Hephzibah, King Manasseh’s Mother
Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for fifty-five years. . . . His mother’s name was Hephzibah. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord.
2 Kings 21:1-2a
When I was a child, it was not uncommon for a girl, a church, or a Bible class to be named “Beulah.” In Sunday School we used to sing an old-fashioned hymn about “Dwelling in Beulah Land.” The Scriptural source for that quaintly archaic name is Isaiah 62:4, a prophetic word about the holy city of Jerusalem:
“No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.”
Footnotes at the bottom of the page in my Bible confirm that “Beulah” means “married,” while “Hephzibah” means “My delight is in her.” There used to be girls in God-fearing families named Hephzibah, too, sometimes even churches and Bible classes as well. Yet in all of the Bible there was only one person named Hephzibah. She was a queen, the wife of King Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was one of the best kings who ever reigned in Jerusalem. In fact the Bible says that “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him” (2 Kings 18:5b). Married to such a praiseworthy ruler, Queen Hephzibah must have been an admirable Bible character as well.
And yet . . . the son of Hezekiah and Hephzibah was none other than Manasseh, who turned out to be the worst king of them all.
How could such a thing come to be?
Why do bad children happen to good parents?
In our own extended family we used to puzzle over that. Cousin Baker and Cousin Mattie were two of the loveliest Christians I ever knew. Cousin Baker faithfully served as Sunday School superintendent; Cousin Mattie taught a class and played the organ.
This devoted Christian couple had two sons. Oh, they didn’t turn out as bad as King Manasseh did: As a matter of fact they weren’t bad at all, . . . just idle and careless. Each of them lived a long life, yet neither of them made much of a contribution to society in general, let alone to the cause of Christ.
Why did it happen? How did it happen?
In the case of King Hezekiah and Queen Hephzibah, the Bible gives us a couple of tantalizing clues. A comparison of dates and ages shows that Hezekiah was already 42 years old before Manasseh was born. Had he and Hephzibah been hoping and yearning many long years for a boy? When their prayers were finally answered, did they lavish too much love on their only son and heir?
To find another clue, we must turn to another source, for the book of 2 Kings doesn’t mention it at all. According to 2 Chronicles 33:10-20, King Manasseh in his later years fell on hard times. Because of this, he finally turned back to God.
Do you suppose that as long as she lived, Queen Hephzibah kept on praying for her son’s repentance and return? (I’m sure Cousin Mattie did so for her two.)
Probably you too have known some godly mother who has agonized over an ungodly son. Think about her – along with Queen Hephzibah – as you read the following Bible-based poetic meditation:
Perhaps we should have named him something different.
A name can make a difference, so they say.
We chose a noble name, a son of Joseph’s:
We said “Manasseh!” on his naming day.
Perhaps we spoiled him; he was long awaited.
King Hezekiah thought he’d have no heir.
For seventeen long years he reigned in sadness,
his childlessness a curse he had to bear.
Perhaps we showed the boy too much attention;
we praised him overmuch, indulged each whim,
surrounded him with all that makes life easy;
we never reckoned what this did to him.
Perhaps we pushed too hard to make him pious.
King Hezekiah loved and honored God,
but young Manasseh turned away from God-talk:
He laughed and said, “Religion’s rather odd!”
Perhaps we should have foreknown what would happen,
once young Manasseh mounted to the throne:
He desecrated holy halls of worship;
he honored foreign gods above our own.
Perhaps the Lord must chasten him severely
before he’ll see the folly of his way.
Perhaps one day he’ll turn his back on evil.
I pray that I may live to see the day!
O Lord, have mercy on all the erring sons and anxious mothers in our world today! In the name of Him who was both Son of God and son of Mary. Amen.
Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas