Manasseh part 1

by John Thomas Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)


Manasseh was the king of southern Judea. He was known for his idol worship and lack of faith in Yahweh.

Manasseh was the fourteenth king of the Kingdom of Judah. He was the oldest of the sons of Hezekiah and his mother, Hephzibah. He became king at the age of 12 and reigned for 55 years. The biblical account of Manasseh is found in 2 Kings 21:1–18 and 2 Chronicles 32:33–33:20. 

Born: 709 BC, Jerusalem

Died: 643 BC, Jerusalem

Spouse: Meshullemeth (m. ?–644 BC)

House: House of David

Children: Amon of Judah

Parents: Hezekiah, Hephzibah

Grandchild: Josiah

Manasseh, one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, constituted Israel's people.

After the Exodus from Egypt and the death of Moses, the Israelites entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, who assigned territory to each of the 12 tribes. The tribe of Manasseh settled in central Palestine—some to the east, some to the west of the Jordan River. When the independent kingdom of Israel, established by the ten northern tribes after the death of King Solomon (10th century BCE), was conquered by the Assyrians in the late 8th century BCE, many Israelites were carried off into slavery. In time the tribe of Manasseh was assimilated by other peoples and thus became known in legend as one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.


MANASSEH mə năs' ə; one who causes to forget). KJV MANASSES (Matt 1:10).

1. The older of two sons born to Joseph and Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera the Egyp. Priest of On (Heliopolis; Gen 41:50, 51; 46:20). Biblical etymology derives the name "to forget" and means, "He who causes one to forget." Joseph interprets the name by stating, "God has made me forget all my hardship and my father's house" (41:51). When Joseph brought his sons Ephraim and Manasseh to his father for his blessing, Jacob adopted them as his own, placing them on an equality with his sons as progenitorsA of separate tribes. In blessing the two boys Jacob subordinated Manasseh, the elder, to Ephraim, the younger, who thus inherited the position of privilege, the firstborn's blessing (Gen 48). Notwithstanding his subordination, in the inheritance, Manasseh was to be blessed by "the angel who has redeemed" Jacob "from all evil" and was to become a great people (Gen 48:16, 19). Jacob's statement, "By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, 'God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh'" (48:20), is the basis of the benediction Jewish parents pronounce upon their sons on the Sabbath and holy days. Manasseh's Aramean concubine was the mother of Machir, whose descendants became the tribe of Manasseh (1 Chron 7:14). The Targums Jerusalem and pseudo-Jonathan in Genesis 42 are responsible for the Jewish tradition that Manasseh was a steward in the house of Joseph and that he acted as the interpreter for Joseph in his conversation with his brothers (Gen 42:23). The same tradition records that Manasseh possessed unusual physical strength demonstrated when he retained Simeon (42:24).

A. definition of progenitor

a: progenitor: an ancestor in the direct line: FOREFATHER

b: a biologically ancestral forerunner

2. One of the twelve tribes of Israel descending from Manasseh, the grandson of Jacob through Joseph, Manasseh was one of the two Joseph tribes; Ephraim was the other. At the Exodus Manasseh numbered 32,200 (Num 1:35; 2:21), while Ephraim had 40,500 (Num 1:32, 33; 2:19). At the time of Israel's conquest of Canaan, forty years later, Manasseh had increased to 52,700 (26:34), while Ephraim had fallen to 32,500 (26:37). At the time of the entrance into Canaan, Manasseh was sixth in the numerical strength of the twelve tribes, being surpassed by Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, and Asher. During the journey through the wilderness, the position of Manasseh was on the western side of the Tabernacle with Ephraim and Benjamin (2:18-24). The head of the tribe was Gamaliel, the son of Pedahzur (1:10; 7:54). The Jerusalem and pseudo-Jonathan Targums say that the standard of the Rachel tribes, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Benjamin, carried the figure of a boy with the statement, "The cloud of the Lord rested on them until they went forth out of the camp." The Talmud says that Manasseh's tribal banner was a black flag carrying the embroidered figure of a unicorn. The tribe of Manasseh was represented by Gaddi, son of Susi, when Moses sent the twelve spies to survey the land of Canaan (13:11).

