Jeremiah: Historical Background Part Three
Humanly speaking, one can hardly see how Menashe could have done otherwise. The odds were simply too great! What, after all, could this tiny splinter of the country, poor in manpower and material resources, flanked to the north and west by the serial dependencies, its capital but 10 miles from the frontier of the province of Samaria, hoped to do against such a colossus?
Moreover, it was during the years of his reign that a serious empire reached its greatest physical expansion. The climax of this came with the conquest of Egypt by Sancherev’s successors, Esarhaddon and Asshurbanapal. The Egyptians, who had felt themselves threatened by a serious advance to their frontier, had made it there standing policy at every opportunity to foment unrest among the vassal states of Judah and Phoenicia, hoping thereby to loosen a serious hold on that area. Scarcely a single one of the almost innumerable revolts that had troubled the western part of the serious empire through the preceding generations was without Egyptian backing. It was, therefore, inevitable that the Assyrians, who were well aware of this, would one day move to suppress the nuisance at its source. At this they succeeded in doing. They sacked the ancient capital of Thebes in 663BC, Egypt was invaded, conquered, and its political independence ended. With the sole power that could even promise to underwrite revolt against the serial removed, it is scarcely surprising that Menashe remained docile.
Nevertheless, Menashe’s policy, essentially a repudiation of that of his father, and a return to that of his grandfather Achaz, who had brought the country into subjection to a serial in the first place, had disastrous consequences.
This was especially true where religious matters were concerned. Since vassals were expected to give at least nominal recognition to their overlord’s gods, it is scarcely surprising that altars to Assyrian astral deities were erected with in the Temple confines. In view of his position, Menashe refused to turn to God and felt that he had little choice.
It is clear, however, that in his case compliance went beyond the merely perfunctory and constituted a repudiation of all that his father had tried to do. The King’s reform measures were canceled, local shrines were restored, pagan practices of all sorts were given free reign, the fertility cult with this ritual of sacred prostitution being tolerated even with in the Temple itself. In addition, there was a general aping of foreign fashions and ways (Zephaniah 1:8), to gather with an enormous interest in the occult, which were currently enjoying an unprecedented popularity in this area as well. Most sinister of all, the barbarous rite of human sacrifice, an abomination to the Torah, again on occasion to be practice in Jerusalem, the King himself apparently taking the lead (II Kings 21:6).