2 Kings 21:10-18
And the LORD spoke by his servants the prophets, saying,…
In all that he had done, Manasseh had not only sinned himself, but had "seduced" others to sin (ver. 9). Persons in high positions have this great influence. They are the natural social leaders, and their example tells powerfully for good or evil. The prophets, however, though as it proved at the risk of their lives, did not fail to warn him. It was no doubt their faithful denunciations, and the terrible evils they predicted, which brought down upon them the king's wrath, and led to the great persecution.
I. MANASSEH MORE WICKED THAN THE CANAANITES. He had "done wickedly above all that the Amorites did." His deeds may have been the same, but his guilt was greater than theirs, inasmuch as:
1. His light was greater than theirs. The Canaanites had the light of nature, and that, indeed, sufficed to render them inexcusable (Romans 1:18-32; Romans 2:14, 15). But Manasseh had the light of revelation. He was king of a nation to which God had made fully known the truth of his Being, character, and attributes; which had laws and statutes given to it such as no other nation possessed (Deuteronomy 4:6-8); and which enjoyed the living ministry of holy prophets. He had also had the advantage of a pious father's example and training. For such a one to go back to the sins of the Amorites was a heinous offence. It made his wickedness greater than theirs. We shall be judged by the light we possess (Luke 12:47, 48), and if our light is not improved it will be more tolerable for heathen nations than for us (Matthew 11:21-24; Matthew 12:41, 42).
2. He was guilty of apostasy; they were not. If the Amorities did these abominations, and served these idols, it could at least be said that they had never lived under any other system. God had suffered them to walk in their own way (Acts 14:16; Acts 17:30). But in his evil Manasseh was guilty of a direct act of apostasy. He was going back from past attainments. He was violating a covenant made at Sinai, and repeatedly renewed. It is a different thing for a heathen to commit the vile acts in which he has been brought up, and for a Christian to renounce Christian training and baptismal engagements, and do the same acts.
3. The corruption of the best is the worst. This is another principle which explains why Manasseh's abominations are represented as worse than those of the Amorites. A nation, being once enlightened, cannot sin as the semi-ignorant heathen do. It develops worse and more virulent evils. As a brute cannot sin in the same way as a man, or a child in the same way as an adult, so a nation enlightened by revelation can no longer sin as a nation does which has not this light. The higher consciousness reacts upon the sin and modifies it. There are evils possible under a Christian civilization which surpass anything known in heathenism. If our great cities show higher heights of virtue, they could also reveal lower depths of vice than Nineveh, Rome, Pekin, or Calcutta.
II. THE SEVERITY OF JERUSALEM'S PUNISHMENT.
1. The grounds of the punishment. These are twofold:
(1) Manasseh's sins as above described. "Because Manasseh King of Judah hath done these abominations," etc. (ver. 11). In this sin of the king, however, the people shared. He "made Judah also to sin with his idols." King and people, therefore, must suffer together. There is a corporate responsibility, which involves a community in common guilt, whether the sin proceeds from the head or the members.
(2) The entail of past transgression. "Because they have done evil in my sight since the day their fathers came forth from Egypt, unto this day" (ver. 15). That entail would have been cut off by timely repentance, but, in default of repentance, the guilt continues to be handed down. This is another phase of corporate responsibility. The life of the nation is continuous, and one generation has to accept its responsibilities from another. We see the same principle, e.g., in the handing down of national doubt. Christ views the Jewish nation of his day as chargeable with all the righteous blood that had been shed from the days of Abel downwards (Matthew 23:35).
2. The character of the punishment. It would be:
(1) Startling. "Such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle." Wars, sieges of cities, and captivities, with the horrors attendant on them, were common enough in those days, but this vengeance of God on Jerusalem would be so awful as to shock and amaze even those familiarized with such scenes. The very report of it would produce a stinging sound in their ears. The fulfillment of the threat was partly under Nebuchadnezzar, but completely under the Romans (Matthew 24:21).
(2) Measured. "I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab." The idea is that God would take strict account of Judah's sin, as already he had done of that of Samaria. The measuring-line and 'plummet are introduced for purposes of precision. God would measure exactly the transgression of the people; would note precisely the degree of their deviation from righteousness (cf. Amos 7:7-9); and to this measured guilt the punishment would be proportioned. The reason of measurement was that judgment was no more to be qualified by mercy. The nation was to bear the full load of its iniquity. It is a terrible thing when God thus "marks iniquity" (Psalm 130:3); for then the case of the sinner is hopeless.
(3) Complete. "I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish," etc. "I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance," etc. The figure of cleansing out a dish till it is as clean as wiping can make it is a very graphic one for the utter emptying and desolation that was to overtake Jerusalem. The city would not simply be humbled, as on many previous occasions, but would be completely destroyed, and the people led away by their enemies as a prey and a spoil. The predictions, as we know, were fulfilled to the letter. Manasseh might kill the men who uttered them, but he could not hinder their words from coming true; nay, his violence put a new seal on the certainty of their fulfillment. In the temporal calamities that were to overtake Jerusalem, we find a proof that verily there "is a God that judgeth in the earth" (Psalm 58:11), and we are warned lest we provoke his "wrath to the uttermost" (1 Thessalonians 2:16) by our own impenitence.
III. MANASSEH'S DEATH. The reign of more than half a century came at length to a close, and, though the last years of it were marked by repentance, it left indelible traces of evil on the condition of the people. That by which Manasseh was specially remembered was "his sin that he sinned." He was buried in "the garden of his own house, the garden of Uzza." Amen also was buried in this garden (ver. 26). There was another garden which had a sepulcher in it (John 19:41); but how different the sleepers! - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying,