2 Kings 21:3
For 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) For he built up again.—The LXX. and Vulg. imitate the Hebrew idiom, and he returned and built—i.e., and he rebuilt.

The high places . . . altars for Baal . . . a grove (an Ashērah).—“The idols, the sun-pillars, the ashērim, the sacred trees, and all the other pagan or half-pagan symbols, so plainly inconsistent with the prophetic faith, were of the very substance of Israel’s worship in the popular sanctuaries” (Prof. Robertson Smith).

As did Ahab.—See 1Kings 16:32-33.

Worshipped all the host of heaven.—See Notes on 2Kings 17:16, and comp. 2Kings 23:12. The Babylonian star-worship and astrology, with concomitant superstitions, had been introduced under Ahaz.

2 Kings 21:3-5. He built up again the high places — Trampling upon the dust of his worthy father, and affronting his memory. And worshipped all the host of heaven — The sun, moon, and stars, which the Gentiles had transformed into gods. He built altars — To the gods of the neighbouring nations, and to the host of heaven; in the house of the Lord — Not only in Jerusalem, where the Lord had recorded his name, but even in the courts of the temple itself, both in that where the priests and Levites performed their services, and in that wherein the people worshipped. Thus, when the faithful worshippers of God came to the place he had appointed, to do their duty to him, to their great grief and terror, they found the altars of other gods ready to receive their offerings.

21:1-9 Young persons generally desire to become their own masters, and to have early possession of riches and power. But this, for the most part, ruins their future comfort, and causes mischief to others. It is much happier when young persons are sheltered under the care of parents or guardians, till age gives experience and discretion. Though such young persons are less indulged, they will afterwards be thankful. Manasseh wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, as if on purpose to provoke him to anger; he did more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed. Manasseh went on from bad to worse, till carried captive to Babylon. The people were ready to comply with his wishes, to obtain his favour and because it suited their depraved inclinations. In the reformation of large bodies, numbers are mere time-servers, and in temptation fall away.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.

CHAPTER 21

2Ki 21:1-18. Manasseh's Wicked Reign, and Great Idolatry.

1-3. Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign—He must have been born three years after his father's recovery; and his minority, spent under the influence of guardians who were hostile to the religious principles and reforming policy of his father, may account in part for the anti-theocratic principles of his reign. The work of religious reformation which Hezekiah had zealously carried on was but partially accomplished. There was little appearance of its influence on the heart and manners of the people at large. On the contrary, the true fear of God had vanished from the mass of the people; corruption and vice increased, and were openly practised (Isa 28:7, &c.) by the degenerate leaders, who, having got the young prince Manasseh into their power, directed his education, trained him up in their views, and seduced him into the open patronage of idolatry. Hence, when he became sovereign, he introduced the worship of idols, the restoration of high places, and the erection of altars or pillars to Baal, and the placing, in the temple of God itself, a graven image of Asherah, the sacred or symbolic tree, which represented "all the host of heaven." This was not idolatry, but pure star-worship, of Chaldaic and Assyrian origin [Keil]. The sun, as among the Persians, had chariots and horses consecrated to it (2Ki 23:11); and incense was offered to the stars on the housetops (2Ki 23:12; 2Ch 33:5; Jer 19:13; Zep 1:5), and in the temple area with the face turned toward the sunrise (Eze 8:16).

The host of heaven; the stars, which the Gentiles had transformed into gods. See Poole "Deu 4:19".

For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed,.... The temples and altars upon them, see 2 Kings 18:4,

and he reared up altars for Baal; in the high places he rebuilt:

and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel: which was either an idol itself, or a shade of trees where idols were placed; or rather Asherah, rendered "a grove", is the same with Astarte, the goddess of the Zidonians, the figure of which he made and worshipped; for groves were not so soon and easily planted, raised, and made; so the same in 1 Kings 16:33.

and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them: the sun, moon, and stars, particularly the planets Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus.

For 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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. For he built up again the high places] The R.V. omits ‘up’. On Hezekiah’s destruction of the high places, see 2 Chronicles 30:14; 2 Chronicles 31:1.

and he reared up altars for Baal] The Chronicler says for ‘the Baalim’, by which is most likely intended the various aspects or attributes under which Baal was worshipped. The LXX. uses the feminine article and says the altars were reared τῇ Βάαλ; which is due to the use of the word בשת bosheth = shame, which is feminine, to avoid the abominated name בעל Baal. The desire to avoid this word is seen in proper names, among which Ishbosheth is put for Eshbaal, the name of a son of Saul (1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:39), also Mephibosheth is used instead of Meribbaal (cf. 2 Samuel 9:6 with 1 Chronicles 8:34) and Jerubbesheth for Jerubbaal (cf. Jdg 6:32 with 2 Samuel 11:21).

and made a grove] R.V. an Asherah. The Chronicler here too uses the plural ‘Asheroth’ (A.V. groves). On Asherah, which was probably a wooden image of a goddess so called, see note on 1 Kings 14:15 and 2 Kings 13:6.

