2 Kings 21-23
Manasseh of Judah
21 1-6 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king. He ruled for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. In God’s judgment he was a bad king—an evil king. He reintroduced all the moral rot and spiritual corruption that had been scoured from the country when God dispossessed the pagan nations in favor of the children of Israel. He rebuilt all the sex-and-religion shrines that his father Hezekiah had torn down, and he built altars and phallic images for the sex god Baal and sex goddess Asherah, exactly what Ahab king of Israel had done. He worshiped the cosmic powers, taking orders from the constellations. He even built these pagan altars in The Temple of God, the very Jerusalem Temple dedicated exclusively by God’s decree (“in Jerusalem I place my Name”) to God’s Name. And he built shrines to the cosmic powers and placed them in both courtyards of The Temple of God. He burned his own son in a sacrificial offering. He practiced black magic and fortunetelling. He held séances and consulted spirits from the underworld. Much evil—in God’s judgment, a career in evil. And God was angry.
7-8 As a last straw he placed the carved image of the sex goddess Asherah in The Temple of God, a flagrant and provocative violation of God’s well-known statement to both David and Solomon, “In this Temple and in this city Jerusalem, my choice out of all the tribes of Israel, I place my Name—exclusively and forever. Never again will I let my people Israel wander off from this land I gave to their ancestors. But here’s the condition: They must keep everything I’ve commanded in the instructions my servant Moses passed on to them.”
9 But the people didn’t listen. Manasseh led them off the beaten path into practices of evil even exceeding the evil of the pagan nations that God had earlier destroyed.
10-12 God, thoroughly fed up, sent word through his servants the prophets: “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these outrageous sins, eclipsing the sin-performance of the Amorites before him, setting new records in evil, using foul idols to debase Judah into a nation of sinners, this is my judgment, God’s verdict: I, the God of Israel, will visit catastrophe on Jerusalem and Judah, a doom so terrible that when people hear of it they’ll shake their heads in disbelief, saying, ‘I can’t believe it!’
13-15 “I’ll visit the fate of Samaria on Jerusalem, a rerun of Ahab’s doom. I’ll wipe out Jerusalem as you would wipe out a dish, wiping it out and turning it over to dry. I’ll get rid of what’s left of my inheritance, dumping them on their enemies. If their enemies can salvage anything from them, they’re welcome to it. They’ve been nothing but trouble to me from the day their ancestors left Egypt until now. They pushed me to my limit; I won’t put up with their evil any longer.”
16 The final word on Manasseh was that he was an indiscriminate murderer. He drenched Jerusalem with the innocent blood of his victims. That’s on top of all the sins in which he involved his people. As far as God was concerned, he’d turned them into a nation of sinners.
17-18 The rest of the life and times of Manasseh, everything he did and his sorry record of sin, is written in The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah. Manasseh died and joined his ancestors. He was buried in the palace garden, the Garden of Uzza. His son Amon became the next king.
Amon of Judah
19-22 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king. He was king for two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz. She was from Jotbah. In God’s opinion he lived an evil life, just like his father Manasseh. He followed in the footsteps of his father, serving and worshiping the same foul gods his father had served. He totally deserted the God of his ancestors; he did not live God’s way.
23-24 Amon’s servants revolted and assassinated him, killing the king right in his own palace. But the people, in their turn, killed the conspirators against King Amon and then crowned Josiah, Amon’s son, as king.
25-26 The rest of the life and times of Amon is written in The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah. They buried Amon in his burial plot in the Garden of Uzza. His son Josiah became the next king.
Josiah of Judah
22 1-2 Josiah was eight years old when he became king. He ruled for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. He lived the way God wanted. He kept straight on the path blazed by his ancestor David, not one step to either left or right.
3-7 One day in the eighteenth year of his kingship, King Josiah sent the royal secretary Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to The Temple of God with instructions: “Go to Hilkiah the high priest and have him count the money that has been brought to The Temple of God that the doormen have collected from the people. Have them turn it over to the foremen who are managing the work on The Temple of God so they can pay the workers who are repairing God’s Temple, all the carpenters, construction workers, and masons. Also, authorize them to buy the lumber and dressed stone for The Temple repairs. You don’t need to get a receipt for the money you give them—they’re all honest men.”
