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Manasseh: Sometimes Kings Start Over

Series: Sometimes You Just Have to Start Over
Dr. Woodrow Kroll
January 7, 2010

Woodrow Kroll: He was the worst of the worst.

Tami Weissert: A hopeless case . . . or was he?

Woodrow Kroll: Our study today focuses on Manasseh, the worst king Israel ever had, and the chance God gave him to start over. Hi, I’m Woodrow Kroll.

Tami Weissert: And I’m Tami Weissert.

Woodrow Kroll: And this is Back to the Bible.

Tami Weissert: Dr. Kroll, this is really one of my favorite start-over stories. It begins with this awful king, Manasseh. And you know that phrase, “bad to the bone”? That is Manasseh.

Woodrow Kroll: Yes, and I ‘m going to touch on some of the pagan practices he took part in just so we understand how really reprehensible this Manasseh was.

Tami Weissert: Do you think it’s safe to say that maybe he needed an extreme makeover?

Woodrow Kroll: He did, and guess what! God gave him one. Now as with any other extreme makeover, you have two parts to the story: the before and the after.

Tami Weissert: OK, two parts. So let’s start with the before part which comes to us from 2 Kings 21.

Woodrow Kroll: Now let’s go back and set the stage for Manasseh. Who is this Manasseh? Well, Manasseh is the thirteenth king of Judah.

Since he is the king of Judah that means, you know, that he is an ancestor of the Lord Jesus because Jesus came through the line of Judah. The kings of Judah, the two tribes to the south, those kings are the kings through whom the line of the Lord Jesus comes. That’s why it is so important that line never be broken.

The tribes to the north, every time there was a coup, a new family would get in power, a new dynasty would be begun and nobody cared really because that dynasty, that family, did not have to be preserved.

But in the two tribes to the south, it was absolutely essential that the dynasty be preserved. And Manasseh is a part of that dynasty. He is the thirteenth king of Judah. He reigned from about 697 B.C. to about 642 B.C.

He’s an interesting character to say the least. His father was an extremely good king. His name was Hezekiah. In 686 B.C., his father died. And it’s apparent that for the first 12 years of his reign, he and his father reigned as co-regents. He reigned with his father. Then his father died.

And as is often the case, the influence of this good and godly king, Hezekiah, removed from the life of this young king, Manasseh, meant (Manasseh’s only 23 years of age) now things are going to go south pretty quickly for him. He is on his own at this point. He’s going to reign for 55 years. Now I make a point of that because his reign of 55 years is longer than any other king of Judah.

This is the longest reigning king we have in the two southern tribes. Let me go one step further. His reign of 55 years is longer than any king of Israel.

So in the history of Israel, in the history of God’s people that had a king, the longest reigning king of all of them is this fellow right here, Manasseh.

Regrettably, though, he’s not only the longest reigning king, he’s the most wicked of the bunch as well. Isn’t it interesting, you get somebody in power and he stays in power this long and things only get worse for him and for you as well.

I think the thing that distinguishes Manasseh from the other kings is just how notorious and how wicked his reign was. We’re going to look at that wicked reign here. 2 Kings 21:1 (NKJV), “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah.

“And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.”

Now let me stop there because, sometimes, you know, each of the kings, north and south, each of the kings is described as having done good or having done evil in the sight of the Lord. You don’t have to worry about the kings of the north.

When I was studying Kings in Bible school a long, long time ago, one of my professors made me memorize all the kings of the north and their dates of reign and all the kings of the south and their dates of reign. I can’t tell you what they are today because I can look that up in my Bible, but no need for me to remember that sort of thing. But he also made us remember whether they were a good king or a bad king. And I loved that part because all the kings of the north were bad. I mean all of them. You don’t have to remember that; they were all bad.

A lot of the kings of the south were bad to but not all of them. Some of them were good, and here it says of Manasseh, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord,” which means that while Hezekiah was a good king doing what God wanted, doing what was right in God’s sight, Manasseh, when he at age 23 became the sole ruler of Judah, turned 180 degrees and started to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord.

Now I want you to just kind of run down through there and look at the things he does, beginning at verse 3 of 2 Kings 21. It says, “For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed” (2 Kings 21:3, NKJV), his father being Hezekiah. Chapter 18, verse 4 tells about him destroying all these high places.

Now what are “high places?” High places are hill tops and we don’t have many hill tops here in Nebraska because we’re in flat country here. But the high places were simply hill tops where the Canaanites would go because they felt somehow closer to their gods (plural) when they were on the top of these high places.

