2 Kings 1-13 – Evil and God’s holiness
Posted: 16 December 2011 in 2 Kings

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD…. And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.

Manasseh, of course, was one of the bad boys of the Old Testament, unlike his grandson whom the biblical writers could hardly praise highly enough. But the thing I notice here is that it is not just Manasseh who has to bear the consequences of his actions – so does the entire population of Judah. It might seem that the wider population of Judah would be able to plead mitigating circumstances, if an absolute ruler gave them no choice but to take part in the worship of pagan deities. The Bible seems to imply, however, that it is not just a matter of immoral deeds being punished by God, and perhaps not even primarily that, but that evil simply cannot be allowed to exist in the presence of God – no matter what the circumstances.

In the New Testament it might seem that Judas Iscariot had the ultimate plea in mitigation; namely that his treachery had been preordained by God as part of his wider plan of salvation. But he too stands condemned, because his deeds were objectively evil, whether preordained by God or not, and the objectively evil cannot be allowed to exist in the presence of God’s holiness.

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