Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
THE REIGNS OF MANASSEH AND AMON.
(1-20) The history of Manasseh. Duration and character of the reign. Restoration of idolatry (2Chronicles 33:1-10). This section is closely parallel with 2Kings 21:1-10. 2Chronicles 33:1-2; 2Chronicles 33:5 are word for word the same in both.
Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem:
For 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.(3) For.—And. (See margin.)
Baalim.—The Baals—i.e., the different images of Baal. Kings has the singular, both here and in the next word, “groves,” or rather Asheras (‘Ashērôth; Kings, ‘Ashērah). The latter plural is rhetorical: Manasseh made such things as Asheras. (Comp. also the use of the plural in 2Chronicles 32:31, and the passages there referred to.) Kings adds: “as Ahab king of Israel made.”
Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.(4) Also he built . . . In Jerusalem.—Literally as Kings. Manasseh built altars in the Temple, as Ahaz had done (2Kings 16:10, seq.).
Shall my name be for ever.—A heightening of the phrase in Kings, “I will set mv name.”
And 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.(6) He.—Emphatic. Not in Kings.
Caused his children . . . fire.—The plural, as in 2Chronicles 28:3, is rhetorical. Kings, “his son.”
In the valley of the son of Hinnom.—Explanatory addition by the chronicler.
Also he observed times, and used enchantments.—And he practised augury and divination. Forbidden, Leviticus 19:26. The first words seem strictly to mean “observed clouds; “the second, “observed serpents.”
And used witchcraft.—And muttered spells or charms. This word does not occur in the parallel place, but all the offences here ascribed to Manasseh are forbidden in Deuteronomy 18:10-11.
And dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards.—And appointed a necromancer and a wizard. Kings has wizards. The source of all these modes of soothsaying was Babylon. Like the first king of Israel, Manasseh appears to have despaired of help or counsel from Jehovah. (Comp. Jeremiah 44:17-18.) The heavy yoke of Assyria again weighed the nation down, and the great deliverance under Hezekiah was almost forgotten. “To all the Palestinian nations the Assyrian crisis had made careless confidence in the help of their national deities a thing impossible. As life was embittered by foreign bondage, the darker aspects of heathenism became dominant. The wrath of the gods seemed more real than their favour; atoning ordinances were multiplied, human sacrifices became more frequent, the terror which hung over all the nations that groaned under the Assyrian yoke found habitual expression in the ordinances of worship; and it was this aspect of heathenism that came to the front in Manasseh’s imitations of foreign religion” (Robertson Smith, The Prophets of Israel, p. 366).
He wrought much evil.—Literally, he multiplied doing the evil. He was worse than his evil predecessors
And 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:(7) And he set . . . had made.—And he set the carven image of the idol which he had made. “Idol” (sèmel) explains “Asherah,” the term used in Kings. Both “carven image “and “idol” (Authorised Version, figure) occur in Deuteronomy 4:16.
The house of God.—Chronicles has added, of God, by way of explanation. The Temple proper is meant, as distinct from the courts.
Before all.—Out of all.
For ever.—Le’êlum, a form only found here (equivalent to le’ólām).
Neither 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.(8) Remove.—Kings has a less common expression, “cause to wander.”
From out of (upon) the land (ground) which I have appointed.—Kings, with which the versions agree, has the certainly original “from the ground which I gave.”
So that.—If only.
And the statutes and the ordinances.—An explanatory addition. Kings has, “And according to all the Torah that Moses my servant commanded them.”
By the hand.—By the ministry or instrumentality. The phrase is a characteristic interpretation of what we read in 2Kings 21:8; for it carefully notes that the authority of the Lawgiver was not primary but derived.
So 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.(9) So Manasseh . . . heathen.—Literally, And Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do evil more than the nations. Thenius thinks that the words and Manasseh. . . . astray, followed in the primary document immediately upon and he set the graven image in the house; the intermediate words being an addition by the editor of Kings.
And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.(10) And the Lord spake to Manasseh.—“By the hand of his servants the prophets.” See
2Kings 21:10-15, where the substance of the prophetic message is given; and it is added (2Chronicles 33:16) that Manasseh also shed very much innocent blood, “till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other.” The reaction against the reforms of Hezekiah ended in a bloody struggle, in which the party of reform was fiercely suppressed.
Wherefore 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.MANASSEH’S CAPTIVITY AND REPENTANCE—HIS RESTORATION AND REFORMS (2Chronicles 33:11-17).
