King Manasseh of Judah is one of the lesser known kings of the people of Israel, in spite of the fact that his 55-year reign was more than any other king in the northern or southern kingdoms. This man only has two chapters dedicated to his life in Scripture: the first is 2 Kings 21; the second is 2 Chronicles 33. But within these two chapters is the account of one of the greatest life changes in the Bible.
Manasseh became king at the age of 12 (2 Kin. 21:1). He was the son of one of the greatest kings Judah had ever seen in King Hezekiah, yet his father’s influence did not rub off on the young Manasseh. When Manasseh became king he went out of his way to destroy everything his father had accomplished. A cursory examination of 2 Kings 21 reveals that Manasseh built up the idolatrous high places that his father had destroyed as well as rearing up idols of his own (Vs. 3). He built altars to idolatrous gods and placed them in the temple of God (Vs. 4). He burned his children alive in offerings to these idolatrous gods and dealt in witchcraft (Vs. 6). He shed innocent blood in Jerusalem to the point that it filled Jerusalem from one end to the other (Vs. 16). He did more evil in his reign than the nations that were destroyed by God before the children of Israel (Vs. 9). Manasseh was an evil and vile man whose reign was marked with rebellion, idolatry, violence, perversion, and hatred.
If all we saw about Manasseh was 2 Kings 21, it would certainly be one of the most terrible and horrific accounts of the Old Testament. For truly the actions of Manasseh were ones that dropped Judah into some of her deepest, darkest times. But in 2 Chronicles 33 we read what Paul Harvey would have called, “the rest of the story.” The Lord brings the host of Assyria against Manasseh because of his wickedness (Vs. 11). Manasseh will be captured, taken prisoner, and carried to Babylon in chains. While imprisoned there, Manasseh humbled himself greatly before God asking his forgiveness and pleading for his release (Vs. 12-13). God heard his prayers and returned Manasseh once again to Jerusalem. Manasseh was now a changed man. He removed the altars and images that he had created in Israel (Vs. 15). He rebuilt the nation of Judah and fortified it (Vs. 14). He reinstated the worship of God and had offerings of peace and thanksgiving raised up before God (Vs. 16); and from all indications of Scripture he served God the rest of his life.
There are two great lessons to learn from the life of Manasseh. The first lesson is that any man can change his ways if his desire is strong enough. Manasseh was one of the greatest villains of the Old Testament. His wicked deeds and rebellious actions were rivaled by few in the inscriptions of the Bible. Yet, when he humbled himself and turned, his turning was a complete 180. He did not try to half-heartedly “do better,” but went full force in the opposite direction. Such is what is necessary for an evil man to change.
The second lesson is that, though a man may change, the consequences of his actions are still present. Though Manasseh changed his ways and served God, the damage of the wickedness of his life was already done. Many innocent lives had been lost. The people had been turned from God to idolatry. The son of Manasseh, Amon, who would reign after him, would follow in the early footsteps of his father, instead of the footsteps of his repentance. Though Manasseh changed, his legacy was already in place. We must ensure we live our lives with the understanding that every decision we make, every direction we take, has an impact on others around us. When we make wrong decisions we may be able to make them right before God, but we can’t always change the impact they’ve had on others.
Manasseh should be far better known than he is. His story is inspiring because it shows that humility and godliness can change anyone. But his story is also a warning because the path of evil leaves great destruction in its wake.