An archaeological discovery beside the American embassy in Jerusalem has uncovered evidence of the Hezekiah/Manasseh reigns in Judah, that took place about 2,700 years ago.
King Hezekiah was one of Judah’s better kings, and his son Manasseh was arguably the worst.
At the site, archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered a large stone building that probably served as a tax collection centre. A large structure was needed as people often paid their taxes with produce and goods.
Along with this, they found the handles of 120 jars used for storage, with many of them stamped with seals indicating ownership. The most common inscription was the phrase “belonging to the King” that was indicated by the letters ‘LMLK,’ along with a name of a major city probably indicating its origin. Other handles had the names of senior bureaucrats, whose name have been found at other sites, indicating their importance.
But archaeologists also uncovered items that may reflect the reign of Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh.
This included several small decorative items that were used in pagan worship including horses/riders, animals and women figurines, as Manasseh set up idols throughout Judah, reversing Hezekiah’s godly reforms.
Which leads us to the strange story involving Hezekiah and his son Manasseh.
At the time, Hezekiah was suffering from a very bad boil, and God sent Isaiah to warn Hezekiah of his imminent death, and that he needed to get his house in order:
This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” (2 Kings 20:1 NIV)
However, what happens next is curious. In desperation, Hezekiah turns to God in prayer, and God changes his mind and sends Isaiah back to the King telling him he would live:
5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city. (2 Kings 20:5-6 NIV)
And then Isaiah provides medical advice (a poultice of figs) to apply to Hezekiah’s boil leading to his healing and a miracle, a shadow going back to confirm it.
Up to this point, Hezekiah did not have any children, which is why the first prophetic word stated he needed to get his house in order, in other words find an heir to the throne.
Because he was healed, three years later Hezekiah would have a son named Manasseh, who would become one of the most wicked Kings in Judah’s history. Manasseh rebuilt the idol worship sites dedicated to Baal and Asherah, that his father had pulled down.
Manasseh even sacrificed his son as an offering probably to Baal (2 Kings 21:6).
We are even told that he had made images of Asherah, a female deity (2 Kings 21:7) that were set up in the Temple of God and a perhaps those images of the women found at the archaeological site are representations of this idol.
We also know that Manasseh was a brutal ruler killing hundreds of people in Judah that was metaphorically described as filling Jerusalem with blood (2 Kings 21:16). Jewish tradition states it was Manasseh who killed Isaiah by having him put in a bag, then inserted inside a cedar log, and sawed in half. The writer of Hebrews seems to refer to this in (Hebrews 11:37).
Though Manasseh eventually repented of his wickedness, he will be remembered as Judah’s most wicked ruler.
It was Hezekiah’s and Manasseh’s behaviour that eventually led to Judah being sent into captivity. Hezekiah started it by showing off his wealth to Babylonian emissaries (2 Kings 20:12-19), and because of this was told that Judah would be taken into captivity after Hezekiah had died. And of course, it was Manasseh’s wickedness that eventually led to the judgment.