8 The high priest Hilkiah reported to Shaphan the royal secretary, “I’ve just found the Book of God’s Revelation, instructing us in God’s ways. I found it in The Temple!” He gave it to Shaphan and Shaphan read it.
9 Then Shaphan the royal secretary came back to the king and gave him an account of what had gone on: “Your servants have bagged up the money that has been collected for The Temple; they have given it to the foremen to pay The Temple workers.”
10 Then Shaphan the royal secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest gave me a book.” Shaphan proceeded to read it to the king.
11-13 When the king heard what was written in the book, God’s Revelation, he ripped his robes in dismay. And then he called for Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the royal secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal aide. He ordered them all: “Go and pray to God for me and for this people—for all Judah! Find out what we must do in response to what is written in this book that has just been found! God’s anger must be burning furiously against us—our ancestors haven’t obeyed a thing written in this book, followed none of the instructions directed to us.”
14-17 Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went straight to Huldah the prophetess. She was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, who was in charge of the palace wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter. The five men consulted with her. In response to them she said, “God’s word, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you here that I’m on my way to bring the doom of judgment on this place and this people. Every word written in the book read by the king of Judah will happen. And why? Because they’ve deserted me and taken up with other gods, made me thoroughly angry by setting up their god-making businesses. My anger is raging white-hot against this place and nobody is going to put it out.
18-20 “And also tell the king of Judah, since he sent you to ask God for direction; tell him this, God’s comment on what he read in the book: ‘Because you took seriously the doom of judgment I spoke against this place and people, and because you responded in humble repentance, tearing your robe in dismay and weeping before me, I’m taking you seriously. God’s word: I’ll take care of you. You’ll have a quiet death and be buried in peace. You won’t be around to see the doom that I’m going to bring upon this place.’”
The men took her message back to the king.
23 1-3 The king acted immediately, assembling all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. Then the king proceeded to The Temple of God, bringing everyone in his train—priests and prophets and people ranging from the famous to the unknown. Then he read out publicly everything written in the Book of the Covenant that was found in The Temple of God. The king stood by the pillar and before God solemnly committed them all to the covenant: to follow God believingly and obediently; to follow his instructions, heart and soul, on what to believe and do; to put into practice the entire covenant, all that was written in the book. The people stood in affirmation; their commitment was unanimous.
4-9 Then the king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, his associate priest, and The Temple sentries to clean house—to get rid of everything in The Temple of God that had been made for worshiping Baal and Asherah and the cosmic powers. He had them burned outside Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron and then disposed of the ashes in Bethel. He fired the pagan priests whom the kings of Judah had hired to supervise the local sex-and-religion shrines in the towns of Judah and neighborhoods of Jerusalem. In a stroke he swept the country clean of the polluting stench of the round-the-clock worship of Baal, sun and moon, stars—all the so-called cosmic powers. He took the obscene phallic Asherah pole from The Temple of God to the Valley of Kidron outside Jerusalem, burned it up, then ground up the ashes and scattered them in the cemetery. He tore out the rooms of the male sacred prostitutes that had been set up in The Temple of God; women also used these rooms for weavings for Asherah. He swept the outlying towns of Judah clean of priests and smashed the sex-and-religion shrines where they worked their trade from one end of the country to the other—all the way from Geba to Beersheba. He smashed the sex-and-religion shrine that had been set up just to the left of the city gate for the private use of Joshua, the city mayor. Even though these sex-and-religion priests did not defile the Altar in The Temple itself, they were part of the general priestly corruption and had to go.
10-11 Then Josiah demolished the Topheth, the iron furnace griddle set up in the Valley of Ben Hinnom for sacrificing children in the fire. No longer could anyone burn son or daughter to the god Molech. He hauled off the horse statues honoring the sun god that the kings of Judah had set up near the entrance to The Temple. They were in the courtyard next to the office of Nathan-Melech, the warden. He burned up the sun-chariots as so much rubbish.
