Manasseh was king of Judah a few generations before the fall of Jerusalem and the beginning of the exile to Babylon. He is a “micro-type” of Israel. That is, he embodies in his life the spiritual path that Israel and Judah take into and out of exile.
He begins his reign as an evil king, practicing the most abominable forms of pagan worship including child sacrifice (see 2 Chr 33:6). He even boots worship of the Lord from the Temple and sets up pagan idols there. His evil is so extreme that the Lord lets the Babylonians carry him off into exile with a hook in his nose. Yet there in Babylon, a change occurs. Manasseh is so humbled that he prays to the Lord for deliverance. The Lord has mercy on him and brings him back to Jerusalem to be king again. Then the Chronicler presents the most profound statement in his story: “Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.” (2 Chr. 33:13)
Manasseh’s story closely parallel’s the nation’s. Over the generations, Israel fell deep into sin, breaking its obligation to keep the Lord’s covenant over and over. Finally, the Lord fulfills his promise of punishment for their sins by bringing the nation into exile in Babylon. But after 70 years, the people are humbled, praying, fasting and asking the Lord to return them to the land of Judah. The Lord hears their prayers, brings them back and even helps them rebuild the Temple (Ezra) and the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah).
Manasseh engaged in his own reconstruction projects. First, he rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, then he cleaned the pagan idols out of the temple. One man, one king foreshadows the fate of the nation.
[The picture is from Michaelangelo’s Hezekiah – Manasseh – Amon on the Web Gallery of Art.]