In my opinion the most action packed books of the Bible are the kingdom books - Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings. I particularly find 1 and 2 Kings fascinating - probably because of all the fighting and blood and gore, and drama!
Israel was a United Kingdom under Saul, David and Solomon. Then they became a divided kingdom with ten tribes becoming the Northern Kingdom of Israel and two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) becoming the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel had 20 bad kings. They "did evil in the sight of the LORD." Every single one of them was bad. God warned them by sending them prophets. They ignored the prophets. God judged them in 722 B.C. with the brutal Assyrians.
The Southern Kingdom also had 20 kings. Well actually 19 kings and 1 queen. Thirteen of Judah's 20 kings and queen were bad - they "did evil in the sight of the LORD." After centuries of God sending prophets and the people refusing to turn back to God, He finally judged them with the brutal Babylonians in 586 B.C.
The good kings of Judah were Jehoshaphat, Amaziah (mostly good), Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah and Josiah. So 13 plus 6 is only 19. Who am I missing?
I am missing Manasseh because he's the guy I want to talk about. My chart of the kings says he was bad and went to good. For me to say he was a good king would shock anyone who has read about him in 2 Kings 21:1-18. He was the evilest of all of the kings of Judah. And most people think of him that way.
2 Chronicles tells us he had a change of heart.
Manasseh had a devout father, King Hezekiah. You can read about Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18-20. Hezekiah, king of Judah, was a very good king. It says He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. (2 Kings 18:5) So King Hezekiah was not just a good king, he was the best king of Judah. He dies and Manasseh becomes king and he is bad.
Hezekiah was the best king of Judah. His son, Manasseh was the worst.
Manasseh was only twelve years old when he became king! [I'd have trouble taking orders from a twelve year old. Just saying.] He had the longest reign in Judah. He reigned for fifty-five years.
Manasseh had the most evil reign in Judah. Going to 2 Kings 21:1-18 let's look at the things he did.
The evil he did was according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel.
He rebuilt the high places his father had destroyed.
He erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah. (Baal is a common name for Phoenician gods. Asherah is the Canaanite goddess of fertility represented by a wooden object.)
He built altars in the house of the LORD. (in the temple)
He made his children pass through the fire. (Child sacrifice! Molech was the god of the Ammonites who was worshiped with sacrifices of children by fire. Geez. Can you imagine? Mentioned many times in the Bible.)
He practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists.
He set the carved image of Asherah in the temple.
He shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another. (Ancient writings record that daily executions were ordered by him.)
Tradition says that he murdered Isaiah by having him sawn in two.
Manasseh seduced his people to do evil more than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel.
He did abominations (more than all the Amorites did who were before him), and he made Judah sin with his idols. God spoke to King Manasseh through the prophets. He ignored the prophets. Manasseh provoked God to anger.
And then this 2 Kings passage records Manasseh dies and his son Amon became king.
But let's turn to 2 Chronicles 33 which again records King Manasseh's sins. (Here is an important lesson. To get the full picture of the kings of Israel and Judah, you must read both 1 and 2 Kings, but also 1 and 2 Chronicles which adds detail to their reigns.) Again it is recorded that the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. And God's anger is provoked and He brings Assyria against Manasseh who took him to Babylon.
In great distress, Manasseh cries out to the LORD his God. He humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed. And God heard and was moved and brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.
After that Manasseh removed the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, as well as all the altars which he had built. He set up the altar of the LORD and sacrificed on it. He ordered Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. And then Manasseh dies and his son Amon takes over. What does Amon do? Amon multiplied guilt. He did evil in the sight of the LORD. His servants had him killed.
[Some great material for Hollywood movies!]
Amon's son, Josiah becomes king and he is a good king. But the kings after Josiah are evil and God warns and warns and finally judges Judah, scatters His people and destroys Solomon's temple.
So was Manasseh a good king or a bad king? He was the most evil king of Judah who became a good king.
Image is from Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps & Timelines by Rose Publishing, Torrance, California, copyright 2005, page 66. (affiliate link of updated Volume I)
Part of me, actually most of me, thinks that everyone could be redeemed. That people can change. That God can forgive anyone anything. That God's mercy on us is so great.
But there is part of me that thinks some people are just too far gone for God to redeem, for God to forgive, for God to pardon, for God to show mercy to. There are some people that I think don't deserve His grace. There are some people who I think deserve His holy wrath. That kind of thinking is profound sin. I know that, but I still think it.
What made Manasseh change? God spoke to him through His prophets. Manasseh ignored them. How many times has God spoken to me through others and I have ignored what they have to say? How many chances has God given me to hear Him and I pay no attention?
What made Manasseh change was being drug off to Babylon with hooks and bound in chains. It was a major ordeal. It was the lowest of low he could get. And so it was with me. Decades ago when I came to the deepest darkest pit in my life and I had nothing left in me, I cried out to God and He heard and He delivered me. It changed me. I am completely grateful for Him saving me - both figuratively and literally. God took a horrible situation in my life, one I did not cause, and used it to bring me to Him. I know God often uses bad situations in our lives to bring us to Him. So why don't I really believe God could do that with Manasseh?
Because I think I'm not as evil as Manasseh was. And that is where I am wrong! Sure I didn't participate in child sacrifice. I never built a graven image and worshipped it. But the sins I did commit; and the sins I commit now are still evil in the sight of the LORD. I say that, but I don't get it 100%. I say I'm a sinner, but a part of me still doesn't truly get how detestable my sin is to God. Even now when I know I am forgiven of that sin, and maybe because I am forgiven, I brush off my sin as not quite so bad as so-and-so.
It's the case of knowing what God's word says, being on board with it intellectually, but not completely buying it all in my heart. I want a God who will forgive me of my sin, but punish some evil people for theirs. I want God to have mercy on me; to not give me what I deserve; but I want God to punish the guilty, those who I think are really guilty. I'm making myself judge and jury. Oh my.
As long as some small part of me thinks some people are unredeemable, I know God still has a lot of work to do on my heart. If God can redeem a sinner like Manasseh...
The truth is God is the God of the impossible.
The truth is God redeemed a sinner like me.
The truth is God redeemed a sinner like Manasseh.
The truth is God can redeem a sinner like you.
There is nothing you have done that can't be forgiven if you repent of your sin and turn to Him.
He is a God who wants to save. It is never too late for anyone.
Was Manasseh a good king or a bad king?
He was a good king. In the end.
May we all be judged good in the end.