2 Kings 21

The Sins of Manasseh

Egyptian Idolatry

He did evil in the sight of Yahweh, like the abominations of the nations Yahweh had cast out (2 Kings 21:2).

One of the major components of doing “evil in the sight of Yahweh,” as confirmed by the following text, was the worship of false gods. Such worship was specifically prohibited in the Decalogue, yet was practiced by the Israelites as early as the time of Aaron (Exod 32:1-7). Particularly in the early stages, such worship was almost certainly rooted in Egyptian religious practice, illustrated here by a somewhat later example of an Egyptian king worshipping one of the many Egyptian deities. This relief comes from the monumental gate at Bubastis. It was photographed at the British Museum.

Sacrificial Altar

He built altars in the house of Yahweh, where Yahweh said, “In Jerusalem I will put my name” (2 Kings 21:4).

The exact size or placement of the altars built by Manasseh are not given. Some were likely sacrificial altars, such as the one destroyed by Hezekiah (see 2 Kings 18). Others may have been incense altars, like the two shown here in the “holy of holies” of the Arad temple. These two altars may have served twin deities that were worshiped in Judah, and Manasseh’s altars may have been dedicated to various false gods.


He practiced sorcery and divination and dealt with mediums and spiritists (2 Kings 21:6).

The list of activities given here that Manasseh practiced were each a direct violation of the covenant with God (Deut 18:10-11). One of the ways the Assyrians practiced divination was extispicy, the examination of the entrails of a sacrificed animal. The object in this photo is a clay model of a sheep liver that is inscribed with various signs and omens. It was photographed at the British Museum.


So Manasseh slept with his fathers and was buried in the garden of his own house (2 Kings 21:18).

It is remarkable that, unlike his ancestors, Manasseh was not buried “with his fathers in the City of David” (e.g., 2 Kgs 15:38). Since the Davidic tombs were so well known, and had already been constructed, it seems likely that Manasseh had made plans to be buried elsewhere while he was still alive. The Iron Age II tomb in this photo illustrates what a luxury tomb would have looked like in this period. This tomb complex, located next door to the famous “Garden Tomb,” is one of the best-preserved examples of tombs from ancient Israel.

Cult Worship of the Moon

He did evil in the sight of Yahweh, as Manasseh his father had done (2 Kings 21:20).

Manasseh worshiped the “host of heaven” (2 Kgs 21:3,5), a practice that may be reflected in the stele shown here. This basalt stele from ancient Geshur (at the site commonly known as Bethsaida) illustrates the worship of the moon god in this region not long before the sack of Samaria. Note that the horns of the bull depicted here are shaped like the crescent moon. This stele was photographed at the Israel Museum.

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