and also for the innocent blood that he shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon. 2 Kings 24:4 (Hebrew World)
Would not pardon – What is the unforgivable sin? Most Christians would say, “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” citing Yeshua’s remark in Matthew 12. That incident summarizes an ethical reversal of values that displays idolatrous attitudes. It takes time to develop. There is, however, a single act, a moment of violence, that God does not forgive. At least this appears to be the case in the story of Manasseh. That act is the shedding of innocent blood. Manasseh may have prayed to be forgiven, but the Hebrew text says that God would not listen. The phrase is lo-avah. The negative particle (lo) is very strong. It is the same negative particle that precedes the Ten Commandments. “It is never the case that” is the sense of it. The verb, ‘avah, means “to be willing, to consent, to yield, to be positively inclined.” If you thought that God was always ready to forgive, then this verse will be a real stumbling block. God will not forgive the shedding of innocent blood. Payment must be made.
It’s quite instructive that the LXX alters this verse to read “the Lord did not want to be conciliated.” Did you catch the subtle shift? In Hebrew the verse declares that God will not forgive. His justice demands His refusal. He chooses not to overlook this heinous crime. But in the Greek LXX, the implication is that God doesn’t want to forgive – but He still could. In the LXX, the issue is God’s struggle with what He wants to do (not forgive) and what He could do (forgive). There is no struggle in Hebrew. God absolutely will not forgive this offense. The offender cannot receive remission of this sin. He must die.
I realize that this divine resistance is out of character with our cultural characterization of YHWH, but I am afraid that we are the ones who are misinformed, not God. His retaliation against such acts is a constant theme of Scripture (cf. Jeremiah 19:4, Psalm 106:38, Joel 3:19, Proverbs 6:17, Psalm 94:21, Deuteronomy 21:8ff). This is especially troublesome in a world that is convinced capital punishment is morally wrong. Who decided that? Certainly not YHWH! One wonders if the Church’s idea of the all-forgiving God didn’t have some ameliorating effect on YHWH’s requirement for justice.
Most sins can be forgiven. Some cannot. Does this mean some people have acted in such terrible ways that they cannot find reconciliation? I don’t think so. After all, there is David. If any king deserved punishment for the shedding of innocent blood, it was David. Yet God forgave. But someone had to pay. Usually the one who pays is the one who perpetrates the crime. In David’s exceptional case, the one who paid was the child. There are times when any attempt to understand the mind of the Lord seems beyond us, aren’t there? Here’s what we know. God avenges innocent blood. May that blood never touch our hands in any way!
Topical Index: lo-avah, would not pardon, Manasseh, David, 2 Kings 24:4, innocent blood