Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
2 Chronicles 33:1
The reign of Manasseh; cf. 2 Kings 21:1-18. - The characteristics of this king's reign, and of the idolatry which he again introduced, and increased in a measure surpassing all his predecessors (Ch2 33:1-9), agrees almost verbally with Kg2 21:1-9. Here and there an expression is rhetorically generalized and intensified, e.g., by the plurals לבּעלים and אשׁרות (Ch2 33:3) instead of the sing. לבּעל and אשׁרה (Kings), and בּנין (Ch2 33:6) instead of בּנו (see on Ch2 28:3); by the addition of וכשּׁף to ונחשׁ עונן, and of the name the Vale of Hinnom, Ch2 33:6 (see on Jos 15:18, גּי for גּיא); by heaping up words for the law and its commandments (Ch2 33:8); and other small deviations, of which הסּמל פּסל (Ch2 33:7) instead of האשׁרה פּסל (Kings) is the most important. The word סמל, sculpture or statue, is derived from Deu 4:16, but has perhaps been taken by the author of the Chronicle from Eze 8:3, where סמל probably denotes the statue of Asherah. The form עילום for עולם (Ch2 33:7) is not elsewhere met with.
2 Chronicles 33:10
At Ch2 33:10, the account in the Chronicle diverges from that in 2 Kings. In Kg2 21:10-16 it is related how the Lord caused it to be proclaimed by the prophets, that in punishment of Manasseh's sins Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the people given into the power of their enemies, and how Manasseh filled Jerusalem with the shedding of innocent blood. Instead of this, in Ch2 33:10 of the Chronicle it is only briefly said that the Lord spake to Manasseh and to his people, but they would not hearken; and then in Ch2 33:11-17 it is narrated that Manasseh was led away to Babylon by the king of Assyria's captains of the host; in his trouble turned to the Lord his God, and prayed; was thereupon brought by God back to Jerusalem; after his return, fortified Jerusalem with a new wall; set commanders over all the fenced cities of Judah; abolished the idolatry in the temple and the city, and restored the worship of Jahve.
2 Chronicles 33:11
As Manasseh would not hear the words of the prophets, the Lord brought upon him the captains of the host of the king of Assyria. These "took him with hooks, and bound him with double chains of brass, and brought him to Babylon." בחוחים ילכּדוּ signifies neither, they took him prisoner in thorns (hid in the thorns), nor in a place called Chochim (which is not elsewhere found), but they took him with hooks. חוח denotes the hook or ring which was drawn through the gills of large fish when taken (Job 41:2), and is synonymous with חח (Kg2 19:28; Eze 19:4), a ring which was passed through the noses of wild beasts to subdue and lead them. The expression is figurative, as in the passages quoted from the prophets. Manasseh is represented as an unmanageable beast, which the Assyrian generals took and subdued by a ring in the nose. The figurative expression is explained by the succeeding clause: they bound him with double chains. נחשׁתּים are double fetters of brass, with which the feet of prisoners were bound (Sa2 3:34; Jdg 16:21; Ch2 36:6, etc.).
2 Chronicles 33:12
לו וּכהצר = לו הצר וּבעת, Ch2 28:22. In this his affliction he bowed himself before the Lord God of his fathers, and besought Him; and the Lord was entreated of him, and brought him again to Jerusalem, into his kingdom. The prayer which Manasseh prayed in his need was contained, according to Ch2 33:18., in the histories of the kings of Israel, and in the sayings of the prophet Hozai, but has not come down to our day. The "prayer of Manasseh" given by the lxx is an apocryphal production, composed in Greek; cf. my Introduction to the Old Testament, 247.
