Lesson 12

*September 14 - 20

Manasseh and the Early Days of Josiah

Lesson graphic

Sabbath Afternoon   September 14

MEMORY TEXT: “He [Josiah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Chronicles 34:2, NIV).

WE LEFT OFF IN LESSON 9 WITH JUDAH, in the last days of King Hezekiah, whose nation faced the Assyrian juggernaut, which had devastated their Israelite “brothers” to the north. Fortunately, through the mighty intervention of the Lord (see 2 Chron. 32:20-22), Jerusalem was spared, and the Assyrians went home defeated. After that amazing victory, Hezekiah was some­thing of a hero, “exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter” (2 Chron. 32:23, NKJV). Apparently, though, like many of his successful predecessors, Hezekiah did not deal well with wealth, power, and prestige, none of which apparently did him much spiritual good (see 2 Chron. 32:27-33; 2 Kings 20:12-19). This problem was manifested with particular clarity during the visit of the Babylonian ambassadors. Unfortunately, as often with kings, his spiritual faults had devastating consequences for his nation.

THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: After the death of Hezekiah, who took the throne, and what were the sins this new king brought with him? What events led to his repentance? How could the Lord forgive such evil? What happened under the rule of Josiah? How did he respond to the discovery of the book of the law? What does his reaction tell us today about how important the Bible is to faith?  

*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 21.

Sunday  September 15

MANASSEH (2 Kings 21:1-17; 2 Chron. 33:1-9).

After the death of Hezekiah, his son Manasseh took the throne. He was twelve years old. He ruled for 55 years in Judah, one of the longest reigns in the nation’s history. To get an idea of how long that was, think back (in whatever nation you live in): Who was the leader in your land 55 years ago?

Perhaps one hint as to why Manasseh was so corrupted could be found in his age. His father, Hezekiah, toward the end of his reign, was influenced negatively by all this wealth, power, and prestige. Young Manasseh, raised in the court of a father who was deviating from the Lord, most likely did not have the best spiritual start himself. If that were the reason, it is a powerful testimony to the importance of parental influence upon children.

Read through 2 Kings 21 and write down the list of evil things Manasseh had done:  

Vs.2  _______________________________________________________

Vs.3  _______________________________________________________

Vs.4  _______________________________________________________

Vs.5  _______________________________________________________

Vs.6  _______________________________________________________

Vs.7  _______________________________________________________

Vs. 9  _______________________________________________________

Few kings have such a vile record as Manasseh. According to ancient Jewish sources, Manasseh, to add to his sins, had Isaiah sawn in half (perhaps the writer of Hebrews 11:37 is alluding to the time when Isaiah talked about those faithful ones who “were sawn asunder”).

Read carefully verses 2, 9, and 11 in 2 Kings 21. What does each one of them have in common? When one considers the whole purpose of the Hebrew nation, that of being a light to the world regarding the true God, the texts become even more revealing. It is bad enough following in the sins of the world around them. But to be doing even worse than the surrounding nations? What about ourselves, our own lives, we who profess to be the spiritual heirs of Judah? If someone were to write a spiritual history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, could they make the same charge against us?  

Monday  September 16

MANASSEH’S PUNISHMENT (2 Chron. 33:10-17).

“And the Lord spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken” (2 Chron. 33:10).  

How often those words have been, in one way or another, repeated, not just in the history of the Hebrew nation but all through sacred history. From Eden down through the final demise of Babylon, God has spoken; but people do not listen. What about ourselves, either individually or as a church? Is God speaking to us? If so, what is He saying? Is it much different than what He said to Eve, to the inhabitants of the world in Noah’s day, to Abraham, to Moses, to Israel, to the ancient church, or to the church of the last days? Are we any more prone to listen than those who have preceded us?

Write down what you think God’s basic message to all people essentially always has been, even if the particular circumstances have changed:  

Eventually, because of the apostasy, the Lord punished Manasseh. Read about what happened in 2 Chronicles 33:10-13. There are some interesting historical records about this event too. The Assyrian kings, Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C.) and Ashurbanipal (669-627? B.C.), both list Manasseh among the kings of Western Asia who were their vassals. The SDA Bible Commentary notes that “Assyrian reliefs picture distinguished captives as being led away by hooks passed through their lips or nostrils.”—Vol. 3, p. 305:11, “Thorns” and “Carried him to Babylon.” (See Isa. 37:29; Amos 4:2.) Perhaps, among those who were led away with hooks in their noses was King Manasseh of Judah, ruler of God’s chosen nation. No doubt, if he were not prone to listen before, a hook in his nose would, if nothing else, get his attention.

According to 2 Chronicles 33:12, it was in his affliction, that of being taken away captive by the Assyrians, that Manasseh humbled himself and repented of his sins. Often it takes the consequences of our sins to bring us to our senses. Some would say, perhaps, that it was only because he was suffering that he repented and that if no punishment came he might have gone on in his evil ways as before. How would you respond to that argument?  

