AMON, KING OF JUDAH.
The Biblical accounts of Amon are found in II Kings, xxi. 18-26 and in II Chron. xxxiii. 20-25; and he is mentioned in I Chron. iii. 14 among the descendants of King David. Elsewhere he is spoken of merely as the father of Josiah. He was the son of King Manasseh and of Meshullemeth, daughter of Haruz of Jotbah, and at the age of twenty-two succeeded to the throne on the death of Manasseh. His short reign of two years (about 640-638
The fact that Amon was the most sinful of all the wicked kings of Judah (II Chron. xxxiii. 23) is brought out in the Talmud (Sanh. 103b) as follows:
Ahaz suspended the sacrificial worship, Manasseh tore down the altar, Amon made it a place of desolation [covered it with cobwebs]; Ahaz sealed up the scrolls of the Law (Isa. viii. 16), Manasseh cut out the sacred name, Amon burnt the scrolls altogether [compare Seder Olam, R. xxiv. This is derived from the story of the finding of the Book of the Law, II Kings, xxii. 8]; Ahab permitted incest, Manasseh committed it himself, Amon acted as Nero was said to have done toward his mother Agrippina. And yet, out of respect for his son Josiah, Amon's name was not placed on the list of the kings excluded from the world to come.
A midrashic fragment preserved in the Apostolical Constitutions, ii. 23, which appears to follow an account of the repentance of Manasseh according to a lost Jewish apocryphal writing, reads:
"No sin is more grievous than idolatry, for it is treason against God. Yet even this has been forgiven upon sincere repentance; but he that sins from a mere spirit of opposition, to see whether God will punish the wicked, shall find no pardon, although he say in his heart, 'I shall have peace in the end (by repenting), though I walk in the stubbornness of my evil heart'" (Deut. xxix. 19). Such a one was Amon, the son of Manasseh, for the (Apocryphal) Scripture says: "And Amon reasoned an evil reasoning of transgression and said: 'My father from his childhood was a great transgressor, and he repented in his old age. So will I now walk after the lust of my soul and afterward return to the Lord.' And he committed more evil in the sight of the Lord than all that were before him; but the Lord God speedily cut him off from this good land. And his servants conspired against him and slew him in his own house, and he reigned two years only."
It is noteworthy that this very midrashic fragment casts light upon the emphatic teaching of the Mishnah (Yoma, viii. 9): "Whosoever says, 'I will sin and repent thereafter,' will not be granted the time for repentance."
It is rather unfortunate that so little is known of the reign of Amon, king of Judah; for he lived evidently in a critical period. The endeavors of the prophets to establish a pure form of YHWH worship had for a short time been triumphant in Hezekiah's reign; but a reaction against them set in after the latter's death, and both Manasseh and his son Amon appear to have followed the popular trend in reestablishing the old Canaanitish form of cult, including the Ashera and Moloch worship. Whether Manasseh "repented," as the chronicle tells us, is more than doubtful. There is no record of this in the book of Kings, and absolutely no indication of such a change in the subsequent course of events. The people clearly were not yet prepared for the higher religious ideas; and the constant dread that Jerusalem would encounter the same fate as Samaria—so boldly proclaimed by the prophets—instead of leading the people closer to YHWH made them feel that the national deity had deserted them. It was in times of popular unrest that refuge was taken in the old rites, which appeared better able to stand the test of distressful events and impending disaster. In any case it is significant that Amon's death was caused by a palace intrigue, and that the "people of the land," as the account directly states (II Kings, xxi. 23), gathered to avenge his death. It is but fair to conclude from this that the king stood high in popular favor, and that his death was not only regretted by his subjects at large, but made so deep an impression as to lead to a popular movement which succeeded in securing the succession for Amon's son, Josiah, under whom the party of religious reform, guided by prophetical teachings, was destined to gain a permanent victory. For a more detailed view of the religious and political conditions prevailing before and subsequent to Amon's reign, see Manasseh and Josiah.
- Kittel, Gesch. d. Hebräer, 1888, 1892, ii. 314-320;
- Guthe, in Gesch. d. Volkes Israel, 1881-88, pp. 206-210;
- Stade, Gesch. d. Volkes Israel, pp. 624-641;
- C. F. Kent, Hebrew History, The Divided Kingdom, pp. 172, 173.