Some people, it seems, are too far gone. We pray for them for years, but they still refuse to walk with God. After so long a time, we feel it’s hopeless. But Jerusalem’s Hinnom Valley gives us reason to hope.
Some places in Jerusalem are as infamous as others are famous. The Hinnom Valley is such a site. It represented a place where evil atrocities occurred. Like, really evil.
One of the best places to see the Hinnom Valley is from a balcony in the southwest corner of the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. Inevitably while I stand there, I think of King Manasseh and the horrific acts he committed in the area before my eyes.
The infamous valley reminds me of more than Manasseh. It also represents my redemption.
King Manasseh and the Hinnom Valley
King Manasseh ruled in Judah for 55 years—the longest reign of all the Hebrew kings (2 Chron. 33:1-2). Even though Manasseh had one of the godliest fathers in history, Hezekiah, King Manasseh was Judah’s worst king.
- He lived just like the godless nations God destroyed in bringing Israel into the land.
- He adopted a pagan worldview—idolatry, astrology, child sacrifice, witchcraft, and sorcery—violations stated in Deuteronomy 18.
The Hinnom Valley served as the place where the evil occurred:
He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger.—2 Chronicles 33:6
It’s impossible to know why, but Manasseh sought to break God’s law with as much passion as his father, Hezekiah, had sought to keep it.
- Manasseh rebuilt the high places where one would worship idols.
- He built altars in the temple to idols.
- He built altars to the stars.
In a literal sense he rebuilt what Hezekiah had torn down. Look at how the prophet Jeremiah put it:
And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.—Jeremiah 7:31
How did God respond to Manasseh? He spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So God brought in the Assyrian army, “and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains, and took him to Babylon” (2 Chron. 33:10-11).
- When it says they captured him with hooks, the Hebrew word refers to a hook that was put through the gills of large fish.
- It is used of a ring used in the noses of wild beasts to subdue and lead them.
Manasseh’s life is revealed as an out-of-control, unmanageable beast, which the Assyrian generals took and subdued by a ring in the nose.
Attitude Adjustment—and Redemption
What a great change occurred at that point:
And when he was in distress, he entreated the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.—2 Chronicles 33:12-13
Hard to believe, isn’t it? In his distress, he called out to God, and Manasseh finally let go of the illusion that he was in control—and he humbled himself greatly.
Jesus and the Hinnom Valley
Perhaps because of the atrocities committed here, Jesus used the Hinnom Valley as an illustration of the eternal torment of hell (Matt. 18:9). Here also, Judas, the betrayer of Jesus took his own life. Hence, the residents later named the place “Hakeldama,” or “Field of Blood” (Acts 1:18-19).
Scroll around on Google Maps and see the Hinnom Valley from my favorite vantage point.
The Hinnom Valley—A Picture of Redemption
The valley gave us one of archaeology’s greatest finds. In 1979, Dr. Gabriel Barkay discovered the amazing Ketef Hinnom Amulets in the Hinnom Valley.
- These two small silver scrolls have the priestly benediction Numbers 6:24-26 etched on them.
- They date to the First Temple Period (586 BC) and represent the earliest copy of Scripture we have.
Today when we see the Hinnom Valley, it looks far different from the time of Manasseh. Today the valley hosts musical concerts and offers a park with lush, green grass for children with Frisbees.
How ironic: in times past, children were killed there. Today, they play in peace.
It’s almost as if the Hinnom Valley has been redeemed from the horrific acts of idol worship and child sacrifice. Just like Manasseh was redeemed. Just like you and me.
In Manasseh’s wickedness, he removed all the fences of God’s law, and thus he removed the protection and provision God’s law intended to provide. Only after Assyrian nose hooks did he discover the value of the fences, and to his credit, he began rebuilding them.
Do you know someone too far gone? Manasseh illustrates for you the awesome grace of God toward all who would turn to the Lord in sincerity. If the Lord can change Manasseh’s heart, He can change anyone’s.
Never give up hope. Never quit praying.
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