Here’s where to go in times of trouble

Published 7:19 am Monday, January 8, 2024

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By R.A. Mathews

He was 12 when he became king, following the reign of his beloved father. But this is not a “like father, like son” story. 

Manasseh, the boy king, was nothing at all like his father, good King Hezekiah. Manasseh chose evil and embraced many gods, burning his sons alive as a sacrifice to please his gods.

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“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he … did evil … he erected altars for Baal … and he made his son pass through the fire …”   (2 Kings 21:1-6) 

That appears twice in Scripture. Chronicles, which follows Kings, repeats the opening of Manasseh’s story nearly word for word:

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he … did evil … he also set up altars for the Baals and … He also made his sons pass through the fire…” (2 Chronicles 33:1-6) 

But Kings concludes Manasseh’s reign differently, citing his murderous rampage: “Furthermore, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another…” (2 Kings 21:16) 

So, King Manasseh was bad—bad to the bone. My column at Christmas said that, based on the Second Book of Kings. 

Yet there’s more to Manasseh’s story, and it’s remarkable. Let me show you.

 Chronicles says that God was angry with Manasseh and decided to teach him a lesson. “Therefore the Lord brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against (Jerusalem), and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains, and led him to Babylon.” (2 Chronicles 33:11) 

This is surprising because there’s no record that Assyria ever conquered Jerusalem. Just the opposite. Assyria besieged Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah before Manasseh was born. Since the Assyrians had conquered the 10 northern tribes of Israel and most of Judah, the Hebrews had reason to fear them. Only Jerusalem was left standing. 

The Assyrian commander then came to the city gates, further terrifying the Jews with his words. He said, “Now then, come make a wager with my master the king of Assyria … (otherwise) the men (are) doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine … Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to save you …” (Isaiah 36:8-14)

But the prophet Isaiah guided Hezekiah, who stood strong, leading his people to stay close to God. And the Lord protected them, killing 185,000 enemy soldiers in one night. (2 Kings 19)

Manasseh, on the other hand, was not in God’s good graces and apparently surrendered to the Assyrians. How else did they get him? 

And, as you saw, it was not pretty: “…they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains, and led him to Babylon.”

That should have been the end of Manasseh, but this begins the exciting part. Look what happened! 

“When (Manasseh) was in distress, he … humbled himself greatly …  When he prayed to (God), He … brought him back to Jerusalem … Then Manasseh knew that the Lord alone is God … and he ordered Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 33:12-16) 

In other words, bad king Manasseh turned his life around! 

But there’s still more. Did you see the most interesting question? Why did the exceedingly cruel Assyrians let Manasseh go? 

Some say Manasseh was just a misbehaving vassal, but that doesn’t fit the facts. When Manasseh returned, he immediately began protecting his country.

“Now after (Manasseh’s captivity), he built the outer wall of the city of David … and made it very high. Then he put army commanders in all the fortified cities in Judah.” (2 Chronicles 33:14)

Doesn’t sound like a vassal.

Instead, it looks like calamity struck the Assyrians again. They had walked into the fist of God during Hezekiah’s reign, and they’re now suddenly glad to be rid of Manasseh and apparently never came back to Jerusalem. Such stories are all over Scripture. Remember how both King Abimelech and Pharaoh took Sarah, God then brought ruin on them, and each ruler couldn’t wait to be free of Sarah. (Genesis 20, 12:14-20) 

Scripture makes clear that God intervened and “brought him back to Jerusalem.” Manasseh then knew there was only one God and changed his life.

It didn’t have to go like that. All along, God had promised to be with the Hebrews if they stayed with Him. Hezekiah chose God, but Manasseh had to learn the hard way.

Perhaps you’ve also turned from God and are suffering. Understand this: No matter what you’ve done, you have a loving Father who will take you back, just as He did with Manasseh. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)