What True Repentance Looks Like—2 Chronicles 33:1-20



King Manasseh is one of the most well-known kings of ancient Judah. We learn about him in two of the books of the Bible—2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33. If we only had the account in 2 Kings, we would be left with the impression that Manasseh was a wicked king all his life. And he was a wicked king for most of his life. 


But what we don’t find in 2 Kings 21, is that Manasseh repented (probably very late in his life) and came to know the Lord. It’s this account we will look at because it is so instructive in what it means to repent. 


In 2 Chronicles 33, we see Manasseh sinning and then we see Manasseh repenting.




2 Chronicles 33:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem [695-642 BC]: 2 Chronicles 33:2 But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.


Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, who was a fairly good king who mostly did right in the sight of the Lord. 


It’s interesting to note that Manasseh was born during the last fifteen years of Hezekiah’s life—fifteen years that Hezekiah would not have had unless God had granted his prayer to heal him from a terrible sickness. It’s something to ponder—if Hezekiah had died, one of the worst kings of Judah would not have been born!


Manasseh is described as doing evil in the sight of the Lord like the evil practices of “the heathen, who the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel” (a phrase repeated in verse 9). 


This takes Manasseh’s moral decay back several centuries, to the time of the Canaanites. All the work that God had done to make Israel a nation that was separate from the other pagan nations, Manasseh worked to undo.


2 Chronicles 33:3 For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.


Manasseh set up altars for all sorts of gods. Baal and Asherah (which is what the “groves” is all about) were common gods in that area. The wicked king Ahab of Israel and his queen Jezebel worshipped these gods (1 Kings 16:30-33). 


But, as if it weren’t enough to simply include the worship of other gods, Manasseh went on to defile the house of the Lord—


2 Chronicles 33:4 Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever. 2 Chronicles 33:5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.


Satan loves it when people blend the one true religion with other false religions. If the devil can’t eradicate true religion from the minds of people, he will settle for watering it down and blending it with the false. That way people will be…


5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: (2 Timothy 3:5a)


People think they’re okay as long as they can name God as a part of what they believe. But eventually, this blended religion will come out in their actions—wrong worship and looking to wrong sources for guidance. This is what happened to Manasseh.


2 Chronicles 33:6a And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: 


The worship of the Canaanite god Molech included the sacrifice of children by burning or, as what seems to be the case here, the torture of children by passing them through fire in some sort of ritual. God specifically forbade this practice in Leviticus 18:21 (cf. Deuteronomy 18:9-14)—


21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech… (Leviticus 18:21a)


We look at this and think, “how horrible!” But our nation has already killed far more babies through the cruelness of abortion. As a nation, we are just as guilty.


Manasseh also ignored going to God for guidance. That’s what the rest of verse 6 is all about:


2 Chronicles 33:6b also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. 


“observed times”—he used fortune-telling, or sought omens.


“enchantments”—something to do with telling the future.


“witchcraft”—someone who practiced sorcery, especially in terms of interpreting dreams or telling the future (cf. “sorcerers” in Daniel 2:2).


“dealt with a familiar spirit”—he consulted mediums.


“wizards”—this could be referring to psychics. 


All of these things provoked the Lord to anger. Why? The common thread that runs through all those phrases is that Manasseh sought supernatural guidance to know the future or to make decisions. 


Basically, Manasseh sought wisdom that was not from God. He tried to bypass God. He ignored his great (eleven times) grandfather Solomon’s words—


7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)


Solomon, at the beginning of his reign, sought wisdom from God in order to lead the people. But Manasseh sought wisdom from people who either faked having a connection with the spirit world, or who actually did have a connection with the spirit world—the spirit world of demons. In both cases, Manasseh was a fool because he ignored the Lord and His wisdom.


And Manasseh also ignored what the Lord had done for his people—


2 Chronicles 33:7 And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: 2 Chronicles 33:8 Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses. 


Manasseh ignored the Lord’s requirement for leaders to faithfully lead the people in the right way—


2 Chronicles 33:9 So Manasseh 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. 


Manasseh and the people ignored the Lord’s past work and they even ignored the Lord speaking to them in their day—


2 Chronicles 33:10 And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken. 


As a result, Manasseh and the people did more evil than the pagan nations that God delivered them from.


When people do not listen, what choice does God have but to try to make them listen? God disciplines so that people will wake up. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. In Manasseh’s case, it did work. 




2 Chronicles 33:11 Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. 

Imagine the President being kidnapped and taken to Russia!
Impossible you say? Not if it is what the Lord wants, as is clearly the case here. The Lord brought the Assyrians to kidnap Manasseh. He was taken to Babylon, which is not the capital of Assyria, but certainly a major city, and perhaps one the king of Assyria used to hold court in from time to time..


2 Chronicles 33:12 And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 2 Chronicles 33:13 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


This is the goal of the Lord’s discipline in a person’s life—a return to God and to godliness. In Hebrews 12 we read, 


11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:11)


When the Lord disciplines you, how do you respond? Do you seek the Lord in prayer? Do you humble yourself? Or do you wait for it to pass and ignore what the Lord was trying to do for you? 


Many people will initially respond well to the Lord’s discipline. They are humbled. They pray. They come back to church. But what happens when the crisis is over? The old saying goes, “Many people use mighty thin thread when mending their ways.” They go back to their old ways. Not real repentance!


Manasseh is a good example of what it means to really repent. To repent means to change your mind; to alter your direction. It’s like baseball. A major league pitcher will wind up and throw a ball at almost a hundred miles an hour! That seems unstoppable! 