So God said, “Don’t go to those high places.” I mean evil was there. “Stay out of there if that’s where Canaanites want to worship their gods, don’t go to these high places.”

In fact the Jews were strictly forbidden by the law to make any sacrifices at these high places, Leviticus 17.

But he went and he rebuilt the high places. He built altars on top of these high places. His father had taken them down. He raised up an altar for Baal there—it says that in [2 Kings 21] verse 3. He made a wooden image as King Ahab of Israel had done.

Ahab, by the way, was the worst king of the northern tribes. Manasseh is the worst king of the southern tribes. This wooden image that he is talking about here is what is known as an Asherah pole. Asherah was the female goddess, the wife of Baal.

The Asherah pole was kind of like a totem pole; it was a cult pole. It was just a cult pillar that people would put up and they would worship the god behind the pillar. Asherah, by the way, was the favorite god of the women of this period of history because she was probably the first feminist deity that had some strong impact on her louse of a husband, Baal.

Well, they re-instituted the Asherah pole; they rebuilt these high places and it says in [2 Kings 21] verse 3 that he worshipped the host of heaven, probably meaning the astral deities, the sun god, the moon god, the god of the stars.

Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand. It doesn’t say that Manasseh ever kicked Jehovah out. It doesn’t say that he tore down Solomon’s temple. He didn’t, in fact. It’s not the issue of replacing the God of the Bible with all these pagan gods.

It’s the issue of keeping the God of the Bible and adding all of these things to it.

It is the major problem missionaries face around the world today. It’s called syncretism. It’s taking an existing religion and adding Christianity to it so you keep some of this and some of that.

And that’s exactly what Manasseh is doing. Manasseh is adding to the religion of the Jewish people, the religion of the pagan gods of Assyria all around them.

Look at verse 5, chapter 21, verse 5, Manasseh built altars to the sun god, the moon god. Verse 6, it says incredibly, “He made his son pass through the fire” (see 2 Kings 21:5-6). This is a practice so vile, so horrible and I think it says a lot about the character of Manasseh.

The fires of Molech, in the valley of Hinnom just to the south of Jerusalem, just away from the Jerusalem walls, on the south side–that’s where the pagan god, the Ammonite god (the Ammonites were the people on the other side of the river Jordan where Jordan is today, the country of Jordan), the Ammonite god of Molech was the god of fire. And in order to appease the god of fire, pagan people would sacrifice their children–they would burn their children as an offering to the god of Molech.

And to show you how far Manasseh would go to appease the nations around him, to bring their religions into his religion, he actually burned one of his children in the fires of Molech.

Verse 6 says he practiced soothsaying, which is a kind of fortune telling. Verse 6 says he used witchcraft. He consulted spiritualists, people who are skilled in the occult, mediums (people who claim to be able to call from the dead and to get the dead to speak), channelers, you know.

Verse 6 says that Manasseh provoked God to anger. Well that’s an understatement. Verse 7 says that he set up an Asherah pole in Solomon’s temple. I mean, how bad is this? Manasseh sets up pagan idols in the temple of Solomon, the temple where God said, “I’m going to put My name in this city, in this temple. It is mine. It is reserved for me.”

And Manasseh says, “We’ll just add a little of our contemporary religion to your temple.”

Do you want to know the consequences of this man’s extreme sin? Look at verse 10, 11, 12, 13, in through there. I mean Manasseh is a king that just does horrible things. There is no hope for this man, Manasseh. At least you’d think there was no hope for him.

And you get finally down to verse 16, it says, “Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin with which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the Lord.

“Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh—all that he did, and the sin that he committed—are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” (see 2 Kings 21:10-16).

Question mark! I love punctuation in the Bible. It’s not original, but I love it being there because this is a question.

“Look,” he says, “I’m writing 1 Kings. I’m giving you an account of the life of Manasseh. You want to know more about Manasseh? You have to go to the Chronicles.”

I’m so glad that’s in there because if 1 Kings is all you know about Manasseh, all you know about Manasseh is bad because all that’s recorded in 1 Kings and 2 Kings is bad.

So if the Book of Kings is all you know about Manasseh, all you’re going to know about this king is how horrible a king he was. And then there’s this little note here at the end of this chapter that says, “If you want to know more, you have to go to the Chronicles.”

The final resting place of Manasseh was in a garden. He was not even allowed to be buried with the other kings, he was so wicked. In his death, they didn’t even want to honor him by putting him with the other kings of Judah.

