Does Character Matter? (2 Chronicles 32; 2 Chronicles 33)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 32; 2 Chronicles 33

We have considered the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah in several earlier passages (2 Kings 18:17-36; 19:35-37; 20:1-21; Isaiah 16:1-22; 17:21-38; 38:1-8; 39:1-8). Today’s Scripture reading is a condensed version of the life and times of Hezekiah, his son Manasseh, and grandson Amon.

2 Chronicles 32 – An Enemy at the Gate

Assyria’s defeat of Israel had opened the way for Sennacherib, king of Assyria, to invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem (32:1). Consulting with his leaders, Hezekiah, king of Judah, determined to re-enforce the city walls, and by stopping the streams, and pooling the water in the city, he deprived Assyria’s army of water (32:2-5).

Demonstrating his faith in the LORD, Hezekiah challenged the people: “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more [lit. greater] with us than with him: 8 With him [Sennacherib] is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8).

Addressing letters to be read by the citizens of Jerusalem, Sennacherib spoke against Hezekiah and questioned the people’s confidence in the king. The king of Assyria then spoke against the God of Israel, asserting Judah’s God was no greater than the gods of other nations whom he had defeated (32:9-14). Sennacherib warned, saying. Hezekiah had deceived the people, and led them to believe their God was greater than the gods of Assyria (32:15-20).

How did Hezekiah respond to the attacks on his character, and the offense Sennacherib had raised against God?

Hezekiah determined he would not focus on the threats of his enemy, nor his own army. Instead, “the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven” (Isaiah 37:14-17). The LORD heard the king’s prayer, and sent “an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (32:21-22).

Failing to render to the LORD the glory He was due for Judah’s victory over Assyria, (32:25), Hezekiah became ill, “sick to the death” (32:24; 2 Kings 20:1a). Yet, the LORD in His grace heard Hezekiah’s prayer, and because the king “humbled himself,” his health was restored and he lived another 15 years (32:26; 2 Kings 20:6).

2 Chronicles 33 – God is sovereign and the most powerful monarch bows to His will.

Judah had experienced revival during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:1-9; 31), and when he died, his twelve-year-old son Manasseh ascended the throne. He reigned as king fifty-five years (33:1), but unlike his father, he “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (33:2).

The Wickedness of Manasseh (33:3-10)

Stooping to unbounded and seeming unending depths of depravity, the young king rebuilt the groves of prostitution, desecrated the Temple, and sacrificed his own children to idols (33:6). He “made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel” (33:9). What a horrific commentary of decadence and depravity for a king who should have followed in the righteous path of his father!

In spite of his evil ways, “the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken” (33:10).  What a testimony of God’s longsuffering towards His people!

The Humiliation of Manasseh (33:11-13)

The LORD, because He is just, sovereignly moved on the heart of “the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh “and bound him with fetters [chains], and brought him to Babylon” (33:11). In the throes of his suffering and humiliation, Manasseh “besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God” (33:12-13).

The Restoration and Death of Manasseh (33:14-20)

After repenting of his sins, the LORD restored Manasseh to the throne in Jerusalem. Then the king began a crusade and fortified the walls of the city (33:14), and removed the traces of his own wickedness (33:15). He tore down places of idol worship, repaired the Temple altar, and commanded “Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (33:14-16).

Though he led people of Judah to turn from their sins and return to the LORD; Manasseh could not reverse the effect of his sins on his son Amon. When Amon became king, he did “evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father…And humbled not himself before the LORD” (33:21-23). Tragically, Amnon’s servants, conspired against him, and slew him in his own house” (33:24-25; 2 Kings 21:24).

Closing thoughts – In contradiction to the assertion that the character of a leader doesn’t matter; I suggest the evidence is overwhelming: A leader’s character does matter!

A leader’s character can leave an indelible print on families, institutions, and nations. Leaders may call a nation to repent and turn to the LORD, or on the contrary, spawn a movement of prejudice and hatred, leaving in their wake the destruction of families, institutions, and nations.

King Solomon observed, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

Wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin. 

Copyright 2022 – Travis D. Smith