Tuesday  September 17


“Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chron. 33:13, NKJV).  

Perhaps the only thing more amazing than the human capacity for evil is the Lord’s capacity to forgive that evil. What is even more amazing is not just that God could forgive our sins but that He wants to, that no matter what we or anyone have done, the Lord wants to pardon, to heal, to restore us to Him and thus spare us the ultimate and final consequence of sin, which is eternal destruction (2 Thess. 1:9; Rom. 6:23).

If, at the Cross, Christ died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), that included the sins of Manasseh, sins that were more than just making an image of some animal and worshiping it. Besides sacrificing his sons and burning them upon an altar, he shed “very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem” (2 Kings 21:16, NKJV). Thus, in addition to being an idolater, he was a murderer, as well.

Nevertheless, and regardless of the circumstances that brought his repentance, Manasseh was forgiven (2 Chron. 33:13).

Look up the following verses and write down what they say that helps us understand how (and why) God could forgive sins, even as bad as the ones committed by Manasseh:  

Isa. 53:5  ____________________________________________________________________________

Jer. 31:3  ____________________________________________________________________________

Rom. 3:22  ____________________________________________________________________________

Rom. 3:28  ____________________________________________________________________________

Gal. 3:13  ____________________________________________________________________________

Note: If one were to read the story of Manasseh from 2 Kings 21 alone, one would have a radically different view of his end than one would have who read the account in 2 Chronicles 33 alone. Neither account contradicts the other, even though they appear to give opposite conclusions. There is a good lesson here that can help us deal with some of the hard stories in the Bible: If we had more information, many of the things that seem so hard to understand would be made clearer. Until then, it is important not to jump to rash conclusions about things we do not understand. Instead, we need to rely on faith, trusting that one day we will understand what now seems incomprehensible.  

Wednesday  September 18

JOSIAH OF JUDAH (2 Chronicles 34).

After the death of Manasseh, Ammon, his son, took the throne for two years before being killed by his servants (2 Chron. 33:21-25). Ammon’s son, Josiah, who was eight years old, became ruler in Judah.

The text starts out saying that he did right in the sight of the Lord, turning not aside to “the right hand or to the left” (2 Chron. 34:2, NKJV), an interesting expression. Taking that same idiom and using it today, could one not say that he was theologically neither too far to the left nor too far to the right? Whatever the phrase exactly means, it suggests a steady course, a right balance in his actions.

How old was Josiah when he started to “seek the God of his father David”? Vs. 3, NKJV. What happened as a result? See verse 3.  

Verses 3-7 describe some of the steps that Josiah took to eradicate false worship. Not only did he tear down some of the idols and images, he had them beaten into powder or broken down into dust.

Where, perhaps, did he get the idea for pulverizing the idols? See Exodus 32:20. Was there any practical purpose for grinding them into dust? Would a ruined heap not be enough? Or was there some symbolism? If so, what? Hint: See Daniel 2:35.  

Read in 2 Chronicles 34:8-28 the story of the workmen who found “the Book of the Law of the Lord given by Moses” (vs. 14, NKJV) as they were repairing the temple. More than likely, it was the book of Deuteronomy (though scholars are not sure).

Look at Josiah’s response after it had been read to him (vs. 19). Why should he have been so upset? After all, this happened in the eighteenth year of his reign (vs. 8), ten years after he started his reforms, which included crushing to dust idols and cleansing both Judah and Jerusalem.

The answer, perhaps, is seen in the words of the prophetess Huldah, particularly in verses 23-25. What is she saying about the people? In other words, though the king was attempting reforms, and there were outward changes, the hearts of the people were still not right.

What does this story tell us about how important the Word of God is?  However much we might flatter ourselves that we are doing right, the only true standard we have to know right from wrong, good from evil, obedience from sin, is the Word of God. Why is that so? See Heb. 4:12, 13.  

Thursday  September 19

JOSIAH’S RULE (2 Kings 23).

This chapter puts another spin on the story of Josiah and the reforms he instituted. In contrast to Chronicles, which mentions reforms Josiah made previous to the discovery of the book of the law, 2 Kings places all the reforms after. Both agree, however, that in the eighteenth year of his reign the law was read to Josiah, so, more than likely, he had begun the reforms mentioned in 2 Chronicles 34 even before the great discovery of the law (a fact omitted in Kings). Once the law was found, the revival and reformation began even more earnestly.

Why would any attempt to bring revival and reformation flounder that did not lean heavily on the Bible? After all, how would people even know what to reform, or why they need to revive, if they did not have the Bible?  

Though it is almost a litany by now, write down the things the king attempted to do to restore true faith and worship to the nation and ask yourself, again, How could God’s chosen nation have wandered so far into apostasy?  