But what happens when the batter connects with that ball? At the crack of the bat, it does a complete about-face. If it was heading South; in an instant, it’s going North!


We’re the baseball. God’s discipline is the bat. Will you let God’s discipline be a home-run or a foul ball? 


Repentance is doing an about-face in your mind, heart, and will. 


1) Manasseh Had A Change Of Mind


Intellectually, he understood that he had broken God’s law by erecting altars and idols to false gods. He understood that God alone deserved his worship. It says here, “Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.” 


For a person to come to Jesus they have to have an intellectual change about who Jesus is. At the bare minimum, They need to understand that Jesus is God and that He died for their sins and rose again. They need to understand that their sins require someone to die. These facts must click into place in their mind.


But it’s not enough just to intellectually know about Jesus. 


2) Manasseh Had A Change Of Heart


Manasseh moved from being prideful to being humble. We read in verse 12 that he “humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.” 


A person cannot come to Jesus unless they are humbled. There are many who believe in Jesus intellectually, but they don’t think that they are really sinners. They believe that they are good enough for God. They are full of pride, for they think their good works can save them. The Bible disagrees—


8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)


Imagine if a person could be saved by good works. They would boast about it all through Heaven! “You know what I did? I did a hundred good works every day of my life. And God let me in!”


To repent, a person must move from being prideful to being humble. They need to say in their hearts, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”


3) Manasseh Had A Change Of Will


It cannot be called repentance without a change of will. You need to act. Intellectually, Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. In his heart, he was humbled. But then he acted.  


2 Chronicles 33:14 Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah. 


This seems strange to be part of repentance. Perhaps its that Manasseh hadn’t cared much about the security of God’s people before, and now he rebuilds key military structures. The repentance has to do with caring about God’s city and God’s people.


Love for God’s people is a mark of true repentance in a person:


7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. (1 John 4:7)


And love is not simply a feeling, folks. It’s action. It’s stepping out and meeting the needs of others, like Manasseh did.


Another mark of true repentance is turning from sin—


2 Chronicles 33:15 And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. 


Manasseh cleaned house and tossed out the ungodly altars and idols. 


For a person to become a Christian, they must confront the reality of their sin. The first sin that they confront is their unbelief in Jesus Christ. Unbelief must be tossed out of the city of your soul.


For a Christian to continue to grow in Christ, they will need to continue to confront sin and idols and throw them out. We will never finish this task in our life times. If you think you have, then you have the sin of pride to cast out!


It’s not enough just to clear out the idolatry in your life. You need to replace it with the godly. So Manasseh does so…


2 Chronicles 33:16 And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. 


To become a Christian, you must turn from the sin of unbelief in Jesus to belief in Jesus, not just intellectually, but in your heart, and in your will.


To grow as a Christian you must turn from your sins and put on godly attitudes and behavior. Paul says in Ephesians:


22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:22–24)


Folks, every season of your Christian walk will require repentance. What is it that the Spirit is prompting you to repent of? What is it that needs cast off? What is it that needs put on? 


Please don’t assume that you’ve arrived or that, because you are farther along than others, that you don’t have any more growing to do. 


If you are blind to your faults, here’s two things you can do. First, ask a trusted fellow believer to tell what he or she thinks is a failing in your life. 


Second, look for the things that make you angry. Ours is rarely a righteous anger. It’s usually an anger that comes from pride. What is it that you are so prideful about, that you get angry when someone knocks it? Then repent!


One final note from Manasseh’s repentance. Manasseh restored the true worship of God and this had some effect on the people.


2 Chronicles 33:17 Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only. 


The people did sacrifice to the Lord God only once again, but they did so in the wrong places, not just at the temple as God required. Sadly, their return was not whole-hearted. In fact, many of them probably just did the sacrifices to the Lord because Manasseh told them to. 


You can hear them complain, “I’ll sacrifice to the Lord, but the high place I was doing sacrifices at is so much closer to home…let me sacrifice there.” So Manasseh, unable to change their hearts, allowed it.


Good, godly leadership can only do so much. Laws cannot change people’s hearts. Only true repentance can change a person’s life. They need to have a change of mind, of heart, and of their will.




Repentance is the way to activate the mercy and forgiveness of God in your life. The Bible says, in a verse that describes repentance to a tee, 


7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts: And let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; And to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7)


Make no mistake, when you repent, it leads to the joy of being forgiven. It’s a joy that you will be inclined to share with others. We see a hint of that in Manasseh’s life. After he died, his son Ammon became king and was a wicked king. 


2 Chronicles 33:21 Amon was two and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned two years in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 33:22 But he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as did Manasseh his father: for Amon sacrificed unto all the carved images which Manasseh his father had made, and served them; 2 Chronicles 33:23 And humbled not himself before the Lord, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more.


Manasseh’s repentance occurred too late in his life to have an effect on his son, although I am sure he tried.


Thankfully, Ammon died early, and his son, Josiah became king—


2 Chronicles 34:1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years. 2 Chronicles 34:2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left.


Josiah was six years old when his grandfather Manasseh died. He would have been at an age of being able to understand what had happened to his grandfather. 


Perhaps Manasseh even took him on his knee and explained the importance of worshipping the only true God. Whatever happened, Manasseh’s repentance had an effect on the young Josiah and, after Manasseh’s death, he came to know the Lord.


Your testimony of salvation will have an effect on the people around you. Your repentance will have effects in your life that people will see. When you make a mistake as a Christian, be sure to repent of it. And if other people were involved, repent to them as well. Be a testimony to the Lord’s discipline and His forgiveness.


Levi Durfey—LDM-14-2 Chronicles 33:1-25-20200517FBCAM-SERMON

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