This section is peculiar to the Chronicle, and none has excited more scepticism among modern critics. The progress of cuneiform research, however, has proved the perfect possibility of the facts most disputed, viz., the captivity and subsequent restoration of Manasseh.
The captains of the host of the king of Assyria.—The generals of Esarhaddon, or rather, perhaps, of Assurbanipal. The former, who reigned from 681-668 B.C. , has recorded the fact that Manasseh was his vassal. He says: “And I assembled the kings of the land of Hatti, and the marge of the sea, Baal king of Tyre, Me-na-si-e (or Mi-in-si-e) king of Ya-u-di (i.e., Judah), Qa-us-gabri, king of Edom,” &c. “Altogether, twenty-two kings of the land of Hatti [Syria], the coast of the sea, and the middle of the sea, all of them, I caused to hasten,” &c. Assurbanipal has left a list which is identical with that of Esarhaddon, except that it gives different names for the kings of Arvad and Ammon. It thus appears that Manasseh paid tribute to him as well as to his father. Schrader (K.A.T., p. 367, seq.) thinks that Manasseh was at least suspected of being implicated along with the other princes of Phoenicia-Palestine in the revolt of Assurbanipars brother Samar-sum-ukin (circ. 648-647 B.C. ) in which Elam, Gutium, and Meroë also participated; and that he was carried to Babylon, to clear himself of suspicion, and to give assurances of his fidelity to the great king.
Which took Manasseh among the thorns.—And they took Manasseh prisoner with the hooks (ba-ḫôḫîm). The hooks might be such as the Assyrian kings were wont to pass through the nostrils and lips of their more distinguished prisoners. Comp. Isaiah 37:29, “I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips;” and comp. Amos 4:2, “He will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fish-hooks.” Comp. also Job 41:2, “Canst thou bore his jaw with a hook?” [The LXX., Vulg., Targ. render the word “chains.” Syriac confuses the word with chayyîm, “life,” and renders “took Manasseh in his life.”] Perhaps, however, the meaning is, and they took Manasseh prisoner at Hohim. There is no reason why Hohim should not be a local name, as well as Coz (1Chronicles 4:8).
And bound him with fetters.—With the double chain of bronze, as the Philistines bound Samson (Judges 16:21). So Sennacherib relates: “Suzubu king of Babylon, in the battle alive their hands took him; in fetters of bronze they put him, and to my presence brought him. In the great gate in the midst of the city of Nineveh I bound him fast.” This happened in 695 B.C., only a few years before the similar captivity of Manasseh.
And carried him.—Caused him to go, or led him away.
To Babylon.—Where Assurbanipal was holding his court at the time, as he appears to have done after achieving the overthrow of his brother the rebellious viceroy, and assuming the title of king of Babylon himself.
And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,(12) When he was in affliction.—See this phrase in 2Chronicles 28:22.
He besought.—Literally, stroked the face, a curious realistic phrase occurring in Exodus 32:11.
The God of his fathers.—Whom he had forsaken for the gods of aliens. Some MSS., and the Syriac, Targum, and Arabic insert “Jehovah” before this phrase.
And 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.(13) He was intreated of him.—1Chronicles 5:20.
And brought him again to Jerusalem.—The Assyrian monarch after a time saw fit to restore Manasseh to his throne as a vassal king. The case is exactly parallel to that of the Egyptian king Nikû (Necho I.), who was bound hand and foot, and sent to Nineveh; after which Assurbanipal extended his clemency to his captive, and restored him to his former state in his own country. (See Schrader, p. 371.)
That the Lord he was God.—That Jehovah was the true God. (Comp. 1Kings 18:39, where the same Hebrew words occur twice over.)
Now 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.(14) Now after this . . . valley.—Rather, And afterwards he built an outer wall to the city of David westward unto Gihon in the ravine. Manasseh completed the wall begun by Hezekiah (2Chronicles 32:5). This highly circumstantial account of the public works undertaken by Manasseh after his restoration, is utterly unlike fiction, and almost compels the assumption of a real historical source, no longer extant, from which the whole section has been derived.
Even to the entering in of the fish gate.—The fish-gate lay near the north-east corner of the lower city (Nehemiah 3:3). The direction of the outer wall is described first westward, and then eastward.
And compassed about Ophel.—And surrounded the Ophel (mound); seil., with the wall, which he carried on from the north-east to the south-east. Uzziah and Jotham had already worked upon these fortifications (2Chronicles 26:9; 2Chronicles 27:3). Manasseh now finished them, “raising them up to a very great height.”
