Renewed by the Word of God

Explore the Bible Series

August 22, 2004

 

Background Passage: II Kings 21:1-23:35 (II Chronicles 33:1-36:4)

Lesson Passages: II Kings 22:8,11-13 and 23:1-6

 

Introduction: These chapters record events that occurred in Judah during the final years  of the Southern Kingdom and the onset of the Babylonian Captivity.  As before in the history of Judah, the serious Bible student will discover periods of significant revival, followed by dismal seasons of great wickedness and blatant disregard for the precepts of the Lord.  Furthermore, the Scriptures indicate a general congruity between the spiritual condition of the leaders of the Judah and that of the citizens of the nation. This study will focus on the major characters in this compelling drama of the theological, spiritual, and moral decline of a nation.

 

 

King Manasseh (r. about 697-642 B.C.)

 

I.                   The Reign of King Manasseh (II Kings 21:1-18)

A.     The family background of Manasseh (21:1)

1.      Manasseh ruled Judah longer than any other king of Judah (fifty-five years). Most scholars believe he was born after the Lord promised King Hezekiah, Manasseh’s father, fifteen more years of life.  Some scholars believe that Manasseh served as co-regent with his father from about 697 to 687 B.C.  (See Paul House. I and II Kings: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture.).

2.      II Kings reveals that his mother’s name was Hephzibah.  Her name denotes “delight.” The Bible gives no additional insight into her identity or character.

B.     Manasseh’s wicked character (21:2-9)

II Kings summarizes his wickedness in the following ways.

1.      He rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed. These high places were centers of idolatrous worship, and the people of Judah often lapsed into significant spiritual compromise by engaging in the worship of false gods in these places.  The Mosaic Law expressly forbade offering sacrifices except in the places designated by the Lord (See Deuteronomy 12:11-14).

2.      He raised up altars to Baal. The worship of Baal dated from a very ancient period among the Phoenicians and the various Canaanite tribal groups. The cultus of Baal worship almost certainly focused on horribly immoral fertility rituals.  The Hebrew people struggled with their attraction to this religious aberration for generations.

3.      He made a wooden image. In all probability Manasseh manifested his adoration of Baal by commissioning craftsmen to carve images of the Canaanite god and his noxious consort Asherah.

4.      He worshiped the host of heaven and served them.  Perhaps Manasseh hoped to endear himself to the Assyrians by adopting some aspects of their astral worship.  Furthermore, the king erected images to these false gods in he very courts of the Temple.  Thus, he not only engaged in idolatry, but he defiled the true worship of the Lord as well.

5.      He offered one of his children as a human sacrifice to his pagan gods.  This abominable action characterized the worship of Molech, the fire-god of the Ammonites and Moabites and was expressly forbidden in the Mosaic Law (See Leviticus 18:21)

6.      He consulted mediums and practiced witchcraft.  Again, this activity was clearly forbidden in the Law of Moses (See Deuteronomy 18:9-13).

7.      He seduced the people of Judah to disregard the commandments of Moses.  Not only did this iniquitous king indulge his evil desires; he also drew his countrymen into his terrible sins.

 

II. The Warning of Manasseh Concerning the Lord’s Displeasure (II Kings 21:10-15)

            God sent his servants to prophecy against the wickedness of Manasseh.  Though Scripture does not identify the particular persons that God sent as his heralds, the message of these prophets is unmistakable.  Manasseh’s wickedness had provoked the Lord’s displeasure because the king’s sin had exceeded that of the Amorites.  God pledged that he would follow a clear and thorough plan of judgment.

A.     God promised to measure Judah with a line in the same manner that he had found the Northern Kingdom of Israel off plumb (See Amos 7:7-8).

B.     God warned that he would wipe Judah like a dirty dish.

C.     God foreshadows his abandonment of Judah to her enemies, and they would be carried off like the spoils of war.

 

III. King Manasseh’s Legacy (II Kings 21:16-18)

A.     Words seem to the fail the author of II Kings in describing the sin of Manasseh.  His abominations strain one’s vocabulary.  He left a legacy of violence, injustice, and evil example to the people of Judah (21:16). 

B.     Like all men, Manasseh’s life eventually came to an end.  God’s providence may, at times, seem strange to believers.  The most wicked king of Judah enjoyed the longest reign; however, his day of death came at God’s appointed time.

Note: Despite Manasseh’s unspeakably sinful life, God showed the wicked king great mercy.  II Kings does not record Manasseh’s repentance, but II Chronicles preserves this encouraging testimony to the sovereign mercy of God (See II Chronicles 33:10-17).  After a severe trial, Manasseh humbled himself before God and sought the Lord’s forgiveness and favor.  Furthermore, the penitent king brought forth works fitting for repentance.  He removed the foreign gods from the Temple, repaired the considerable damage he had done to the altar, brought appropriate offerings to the Lord, and sought to influence all of Judah to worship Jehovah.  This story should encourage all of God’s servants to remain faithful in their prayers and labors to see sinners come to saving faith in Christ.  It also confirms to the hearts of God’s servants that Paul’s words are indeed true, “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”

 

 

King Amon (r. about 642-640 B.C.)

 

I.                   The Family Background of Amon (II Kings 21:19)

Amon succeeded his father on the throne of Judah and ruled the Southern Kingdom for two years.  His mother’s name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah.  Though II Kings gives little information about this woman, she must have come from a family of some notoriety and prominence.

