And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. — 2 Kings 21:6
Kathy attended church as a child, but when she was in her teens she rebelled against her early training and began dabbling in the Wicca religion. “I was always kind of artsy, different, and non-conformist,” Kathy acknowledges. “Wicca attracted my interest because it appealed to those facets of my personality.”
However, Kathy’s interest in the occult and witchcraft led to a terrifying experience. One hot summer night, a cold wind suddenly blew into her bedroom windows. Terrified, she hugged her knees to her chest and gasped as a swarm of what she can only describe as “black demons” encircled her head. She screamed out her Wiccan spells, hoping that would make the demons disappear, but it only made things worse. They simply shrieked and yelled and laughed at her.
Then Kathy remembered her days in Sunday school, and the teachings of Jesus. Something inside her said that was where she would find help. “In a loud voice I called upon Jesus Christ to rid the room of this dark presence,” she recounts. “Instantly the demons were gone, and my bedroom was once again calm and warm.” Realizing that she had stepped to the very brink of disaster, Kathy walked into a church the next day, determined to live her life for God. Now as a Christian, Kathy warns people who are experimenting with Wicca and other pagan practices of its terrible danger.(1)
Such warnings need to be given in the world today, because witchcraft, magic, sorcery, and other similar practices are sky-rocketing in popularity. Many books, television programs, and games deal with fortune-telling, séances, and other occult practices. There is a growing interest in astrology, alchemy, divination, and magic based on “hidden knowledge” about the universe and its mysterious forces.
In spite of their rapidly-increasing following, occultic practices are not new. In our text today, Judah’s evil ruler, Manasseh, had turned away from the God of his father, Hezekiah. Our key verse indicates that his sins included fortune-telling, enchantments, and the use of mediums and wizards. He restored the worship of Baal, and even sacrificed his own son to the Ammonite god, Molech. Tragically, through the influence of Manasseh, the people of Judah became even more evil than the nations they had destroyed at God’s command.
We must not let an interest in knowing the future, or a casual supposition that superstitious practices are harmless, lead us into having anything to do with occult practices. The spirit world is deceptive, dangerous, and completely opposed to Christianity. Let’s be aware, and stand up against this ungodly influence in our society!
Today’s chapter deals with the apostasy of King Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, and Manasseh’s son, Amon. Manasseh reigned for fifty-five years, the longest reign of any of Judah’s kings. His name means “he causes to forget” and this is appropriate, for his evil reign caused Judah to forget the godly influence of Hezekiah.
Manasseh began his reign at age twelve, and likely was influenced by groups who were angered by the godly reforms of Hezekiah. As a result, Manasseh showed utter disregard for his religious training, and in fact went beyond any previous king of Judah in his wickedness. During his reign, Judah became even more heathen than the nations that the Israelites had destroyed on their journey to the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses and Joshua.
Several specific sins were mentioned in this chapter, including idol worship and occultism. According to the Septuagint, the “familiar spirits” referred to in verse 6 may have been ventriloquists, who pretended to ask counsel of the dead and gave the response supposedly received. The “wizards” were men who claimed ability to reveal secrets, recover lost or hidden items, and give the meaning of dreams. A great influx of these pretenders had, at various times, come from Chaldea into Israel, where they could pursue their “trade” as a gainful occupation.
Manasseh restored the worship of Baal, Asherah (Baal’s consort), and astrological deities, even erecting altars to them in the Temple. He sacrificed his own son by fire to Molech, an Ammonite god connected with demonism. Furthermore, he abused countless innocent souls, probably prophets and those who opposed his religious policies. According to Jewish tradition, Manasseh ordered that the Prophet Isaiah be sawn in two with a wood saw when he attempted to hide in a hollow log.
As a result of Judah’s sin, God promised that judgment would come. It would be so severe that the ears of anyone who heard of it would “tingle,” or hurt as if from a sharp, discordant note. Using two standards of a builder (verse 13), the “line of Samaria” and “plummet of the house of Ahab” metaphorically established the standard of judgment. The nation of Judah was to be punished with as much severity as Samaria (the nation of Israel) and Ahab (the former king of Israel). “Turning it upside down” pictured the depopulation of Judah, which would be emptied by its captors.
Although Manasseh repented later in life and turned toward God (recorded in 2 Chronicles), his repentance is not mentioned in this chapter. His change of heart did not reverse the course of Judah that had been established by the devastation of his evil reign, and the people progressively gave themselves over to pagan forms of worship.
Manasseh’s son Amon reigned for only two years, and continued the evil of his father’s reign. Though the reason for his assassination is not given, Amon died at the hands of his servants and not from a overthrow by the people of the land.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The reigns of the kings of Judah
B. Manasseh (21:1-18)
1. The character of Manasseh’s reign (21:1-9)
2. The word of the Lord against Manasseh’s evil (21:10-15)
3. The death of Manasseh (21:16-18)
C. Amon (21:19-26)
1. The character of Amon’s reign (21:19-22)
2. The conspiracy against Amon (21:23-26)
Interest in the occult, witchcraft, enchantments, and astrology is on the rise today, but God’s Word emphatically warns against experimenting with them.
1. Catherine Sanders, “Breaking the Spell: The Hidden Traps of Wicca,” Focus on the Family Booklet, pgs. 10-12.