Raised it—i.e., the outer wall.
Of Judah.—Heb., in Judah. Some MSS. and the Vulgale read as the Authorised Version.
And 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.(15) Took away the strange gods.—Comp. 2Chronicles 33:3-7. For the phrase “strange gods” (ĕlôhê nēkār), see Genesis 35:2.
In the mount of the house.—The temple hill. Thenius says: the courts with the altars in them (2 Kings xxi 4, 5).
And 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.(16) Repaired.—Heb., built, i.e., rebuilt. Ewald concludes from this that Manasseh had removed the altar of burnt offering; and from Jeremiah 3:16 that he destroyed the ark of the covenant. (Some Hebrew MSS., and many editions read prepared instead of built; but the Syriac and Arabic have the latter word, which is doubtless right.)
Now 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.CONCLUSION OF THE REIGN (2Chronicles 33:18-20).
(18) His prayer unto his God.—This prayer may or may not have been the basis of the Apocryphal Prayer of Manasses, preserved in the LXX.
The words of the seers that spake to him.—See Note on 2Chronicles 33:10, supr. These “words of the seers” were incorporated in the great history of the kings, which is mentioned at the end of the verse, and which was one of the chronicler’s principal authorities.
Written.—This word, though wanting in our present Hebrew text, is read in some MSS., and in the Syriac, Targum, and Arabic.
The book.—The history, literally, words. 2Kings 21:17 refers, as usual, to the “Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah.”
His 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.(19) His prayer also . . . of him.—And his prayer, and the hearing him. Literally, and the being propitious to him (the same verb as in 2Chronicles 33:13 and Genesis 25:21).
All his sins, and his trespass.—All his sin and his unfaithfulness. 2Kings 21:17 has, “And his sin that he sinned.” The chronicler, as usual, heightens the expression.
Groves.—The Ashērim. (See Note on 2Chronicles 33:3.)
Among the sayings of the seers.—In the history of Hozai. This work was, therefore, the source from which the chronicler derived his additional information about the reign of Manasseh. (See Introduction.) The LXX. has “the seers;” but the Vulg., “in sermonibus Hozai,” and the Syriac, “in the story of Hanan the prophet.” It is pretty clear that Hozai is simply a mutilated form of ha-hôzîm, “the seers,” a term which occurred in 2Chronicles 33:17.
So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.(20) In his own house.—2Kings 21:18, “and he was buried in the garden of his house, in the garden of Uzza.” The words, in the garden of, seem to have fallen out of our text. So LXX., ἐν παραδείσῳ οἴκου αὐτοῦ; Syriac, “in his house, in the garden of treasure.”
Amon was two and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned two years in Jerusalem.THE REIGN OF AMON (2Chronicles 33:21-25. Comp. 2Kings 21:19-26).
(21) Amon was two and twenty years old.—So 2Kings 21:19, which adds his mother’s name and parentage.
But 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;(22) For Amon sacrificed.—Literally, and to all the carven images which Manasseh his father had made did Amon sacrifice. (Comp. 2Kings 21:21, “and he walked in all the way wherein his father had walked, and served the idols which his father had served, and worshipped them.” Idols in the above passage is gillulîm, “dunglings,” a term nowhere used by the chronicler.) The statement of our text seems to imply that the “carven images” made by Manasseh had not been destroyed, but only cast aside. (See Note on 2Chronicles 33:15.) It argues a defect of judgment to say with Reuss that the reforms of Manasseh are rendered doubtful by it. The whole history is a succession of reforms followed by relapses; and the words of the sacred writer need not be supposed to mean that the images which Amon worshipped were the very ones which his penitent father had discarded, but only images of the same imaginary gods.
And humbled not himself before the LORD, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.(23) And humbled not himself . . . more and more.—This verse is added by the chronicler.
But Amon trespassed more and more.—Literally, for he, Amon, multiplied trespass.
But 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.(25) Slew.—Smote. The verse is identical with 2Kings 21:24, save that it has “smote” plural instead of singular, which latter is more correct. It may be that the facts thus briefly recorded represent a fierce conflict between the party of religious reform and that of religious reaction, in which the latter was for the time worsted and reduced to a state of suspended activity.
The chronicler has omitted the remarks usual at the end of a reign. See 2Kings 21:25-26 for a reference to sources, and Anion’s burial place (“the garden of Uzza”).