all men fear, and tremble before thy power; for the majesty of thy glory cannot be borne, and thine angry threatening towards sinners is insupportable; but thy merciful promise is unmeasurable and unsearchable; for thou art the most high Lord, of great compassion, long-suffering, very merciful, and repentest of the evils of men. Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness, hast promised repentance and forgiveness to them that have sinned against thee, and of thine infinite mercies hast appointed repentance unto sinners, that they may be saved. Thou, therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just, has not appointed repentance to the just, as to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee; but thou hast appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner: for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea. My transgressions, O Lord, are multiplied; my transgressions are multiplied; and I am not worthy to behold and see the height of heaven for the multitude of mine iniquities. I am bowed down with many iron bands, that I cannot lift up mine head, neither have any release; for I have provoked thy wrath, and done evil before thee. I did not thy will, neither kept I thy commandments. I have set up abominations, and have multiplied offenses. Now therefore I bow the knee of mine heart, beseeching thee of grace. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities: wherefore I humbly beseech thee, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me, and destroy me not in mine iniquities. Be not angry with me for ever, by reserving evil for me; neither condemn me into the lower parts of the earth. For thou art the God, the God of them that repent; and in me thou wilt show all thy goodness: for thou wilt save me, that am unworthy, according to thy great mercy. Therefore I will praise thee for ever all the days of my life: for all the powers of the heavens do praise thee, and thine is the glory for ever and ever. - Amen."
The above translation, which is that in our common Bibles, might be mended; but the piece is scarcely worth the pains.