2 Kings 21:1-22:2 & 2 Chron 33:1-34:7
The first portion of today’s reading comes from 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, and it’s the story of Menasseh, Hezekiah’s evil son. The second portion comes from Jeremiah, which I’ll post on later.
Not only is Menasseh bad in the sense that he tolerates the idolatry and worship in high places (a real no-no since Levitical law prohibited sacrifice to God outside of the prescribed areas by designated authorities); he’s bad with initiative because his dad had torn all that stuff down for the first time. Menasseh has daddy issues (and “Abba” Daddy issues as well, I suppose) strong enough that he undoes Hezekiah’s good work in pursuit of his wicked ways. I’m definitely a sinner, but I guess in some ways it’s better to be a lazy sinner than an industrious one.
An interesting point that the study Bible makes is that Menasseh’s sins echo those of previous wayward kings. The worship of Baal, the high places, the necromancing and fortune telling, even the human sacrifice, are like a recap of the sins of those like Saul, Ahaz, Ahab, and Jephthah (? what’s the verdict on him, anyway?). It’s as if God allowed Manasseh to serve as a reminder to Israel of all the reasons he was about to punish them (which leads to taht there’s that sticky determinism issue of who wills sin).
Interestingly enough, Menasseh reigns for 55 years, one of the longer reigns in Israel’s history. While some look at this and wonder why God allows evil men to prosper while comparatively good men don’t, I am reminded of the idea that God does what He will in His time. It could be that the forces of divine punishment (Assyria/Babylon/Persia) were not in place to perfectly express His will. It could be that there were elements of Israel’s history after Menasseh that God intended to bring about (spoiler alert! Stay tuned for Josiah!). Either way, His timing is perfect, even if it seems unjust from our limited perspective.
Additionally, the 55 years that Menasseh was able to reign actually speak a message of great hope. As detailed in 2 Chron 10-20, Manasseh repented late in life and attempted to make good and undo the damage he had wrought to his people’s standing with God. It’s easy to stand on the outside and criticize God for allowing a sinner to remain un-smote. If we remember that we have also been that sinner, we’re thankful that God gives us a long time to come to repentence. Those 55 years were not an injustice as much as they were a display of grace.
Lastly, Manasseh’s deeds, despite his later repentence, still had real consequences for those around him. In pursuing his own sinful aims, Manasseh lead his people and his family into error, damaging their faith. Specifically, Manasseh’s son and successor, Amon, reversed his dad’s late atonement and further led the people in idolatry. It’s a hard concept to parse, and harder for modern sensibilities to accept, but this is one way in which the sins of the father really are visited on the son.
Later today: Jeremiah