Manasseh took an essential part in the victories of Israel over her enemies. The Biblical account describes how the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, took Gilead and conquered the Amorites (32:39). Jair the Manassite took the whole region of Bashan and called the villages Havvoth-jair after his name (32:41; Deut 3:14; 1 Chron 5:18-22). Nobah "went and took Kenath and its villages, and called it Nobah, after his own name" (Num 32:42). Troops of the tribe of Manasseh crossed to the West bank of the Jordan and contributed effectively to the victories of the conquest under the leadership of Joshua (Josh 22:1, 7). After the fighting, the tribe of Manasseh coöperated with the Reubenites and the Gadites in building an altar by the Jordan, which nearly led to civil war in Israel because it was misinterpreted by the other tribes (Josh 22:10-34). Other prominent leaders from Manasseh included judge Gideon, who defeated the Midianites with a small army (Judg 6:15). Gideon's son Abimelech maintained himself at the head of a short-lived kingdom in the territory of Manasseh (ch. 9). Also from Manasseh was the judge Jephthah who defeated the Ammonites (ch. 11).

The territory occupied by Manasseh lay on both banks of the Jordan River. On the E bank, its territory was farthest N adjacent to Syria and esp. adapted for raising cattle. On the W bank, it was on the northern and most fruitful area of the mountain of Ephraim. The boundaries of the two sections of Manasseh cannot be drawn with exactness. Eastern Manasseh seems to have extended from the Jabbok to Mount Hermon in the N, and western Manasseh lay N of Ephraim, extending to the slopes of Mount Carmel (cf. Josh 17:15). Thirteen cities in the eastern area of Manasseh were assigned to the Levites, and ten in the western section (21:5, 6). Golan, a city of refuge, was in the eastern area of Manasseh. Although Manasseh was larger numerically than Ephraim about the time of the conquest of Canaan, in later times, Ephraim surpassed Manasseh in population, wealth, and power. Western Manasseh was never able to dominate the Canaanites completely in its area (17:12; Judg 1:27). See Location of Tribes.

When David was made king at Hebron, 18,000 men came from the western half-tribe of Manasseh to join the movement (1 Chron 12:31), while eastern Manasseh was represented in the 120,000 troops who came together with the men of Reuben and Gad. When David organized his administration under the leadership of "men of great ability" (1 Chron 26:31), he found in western Manasseh Joel, son of Pedaiah, and eastern Manasseh Iddo, son of Zechariah (1 Chron 27:20, 21). Men of Manasseh were involved in the revival under Asa, in the Passover celebration in the reign of Hezekiah, and his attack upon idolatry. They were also involved in the reform of Josiah and the restoration of the Temple (2 Chron 15:9; 30:1, 10, 11, 18; 31:1; 34:6, 9). The eastern tribe of Manasseh was more exposed to the attacks of the Syrians and Assyrians than other parts of the country. Manasseh suffered the same fate as the other northern tribes in the deportations by Tiglath-pileser III and later by Sargon at the time of the fall of Samaria in 722 b.c.

Manasseh eventually lost its identity in becoming assimilated with the people of the new environment after the destruction of the northern kingdom whose gods the Manassites came to worship. The Biblical account emphasizes that the children of Manasseh "transgressed against the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land" (1 Chron 5:25).

In Psalms 4:7 and 108:8, Manasseh is called a most precious possession of God. Ezekiel has a place for the tribe of Manasseh in his picture of the future (Ezek 48:4), and John includes the tribe in his vision described in Revelation 7:6.

3. A king of Judah who reigned from c. 696 b.c. to 641 b.c., a reign of fifty-five years (2 Kings 21:1; 2 Chron 33:1). He was the son and successor of Hezekiah and was only twelve years of age at his father's death. His reign of fifty-five years was the longest in Judah's history, and its events are recorded in 2 Kings 21:1-18 and 2 Chronicles 33:1-20. During practically the entire reign of Manasseh, Judah was a tribute-paying province of the Assyrians. This situation began under Tiglath-pileser III when the Assyrians came to the help of Ahaz against Pekah of the northern kingdom and Rezin of Syria and continued so on through the reign of Esarhaddon (c. 681-669 b.c.) and Ashurbanipal (c. 669-630 b.c.). In the Assyrian insurers. of these kings, Manasseh is specifically referred to as a vassal king. Each of these kings invaded and plundered Egypt and Manasseh sent a contingent of troops to aid their armies in these campaigns.

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