2 Chronicles 33:14
After his return, Manasseh took measures to secure his kingdom, and especially the capital, against hostile attacks. "He built an outer wall of the city of David westward towards Gihon in the valley, and in the direction of the fish-gate; and he surrounded the Ophel, and made it very high." The words היצונה חומה (without the article) point to the building of a new wall. But since it has been already recorded of Hezekiah, in Ch2 32:5, that he built "the other wall without," all modern expositors, even Arnold in Herz.'s Realenc. xviii. S. 634, assume the identity of the two walls, and understand ויּבן of the completion and heightening of that "other wall" of which it is said מאד ויּגבּיהה, and which shut in Zion from the lower city to the north. In that case, of course, we must make the correction החומה. The words "westward towards Gihon in the valley, and לבוא ב, in the direction to (towards) the fish-gate," are then to be taken as describing the course of this wall from its centre, first towards the west, and then towards the east. For the valley of Gihon lay, in all probability, outside of the western city gate, which occupied the place of the present Jaffa gate. But the fish-gate was, according to Neh 3:3, at the east end of this wall, at no great distance from the tower on the north-east corner. The valley (הנּהל) is a hollow between the upper city (Zion) and the lower (Acra), probably the beginning of the valley, which at its south-eastern opening, between Zion and Moriah, is called Tyropoion in Josephus. The words, "he surrounded the Ophel," sc. with a wall, are not to be connected with the preceding clauses, as Berth. connects them, translating, "he carried the wall from the north-east corner farther to the south, and then round the Ophel;" for "between the north-east corner and the Ophel wall lay the whole east wall of the city, as far as to the south-east corner of the temple area, which yet cannot be regarded as a continuation of the wall to the Ophel wall" (Arnold, loc. cit.). Jotham had already built a great deal at the Ophel wall (Ch2 27:3). Manasseh must therefore only have strengthened it, and increased its height. On the words שׂ ויּשׂם cf. Ch2 32:6 and Ch2 17:2.
2 Chronicles 33:15
And he also removed the idols and the statues from the house of the Lord, i.e., out of the two courts of the temple (Ch2 33:5), and caused the idolatrous altars which he had built upon the temple hill and in Jerusalem to be cast forth from the city. In Ch2 33:16, instead of the Keth. ויבן, he built (restored) the altar of Jahve, many manuscripts and ancient editions read ויכן, he prepared the altar of Jahve. This variation has perhaps originated in an orthographical error, and it is difficult to decide which reading is the original. The Vulg. translates יבן restauravit. That Manasseh first removed the altar of Jahve from the court, and then restored it, as Ewald thinks, is not very probable; for in that case its removal would certainly have been mentioned in Ch2 33:3. Upon the altar thus restored Manasseh then offered thank-offerings and peace-offerings, and also commanded his subjects to worship Jahve the God of Israel. But the people still sacrificed on the high places, yet unto Jahve their God.
"As to the carrying away of Manasseh," says Bertheau, "we have no further information in the Old Testament, which is not surprising, seeing that in the books of Kings there is only a very short notice as to the long period embraced by Manasseh's reign and that of Amon." He therefore, with Ew., Mov., Then., and others, does not scruple to recognise this fact as historical, and to place his captivity in the time of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon. He however believes, with Ew. and Mov., that the statements as to the removal of idols and altars from the temple and Jerusalem (Ch2 33:15) is inconsistent with the older account in Kg2 23:6 and Kg2 23:12, the clear statements of which, moreover, our historian does not communicate in Ch2 34:3. For even if the Astarte removed by Josiah need not have been the הסּמל of our chapter, yet it is expressly said that only by Josiah were the altars built by Manasseh broken down; yet we would scarcely be justified in supposing that Manasseh removed them, perhaps only laid them aside, that Amon again set them up in the courts, and that Josiah at length destroyed them. It does not thence follow, of course, that the narrative of the repentance and conversion of Manasseh rests upon no historic foundation; rather it is just such a narrative as would be supplemented by accounts of the destruction of the idolatrous altars and the statue of Astarte: for that might be regarded as the necessary result of the conversion, without any definite statement being made.
(Note: From this supposed contradiction, R. H. Graf, "die Gefangenschaft u. Bekehrung Manasse's, 2 Chron 33," in the Theol. Studien u. Kritiken, 1859, iii. S. 467ff., and in the book, die geschichtl. Literatur A. Test. 1866, 2 Abhdl., following Gramberg, and with the concurrence of H. Nldeke, die alttestl. Literatur in einer Reihe von Aufstzen dargestellt (1868), S. 59f., has drawn the conclusion that the accounts given in the Chronicle, not only of Manasseh's conversion, but also of his being led captive to Babylon, are merely fictions, or inventions - poetical popular myths. On the other hand, E. Gerlach, in the Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1861, iii. S. 503ff., has shown the superficiality of Graf's essay, and defended effectively the historical character of both narratives.)
