International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
ma-nas'-e (menashsheh, "causing to forget"; compare Genesis 41:51; Man(n)asse):
(1) The firstborn of Joseph by Asenath, daughter of Poti-phera, priest of On. See next article.
(2) The tribe named from Manasseh, half of which, with Gad and Reuben, occupied the East of Jordan (Numbers 27:1, etc.). See next article.
(3) The "Manasseh" of Judges 18:30, 31 the King James Version is really an intentional mistake for the name Moses. A small nun ("n"), a Hebrew letter, has been inserted over and between the first and second Hebrew letters in the word Moses, thus maNesheh for mosheh. The reason for this is that the individual in question is mentioned as priest of a brazen image at Dan. His proper name was Moses. It was felt to be a disgrace that such a one bearing that honored name should keep it intact. The insertion of the nun hides the disgrace and, moreover, gives to the person a name already too familiar with idolatrous practices; for King Manasseh's 55 years of sovereignty were thus disgraced.
(4) King of Judah. See separate article.
(5) Son of PAHATH-MOAB (which see), who had married a foreign wife (Ezra 10:30). Manaseas in 1 Esdras 9:31.
(6) The Manasses of 1 Esdras 9:33. A layman of the family of Hashum, who put away his foreign wife at Ezra's order (Ezra 10:33).
In the Revised Version (British and American) of Matthew 1:10 and Revelation 7:6 the spelling "Manasseh" is given for the King James Version "Manasses." The latter is the spelling of the husband of Judith (Judith 8:2, 7; 10:03; 16:22, 23, 24); of a person named in the last words of Tobit and otherwise unknown (Tobit 14:10), and also the name given to a remarkable prayer probably referred to in 2 Chronicles 33:18, which Manasseh (4) is said to have uttered at the end of his long, unsatisfactory life. See MANASSES, THE PRAYER OF. In Judges 12:4, the Revised Version (British and American) reads "Manasseh" for the King James Version "Manassites."
1. Son of Joseph:
Following the Biblical account of Manasseh (patriarch, tribe, and territory) we find that he was the eider of Joseph's two sons by Asenath, the daughter of Poti-phera, priest of On (Genesis 41:51). The birth of a son marked the climax of Joseph's happiness after the long bitterness of his experience. In the joy of the moment, the dark years past could be forgotten; therefore he called the name of the firstborn Manasseh ("causing to forget"), for, said he, God hath made me to forget all my toil. When Jacob was near his end, Joseph brought his two sons to his father who blessed them. Himself the younger son who had received the blessing of the firstborn, Jacob preferred Ephraim, the second son of Joseph, to Manasseh his elder brother, thus indicating the relative positions of their descendants (Genesis 48). Before Joseph died he saw the children of Machir the son of Manasseh (Genesis 50:23). Machir was born to Manasseh by his concubine, an Aramitess (1 Chronicles 7:14). Whether he married Maacah before leaving for Egypt is not said. She was the sister of Huppim and Shuppim. Of Manasseh's personal life no details are recorded in Scripture. Acccording to Jewish tradition he became steward of his father's house, and acted as interpreter between Joseph and his brethren.
