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Nick Petkunas
Prof. Janzen
Old Testament
February 24th, 2010
The Unfaithful King Manasseh:
God’s Fulfillment of His Word
The Deuteronomistic History (dtr) highlights many key themes that lead to the exile of
the Israelites. The dtr was written to the Israelite exiles in an attempt to explain the reasoning for
the exile. The common people of Israel and their kings are both at fault for sinning and going
against God. Among the sins, apostasy seems to be the most abused and was the focal point
throughout the entire dtr which foreshadows the exile. Many judges and kings were implemented
to lead Israel to do good in the eyes of the LORD, however, only a select few succeeded in doing
so. King Manasseh, who ruled from 687-642 BCE, was the worst king of his time and led his
people to commit more abominations than ever before. He worked as one of God’s key reasons
for the exile and was the final explanation for God to work his wrath. God’s wrath was usually
summed up by have the land He gave to Israel taken away, and the Israelites delivered into the
hand of their enemy. In 2 Kings 21:10-16, the Deuteronomist argues that the apostasy led by
King Manasseh was the final explanation for God to lead the Israelites into their exile.
A main theme of Dtr is the constant acts of apostasy that the Israelites commit against
God. Numerous times the Israelites resorted to apostasy, whether under the rule of a king or not.
The first time apostasy comes up in the dtr is in Deut 4:3 and God states that he killed all those
among the Israelites who followed the Baal of Peor. This event foreshadowed the Israelites
future acts of apostasy, the death of the Israelites, and the beginning of the exile. All throughout
the chapters of Judges as well, you see numerous acts of apostasy. “In his [Dtr] treatment of the
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‘judges’ period, Dtr. was particularly concerned to portray the people’s repeated apostasy” (Noth
72). Time after time the Israelites would follow the LORD, but then resort back their ways of
apostasy. Judges 4:1-2 states “The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD,
after Ehud died. So the LORD sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan.” “The judge is
victorious in battle over the current enemy, but as soon as the disaster has ended, Israel rebels
again and returns to its apostasy” (Bowker 105). After realizing that the judges were merely
making matters worse, Israel adopts the idea of a monarchy.
The Israelites resort back to their apostasy after each judge was given to them, however,
after establishing a monarchy, the kings too prove themselves to be both good and bad. For
example, King Solomon’s reign began at Israel’s high point after the reign of King David, his
father. Solomon implemented many acts going against God’s will which included building altars
for baals and resorting to apostasy yet again. “Worst yet, Solomon the great builder built places
for pagan worship on a ‘hill east of Jerusalem’ (v.7). There the king built an open-air place of
worship for Chemosh, god of Moab, and for Molech, god of the Ammonites” (Hubbard 68).
Another king of the Israelites was King Ahab, who ruled from 869-850 BCE. 1 Kgs. 16:30 states
“Ahad son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.” He
married a foreign woman, Jezebel, and he went to serve their god Baal. He built altars and poles
and more apostasy was taking place than ever before which provoked more anger with the LORD.
Even after Elijah kills all the prophets of Baal and God fights with Ahad against the Arameans,
Ahad still resorts to doing what is evil in the sight of God. He kills innocent men and among
them is Naboth, a farmer, and steals his land. Upon consulting the oracles for advice, he neglects
what Micaiah had to say and went and fought then later died at the war. God spoke through
Elijah to tell him he will pay for his sins, 1 Kgs. 21:20-22 states “you have sold yourself to do
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what is evil in the sight of the LORD; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every
male… I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam… because you have provoked me to
anger and have caused Israel to sin.” He also speaks of Jezebel’s specific death. God acts on his
word and Ahab later dies a painful death in war and Jezebel dies the specific death clearly
fulfilling what God promised he’d do.
2 Kgs. 21:2 King states that Manasseh was unfaithful to God by saying, “He did what
was evil in the sight of the LORD, following the abominable practices of the nations that the
LORD drove out before the people of Israel.” Although his father, King Hezekiah, did what was
right in the eyes of the LORD; that trait did not carry over with his son, King Manasseh. He
crushes the reform his father attempted to bestow and “Manasseh reverts to the practices of the
Canaanites, as had Israel (17:7-8), and then proceeds to outdo them! He overturns the reforms of
Hezekiah and reverts to the practices of Ahaz” (Frethrim 209). Manasseh introduces many cultic
sins dealing with the mediums of wizardry into the mix of sins as well as bringing the foreign
god Asherah into the house of the LORD. Asherah being brought into the house of the LORD is
the focal point of the sins, “6b interrupts the report of Manasseh’s sins immediately preceding
the climactic statement on the introduction of Asherah into the temple” (Keulen 121). God then
clearly states what he will do to them by using the metaphor, “I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes
a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.” In the numerous other promises God made to
previous kings, God has always kept his word on the specifics of his promise. With this being
said we can infer this to be yet another foreshadowing of the exile of Judah, just like northern
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Verse 10 (v.10) is a simple phrase that states “ The LORD said by his servants the
prophets,” but says a lot about the oracles the prophets had. “Among the oracles recorded in
Kings, 2 Kgs. 21:11-15 is the only one which is said to have been delivered by more than one
prophet” (Keulen 132). With this being said, verses 11-15 are actually a collaboration of all the
prophets’ oracles. Throughout dtr we find oracles being proclaimed numerous times. Each time
there is truth behind the words and the oracles usually come true such as the oracle Micaiah
gives to Ahab about his death.