2 Kings 23:4  __________________________________________________

Vs.5  _________________________________________________________

Vs.6  _________________________________________________________

Vs.7   _________________________________________________________

Vs. 10  ________________________________________________________

Vs. 11  ________________________________________________________

Vs. 12  ________________________________________________________

Vs. 14  ________________________________________________________

Vs. 15  ________________________________________________________

Vs.20 _________________________________________________________

Look at 2 Kings 23:25. What is the key idea or word there that we have seen earlier that, ultimately, separates the faithful from the unfaithful? 

Friday  September 20

The writer of 2 Kings indicates that Manasseh provoked the Lord “to anger” (2 Kings 21:6). After repeating the stipulations of the covenant made with David (vss. 7, 8), the author says that Manasseh not only ignored these conditions but had actually “seduced” the people “to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed” (vs. 9, NKJV). He did worse “than all the Amorites who were before him” (vs. 11). Faithful followers of the Lord were dealt with severely (2 Kings 21:16). The Jewish historian Josephus says that Manasseh “barbarously slew all the righteous men that were among the Hebrews; nor would he spare the prophets, for he every day slew some of them.”—Antiquities of the Jews, book X, p. iii.

“The long-lost manuscript was found in the temple by Hilkiah, the high priest, while the building was undergoing extensive repairs in harmony with King Josiah’s plan for the preservation of the sacred structure. The high priest handed the precious volume to Shaphan, a learned scribe, who read it and then took it to the king with the story of its discovery.

“Josiah was deeply stirred as he heard read for the first time the exhortations and warnings recorded in this ancient manuscript. Never before had he realized so fully the plainness with which God had set before Israel ‘life and death, blessing and cursing’ (Deuteronomy 30:19); and how repeatedly they had been urged to choose the way of life, that they might become a praise in the earth, a blessing to all nations. ‘Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid,’ Israel had been exhorted through Moses; ‘for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.’ Deuteronomy 31:6.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 393.  

1. Read 2 Kings 21:9. It says that Manasseh “seduced” the nation to do evil. The Hebrew meaning is more along the lines of ”to cause to err.” Yet, at the same time, the people were held responsible for their deeds. Discuss what all this means about accountability.  
2. If we believe that it is through faith in Jesus that we are forgiven our sins, how is it that Manasseh, who lived long before Jesus came, could have been forgiven? What does his forgiveness tell us, if anything, about those who have never heard of Jesus still having the possibility of salvation?  

InSide Story

Help Me Find a Church

Kim* lives in Southeast Asia. She is a good student in school and an active teenager. While she was a member of a popular Christian church, she seldom attended worship services and did not often read her Bible. Then one day she turned the dial on her radio and found a program that interested her. The program, produced by Adventist World Radio, changed her life.

She could spend less than an hour a day listening to the radio, but she took careful notes. She began reading her Bible again. When she discovered the Sabbath, she determined to honor the Lord’s commandment to keep it holy.

However when she tried to share what she was learning with her mother, Kim was met with strong opposition. Her mother warned her that following a faith not approved by their government can be dangerous. But Kim was determined to follow God’s commandments. When she decided to stop attending school or studying on the Sabbath, her mother called her action insane.

Kim wrote to Adventist World Radio. “I have been blessed by listening to your broadcast,” she said. “You are helping me to discover new horizons. Truly I believe that God loves me and guided me to your radio broadcast.

“Thanks to your sermons, I now read the Bible often, something that I did not do before. I also have discovered the fourth commandment, which I have never noticed before. From now on and through God’s power, I will keep the Sabbath day holy and look forward to it every week. It is a day when I rejoice and communicate with the Almighty God and study His Word. I have made up my mind to worship God and obey His commandments....

“I wish to worship with people of the same faith on the Sabbath. Please show me how to contact a Seventh-day Adventist church in my city. Please help me quickly, because I am reading the Bible alone on Sabbath.

“I want to advertise your radio broadcast and share God’s Word with my friends, but the people around me do not seem interested.”

Millions in Southeast Asia do not know God. In many areas, Adventist World Radio is the only pastor, the only teacher that can reach them. Pray that many in Southeast Asia who are hungry to hear of God’s love will find what Kim has found through Adventist World Radio.

*Not her real name. Adventist World Radio’s broadcasts reach thousands in the Southeast Asia region.

Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group.  You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-day Adventist congregation.

Editorial Office:  12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributor:  James W. Zackrison
Editor:  Clifford Goldstein
Associate  Editor:  Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Editorial Production Manager:  Soraya Homayouni Parish
Art and Design:  Lars Justinen
Pacific Press Coordinator:  Paul A. Hey

Copyright © 2002 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist.  All Rights Reserved.

This page is Netscape friendly.
SSNET Web Site Home page.
Directory of adult SS quarterly Bible Study guides.

Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET Web Team
Last updated August 18, 2002.