2. The Tribes in the Wilderness and Portion in Palestine:
At the beginning of the desert march the number of Manasseh's men of war is given at 32,200 (Numbers 1:34 f). At the 2nd census they had increased to 52,700 (Numbers 26:34). Their position in the wilderness was with the tribe of Benjamin, by the standard of the tribe of Ephraim, on the West of the tabernacle. According to Targum Pseudojon, the standard was the figure of a boy, with the inscription "The cloud of Yahweh rested on them until they went forth out of the camp." At Sinai the prince of the tribe was Gamaliel, son of Pedahzur (Numbers 2:20). The tribe was represented among the spies by Gaddi, son of Susi (Numbers 13:11, where the name "tribe of Joseph" seems to be used as an alternative). At the census in the plains of Moab, Manasseh is named before Ephraim, and appears as much the stronger tribe (Numbers 26:28). The main military exploits in the conquest of Eastern Palestine were performed by Manassites. Machir, son of Manasseh, conquered the Amorites and Gilead (Numbers 32:39). Jair, son of Manasseh, took all the region of Argob, containing three score cities; these he called by his own name, "Havvoth-jair" (Numbers 32:41 Deuteronomy 3:4, 14). Nobah captured Kenath and the villages thereof (Numbers 32:42 Joshua 17:1, 5). Land for half the tribe was thus provided, their territory stretching from the northern boundary of Gad to an undetermined frontier in the North, marching with Geshur and Maacah on the West, and with the desert on the East. The warriors of this half-tribe passed over with those of Reuben and Gad before the host of Israel, and took their share in the conquest of Western Palestine (Joshua 22). They helped to raise the great altar in the Jordan valley, which so nearly led to disastrous consequences (Joshua 22:10). Golan, the city of refuge, lay within their territory.
The possession of Ephraim and Manasseh West of the Jordan appears to have been undivided at first (Joshua 17:16). The portion which ultimately fell to Manasseh marched with Ephraim on the South, with Asher and Issachar on the North, running out to the sea on the West, and falling into the Jordan valley on the East (Joshua 17:7). The long dwindling slopes to westward and the fiat reaches of the plain included much excellent soil. Within the territory of Issachar and Asher, Beth-shean, Ibleam, Dor, Endor, Taanach and Megiddo, with their villages, were assigned to Manasseh. Perhaps the men of the West lacked the energy and enterprise of their eastern brethren. They failed, in any case, to expel the Canaanites from these cities, and for long this grim chain of fortresses seemed to mock the strength of Israel (Joshua 17:11)
Ten cities West of the Jordan, in the portion of Manasseh, were given to the Levites, and 13 in the eastern portion (Joshua 21:5, 6).
Manasseh took part in the glorious conflict with the host of Sisera (Judges 5:14). Two famous judges, Gideon and Jephthah, belonged to this tribe. The men of the half-tribe East of Jordan were noted for skill and valor as warriors (1 Chronicles 5:18, 23 f). Some men of Manasseh had joined David before the battle of Gilboa (1 Chronicles 12:19).
3. Its Place in Later History:
Others, all mighty men of valor, and captains in the host, fell to him on the way to Ziklag, and helped him against the band of rovers (1 Chronicles 12:20). From the half-tribe West of the Jordan 18,000 men, expressed by name, came to David at Hebron to make him king (1 Chronicles 12:31); while those who came from the East numbered, along with the men of Reuben and Gad, 120,000 (1 Chronicles 12:37). David organized the eastern tribes under 2,700 overseers for every matter pertaining to God and for the affairs of the king (1 Chronicles 26:32). The rulers of Manasseh were, in the West, Joel, son of Pedaiah, and in the East, Iddo, son of Zechariah (1 Chronicles 27:20, 21). Divers of Manasseh humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem at the invitation of Hezekiah to celebrate the Passover (2 Chronicles 30:11). Although not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary, they ate the Passover. Pardon was successfully sought for them by the king, because they set their hearts to seek God (2 Chronicles 30:18).
Of the eastern half-tribe it is said that they went a-whoring after the gods of the land, and in consequence they were overwhelmed and expatriated by Pul and Tiglath-pileser, kings of Assyria (1 Chronicles 5:25 f). Reference to the idolatries of the western half-tribe are also found in 2 Chronicles 31:1; 2 Chronicles 34:6.
There is a portion for Manasseh in Ezekiel's ideal picture (Ezekiel 48:4), and the tribe appears in the list in Re (7:6). The genealogies in Joshua 17:1;; Numbers 26:28-34 1 Chronicles 2:21-23; 1 Chronicles 7:14-19 have fallen into confusion. As they stand, they are mutually contradictory, and it is impossible to harmonize them.
