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2 Chronicles 33-35
Manasseh, King Of Judah (not to be confused with Manasseh the son of The Israelite Patriarch Joseph; see Ephraim and Manasseh) succeeded his father Hezekiah as king of The Southern Kingdom (see Kings of Israel and Judah). Manasseh was only twelve years old when he was elected as king (see Royal Democracy); he reigned fifty-five years with a mixture of corruption and then faithfulness after a very painful lesson.
"Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil [see the Fact Finder question below] in the sight of The Lord [see YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD], according to the abominable practices of the nations whom The Lord drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the High Places which his father Hezekiah had broken down, and erected altars to the Baals [see Baal and Baal-zebub and Beelzebub], and made Asherahs [see Groves], and worshiped all the host of heaven [see Heavens Below, Heavens Above; also The Queen Of Heaven], and served them. And he built altars in the house of The Lord, of which The Lord had said, "In Jerusalem shall My Name [see Thou shalt not take The Lord's Name in vain] be for ever." And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of The Lord. And he burned his sons as an offering in the valley of the son of Hinnom [see Valley Of Hinnom], and practiced soothsaying and augury and sorcery, and dealt with mediums [see Familiar Spirits] and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of The Lord, provoking Him to anger." (2 Chronicles 33:1-6 RSV)
As happened so many times before and since, The Lord's chosen people behaved in ways more evil than those who were godless.
"Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that they did more evil than the nations whom The Lord destroyed before the people of Israel." (2 Chronicles 33:9 RSV)
Manasseh was warned, but he refused to heed - so The Lord warned him in a way that he couldn't ignore. Manasseh was taken captive by an allowed-by-The-Lord invader, not gently, but "with hooks" (the Babylonians typically put hooks through a captive's nose by which he was led around like a farm animal). Note that "the king of Assyria" took Manasseh to "Babylon"; The Assyrian Empire and The Babylonian Empire both existed in "Babylon" (today known as Iraq), but peaked in power at different times i.e. the Assyrians were the "superpower" of Babylon, then the Babylonians were the "superpower" of Babylon. The result of Manasseh's own very painful captivity in Babylon however was repentance, "when he was in distress he entreated the favor of The Lord his God and humbled himself." The Lord then rescued and restored Manasseh to his throne.
"The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they gave no heed. Therefore The Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks and bound him with Fetters of bronze and brought him to Babylon. And when he was in distress he entreated the favor of The Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God received his entreaty and heard his supplication and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that The Lord was God." (2 Chronicles 33:10-13 RSV)
Upon his return, Manasseh lived a very different life, although not all of Judah learned their lesson, still using idols but foolishly claiming to be using them only to worship the true God i.e. "the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to The Lord their God," just as many Christian-professing still do today (e.g. see What Would Mary Really Say About Idolatry?).
"Afterwards he built an outer wall for The City of David west of Gihon, in the valley, and for the entrance into the Fish Gate [see The Gates Of Old Jerusalem], and carried it round Ophel, and raised it to a very great height; he also put commanders of the army in all the fortified cities in Judah. And he took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of The Lord, and all the altars that he had built on the mountain of the house of The Lord and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside of the city. He also restored the altar of The Lord and offered upon it sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving; and he commanded Judah to serve The Lord the God of Israel. Nevertheless the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to The Lord their God." (2 Chronicles 33:14-17 RSV)
When Manasseh died, he was succeeded as king of Judah by his son Amon.
"Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers [i.e. Prophets] who spoke to him in the name of The Lord the God of Israel, behold, they are in the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. And his prayer, and how God received his entreaty, and all his sin and his faithlessness, and the sites on which he built high places and set up the Asherim and the images, before he humbled himself, behold, they are written in the Chronicles of the Seers. So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his house; and Amon his son reigned in his stead." (2 Chronicles 33:18-20 RSV)
The restoration that Manasseh had done after he repented was undone by his son Amon. He reigned only two years before he was assassinated by his own servants.
"Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, as Manasseh his father had done. Amon sacrificed to all the images that Manasseh his father had made, and served them. And he did not humble himself before The Lord, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself, but this Amon incurred guilt more and more.
2 Chronicles Chapter 34
Josiah made himself one of the most obedient and faithful Kings of Israel and Judah. When he learned what was right (his corrupt father apparently taught him almost nothing of The Lord's Way), he acted upon it - a fine example of The Process Of Conversion.
"Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of The Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father [i.e. his forefather King David]; and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left." (2 Chronicles 34:1-2 RSV)
Josiah obviously had true people of God to advise him because "while he was yet a boy" he purged the kingdom of idolatry when "he began to seek the God of David." He also had the power to reduce idolatry in the neighboring "cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali," which were outside the boundaries of his kingdom of Judah, up in "The Northern Kingdom of "Israel."
"For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the graven and the molten images. And they broke down the altars of the Baals in his presence; and he hewed down the incense altars which stood above them; and he broke in pieces the Asherim and the graven and the molten images, and he made dust of them and strewed it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and purged Judah and Jerusalem. And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins round about, he broke down the altars, and beat the Asherim and the images into powder, and hewed down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem." (2 Chronicles 34:3-7 RSV)
While paganism reigned, the Temple had once again been allowed to become in a state of disrepair, so faithful Josiah ordered the work to be done after "he had purged the land."
"Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the house of The Lord his God." (2 Chronicles 34:8 RSV)
While the Temple work was being done, the Book of The Law, the Holy Scriptures, was found - after many years of neglect and ignorance (ignorance happens with those who ignore what they should never lose sight of). When the priests showed the king their discovery (incredibly, since the priests, of all people, should have known exactly where it was), Josiah's Reforms became more urgent.
"Then Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the book of the law in the house of The Lord"; and Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan." (2 Chronicles 34:15 RSV)
2 Chronicles Chapter 35
Josiah also recognized and observed The Lord's only true Holy Days (see Christ's Passover, Christ's Feast of Unleavened Bread, Christ's Pentecost, Christ's Feast of Trumpets, Christ's Day Of Atonement, Christ's Feast of Tabernacles and Christ's Eighth Day).
"Josiah kept a passover to The Lord in Jerusalem; and they killed the passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month [see Bible Calendar and Bible Months]. He appointed the priests to their offices and encouraged them in the service of the house of The Lord. And he said to the Levites who taught all Israel and who were holy to The Lord, "Put the holy ark [see The Ark Of The Covenant] in the house which Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built; you need no longer carry it [see Raiders Of The Lost Ark] upon your shoulders. Now serve The Lord your God and his people Israel. Prepare yourselves according to your fathers' houses by your divisions, following the directions of David king of Israel and the directions of Solomon his son.
Josiah's life came to an end in battle. The king of Egypt requested simple direct passage of his troops through Judah on his way to invading what is today Iraq; he was not seeking war with Judah, although his request was actually a demand since he sent his army through Judah even after Josiah refused. Josiah was wounded at Megiddo and died back in Jerusalem.
"After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Josiah went out against him. But he sent envoys to him, saying, "What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war; and God has commanded me to make haste. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you."
Fact Finder: When someone commits evil, what are they actually doing? What does "evil" mean?