Against this we have the following objections to make: Can we well imagine repentance and conversion on Manasseh's part without the removal of the abominations of idolatry, at least from the temple of the Lord? And why should we not suppose that Manasseh removed the idol altars from the temple and Jerusalem, but that Amon, who did evil as did his father Manasseh, and sacrificed to all the images which he had made (Kg2 21:21.; Ch2 33:22), again set them up in the courts of the temple, and placed the statue again in the temple, and that only by Josiah were they destroyed? In Kg2 23:6 it is indeed said, Josiah removed the Asherah from the house of Jahve, took it forth from Jerusalem, and burnt it, and ground it to dust in the valley of Kidron; and in Ch2 33:12, that Josiah beat down and brake the altars which Manasseh had made in both courts of the house of Jahve, and threw the dust of them into Kidron. But where do we find it written in the Chronicle that Manasseh, after his return from Babylon, beat down, and brake, and ground to powder the סמל in the house of Jahve, and the altars on the temple mount and in Jerusalem? In Ch2 33:15 we only find it stated that he cast these things forth from the city (לעיר חוּצה ישׁלך). Is casting out of the city identical with breaking down and crushing, as Bertheau and others assume? The author of the Chronicle, at least, can distinguish between removing (הסיר) and breaking down and crushing. Cf. Ch2 15:16, where הסיר is sharply distinguished from כּרת and הדק; further, Ch2 31:1 and Ch2 34:4, where the verbs שׁבּר, גּדּע, and הדק are used of the breaking in pieces and destroying of images and altars by Hezekiah and Josiah. He uses none of these verbs of the removal of the images and altars by Manasseh, but only ויסר and לעיר חוּצה וישׁלך (Ch2 33:15). If we take the words exactly as they stand in the text of the Bible, every appearance of contradiction disappears.
(Note: In this matter Movers too has gone very superficially to work, remarking in support of the contradiction (bibl. Chron. S. 328): "If Manasseh was so zealous a penitent, it may be asked, Would he not have destroyed all idolatrous images, according to the Mosaic law, as the Chronicle itself, Ch2 33:15 (cf. Ch2 29:17; Ch2 15:16; Kg2 23:12), sufficiently shows? Had idolatry ceased in all Judah in the last year of Manasseh's reign, as is stated in Ch2 33:17, could it, during the two years' reign of his son Amon, have spread abroad in a manner hitherto unheard of in Jewish history, as it is portrayed under Josiah, Kg2 23:4.?" But where is it stated in the Chronicle that Manasseh was so zealous a penitent as to have destroyed the images according to the Mosaic law? Not even the restoration of the Jahve-worship according to the provisions of the law is once spoken of, as it is in the case of Hezekiah and of Josiah (cf. Ch2 30:5 and Ch2 30:16, Ch2 34:21; Ch2 35:26); and does it follow from the fact that Judah, in consequence of Manasseh's command to serve Jahve, still sacrificed in the high places, yet to Jahve, that under Manasseh idolatry ceased throughout Judah?)
From what is said in the Chronicle of Manasseh's deeds, we cannot conclude that he was fully converted to the Lord. That Manasseh prayed to Jahve in his imprisonment, and by his deliverance from it and his restoration to Jerusalem came to see that Jahve was God (האלהים), who must be worshipped in His temple at Jerusalem, and that he consequently removed the images and the idolatrous altars from the temple and the city, and cast them forth-these facts do not prove a thorough conversion, much less "that he made amends for his sin by repentance and improvement" (Mov.), but merely attest the restoration of the Jahve-worship in the temple, which had previously been completely suspended. But the idolatry in Jerusalem and Judah was not thereby extirpated; it was only in so far repressed that it could not longer be publicly practised in the temple. Still less was idolatry rooted out of the hearts of the people by the command that the people were to worship Jahve, the God of Israel. There is not a single word of Manasseh's conversion to Jahve, the God of the fathers, with all his heart (שׁלם בּלב). Can it then surprise us, that after Manasseh's death, under his son Amon, walking as he did in the sins of his father, these external barriers fell straightway, and idolatry again publicly appeared in all its proportions and extent, and that the images and altars of the idols which had been cast out of Jerusalem were again set up in the temple and its courts? If even the pious Josiah, with all his efforts for the extirpation of idolatry and the revivification of the legal worship, could not accomplish more than the restoration, during his reign, of the temple service according to the law, while after his death idolatry again prevailed under Jehoiakim, what could Manasseh's half-measures effect? If this be the true state of the case in regard to Manasseh's conversion, the passages Kg2 24:3; Kg2 23:26; Jer 15:4, where it is said that the Lord had cast out Judah from His presence because of the sins of Manasseh, cease to give any support to the opposite view. Manasseh is here named as the person who by his godlessness made the punishment of Judah and Jerusalem unavoidable, because he so corrupted Judah by his sins, that it could not now thoroughly turn to the Lord, but always fell back into the sins of Manasseh. Similarly, in Kg2 17:21 and Kg2 17:22, it is said of the ten tribes that the Lord cast them out from His presence because they walked in all the sins of Jeroboam, and departed not from them.
