Manasseh was the longest reigning king in the history of Israel and his appearance in chapter twenty-one is pivotal. Remember in chapter seventeen the lengthy recounting of Israel’s sins led ultimately to her conquest by the Assyrians. Here, the lengthy recounting of Manasseh’s sins is preceded by a mention of Babylon, the first reference to her as a power of note in the book of Kings. Chapter twenty-one also foretells the demise of the southern kingdom of Judah, connecting that demise (as the reader already knows) with the power of Babylon and, with the behavior of the kings of the northern kingdom (note Manasseh and Ahab are both connected to Amorite behavior – 2 Kings 21:11 and 1 Kings 21:26).
The moment is pivotal in that it is here that God voices His decision to punish His people. It is also pivotal in that the future of the Davidic dynasty is once again, seriously in danger. The first time was at the death of Ahaziah when his mother, the daughter of Ahab, king of the northern kingdom assumed the throne and sought to wipe out the house of David. Here, Manasseh’s son, Amon, is assassinated (only the second assassination in the history of the southern kingdom – see 2 kings 12). Fortunately, the people chose his own son as his replacement.
Why was Amon assassinated?
Kings is not clear. A simple reading might lead us to conclude it was because the people did not want the paganism he was promoting. But then again, it wasn’t the people who assassinated him, but his own officials. We know from Chronicles that near the end of his reign, Manasseh had a change of heart and began to destroy the very signs of paganism he had promoted. If we put Kings and Chronicles together, we might surmise that his officials saw the foolishness of such a course and killed Amon. The people, however, wanted the High Places to remain so they put to death the leaders and appointed Josiah (just a boy) in Amon’s place believing he would be like his grandfather Manasseh (also a boy king). In other words, if they were going to have a king, he needed to be one who was conciliatory to all religions, not just the religion of Israel. If this assessment is true, we find their spiritual descendants alive and well in our own time.