Ahab king of Israel] Who first, at the instigation of Jezebel his wife, introduced the worship of Baal and Asherah into Israel from Phœnicia.

worshipped all the host of heaven] See note on 2 Kings 17:16.

Verse 3. - For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed (comp. 2 Kings 18:4, 22). On the high-place worship, see the comment upon 1 Kings 14:23. It is quite clear that the people were deeply attached to it, and gladly saw it restored. And he reared up altars for Baal; i.e. he reintroduced the Phoenician Baal-worship, the special abomination of the house of Ahab (1 Kings 16:31; 1 Kings 22:53; 2 Kings 8:18, 27, etc.), which Athaliah had been the first to introduce into Judah (2 Kings 11:18), which Joash had put away (2 Kings 11:18), but which Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:2) had recalled. And made a grove; literally, an Asherah, or emblem of Astarte (compare the comment on 1 Kings 14:23) - as did Ahab King of Israel (see 1 Kings 16:33) and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. The worship the host of heaven, or the entire multitude of the heavenly bodies, commonly known as Sabaeanism or Ssabianism, was an ancient Babylonian, Arabian, and Syrian practice. It had, perhaps, been introduced among the Jews by Ahaz (2 Kings 23:12). At any rate, it was from the time of Manasseh one of the favorite idolatries of the Jewish people. The stars were believed to guide the destiny of men, and astrology was cultivated as a main part, or even as the essence, of religion. Astrological tracts form an important element in the literature of the Babylonians (see' Records of the Past,' vol. 1. pp. 153-163). The chief objects of adoration in this worship were the sun and moon, the five planets, and the signs of the zodiac. 2 Kings 21:3ויּבן ויּשׁב, "he built again" the high places, which Hezekiah had destroyed (2 Kings 18:4), erected altars for Baal and an Asherah, like Ahab of Israel (1 Kings 16:32-33). האשׁרה is the image of Asherah mentioned in 2 Kings 21:7, whereas in the Chronicles the thought is generalized by the plurals לבּעלים and האשׁרות. To these two kinds of idolatry, the idolatrous bamoth and the (true) Baal-and Asherah-worship, Manasseh added as a third kind the worship of all the host of heaven, which had not occurred among the Israelites before the Assyrian era, and was probably of Assyrian or Chaldaean origin. This worship differed from the Syrophoenician star-worship, in which sun and moon were worshipped under the names of Baal and Astarte as the bearers of the male and female powers of nature, and was pure star-worship, based upon the idea of the unchangeableness of the stars in contradistinction to the perishableness of everything earthly, according to which the stars were worshipped not merely as the originators of all rise and decay in nature, but also as the leaders and regulators of sublunary things (see Movers, Phniz. i. pp. 65 and 161). This star-worship was a later development of the primary star-worship of Ssabism, in which the stars were worshipped without any image, in the open air or upon the housetops, by simple contemplation, the oldest and comparatively the purest form of deification of nature, to which the earlier Arabians and the worshippers of the sun among the Ssabians (Zabians) were addicted (cf. Delitzsch on Job 31:26-27), and which is mentioned and forbidden in Deuteronomy 4:19 and Deuteronomy 17:3. In this later form the sun had sacred chariots and horses as among the Persians (2 Kings 23:11), and incense was offered to the stars, with the face turned towards the east, upon altars which were built either upon housetops, as in the case of the Nabataeans (Strabo, xvi. 784), or within the limits of the temple in the two courts (cf. Ezekiel 8:16, also 2 Kings 21:5; 2 Kings 23:12, and 2 Chronicles 33:5; Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5). This burning of incense took place not merely to the sun and moon, but also to the signs of the zodiac and to all the host of heaven, i.e., to all the stars (2 Kings 23:5); by which we are no doubt to understand that the sun, moon, planets and other stars, were worshipped in conjunction with the zodiac, and with this were connected astrology, augury, and the casting of nativities, as in the case of the later so-called Chaldaeans.

(Note: Movers (Phniz. i. p. 65) correctly observes, that "in all the books of the Old Testament which are written before the Assyrian period there is no trace of any (?) star-worship; not that the Phoenician (Canaanitish) gods had not also a sidereal significance, but because this element was only a subordinate one, and the expressions, sun, moon, and stars, and all the host of heaven, which are not met with before, become for the first time common now," - although his proofs of the difference between the Assyrian star-worship and the Phoenician and Babylonian image-worship stand greatly in need of critical sifting.)

This star-worship is more minutely described in 2 Kings 21:4, 2 Kings 21:5. The two verses are closely connected. The מזבּחות וּבנה of 2 Kings 21:4 is resumed in מזב ויּבן in 2 Kings 21:5, and the יי בּבית of 2 Kings 21:4 is more minutely defined in the יי בּית חצרות בּשׁתּי of. 2 Kings 21:5. "In the two courts:" not merely in the outer court, but even in the court of the priests, which was set apart for the worship of Jehovah.

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