{Word Study} Besought “Chalah”


II Chronicles 33:12: “And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord His God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his Fathers.”
Besought – Hebrew: chalah – to seek favor by being pleasant
If you go II Chronicles 33 and II Kings 19-21 you find a very interesting story about the king who had the longest reign in the history of Judah.  His name was Manasseh and he became king at 12 years of age and ruled 55 years.  He is found in Assyrian records as one of 22 nations that were paying heavy tribute to nation of Assyria.  Manasseh was just a pagan, idol worshipping, Godless man who literally mocked God.  Yet, God gave him the longest reign in the history of Judah.   Albeit under the thumb of the Assyrian king.
In II Chronicles 33 we learn all was not well for Manasseh.   At one point the Assyrian king had Manasseh brought to him in chains because he suspected disloyalty.   These were trumped up charges because Manasseh had about as much backbone as a jellyfish and would never have done anything to risk his own gizzard.  However, the Assyrian king felt something was amiss and Manasseh was brought to Babylon.  They dragged him into Babylon with a hook pieced through his lips  and attached to a chain. He was dragged before the king like a dog on a leash.  History records some pretty terrible tortures that were reserved for kings by the Assyrian.  Old Manasseh was  subjected to some horrendous and unspeakable tortures before the Assyrian king decided he was faithful and restored him to his throne.
This brings us to our verse today.  Here this king who gave no lip to God, drove a whole nation away from God and into paganism just to save his own shirt is finally getting what he deserves and what does he have the gall to do?   The Bible tells us he “besought” the Lord.    The word “besought”  is “chalah” which every translation tells you means to seek, or pray, or beseech.  What those translations will not tell you is the word  “chalah” has the idea of sweetness, pleasant and appeasement.  He started to say nice things to God.  The “cheth, lamed, he” tell us that in his sweet prayers  he offered to join himself to God and accept His presence.
We also learn that he “greatly (mo’ed) humbled” himself.  The word here for “humble” is “kana’”  which is to bow oneself in faith.
What would you have done if you were God?  I might have said something like this:  “Well, now you get your lip cut and you come crawling to me?   Well, you can just take one flying leap for all I care.”   But you know what?  That is not my God  My God is merciful, My God forgave Manasseh, and restored him to his throne and gave him a long life. Yet, what does Manasseh do once he is restored.  He is back up to his old tricks and goes to his grave worshipping other gods.
It is a shame we do not have more sermons about Manasseh, because here we have an excellent Old Testament example of  how great the mercy of God is.   If God would forgive an old reprobate like Manasseh who only turns to him when he is afflicted, how much more would God extend mercy to us.
Such is mercy of the God that we serve and worship.  Sometimes it takes a story like that of Manasseh to remind us of this great lovingkindness of God that endures forever.