The theories of certain modern scholars who reject the Biblical account are themselves beset with difficulties: e.g. the name is derived from the Arabic, nasa, "to injure a tendon of the leg." Manasseh, the Piel part., would thus be the name of a supernatural being, of whom the infliction of such an injury was characteristic. It is not clear which of the wrestlers at the Jabbok suffered the injury. As Jacob is said to have prevailed with gods and men, the suggestion is that it was his antagonist who was lamed. "It would appear therefore that in the original story the epithet Manasseh was a fitting title of Jacob himself, which might be borne by his worshippers, as in the case of Gad" (EB, under the word, par. 4).
It is assumed that the mention of Machir in Judges 5:14 definitely locates the Manassites at that time on the West of the Jordan. The raids by members of the tribe on Eastern Palestine must therefore have taken place long after the days of Moses. The reasoning is precarious. After the mention of Reuben (5:15, 16), Gilead (5:17) may refer to Gad. It would be strange if this warlike tribe were passed over (Guthe). Machir, then probably the strongest clan, stands for the whole tribe, and may be supposed to indicate particularly the noted fighters of the eastern half.
In dealing with the genealogies, "the difficult name" Zelophehad must be got rid of. Among the suggestions made is one by Dr. Cheyne, which first supposes the existence of a name Salhad, and then makes Zelophehad a corruption of this.
The genealogies certainly present difficulties, but otherwise the narrative is intelligible and self-consistent without resort to such questionable expedients as those referred to above.
A king of Judah, son and successor of Hezekiah; reigned 55 years (2 Kings 21:1 2 Chronicles 33:1), from circa 685 onward. His was one of the few royal names not compounded with the name of Yahweh (his son Amon's was the only other if, as an Assyrian inscription gives it, the full name of Ahaz was Jehoahaz or Ahaziah); but it was no heathen name like Amon, but identical with that of the elder son of Joseph. Born within Hezekiah's added 15 years, years of trembling faith and tender hope (compare Isaiah 38:15), his name may perhaps memorialize the father's sacred feelings; the name of his mother Hephzibah too was used long afterward as the symbol of the happy union of the land with its loyal sons (Isaiah 62:4). All this, however, was long forgotten in the memory of Manasseh's apostate career.
I. Sources of His Life.
The history (2 Kings 1-18) refers for "the rest of his acts" to "the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah," but the body of the account, instead of reading like state annals, is almost entirely a censure of his idolatrous reign in the spirit of the prophets and of the Deuteronomic strain of literature. The parallel history (2 Chronicles 33:1-20) puts "the rest of his acts" "among the acts of the kings of Israel," and mentions his prayer (a prayer ascribed to him is in the Apocrypha) and "the words of the seers that spoke to him in the name of Yahweh." This history of Chronicles mentions his captive journey to Babylon and his repentance (2 Chronicles 33:10-13), also his building operations in Jerusalem and his resumption of Yahweh-worship (2 Chronicles 33:14-17), which the earlier source lacks. From these sources, which it is not the business of this article either to verify or question, the estimate of his reign is to be deduced.
II. Character of His Reign.
1. Political Situation:
During his reign, Assyria, principally under Esar-haddon and Assur-banipal, was at the height of its arrogance and power; and his long reign was the peaceful and uneventful life of a willing vassal, contented to count as tributary king in an illustrious world-empire, hospitable to all its religious and cultural ideas, and ready to take his part in its military and other enterprises. The two mentions of his name in Assyrian inscriptions (see G.A. Smith, Jerusalem, II, 182) both represent him in this tributary light. His journey to Babylon mentioned in 2 Chronicles 33:11 need not have been the penalty of rebellion; more likely it was such an enforced act of allegiance as was perhaps imposed on all provincial rulers who had incurred or would avert suspicion of disloyalty. Nor was his fortification of Jerusalem after his return less necessary against domestic than foreign aggression; the more so, indeed, as in so long and undisturbed a reign his capital, which was now practically synonymous with his realm (Esar-haddon calls him "king of the city of Judah"), became increasingly an important center of wealth and commercial prosperity. Of the specific events of his reign, however, other than religious, less is known than of almost any other.