Now if ever there was a man who needed to start over, boy it’s this guy. And if you’d only read 2 Kings, you’d never know God gave him that chance. But as you know by now, God is the God of the second chance. And when you need one, God will give you one.

Tami Weissert: Your listening to Back to the Bible with Bible teacher, Woodrow Kroll.

Hi, this is Tami with a reminder for you to order your complimentary copy of Meet with God. That’s Back to the Bible’s free monthly devotional. Each issue gives you a daily dose of Scripture reading along with comments and questions to help you live out all that you take in from God’s Word.

This month’s issue talks about the Stepping Stones of Life–you know, all those qualities we need to get us through the streams of life. And by the way, that’s also what next week’s radio series is all about.

So give us a call to request your free copy of Meet with God. Our phone number is 1-800-759-2425.

Dr. Kroll, earlier in our study you mentioned syncretism. That’s mixing other practices in along with true doctrine. An example of that in Manasseh’s time was Asherah poles. So how about a modern day example for us?

Woodrow Kroll: Just look around you, Tami. Our do-it-yourself religion of the 21st century is a perfect example of syncretism. A recent Barna poll discovered that most Christians, even most evangelical Christians, have invited a little bit of Buddhism, a little mysticism, a little of this, a little of that–they’ve made it a part of their Christian religion. There’s probably not generation more syncretistic than our generation today.

Tami Weissert: That’s bad. We know that Manasseh’s before story was pretty rotten, but now we’re ready for the extreme makeover, part two–the after story. Here it is.

Woodrow Kroll: If the story of Manasseh ended with 2 Kings 21, all we would see is a man gone wrong, a man who did horrible and wicked things and a man who died. But since it tells us, if you want to know more, go to the Book of Chronicles, let’s do that, 2 Chronicles 33.

Now when you look at 2 Chronicles 33, you begin at verse 1, it says, “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 33:1, NKJV).

And then it lists all the evil that he did. Sounds a lot like what we’ve already been through, right, in 2 Kings 21? And it is, the first ten verses are pretty much the same.

But then you get to verse 11. Look at verse 11, “Therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon” (2 Chronicles 33:11, NKJV).

Now you didn’t know anything about that, did you? This is more to the story now. And notice verse 12, “Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chronicles 33:12, NKJV).

Well, well, well, there’s more to the life of the most wicked man (of any of the kings) of Israel and Judah than you learn from 2 Kings 21. What you learn is that God gave Manasseh a chance to have a second chance.

And look what he does there. He tries to undo all the wicked things that he did when he was younger in his life. In verse 14 it says, “After this he built a wall outside the City of David on the west side of Gihon in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate; and it enclosed Ophel, and he raised it to a very great height. Then he put military captains in all the fortified cities of Judah. He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 33:14, NKJV). Well, good for him.

See, repentance doesn’t mean you say to God, “I’m sorry.” Repentance means, you show God that you’re sorry. And here is a man who is genuinely repentant. He went back. God brought him out of this captivity, took him back to his home city.

And he said, “First thing I’ve got to do is, I’ve got tell everybody that my attitude toward God is entirely different. God has given me a second chance. I’m going to make the best of it. I’m going to undo all the bad things I did before God got a hold of me.” He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord.

Verse 15, “All the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem; and he cast them out of the city. He also repaired the altar of the Lord, sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 33:15, NKJV).

You talk about a turnaround; here’s Manasseh the worst man there ever was in the kingdom of Judah and he wants to go back and change things because he knows that when God gives you a second chance, you need to make the most of it.

He was called “the meanest man in Texas.” His name was Clyde Thompson. He was out hunting one Sunday afternoon and he encountered some people in the woods. I don’t know what the story is but before he left this group of people that he encountered, Clyde killed four of them.

So now he’s wanted for murder. He was finally arrested. He was sent off to prison. He was placed on death row in Huntsville, Texas, one of the toughest prisons in the world. There on death row, the murder didn’t stop because he killed four more people while he was in prison. So now the total is up to eight.

So bad is Clyde Thompson that they need to put him away. They need to put this fellow in a place where he can’t hurt anyone else. So they take him and they put him in solitary confinement.

And in solitary confinement, he was still so mean and so wicked that they said, “We’ve got to do something even stronger than this.” They did something in Huntsville, Texas, they have never done before or since. They have a morgue there for bodies. They took out the slabs of the morgue. They put a steel door in the front of the door. They put Clyde Thompson inside the morgue and they welded the door shut.

There was about a six-inch square hole in the middle of the door through which they could pass things to him, food for example and that would allow some light to come in just a few hours a day. And there Clyde Thompson was going to spend the rest of his life.

