In these chapters of 2 Chronicles, the author recorded the final years of Hezekiah and the full reigns of Manasseh and Amon, whose collective stories are also found in 2 Kings 18-21. Not surprisingly, the Chronicler gave an expanded account of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29-32), whose faithfulness would have been influential in the lives of his audience. Not breaking from his schema for evaluating Judah’s kings, the Chronicler was primarily concerned with how each leader ruled in relation to the temple and faithful Israelite religion. His goal was to edify the returned exiles and their descendants.
In 2 Chronicles 29-31, the author described Hezekiah’s devotion to the temple and the cult. Hezekiah’s greatest season of success may have come when Sennacherib, king of Assyria, invaded Judah (2 Chronicles 32). Hezekiah prepared the city of David and its people for battle (2 Chron 32:4-8). Hezekiah told the people of Jerusalem, “Don’t be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria…he has only human strength, but we have the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chron 32:7, 8). When Sennacherib taunted Hezekiah’s reliance on the Lord, the king further entrusted himself to God (2 Chron 32:9-20). Judah’s king met with Isaiah the prophet and together they cried out to God for deliverance. The Lord “sent an angel who annihilated every brave warrior, leader, and commander in the camp of the king of Assyria” (2 Chron 32:21). Sennacherib returned to the temple of his god and his own children killed him (2 Chron 32:21).
Like Uzziah before him (2 Chronicles 26), Hezekiah could not handle the success of grace: “Hezekiah didn’t respond according to the benefit that had come to him. So there was wrath upon him, upon Judah, and upon Jerusalem” (2 Chron 32:25; contra Ps 116:12-14). Despite repentance and a delay in corrective discipline, Hezekiah lacked discernment and showed the Babylonian envoy all the treasures of his palace.
Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, was of a different spirit than his father. Manasseh “did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites” (2 Chron 33:2). Manasseh built idolatrous altars in the Lord’s temple, profaning the place where God had told David and Solomon that He would dwell (2 Chron 33:4-7). When the king of Assyria came against Manasseh, he repented and restored the temple (2 Chron 33:15-16). Despite Manasseh’s later in life conversion, his son Amon walked in the steps of his father’s former life, and “he did not humble himself before the LORD like his father Manasseh humbled himself” (2 Chron 33:23).
Though Israel would enjoy one last revival during the reign of Kings Josiah (2 Chronicles 34-35), Manasseh’s rule marked the beginning of the end of life in the Promised Land for Judah. The Chronicler commented that when Manasseh set up a carved image in the temple of the Lord, Manasseh “caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to stray so that they did worse evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites” (2 Chron 33:9). During the reign of Manasseh, the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants were fractured and there began a change in the locus of God’s redemptive work. This is the drama of the storyline of Scripture. No longer would God’s attention be especially upon a specific people in a specific land but all peoples in His Son—and God demanded behavior appropriate for a relationship with Him. The author of Hebrews wrote:
If that first covenant had been faultless, no opportunity would have been sought for a second one. But finding fault with His people, He says:
“Look, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day I took them by their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. Because they did not continue in My covenant, I disregarded them,” says the Lord. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” says the Lord, “I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they will be My people” (Heb 8:7-10, quoting Jer 31:31-33).