Manasseh's Evil Reign
Hezekiah's son, Manasseh, was only twelve years old when he succeeded his father to the throne of Judea. In no way did he resemble his father whose piety and faith were not equaled by any other king who followed him. The young ruler, born of a late marriage, was immediately surrounded by the clique of court-notables who, during Hezekiah's reign, had gone into hiding. Manasseh's weak character and susceptibility to idolatry made him a willing tool in the ruthless and selfish hands of these men. Despite the ceaseless efforts and admonitions of the greatest prophets of all times, Isaiah and others, the people of Judea followed in the evil steps of their king. The temples and altars of the idol-worshippers which had been destroyed under Hezekiah were reconstructed. Even into the Holy Temple they brought idols, and some of the basic concepts of Jewish thought and tradition were falsified and distorted. A complete reversal to idolatry as it had been practised under King Ahaz, Hezekiah's father, threw Judea into turmoil of immorality and lawlessness. The believers in the one and only G-d were persecuted, and even the sacred person of the prophet Isaiah was not spared. When he came out sharply against the evil ways of King Manasseh and his notables, Isaiah was murdered.
Manasseh suppressed the study of the Torah because he knew that as long as the spiritual structure of the tradition stood firm, his throne was not safe. Again and again G-d sent his prophets to warn the king of the coming punishment, but the warnings were given in vain. Manasseh, who unfortunately ruled longer than most Jewish kings, sank lower and lower into the most repulsive cults and witchcraft of the heathen peoples. With him he pulled down the whole spiritual structure which his father had set up for the people; and even though the king personally repented in his later years, he was never able to make amends for the damage he had done in the first decades of his evil rule.
The word of the prophets soon came true. Assyria's mighty armies punished and subdued Babylon, Egypt, Kush, and other nations of Asia Minor. However, they did not molest the land of Judah, which in those days had shown its sympathies for the Assyrian empire. But they took King Manasseh and put him in irons and led him into captivity to Babylonia. There they made him endure the most horrible sufferings and accorded him the most shameful treatment. In his despair, and after unsuccessfully calling upon his idols, Manasseh repented sincerely. Even though he had sunk to the lowest possible level, his prayers of repentance were heard and his inhuman tortures were stopped. He was sent back to Jerusalem where he ruled for another thirty-three years, giving full recognition and praise to the One and Only G-d. But despite his sincere efforts to restore the faith of the people to the genuine spirit of the traditional belief, he was unable to lead the Jewish nation back to the path of righteousness from which, under his influence, they had gone astray.
Manasseh was succeeded by his son Amon who was not better than his father when he took over the kingdom of Judea.
The land was plunged deeper and deeper into the slough of immorality and idolatry. But fortunately King Amon's rule was short. After two years he was assassinated by his own servants. The people avenged his death; they slew the murderers and declared Josiah, Amon's son, King of Judah.