 

II.                The Character of King Amon (II Kings 21:21-22)

Scripture indicates that, indeed, Amon was his father’s son.  The younger monarch followed in the steps of the older, and he brought great disgrace upon himself and the nation of Judah.  Again, it seems as if the author of II Kings exhausts his vocabulary to describe the increasing wickedness of these kings. 

 

III.             The Assassination of King Amon (II Kings 21:23-26)

The servants of the king murdered Amon in his own house. Scripture offers little insight into their motive for this assassination, but apparently the people of Judah executed them for their violent action.  Josiah, Amon’s son, ascended to the throne upon the death of his father.

 

 

King Josiah (r. about 640-609 B.C.)

 

I.                   The Family Background of Josiah (II Kings 22:1-2)

A.     Josiah became king shortly after the assassination of Amon.  The people of Judah executed the conspirators who killed Amon and made Josiah monarch.  The boy-king was only eight years old at the time of his ascension.  Unlike his father, Josiah was a person of deep devotion to the Lord.

B.     Josiah’s mother was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath.  Her name means “beloved one.”  Scholars do not know the location of Bozkath.

 

II.                 Early Reforms During the Reign of King Josiah (II Chronicles 34:1-7)

A.     The ground of the religious reforms of the nation of Judah (34:1-3a)                     The writer of II Chronicles provides important information concerning the religious reforms that occurred in Judah during the first decade of Josiah’s reign.  He began to seek the Lord during his eighth year.  This remarkable phase contains at least two important lessons.

1.      Small children may seek the Lord.  Perhaps the unwise practices of contemporary “decisionalists” have pressed Christian workers to inadvertently discourage small children from seeking Christ.  We should, of course, exercise great caution in dealing with the souls of little ones, but our care should never dissuade them from delighting in the Lord.

2.      Note the language used by the Chronicler in this passage, “…he began to seek the God of his father David…” The verb tense indicates an ongoing action.  Josiah sought the Lord as matter of the course of his life.  This text teaches the glorious doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. The saving work of God apparently began during Josiah’s eighth year, but the king continued to seek the Lord as the pattern of a regenerate life. Furthermore, this text reminds us that good works of God’s people grow from a vital, living relationship with God.  The internal reality of Josiah’s walk with God gave rise to a burning desire to glorify God through careful, loving obedience to the Lord’s commandments.

B.     The nature of the religious reform of Judah (34:3-7)

1.      The reforms began in Jerusalem and included destroying the pagan images and burning the bones of the apostate priests.

2.      After the cleansing of Jerusalem from pagan influences, Josiah turned his attention to reforming the surrounding areas: Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, and Naphtali. 

 

III.             The Repair of the Temple and the Discovery of the Book of the Law (II Kings 22:3-20)

A.     Josiah entrusted Shaphan the scribe with the stewardship of repairing the Temple (22:3-7).  Apparently Shaphan shared the king’s devotion to the service and glory of God.  Surely the king would not have given the scribe this important task if he did not evidence great godliness.  Also, Bible students will note that this loyal servant of God proved a faithful friend and encourager to the Prophet Jeremiah.

B.     Hilkiah the High Priest found the Book of the Law (22:8-10)

During the repair of the Temple the High priest rediscovered the Book of the Law.  Scholars have debated what book (certainly a scroll) the priest found.  Apparently, the scroll contained the Book of Deuteronomy, written by Moses many years before.  Hilkiah and Shaphan read the Book of the Law to King Josiah.

Note: This is not the forum to debate the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch; however, conservative scholars believe that Deuteronomy dates from the period of the Exodus.  The present text indicates that the scroll discovered in the Temple during Josiah’s reign contained, at least the Book of Deuteronomy.  Also this passage reveals that this scroll had been in the Temple for some time; thus, the manuscript had been neglected for years.  It was not a text still in development; instead, this passage gives clear evidence that the writer of II Kings viewed Deuteronomy as a very old text.

C.     The Prophetess Huldah affirmed the authenticity of the message of the book of the Law and comforted the repentant king (22:14-20)

1.      Huldah predicted that Judah would come under he judgment of God because of its disobedience and idolatry.

2.      Huldah promised Josiah that God would postpone divine judgment until after the death of the king.

 

IV.              The King’s Purge of Idolatry from Judah (II Kings 23:1-27)

This is a lengthy section, and it provides a thorough description of Josiah’s destruction of the trappings of idol worship.  The king’s reform followed this pattern.

A.     Josiah read the Book of the Law to the people of Judah (23:1-2)

B.     Josiah made a public covenant to follow the Lord and keep God’s commandments. (23:3)

C.     Josiah ordered the destruction of the trappings of idolatry in Judah (23:4-20).  This massive reform involved removing the pagan priests, burning the idols in the Kidron Valley, tearing down the booths of the ritual prostitutes, defiling the Valley of Hinnom and the high places, and the execution of the priests of the high places.

D.     Josiah restored the observance of the Passover (23:21-25).

The text makes clear that the reforms of Josiah did not turn the Lord’s wrath from the people of Judah; rather, God simply postponed the destruction of the Southern Kingdom (23:26-27).

 

V.                 The Death of King Josiah (II Kings 23:28-30)

Pharaoh Neco II struck an alliance with the Assyrians, and Josiah took this alliance as a threat to Judah’s security.  The king sent the troops of Judah against Neco II at the Valley of Megiddo in Northern Israel.  The ill-fated military action cost Josiah his life.  II Chronicles records Neco’s effort to dissuade Josiah from engaging in battle, but the king would not be persuaded.  As the battle raged archers struck Josiah with a mortal wound.  Josiah’s servants took him back to Jerusalem, and he died in the city of his fathers.