You open your Bible, ready to dive deep into God’s word. As you flip through the pages, you notice that Scripture contains stories of many different people – some who followed God faithfully, and others who rebelled against Him. This makes you wonder: who was the worst sinner in the Bible? Which person’s sin was most grievous in God’s eyes?
To find the answer, you’ll need to examine the lives of various biblical figures who engaged in terrible sins. By comparing their actions and attitudes, you can determine who stood out as the most wicked person described in Scripture. Get ready for a sobering survey of human depravity and just how far people can fall when they turn their backs on God.
- The “worst sinner” must have knowingly rebelled against God in a profound way.
- King Manasseh of Judah stands out for his idolatry, murder of prophets, and leading the nation into evil.
- Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus Christ himself, an unparalleled act of treachery.
- No person’s sin is too great for God’s forgiveness through Jesus.
Assessing Wickedness in the Bible
To identify the worst sinner in the Bible, you’ll need to establish some criteria. What factors make someone’s sin especially heinous in God’s eyes? Based on Scripture, here are some key considerations:
The Level of Privilege and Responsibility
Those who had greater privilege, divine revelation, and responsibility before God are held to higher standards. Their rebellion is more inexcusable. Jesus said this principle applied even in the judgement of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom (Matthew 11:20-24).
Knowledge and Willfulness
Sins committed in ignorance or weakness are less grievous than those done knowingly and willfully. Jesus prayed for forgiveness for those crucifying him, saying “they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). But intentional, premeditated sin is far worse.
Leadings Others Astray
When someone’s sin influences many others to stumble, it compounds their own guilt. Jesus warned that those who cause little ones to sin would face severe judgment (Mark 9:42). Leading nations astray increases accountability.
Hardness of Heart
A stubbornly unrepentant attitude makes sin worse. The Pharisees’ hardness of heart brought Jesus’ harshest rebukes (Mark 3:5). Refusing to turn from sin despite discipline reveals a profound level of wickedness.
Direct Rebellion and Blasphemy
Sins can be acts of rebellion against God’s plain commands and purpose. But the highest disregard is blasphemy – speaking directly against God himself. Jesus said blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable (Mark 3:29).
With these principles in mind, you can survey biblical history for those figures who represent the zenith of willful, knowing sin against God. Two individuals stand out: King Manasseh of Judah and Judas Iscariot.
King Manasseh: Unrivaled Idolatry and Influence for Evil
King Manasseh of Judah stands out as perhaps the worst sinner described in the Old Testament. He possessed tremendous privilege and responsibility as the son of righteous King Hezekiah. Yet Manasseh “did evil in the sight of the LORD” and deliberately reintroduced idolatry, sorcery, and child sacrifice to Judah (2 Kings 21:2,6).
Manasseh’s sins were profoundly grievous:
- Idolatry: He rebuilt pagan altars throughout Judah and set up idols and Asherah poles in the Temple, bringing false gods into the Holy of Holies itself (2 Kings 21:3-7).
- Occultism: He practiced sorcery, divination, witchcraft, consulted mediums and spiritists (2 Kings 21:6).
- Child sacrifice: He burned his own son as an offering (2 Kings 21:6).
- Murder of prophets: Manasseh “shed very much innocent blood till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (2 Kings 21:16). Jewish tradition says he executed Isaiah.
- Leading Judah astray: Under Manasseh’s 55 year reign, Judah was more idolatrous than the Canaanites (2 Kings 21:9). His sins brought God’s wrath on Judah (2 Kings 23:26-27).
Manasseh represents an almost unrivaled depth and persistence of idolatry, witchcraft, child sacrifice, murder, and leading God’s chosen nation astray. His sins were a direct, willful, premeditated rebellion against all God commanded.
Yet remarkably, even Manasseh was not beyond God’s forgiveness. After being carried away to Babylon, “when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God” (2 Chron. 33:12-13). Manasseh’s story shows that while evil has real consequences, God’s grace is greater than the worst sins.
Judas Iscariot: Betrayal of the Son of God
In the New Testament, one man’s sin stands out as uniquely heinous: Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ himself for thirty pieces of silver.
Consider the immensity of Judas’ privilege and light. He spent three years with Jesus, hearing his teaching firsthand and witnessing his miracles. Jesus directly chose him to be an apostle. At the Last Supper, Jesus washed Judas’ feet along with the other disciples. He appealed to Judas, saying “one of you will betray me” (John 13:21). He even referred to Judas as “friend” in the moment of betrayal (Matthew 26:50).
Despite this, Judas willfully betrayed the incarnate Son of God to crucifixion for shockingly petty motives. The full premeditation and treachery is staggering:
- Judas went to the chief priests beforehand to bargain the price (Matthew 26:14-15). His betrayal was calculated for gain.
- He waited for an opportune time to secretly betray Jesus away from crowds (Luke 22:6).
- He hypocritically remained among the disciples, even receiving the dipped sop from Jesus (John 13:26).
- He betrayed Jesus with a kiss, a sign of friendship (Luke 22:47-48).
- Jesus said it would have been better for Judas if he had never been born (Matthew 26:24).
- Peter stated Judas turned aside to “go to his own place”, indicating eternal destruction (Acts 1:25).
- Judas is called “the son of perdition” like no one else, a possible reference to eternal loss (John 17:12).
While clearly not beyond God’s capacity to forgive (Acts 1:24-25), Judas’ betrayal represents an unequaled level of knowing rebellion and hardness of heart against the light of Christ.
No Sin Exceeds God’s Grace
This sobering survey reveals the unfathomable depth of human depravity and willful rebellion against God. But it also demonstrates that no sinner is beyond the reach of God’s grace. Jesus’ death is sufficient even for the worst of sins. As Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).
So while Manasseh and Judas may represent the epitome of sin’s corruption, they do not represent what God’s grace can overcome. Where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20). Even the worst of sinners can find God’s redemption through repentance and trust in Jesus Christ.
In reflecting on “who was the worst sinner in the Bible?”, the idolatry and murder of King Manasseh along with Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ himself stand out for the depth of their depravity and rebellion. Their stories serve as a sobering reminder of the wickedness human hearts are capable of. Yet no one is beyond the mercy of Christ. His death and resurrection is sufficient even for the worst of sinners. Turn to Him and experience the amazing grace that outshines any depth of sin.