The story of King Manasseh’s repentance is included in the Old Testament as an example of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Manasseh was a royal ancestor of Christ who lived in the 7th century BC. He was the longest-reigning king of Judah – but also one of the worst.
Manasseh was the son of King Hezekiah of Judah, who was well-known for his good deeds. He would therefore have been raised with strong religious values. After losing his father at aged 12, however, things went rapidly downhill. On becoming king, he became a nasty piece of work.
Manasseh got involved in black magic and began worshipping other gods. But he didn’t stop there. Turning away from his father’s faith, he even burned his own sons to death as sacrificial offerings to the god Baal. His murderous cruelty became so bad that we read: “Manasseh had shed so much blood that it covered Jerusalem from one end to another.” (2 Kings 21:16)
His mass murder involved the shedding of “innocent blood”- not just his own children, but other boys and girls too (2 Kings 24:3-4; Psalm 106:37-38). His shocking crimes and bad example swayed the people away from the faith and into sin. God sent several prophets to try to convert him – but Manasseh refused to listen to any of them.
At the time, his kingdom was a satellite state of the Assyrian Empire. Apparently displeased with him, the Assyrian army took him captive. Manasseh was taken away to Babylon in chains and held there. Stripped of his power, his liberty and his family, he finally came to his senses. Turning to the power of prayer, he appealed to God for help.
We read: “In his distress, he entreated the mercy of the Lord, his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. After praying to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty. Having accepted his supplication, he restored him to his kingdom in Jerusalem. Then Manasseh fully understood that the Lord is indeed God.” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
God responded generously to the heartfelt prayer of this murderous king. Despite his many sins, God forgave Manasseh and transformed his life. The story reminds us that nobody, no matter what they have done, is beyond the mercy of God. It also finds a parallel in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, where the wayward son ‘came to his senses’ while down and out in a foreign land (Luke 15:17).
According to the Second Book of Chronicles, it appears that King Manasseh’s change of heart was real. Once he was back home, he restored worship of God in his kingdom, and commanded his people to serve the Lord. Through prayer, he established a new relationship with “his God” (2 Chronicles 33:18).
This stained glass image of King Manasseh is found within the Cathedral of Our Lady and St Philip Howard, in Arundel. It’s part of a Jesse Tree window picturing various royal ancestors of St Joseph. As a symbol of his sinful life as a murderer, Manasseh is shown wielding a sword. It dates to 1881 and is by John Hardman Powell of the Gothic Revival studio, Hardman & Co. Here he is referred to by his Latin name, Manasses.
See the full image:
Where to find this work of art
The Cathedral of Our Lady and St Philip Howard, Arundel
Read the relevant passage
2 Chronicles 33:1-20
On a similar theme:
- From the Old Testament: The book of Isaiah includes the heartfelt prayer of King Hezekiah, the father of Manasseh.
- From the New Testament: The family tree of Christ, as included in St Matthew’s gospel, lists Manasseh as one of his ancestors (Matthew 1:10).