The God-fearing Hezekiah is followed after his death by his godless son Manasseh. Manasseh is only twelve years old when he starts reigning (verse 11Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Hephzibah.). His reign lasts no less than fifty-five years, a period that exceeds that of all the other reigns. It is one of the enigmas of God’s government that He allows such a wicked man as Manasseh to rule over His people for so long.
The name of his mother is also given. Hephzibah means ‘My lust is in her’. In that name we hear what Jerusalem means to the LORD. What kind of woman she is, is not told. Whether she is a good or a bad mother, we do not know. Judging by the development of Manasseh, she certainly could not prevent him from developing into such an ungodly king. We cannot point to a cause for all time when children go against what their God-fearing parents have told them.
Manasseh does not take as an example his father Hezekiah, but the kings of Israel, of whom we have read over and over again that they did, whatever is said here of Manasseh, “evil in the sight of the LORD” (verse 22He did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel.). He does “according to the abominations of the nations”.
He quickly undoes his father’s reforms and “he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed” (verse 33For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.). He is also inspired by Ahab, the most godless king of Israel. It is quite possible that his worship and serving of sun, moon and stars (“all the host of heaven”) comes through Assyrian influence. So we see that Manasseh takes over the worst of everything and everyone and puts it into practice. The judgment that God has given both to the nation and to Ahab doesn’t matter him at all.
That the wicked Manasseh seems to be able to do unhindered whatever it takes also says something about the people. The revival under Hezekiah has apparently not deeply rooted in the population. The people are easily carried away on the bad road on which Manasseh is leading them.
He openly provokes the LORD by building idol altars in the house of the LORD (verses 4-54He built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.”5For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.). The greatness of this evil is clearly expressed by saying that Manasseh does this in the house “of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.””. Manasseh doesn't care about that. He ignores the rights of the LORD to His house and just makes it a dwelling place for demons. Manasseh does not act out of ignorance concerning the will of the LORD, but he does not care at all about that will.
His whole performance shows his surrender to demonic powers to whom he has voluntarily surrenders (verse 66He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD provoking [Him to anger].). This means that he sacrifices his children to the devil, engages in occultism – he practices witchcraft and uses divination – and stimulates all sorts of forms of sorcery – he appoints mediums and spiritists. The conclusion is that he does not ‘only’ ignore the LORD. It is much worse. Not only does he pass by the LORD with contempt, but he intentionally acts in this way to defy the LORD: “He did much evil in the sight of the LORD provoking [Him to anger].”
Verse 77Then he set the carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever. gives another example of his gross violation of the rights of the LORD and his defiance of Him. Even more emphatically than in verse 44He built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” we hear the indignation of God about Manasseh’s shameless courage to set the carved image of Asherah in the temple. We hear God’s indignation in what He says of His house and of His city. God’s feelings about what He has chosen to put His Name there forever are deeply offended by Manasseh’s contemptuous actions.
In verse 88And I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers, if only they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.” the LORD continues, in connection with verse 77Then he set the carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever., to speak about what He would have liked to do. He had wanted to put His Name forever among a people whom He would never drive out of this land, if they at least listened to His law. And there it went wrong: “But they did not listen” (verse 99But they did not listen, and Manasseh seduced them to do evil more than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel.). They follow Manasseh and it makes them wander in a way that makes them sin worse than the heathen peoples who first lived in the land. We have here the side of the godless mass of the people, after we have seen in Hezekiah the history of the faithful remnant.
Even now there is no nation that has corrupted it more than Christianity, just as Israel here is sinning worse than the nations. That is why God’s judgment will all the severer come over Christianity.