With the removal of the supposed inconsistency between the statement in the Chronicle as to Manasseh's change of sentiment, and the account of his godlessness in 2 Kings 21, every reason for suspecting the account of Manasseh's removal to Babylon as a prisoner disappears; for even Graf admits that the mere silence of the book of Kings can prove nothing, since the books of Kings do not record many other events which are recorded in the Chronicle and are proved to be historical. This statement, however, is thoroughly confirmed, both by its own contents and by its connection with other well-attested historical facts. According to Ch2 33:14, Manasseh fortified Jerusalem still more strongly after his return to the throne by building a new wall. This statement, which has as yet been called in question by no judicious critic, is so intimately connected with the statements in the Chronicle as to his being taken prisoner, and the removal of the images from the temple, that by it these latter are attested as historical. From this we learn that the author of the Chronicle had at his command authorities which contained more information as to Manasseh's reign than is to be found in our books of Kings, and so the references to these special authorities which follow in Ch2 33:18, Ch2 33:19 are corroborated. Moreover, the fortifying of Jerusalem after his return from his imprisonment presupposes that he had had such an experience as impelled him to take measures to secure himself against a repetition of hostile surprises. To this we must add the statement that Manasseh was led away by the generals of the Assyrian king to Babylon. The Assyrian kings Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser (or Sargon) did not carry away the Israelites to Babylon, but to Assyria; and the arrival of ambassadors from the Babylonian king Merodach-Baladan in Jerusalem, in the time of Hezekiah (Kg2 20:12; Isa 39:1), shows that at that time Babylon was independent of Assyria. The poetic popular legend would without doubt have made Manasseh also to be carried away to Assyria by the troops of the Assyrian king, not to Babylon. The statement that he was carried away to Babylon by Assyrian warriors rests upon the certainty that Babylon was then a province of the Assyrian empire; and this is corroborated by history. According to the accounts of Abydenus and Alexander Polyhistor, borrowed from Berosus, which have been preserved in Euseb. Chr. arm. i. p. 42f., Sennacherib brought Babylon, the government of which had been usurped by Belibus, again into subjection, and made his son Esarhaddon king over it, as his representative. The subjection of the Babylonians is confirmed by the Assyrian monuments, which state that Sennacherib had to march against the rebels in Babylon at the very beginning of his reign; and then again, in the fourth year of it, that he subdued them, and set over them a new viceroy (see M. Duncker, Gesch. des Alterth. i. S. 697f. and 707f. and ii. S. 592f., der 3 Aufl.). Afterwards, when Sennacherib met his death at the hand of his sons (Kg2 19:37; Isa 37:38), his oldest son Esarhaddon, the viceroy of Babylon, advanced with his army, pursued the flying parricides, and after slaying them ascended the throne of Assyria, 680 b.c.
(Note: So Jul. Oppert, "die biblische Chronologie festgestellt nach den Assyrischen Keilschriften," in d. Ztschr. der deutsch. morgenl. Gesellsch. (xxiii. S. 134), 1869, S. 144; while Duncker, loc. cit. i. S. 709, on the ground of the divergent statement of Berosus as to the reign of Esarhaddon, and according to other chronological combinations, gives the year 693 b.c., - a date which harmonizes neither with Sennacherib's inscriptions, so far as these have yet been deciphered, nor with the statements of the Kanon Ptol., nor with biblical chronology. It, moreover, makes it necessary to shorten the fifty-five years of Manasseh's reign to thirty-five, which is all the more arbitrary as the chronological data of the Kanon Ptol. harmonize with the biblical chronology and establish their accuracy, as I have already pointed out in my apolog. Vers. ber die Chron. S. 429f.)
