II Kings – Chapter 21

Sometimes, the Apple is Thrown REALLY FAR from the Tree

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

If Chizkiyahu was one of the greatest kings of Judah, his son Menashe was one of the worst. (His mother’s name was Hephzibah, by the way. Just mentioning.) Menashe surpassed the worst kings of Israel when it came to idolatry. He restored Baal worship, Asheira worship, and Molech worship. He introduced the worship of heavenly spheres and put altars to them in the Temple. He practiced astrology, necromancy and divination. And he did much of it just to antogonize G-d. Menashe seriously led his people astray.

G-d sent the prophets Nachum, Yoel and Habakkuk to Menashe with a dire message: Because Menashe exceeded all his idoltrous predecessors, G-d would punish Judah and Jerusalem so severely that just hearing about it would be enough to make one’s ears ring! G-d would judge Menashe and Judah the way He did Ahab and Israel. He will wipe out Jerusalem like one wipes a dish then turns it upside down. The Jews will be at the mercy of their enemies.

Almost as an afterthought to Menashe’s evil, the Navi mentions that he also spilled innocent blood. Menashe reigned 55 years – longer than any other king of Israel or Judah! When he died, he was succeeded by his son Amon. (That’s spelled with an alef; the nation Ammon is spelled with an ayin.)

Amon was an idolator like his father. He reigned for a mere two years, when he was assassinated by his servants. The people of the nation executed the assassins and installed Amon’s young son Yoshiyahu (Josiah) as king.

We have to explain Menashe’s addiction to idolatry, because nowadays we just don’t get it. In the Talmud (Sanhedrin 102b), Rav Ashi made a disparaging remark about Menashe. That night, Menashe appeared to Rav Ashi in a dream and asked him an obscure question of Torah knowledge. Rav Ashi didn’t know the halacha, but Menashe did. Rav Ashi was flabbergasted. “But – – if you’re such a Torah scholar, how could you worship idols?” “You don’t know the temptation we had for idolatry,” Menashe replied. “If you had lived in my day, you’d have been a bigger idolator than I was!” After that, Rav Ashi referred to Menashe, Ahab and company more respectfully.

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