Verse 11 works as a continuation of the story in Kgs. 21:2 and 9. “Manasseh, they said,
was the worst king that Israel, north and south, ever had (v. 11). For example, the indictment that
he had ‘done more evil than the Amorites’ clearly compared him to Ahab” (Hubbard 222). Since
part of verse 11 says “… has done things more wicked than all that the Amorites did”, this could
also be a foreshadowing of their destruction since the past nations that God destroyed were also
given into their enemy. This reiterates the fact that Manasseh and Ahab are similar. There is one
subtle difference, “1 Kgs. 21:26 states that Ahab matched the Amorites in idolatry, 2 Kgs. 21:11
accuses Manasseh of outdoing the Amorites in committing evil. In this respect, Manasseh is
portrayed as being even worse than Ahab” (Keulen 125).
Verse 12 is a short phrase that says “therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, I am
bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of everyone who hears of it will
tingle.” “The order Jerusalem – Judah in 2 Kgs. 21:12 correspond with the sequence followed in
vv. 13-14” (Keulen 128). Also the fear that the people have in God which is referenced to us
numerous times it the entire dtr. One such example is when Elijah told King Ahab of God’s
punishment he gave him for all the sins he did and his reaction in 1 Kgs. 21:27, “when King
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Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay
in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly”, thus telling us of the fear he had toward God, even
though he worshipped pagan gods.
Verse 13 is another one of God’s promises, this time he states that he will make the
Samarian border stretch of the city of Jerusalem giving it over to their enemy. “As if Jerusalem
were a dish, Yahweh would wipe her clean – that is, obliterate her – and leave her turned upside
down, empty and useless” (Hubbard 223). This would be a theme seen in the majority of the dtr
and its battles. Whichever side God sides with, Israel or their opponent, the other side is beaten
and destroyed and more or less useless. You also see this in Judges, where the failure of the
implementation of judges always left Israel useless to God and given into the hands of their
Verse 14 has a part we have seen numerous times in the dtr. “… and give them into the
hand of their enemies”. This is announced by God after the mention of what will come of
Jerusalem. We saw this back and forth in Judges when Israel was given to their enemies, then
they repented and God saved them, only to find them committing apostasy again. “Obviously,
the sins of Manasseh and Judah outweigh by far the affection Yahweh has for his inheritance”
(Keulen 134). The readers would know that this is a threat to destroy Israel and essentially is
God saying that they will be exiled.
Verse 15 is again very familiar sounding after reading the various chapters we did from
dtr. King Manasseh would appear to fit this description perfectly for “seeing what is evil in the
sight of the LORD.” However the second half of this passage, “… since the day their ancestors
came out of Egypt, even to this day” seems to not just put the blame for the exile on King
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Manasseh, but Israel as a whole ever since they were delivered from Egypt. Ever since their
initial release they have been provoking God to punish them, however many times God was
merciful on them and didn’t punish them. “This receives ample support from DH, for accusations
to the effect that the people provoked Yahweh can be encountered from Deuteronomy onwards,
sc. In Deut. 9:18; 31:29; 32:16, 21; Judg. 2:12; 1 Kgs. 14:15; 16:2; 2 Kgs. 17:11, 17; 22:17”
(Keulen 136). These all work as evidence of the Israelites provoking God.
In the section of Kgs. 21:16, it states that “Manasseh shed very much innocent blood,
until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another”, and “this refers to the blood of
individuals who were unjustly killed” (Keulen 140). Dr. Robert Hubbard however see’s this
passage with one of a few possible meanings. “Because the reference here is ambiguous, scholars
suggest several possible interpretations. ‘Innocent blood’ may have referred to child sacrifice,
brutal political repression, summary executions, or the slaughter of prophets” (Hubbard 223).
Jeremiah 26:15 states “only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing
innocent blood upon yourself…” which works as a direct link to the words ‘innocent blood’ to
the slaughter of prophets. “It is natural to suppose that those executed by Manasseh are the
prophets who addressed him as a thoroughly wicked man and who accused him of causing the
fall of Judah” (Keulen 141). This further illustrates the number of abominations he has already
done, thus provoking God even more to the exile of his people.
The Deuteronomist clearly states the sins of apostasy that King Manasseh did were the
ultimate explanation for the Israelite exile. God’s provoked anger gathered enough that he
realized the Israelites weren’t good enough to receive his inheritance (land). King Manasseh out
did all the sins of previous kings and led his people to ignore God and commit apostasy and think
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everything was ok. God’s numerous attempts to fix the dwindling nation with prophets and
anointed ones failed and then he realized that the sin was too great and that was last stand for the
Israelite and he would have to deliver them into the hand of their enemy.
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Works Cited
Bowker, John Westerdale. Complete Bible handbook (An Illustrated Companion). New York: DK,
2001. Print.
Fretheim, Terence E. First and Second Kings (Westminster Bible Companion). New York:
Westminster John Knox, 1999. Print.
Hubbard, Robert L. First and Second Kings. Chicago: Moody, 1991. Print.
Keulen, Percy. Manasseh through the eyes of the Deuteronomists the Manasseh account (2
Kings 21:1-18) and the final chapters of the Deuteronomistic history. Leiden: E.J. Brill,
1996. Print.
Noth, Martin. The Deuteronomistic History (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament). 2nd ed.
New York: Sheffield Academic, 1991. Print. Ser. 15.