2. Reactionary Idolatry:
That the wholesale idolatry by which his reign is mainly distinguished was of a reactionary and indeed conservative nature may be understood alike from what it sought to maintain and from what it had to react against. On the one side was the tremendous wave of ritual and mechanical heathen cults which, proceeding from the world-centers of culture and civilization (compare Isaiah 2:6-8), was drawing all the tributary lands, Judah with the rest, into its almost irresistible sweep. Manasseh, it would seem, met this not in the temper of an amateur, as had his grandfather Ahaz, but in the temper of a fanatic. Everything old and new that came to his purview was of momentous religious value-except only the simple and austere demands of prophetic insight. He restored the debasing cults of the aboriginal Nature-worship which his father had suppressed, thus making Judah revert to the sterile Baal-cults of Ahab; but his blind credence in the black arts so prevalent in all the surrounding nations, imported the elaborate worship of the heavenly bodies from Babylon, invading even the temple-courts with its numerous rites and altars; even went to the horrid extreme of human sacrifice, making an institution of what Ahaz had tried as a desperate expedient. All this, which to the matured prophetic sense was headlong wickedness, was the mark of a desperately earnest soul, seeking blindly in this wholesale way to propitiate the mysterious Divine powers, his nation's God among them, who seemed so to have the world's affairs in their inscrutable control. On the other side, there confronted him the prophetic voice of a religion which decried all insincere ritual (`wickedness and worship,' Isaiah 1:13), made straight demands on heart and conscience, and had already vindicated itself in the faith which had wrought the deliverance of 701. It was the fight of the decadent formal against the uprising spiritual; and, as in all such struggles, it would grasp at any expedient save the one plain duty of yielding the heart to repentance and trust.
Meanwhile, the saving intelligence and integrity of Israel, though still the secret of the lowly, was making itself felt in the spiritual movement that Isaiah had labored to promote; through the permeating influence of literature and education the "remnant" was becoming a power to be reckoned with. It is in the nature of things that such an innovating movement must encounter persecution; the significant thing is that already there was so much to persecute. Persecution is as truly the offspring of fear as of fanaticism. Manasseh's persecution of the prophets and their adherents (tradition has it that the aged Isaiah was one of his victims) was from their point of view an enormity of wickedness. To us the analysis is not quite so simple; it looks also like the antipathy of an inveterate formal order to a vital movement that it cannot understand. The vested interests of almost universal heathenism must needs die hard, and "much innocent blood" was its desperate price before it would yield the upper hand. To say this of Manasseh's murderous zeal is not to justify it; it is merely to concede its sadly mistaken sincerity. It may well have seemed to him that a nation's piety was at stake, as if a world's religious culture were in peril.
4. Return to Better Mind:
The Chronicler, less austere in tone than the earlier historian, preserves for us the story that, like Saul of Tarsus after him, Manasseh got his eyes open to the truer meaning of things; that after his humiliation and repentance in Babylon he "knew that Yahweh he was God" (2 Chronicles 33:10-13). He had the opportunity to see a despotic idolatry, its evils with its splendors, in its own home; a first-fruit of the thing that the Hebrew exiles were afterward to realize. On his return, accordingly, he removed the altars that had encroached upon the sacred precincts of the temple, and restored the ritual of the Yahweh-service, without, however, removing the high places. It would seem to have been merely the concession of Yahweh's right to a specific cult of His own, with perhaps a mitigation of the more offensive extremes of exotic worship, while the toleration of the various fashionable forms remained much as before. But this in itself was something, was much; it gave Yahweh His chance, so to say, among rivals; and the growing spiritual fiber of the heart of Israel could be trusted to do the rest. It helps us also the better to understand the situation when, only two years after Manasseh's death, Josiah came to the throne, and to understand why he and his people were so ready to accept the religious sanity of the Deuteronomic law. He did not succeed, after all, in committing his nation to the wholesale sway of heathenism. Manasseh's reactionary reign was indeed not without its good fruits; the crisis of religious syncretism and externalism was met and passed.
John Franklin Genung