Of Esarhaddon, who reigned thirteen years (from 680 to 667), we learn from Ezr 4:2, col. with Kg2 24:17, that he brought colonists to Samaria from Babylon, Cutha, and other districts of his kingdom; and Abydenus relates of him, according to Berosus (in Euseb. Chron. i. p. 54), that Axerdis (i.e., without doubt Esarhaddon) subdued Lower Syria, i.e., the districts of Syria bordering on the sea, to himself anew. From these we may, I think, conclude that not only the transporting of the colonists into the depopulated kingdom of the ten tribes is connected with this expedition against Syria, but that on this occasion also Assyrian generals took King Manasseh prisoner, and carried him away to Babylon, as Ewald (Gesch. iii. S. 678), and Duncker, S. 715, with older chronologists and expositors (Usher, des Vignoles, Calmet, Ramb., J. D. Mich., and others), suppose. The transport of Babylonian colonists to Samaria is said in Seder Olam rab. p. 67, ed. Meyer, and by D. Kimchi, according to Talmudic tradition, to have taken place in the twenty-second year of Manasseh's reign; and this statement gains confirmation from the fact - as was remarked by Jac. Cappell. and Usher - that the period of sixty-five years after which, according to the prophecy in Isa 7:8, Ephraim was to be destroyed so that it should no more be a people, came to an end with the twenty-second year of Manasseh, and Ephraim, i.e., Israel of the ten tribes, did indeed cease to be a people only with the immigration of heathen colonists into its land (cf. Del. on Isa 7:8). But the twenty-second year of Manasseh corresponds to the year 776 b.c. and the fourth year of Esarhaddon.
By this agreement with extra-biblical narratives in its statement of facts and in its chronology, the narrative in the Chronicle of Manasseh's captivity in Babylon is raised above every doubt, and is corroborated even by the Assyrian monuments. "We now know," remarks Duncker (ii. S. 92) in this connection, "that Esarhaddon says in his inscriptions that twenty-two kings of Syria hearkened to him: he numbers among them Minasi (Manasseh of Judah) and the kings of Cyprus." As to the details both of his capture and his liberation, we cannot make even probable conjectures, since we have only a few bare notices of Esarhaddon's reign; and even his building works, which might have given us some further information, were under the influence of a peculiarly unlucky star, for the palace built by him at Kalah or Nimrod remained unfinished, and was then destroyed by a great fire (cf. Spiegel in Herz.'s Realencykl. xx. S. 225). Yet, from the fact that in Ch2 33:1, as in Kg2 21:1, the duration of Manasseh's reign is stated to have been fifty-five years, without any mention being made of an interruption, we may probably draw this conclusion at least, that the captivity did not last long, and that he received his liberty upon a promise to pay tribute, although he appears not to have kept this promise, or only for a short period. For that, in the period between Hezekiah and Josiah, Judah must have come into a certain position of dependence upon Assyria, cannot be concluded from Kg2 23:19 (cf. Ch2 33:15 with 17:28) and 2 Chr 23:29, as E. Gerlach thinks.
2 Chronicles 33:18
Conclusion of Manasseh's history. His other acts, his prayer, and words of the prophets of the Lord against him, were recorded in the history of the kings of Israel; while special accounts of his prayer, and how it was heard (העתר־לו, the letting Himself be entreated, i.e., how God heard him), of his sons, and the high places, altars, and images which he erected before his humiliation, were contained in the sayings of Hozai (see the Introduction).
2 Chronicles 33:20
Manasseh was buried in his house, or, according to the more exact statement in Kg2 21:18, in the garden of his house - in the garden of Uzza; see on that passage.
2 Chronicles 33:21
The reign of Amon. Cf. Kg2 21:19-26. - Both accounts agree; only in the Chronicle, as is also the case with Manasseh and Ahaz, the name of his mother is omitted, and the description of his godless deeds is somewhat more brief than in Kings, while the remark is added that he did not humble himself like Manasseh, but increased the guilt. In the account of his death there is nothing said of his funeral, nor is there any reference to the sources of his history. See the commentary on Kg2 21:19.