Friday, May 26, 2023

The Kings Of Israel And Judah. Day 111, Manasseh King Of Judah, Part Three

King Manasseh of Judah has done away with all of his late father's religious reforms and he has even set up an idolatrous image in the temple. He even participates in the most abominable pagan ritual of all: child sacrifice. Many of the people of the nation have followed him into idolatry. We read yesterday that the Lord sent warning after warning to the king and the people through the prophets but to no avail. 

Humans do not always respond correctly to words of warning; sometimes it takes difficult circumstances to lead a person to repentance. The Lord allows difficult circumstances to come into Manasseh's life. "The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon." (2 Chronicles 33:10-11) 

This is the only Biblical account of Manasseh's arrest by the Assyrian officers. There is no record of his capture in any of the records of Assyria, although he is mentioned in the annals of two of the kings of Assyria who state that he was a vassal king who was forced to pay tribute to them. We previously learned that the Assyrians had conquered Babylon and that the kings of the era we are studying held the double title of King of Assyria and King of Babylon. Another thing we learned is that the Assyrian kings had a practice of deporting conquered people to other lands, so the assertion of the author of 2 Chronicles that the king of Assyria had Manasseh taken into custody and held in Babylon is entirely reasonable to believe in the context of the history of ancient Assyria. It may be that Manasseh, like his father Hezekiah before him, rebelled against paying tribute to Assyria and that Assyrian commanders laid in wait for him somewhere outside of Jerusalem and ambushed him, taking him prisoner and holding him until he agreed to resume being taxed by Assyria.

We can't say for certain what took place politically during his incarceration but we know what happened spiritually during that time. "In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed to Him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so He brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God." (2 Chronicles 33:12-13) The Bible tells us that the Lord resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5-6, James 4:6-7) 

While Manasseh was lifted up in pride and while he indulged in every pagan practice he ever heard of, the Lord allowed desperate circumstances to come into his life. But while Manasseh was incarcerated, none of his heathen gods came to his aid. He may have cried out to them. He may have fasted and spent many hours on his knees calling out to deities who do not exist. The only One who spoke to him during that time was the Lord and Manasseh wisely opened his ears and his heart to Him. His repentance must have been sincere since the Lord was "moved by his entreaty". I believe the Lord promised him that He was going to return him to his throne in Jerusalem as the proof that He---and He alone---is God. I presume that the Lord caused the king of Assyria to feel compassion for him, which is no small feat considering how brutally the Assyrians typically treated their prisoners. The Assyrians would not have thought twice about torturing Manasseh if that's what it took to get him to agree to send them the specified amount of tribute they demanded. But the Lord caused them to show Manasseh mercy and he was restored to his throne in Jerusalem, just as the Lord had promised, and by this Manasseh knew "that the Lord is God".

In our next study session we will look at the religious reforms Manasseh made after the Lord helped him. But a lot of damage has already been done to the nation, spiritually speaking, and the people will continue on a downward spiral of idolatry until the nation falls to an enemy. It won't be Assyria, which is the nation they fear now, but it will be Babylon, which at this time is under Assyrian domination.

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