The Lesson of Manasseh, King of Judah

King Manasseh - Enter the Bible

Manasseh praying and repenting in his prison cell

Hezekiah was one of the best kings Judah ever had. His son and successor, Manasseh, did not take after him.

Manasseh overturned his father’s religious reforms and brought back idol worship and human sacrifice–passing children through the fire to give them to Moloch. His sins are told in detail in 2 Kings 21.

In 2 Chronicles 33, the story takes a dramatically different turn. In v. 11 the king of Assyria has Manasseh arrested and hauled off to Babylon as a prisoner. There Manasseh “humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (v. 12), prayed, repented, and was eventually allowed to return to Jerusalem (v. 13). He kept his word to God and took away the idols, and restored right worship.

“Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel” (v. 18). But that portion of the book seems to have been lost. 2 Kings makes no mention of Manasseh’s repentance. That doesn’t mean he didn’t. The two books’ accounts augment each other; they don’t contradict each other.

The lesson for us is surely that however far this man went down the road to perdition, he did not go so far that God’s grace couldn’t save him. In prison Manasseh realized what he’d done, prayed, and offered up sincere repentance. He changed his ways. He stopped doing the evil he’d been doing. God saved him, he wound up reigning over Judah for 55 years (longest reign ever), and was buried in his own garden.

If Manasseh’s heart could change… so can ours.

10 comments on “The Lesson of Manasseh, King of Judah

  1. Manasseh was an amazing example.

    In my lifetime, I’ve met a handful of individuals whom I believed were truly evil in intention. The most obvious examples were men I knew who cheated on their wives and seemed proud of their infidelity. In every case, their lives were filled with trouble, and they were very unpleasant people to be around.

    Our God is very tolerant, and leaves people to their own devices, but some of the people I mention above seemed to have the attitude of defiance to societal norms, and quite possibly towards God Himself.

    But as Manasseh showed, even a truly wicked person can repent, and even be blessed by God. Hopefully, God judges me as being well intentioned, and sees my shortcomings as the consequence of inherited sin. There have been times in my life when I’ve looked at attitudes and actions I once held and realized that I needed to repent of these. We have Christ’s sacrifice working on our behalf, which is massive.

    Manasseh’s history is in the Bible for good reason.

    1. When I was a young man, I appreciated the wisdom of biblical morality, and lived accordingly, but I had some very bad attitudes and some mistaken notions that cause me pain to even remember. If I could take today’s wisdom back to when I was just entering adulthood, I could have done much better in life. Undoubtedly, were I to live to double my current age, I would probably say the same about the “wisdom” I feel I possess right now. All of us can continually learn.

  2. Followers of Jesus are people whose heart has changed. We pray for our enemies, like Jo Biden, to be like Manasseh and have a complete heart change. Saul became Paul, but Judas never repented. God is the judge of all the earth, not us.

  3. Answered prayer can have unforeseen consequences. If King Hezekiah would have allowed his life to end, as the prophet Isaiah had spoken, many things would have been different. But no, God answered his prayer and he was healed, and lived at least 15 more years. Guess who was born during those added years, Manasseh. If King Hezekiah would have died as God had decreed, no evil Manasseh would have been born.

    I have always wondered about that. God knew the great evil Manasseh would do, shed innocent blood till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other, besides dealing with wizards, familiar spirits, setting up graven images, burning his son in the fire, etc. Maybe it’s an example of God’s mercy, no matter how vile, wicked, or depraved someone becomes, true repentance moves the heart of God.

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