Manasseh rules Judah in detestable ways, in stark contrast to how his father, Hezekiah, ruled. However, based on Hezekiah’s actions towards the end of his life, we might have suspected this would happen. In yesterday’s reading, after Isaiah warned Hezekiah that Babylon would take all the temple valuables, Hezekiah foolishly revealed his relief that this would not happen in his lifetime: “‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?’” (2 Kings 20:19) Hezekiah shows in his response his lack of care for Judah’s future beyond his own rule. His son’s actions are the fruit of such disregard.
Don’t hear me blaming Hezekiah for Manasseh’s sins, for Manasseh is solely responsible for all his own evil. Rather I am blaming Hezekiah for his lack of foresight, his disregard for Judah’s long-term status in light of God’s promises to David, and by inference his failure to raise his son in the knowledge of the Lord. Might Manasseh have rejected his father’s teaching? Certainly, we cannot say for sure. Still, I think it more likely that the scripture preserves two of Hezekiah’s main faults in self-preservation and failure to fulfill the role of King in preparing an adequate replacement.
Father-son dynamics are always tricky to assess without lots of information. Regardless of how well Hezekiah reared Manasseh, we can say for certain that Hezekiah did not share God’s heart for Judah’s best, and that is enough to understand Hezekiah’s culpability in the events of today’s reading.