This guy was so mean that when the guards would walk by, he’s spit at them through this little hole. And finally one guard–isn’t it interesting God has His people just where He needs them–one guard said, “Clyde, you need something to read in there. The only thing I have is a Bible.” And by this point, Clyde was so bored, he said, “Hey, I’ll take anything.”

The guard put the Bible through the hole and Clyde Thompson began to read the Bible–by himself; no radio evangelist, no television preacher, no pastor, no Gospel literature. He had a Bible. That’s all he had.

And he began to read and he would read a passage again and again and again. What he didn’t know was, while he was reading these passages, he was actually thinking about them. He was meditating on them. He was memorizing Scripture.

And suddenly a horrendous change came over Clyde’s life. They took him out of the morgue. They put him back in solitary confinement. They saw such a difference in Clyde’s life that they took him out of solitary confinement. They put him out in the general population and he began to preach the Gospel that he had learned while he was in that morgue to the people in the general population of the Huntsville, Texas prison.

While he was there, he baptized 18 of them, having trusted Christ as Savior. So different was this man because God gave him a second chance that the governor decided to parole him and he did.

Now he was a parolee, which meant that once a week he had to check in with his parole officer. And that was great because he witnessed to every parole officer he ever had. Clyde Thompson became one of the greatest soul winners of the 20th century, all because the meanest man in Texas got a second chance from God.

You know, when I think of Clyde Thompson, I think of Manasseh, the worst king in the history of the tribes of Judah and tribes of Israel. But God gave him a second chance. And he said, “I’m going to use this second chance to try to make right what I messed up the first time.”

And if you need a second chance, don’t just take it and run; take it and change. Change things in your life. Go back and fix all the things that you know you’ve broken the first time.

And what you can’t fix, help somebody else know how to fix. But be like Manasseh, the worst man in 2 Kings 21 becomes the man God gets a hold of in 2 Chronicles 33, gives him a second chance and everything in his life changes for the better.

Tami Weissert: You’re listening to Back to the Bible with Bible teacher, Woodrow Kroll.

Woodrow Kroll:

“When you’ve trusted Jesus and walked His way,
When you’ve felt His hand lead you day by day,
But your steps now take you another way,
Start over.”

Tami Weissert: Hi, I’m Tami Weissert and you’ve just heard Dr. Kroll reciting a poem he wrote called “Start Over.” Now there’s lots of inspiration in this poem so be sure to read it in its entirety in our “Program Extras” section at backtothebible.org.

And while you’re online, you can order this week’s Starting Over series on CD. That’s all five studies covering start-overs in the lives of Jacob, Peter, Jonah, Manasseh, and Nehemiah. They each needed to start fresh and God helped them do just that. And guess what! He’ll help you too. So get your inspiration from this week’s Starting Over series. Order it on CD.

And listen: When you order the series, we’ll also send you one of Dr. Kroll’s “Start Over” bookmarks for a little extra inspiration when you read. To order the Starting Over series online, just go to backtothebible.org. Or you can call us at 1-800-759-2425.

Well, Dr. Kroll, this was a great message of hope. It just shows us that no matter what we’ve done, it’s not too big for God.

Woodrow Kroll: We look at our sins, we look at the shortcomings in our lives and we say, “Man, those are huge! God could never forgive those.” But what we have to do is match our sins and our shortcomings to the hugeness of God’s forgiveness and His mercy. There really is nothing in our lives that’s too big for God to forgive.

Tami Weissert: This study also shows me that if there’s someone in my life that I’ve given up on, that I’ve decided they’ve just gone so far, it’s just hopeless, I need to think again.

Woodrow Kroll: That’s true because, remember–we are talking about the God of the second chance here. God gives all of us second chances, even those people we may not want Him to give a second chance to.

Tami Weissert: Well, so far this week, our studies have featured people who started over because of their own doing. But we’re changing that up tomorrow. It’s kind of fitting to end the week on a slightly different note.

Woodrow Kroll: Yes, you know often we start over because of something we’ve done, when we’ve really botched it. But there are occasions where we have to start over because of something someone else does to us, when we’re betrayed–like Nehemiah. Tomorrow in our study, we’re going to see how Nehemiah had to start over because he was significantly betrayed. Maybe you’ve been there yourself. I think this will be a very fitting study for you tomorrow here on Back to the Bible.

Thanks so much for being here today. God bless you. I’m Woodrow Kroll. My prayer for you is the same every day at this time–that you would have a good and godly day, for of what lasting value is a good day if it’s not also a godly day?

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