WORD STUDY – MANESSEH – מנשׁה
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.”
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 the Assyrian records as the king who ruled one of 22 nations that were paying heavy tribute to nation of Assyria. One would think a Judean King who ruled for 55 years would be the topic of a lot of sermons. Yet, we rarely hear much about him. If you read II Kings 21 you will get a quite a list of sins this old boy committed. He was one bad king, spiritually speaking. His father, Hezekiah, purged the land of idolatry and sin and then his son comes along and reinstituted pagan worship literally kicked God out of the country. Jewish literature suggest that Isaiah was martyred by Manasseh for his opposition to the paganism that Manasseh introduced into the nation. Many scholars believe that Isaiah was one of those prophets that was sawed in half. From what I read of Manasseh, I would not doubt that he would have committed such an act.
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. Not only that he apparently lived a comfortable life so long as he paid his tribute to Assyria.
However, 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. Actually, he was not disloyal to the Assyrian king, Manasseh’s enemies just trumped up some charges against him. Let’s fact it, M-anasseh 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 (ouch!) and attached it to a chain (doubled ouch) then dragged before the king of Assyria like a dog on a leash. History records some pretty terrible tortures that were reserved for kings by the Assyrians. We can only imagine the horrendous and unspeakable tortures that Manasseh suffered before the Assyrian king for something he was totally innocent of. Before long the Assyrian King decided (oh golly, I was wrong, sorry about that) and restored Manasseh to his throne.
This brings us to our verse today. Here this king who gave no lip to God (get it, no lip, aw forget it), drove a whole nation away from God and into paganism and then just to save his own shirt is while he is finally getting what he deserves,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 also has the idea of sweetness, pleasant and appeasement. He started to say nice things to God. The Cheth Lamed Hei 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 or to empty oneself of all pride.
What would you have done if you were God? I might have said something like this: “Well, now after all your nasty pride, driving a nation into Godlessness 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 God, that is not the God I believe in. The God I believe I in is a God who will listen when someone really humbles themselves and repents. God forgave Manessah, and restored him to his throne and gave him a long life.
It is a shame we do not have more sermons about Manassah, because here we have an excellent Old Testament example of how great the mercy of God is. If God would forgive such an evil king who only turns to him when he is afflicted, how much more would God extend mercy to us.
I recall hearing the testimony years ago of a woman who was a Hollywood movie actress. She spent her life seeking her own pleasures and desires, never giving any thought to God. One day a doctor told her her daughter had an illness and would die. This woman got in her car, drove out to the desert and when she knew she was totally alone and isolated, she began to curse God. She used every vulgar, obscene word she could think of . For one half hour she screamed curses to God, Jesus and she said if she would have known about the Holy Spirit she would have cursed Him too. After one half hour of cursing God she finally stopped. In that silence that usually follows a lot of screaming she suddenly heard an audible voice. No one was around, but she heard a voice and it said: “That is the first time you have spoken to me, I love you.”
There is a story you all probably heard about a slave trader who lived in the 18th century. He bought and sold human beings, beat them, tortured them and killed them. One day he met Jesus. He left the slave trade and on a boat going to English John Newton wrote these words: “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
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.
Oh, by the way, the name Manasseh means cause to forget. You see once Manasseh was restore he went right back to his old tricks and went to his grave worshipping other gods. I’ll let you write your own conclusions to that one.