A colleague asked me the question in the title recently during a heated discussion. “They both ruled over the nation longer than any of their contemporary national leaders,” was the answer. Benjamin Netanyahu is the modern State of Israel’s longest serving prime minister, surpassing even David Ben-Gurion.
King Manasseh is described in the Bible as the most sinful king of Israel, and yet, he ruled longer than all other kings of his era. Fifty-five years to be precise. That was 15 years longer than David and Solomon. But we are told:
“He did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel.” (2 Kings 21)
King Manasseh brought back all the foreign gods and cults that his father King Hezekiah had expelled from the land. He even allowed his son to pass through the fire, and practiced all manner of things that are intolerable to God. In addition, Manasseh spilt a lot of innocent blood, even in the holy city of Jerusalem.
His eventual repentance is recorded in 2 Chronicles 33, but not in 2 Kings. Why? Consider how Manasseh’s rule began. The Kingdom of Judea, apart from Jerusalem itself, was completely devastated by the Assyrian military campaign in the year 701 BC. Five years later, at the age of 12, Manasseh ascended the throne of a ruined land and re-built it with a pro-Assyrian policy, which was sinful in the eyes of God.
King Manasseh was a collaborator with the Assyrian Empire and supported it in wars against Egypt and other neighboring countries; he can be described as a vassal of Assyria. Lengthy reigns indicate stability and are generally regarded positively, but Manasseh is seen as one of the most detestable kings of Israel.
Isn’t Israel likewise described in the Arab press as America’s vassal? Israel cooperates with the American “empire,” and has for decades been regarded as a representative of Western (American) culture in the Middle East.
How would Israel’s rulers of today appear in a biblical context? How would the Bible assess what is going on in the land, whether under Benjamin Netanyahu, or his predecessors? Aren’t the annual gay parades in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem an abomination according to the Bible? Isn’t it the Orthodox Jews who warn us against foreign customs, and foreign gods and cults? Or should they not be taken seriously because they are so venomously opposed to Jesus? How would the Bible assess the present corruption of Israel’s political and spiritual leaders? After all, it is written explicitly that one should not be swayed by bribes and gifts.
A letter to the editor of the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot by a Likud voter named Saguri read:
“There are no leaders that are not corrupt. Bibi has already stolen, and is sufficiently wealthy. That is why it is better that he remain in office. A newcomer would still be driven by greed and would be no less corrupt.”
It’s sad to say that Saguri is at least partially right.
From a biblical viewpoint, we have to admit that our generation is no better than our forefathers. According to biblical standards, we are equally sinful, just in different ways. In his second term, Netanyahu governed Israel for nearly 10 years, representing the most stable government in modern Israel’s 75-year history, much like King Manasseh at his time. How will history record today’s national leaders? Will their stories read like those of the biblical kings?
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