12-15 The king smashed all the altars to smithereens—the altar on the roof shrine of Ahaz, the various altars the kings of Judah had made, the altars of Manasseh that littered the courtyard of The Temple—he smashed them all, pulverized the fragments, and scattered their dust in the Valley of Kidron. The king proceeded to make a clean sweep of all the sex-and-religion shrines that had proliferated east of Jerusalem on the south slope of Abomination Hill, the ones Solomon king of Israel had built to the obscene Sidonian sex goddess Ashtoreth, to Chemosh the dirty-old-god of the Moabites, and to Milcom the depraved god of the Ammonites. He tore apart the altars, chopped down the phallic Asherah-poles, and scattered old bones over the sites. Next, he took care of the altar at the shrine in Bethel that Jeroboam son of Nebat had built—the same Jeroboam who had led Israel into a life of sin. He tore apart the altar, burned down the shrine leaving it in ashes, and then lit fire to the phallic Asherah-pole.
16 As Josiah looked over the scene, he noticed the tombs on the hillside. He ordered the bones removed from the tombs and had them cremated on the ruined altars, desacralizing the evil altars. This was a fulfillment of the word of God spoken by the Holy Man years before when Jeroboam had stood by the altar at the sacred convocation.
17 Then the king said, “And that memorial stone—whose is that?”
The men from the city said, “That’s the grave of the Holy Man who spoke the message against the altar at Bethel that you have just fulfilled.”
18 Josiah said, “Don’t trouble his bones.” So they left his bones undisturbed, along with the bones of the prophet from Samaria.
19-20 But Josiah hadn’t finished. He now moved through all the towns of Samaria where the kings of Israel had built neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines, shrines that had so angered God. He tore the shrines down and left them in ruins—just as at Bethel. He killed all the priests who had conducted the sacrifices and cremated them on their own altars, thus desacralizing the altars. Only then did Josiah return to Jerusalem.
21 The king now commanded the people, “Celebrate the Passover to God, your God, exactly as directed in this Book of the Covenant.”
22-23 This commanded Passover had not been celebrated since the days that the judges judged Israel—none of the kings of Israel and Judah had celebrated it. But in the eighteenth year of the rule of King Josiah this very Passover was celebrated to God in Jerusalem.
24 Josiah scrubbed the place clean and trashed spirit-mediums, sorcerers, domestic gods, and carved figures—all the vast accumulation of foul and obscene relics and images on display everywhere you looked in Judah and Jerusalem. Josiah did this in obedience to the words of God’s Revelation written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in The Temple of God.
25 There was no king to compare with Josiah—neither before nor after—a king who turned in total and repentant obedience to God, heart and mind and strength, following the instructions revealed to and written by Moses. The world would never again see a king like Josiah.
26-27 But despite Josiah, God’s hot anger did not cool; the raging anger ignited by Manasseh burned unchecked. And God, not swerving in his judgment, gave sentence: “I’ll remove Judah from my presence in the same way I removed Israel. I’ll turn my back on this city, Jerusalem, that I chose, and even from this Temple of which I said, ‘My Name lives here.’”
28-30 The rest of the life and times of Josiah is written in The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah. Josiah’s death came about when Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt marched out to join forces with the king of Assyria at the Euphrates River. When King Josiah intercepted him at the Plain of Megiddo, Neco killed him. Josiah’s servants took his body in a chariot, returned him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own tomb. By popular choice Jehoahaz son of Josiah was anointed and succeeded his father as king.
Jehoahaz of Judah
31 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he began to rule. He was king in Jerusalem for a mere three months. His mother’s name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah. She came from Libnah.
32 In God’s opinion, he was an evil king, reverting to the evil ways of his ancestors.
33-34 Pharaoh Neco captured Jehoahaz at Riblah in the country of Hamath and put him in chains, preventing him from ruling in Jerusalem. He demanded that Judah pay tribute of nearly four tons of silver and seventy-five pounds of gold. Then Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim son of Josiah the successor to Josiah, but changed his name to Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz was carted off to Egypt and eventually died there.
35 Meanwhile Jehoiakim, like a good puppet, dutifully paid out the silver and gold demanded by Pharaoh. He scraped up the money by gouging the people, making everyone pay an assessed tax.
Jehoiakim of Judah
36-37 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to rule; he was king for eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zebidah daughter of Pedaiah. She had come from Rumah. In God’s opinion he was an evil king, picking up on the evil ways of his ancestors.