- 1. The elder of two sons born before the famine to Joseph and Osnath, daughter of the priest of Heliopolis (Gen. xli. 50-51, xlvi. 20). Biblical etymology, deriving his name from (= "to forget"), makes it signify "He who causes one to forget," and explains it in the passage "God . . . hath made me forget all my toil" (ib. xli. 51). According to Gen. xlviii. 5, Manasseh and Ephraim were put by the patriarch Jacob on an equality with Reuben and Simeon as progenitors of separate tribes. In the blessings invoked by Jacob on the heads of Manasseh and Ephraim, Manasseh, although the elder, was made subordinate to Ephraim (ib. xlviii. 14). Tradition does not tell what caused Jacob's preference for Ephraim (see Ephraim and Junior Right). Notwithstanding his subordination, Manasseh's blessingwas not to be despised. Manasseh, like Ephraim, was to be protected by "the Angel which redeemed" Jacob "from all evil," and was to grow into a great people (ib. xlviii. 16, 19). Because Gen. xlviii. 20 reads, "in thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh," the phrase "God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh" has been given a place in the benediction Jewish parents pronounce over their sons on the eves of Sabbaths and holy days. I Chron. vii. 14 reports that Manasseh was married to a Syrian concubine. Targums Jerushalmi and pseudo-Jonathan to Gen. xlii. 23 make the statement that Manasseh was steward in Joseph's house, acted as interpreter for Joseph when the latter talked to his brothers, and possessed extraordinary physical strength, which he displayed at the imprisonment of Simeon.J. W. R.
- 2. One of the twelve tribes of Israel which received a portion in the land of Canaan; its eponym was a son of Joseph. While at the time of the Exodus Manasseh numbered 32,200 (Num. i. 35, ii. 21) against Ephraim's 40,500 (Num. i. 32-33, ii. 19), before Israel's entrance into Canaan forty years later Manasseh had increased to 52,700 (Num. xxvi. 34), and Ephraim had fallen to 32,500 (Num. xxvi. 37). This made Manasseh rank sixth in numerical importance, the tribes more numerous being Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, and Asher.During the march through the Sinaitic desert Manasseh's position was, with Ephraim and Benjamin, on the western side of the Tabernacle (Num. ii.18-24); the chief of the tribe was Gamaliel, son of Pedahzur (Num. i. 10, ii. 20, vii. 54).The Targums of Jerusalem and pseudo-Jonathan to Num. ii. 18 report that the standard of the three Rachel tribes revealed the figure of a boy, with the inscription: "The cloud of the Lord rested on them until they went forth out of the camp"; and the Talmud mentions that Manasseh's tribal banner, during the journey to the Promised Land, consisted of a black flag with the embroidered figure of a unicorn. Among the twelve spies sent by Moses to report on Canaan, Manasseh was represented by Gaddi, son of Susi (Num. xiii. 11). Manasseh is recorded as prompting the enactment of laws regulating the possession of property in Canaan by daughters where the father had died without a son; the particular case in question was that of the daughters of Zelophehad (Num. xxvii. 1-8).Manasseh was valorous. It took a prominent part in the defeat of the natives encountered on both sides of the Jordan. Reference is made to its prowess in Num. xxxii. 39; Deut. iii. 14; Josh. xvii. 1; and particularly in I Chron. v. 18-22. Its warriors Machir, Jair, and Nobah conquered the most difficult districts, Argob and the hills of Gilead. The fearless chieftains Gideon, who with a small army defeated the Midianites (Judges vi. 15), and Jephthah, who vanquished the Ammonites (Judges xi.), belonged to Manasseh.
The territory inhabited by Manasseh lay on both sides of the Jordan. The part east of the Jordan was acquired after the conquest of Gilead (Num. xxxii.), and was requested on the ground of being specially adapted for the grazing of cattle—the same argument as that urged by Reuben and Gad for preferring that section of Canaan. The boundaries of Eastern and Western Manasseh can not be given with exactness. Eastern Manasseh probably extended from the Jabbok to Mount Hermon (its northern portion consisting of Argob and Bashan), while Western Manasseh extended from Ephraim, lying directly south, to the slopes of Mount Carmel (comp. Josh. xvii. 15: "Get thee up to the wood country")
Although more numerous than Ephraim shortly before the conquest of Canaan, Manasseh did not compare with Ephraim in wealth, power, and population in later times; Western Manasseh never completely expelled the natives (Josh. xvii. 12; Judges i. 27).
At the time of David's accession to the throne, Western Manasseh sent to Hebron 18,000, and Eastern Manasseh 120,000—Reubenites and Gadites included. After this event Eastern Manasseh gradually disappears and Western Manasseh lacks prominence, although both sections had separate rulers; Joel, son of Pedaiah, governed the latter, and Iddo, son of Zechariah, governed the former (I Chron. xxvii. 20-21).
Manasseh is heard of in the revival under Asa; in the Passover celebration in the days of Hezekiah; in the subsequent attack on idolatry; in the reform instituted by Josiah; and in the restoration of the Temple (II Chron. xv. 9; xxx. 1, 10-11, 18; xxxi. 1; xxxiv. 6, 9).
Like Reuben and Gad, Manasseh ultimately lost its identity; it became assimilated with the inhabitants of the country, whose idolatries it practised. The children of Manasseh "transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a-whoring after the gods of the people of the land, whom God destroyed before them" (I Chron. v. 25). In Ps. lx. 9 (A. V. 7) and cviii. 8 Manasseh is called a most precious possession.
- 3. According to II Kings xxi. 1, Manasseh, the successor of Hezekiah upon the throne of Judah, was but a boy of twelve at his father's death. His reign of fifty-three years is the longest recorded in the annals of Judah. There can be no doubt that Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, departed to his capital in the days of Hezekiah (II Kings xix. 36), regarding Judah as a conquered and tribute-paying province; and so it remained during the reigns of Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, his successors upon the throne of Assyria. In their published inscriptions Manasseh of Judah is distinctly mentioned as a vassal king (Schrader, "K. B." ii. 148, 238). That these sovereigns cherished a real interest in their western domain is shown by their settlement of colonists in Samaria (Ezra iv. 2, 9-10). Each of them invaded and plundered Egypt and maintained protracted sieges of the strong cities of Phenicia.
In II Kings, written within a century or so of Manasseh's death, there is no hint of revolt. The Chronicler, however, declares (II Chron. xxxiii. 11) that in consequence of the deliberate unfaithfulness of Judah God brought upon the nation "the captains of the host of the King of Assyria," whotook Manasseh in chains to Babylon. Thence, having truly repented, he was restored to his throne, where he demonstrated the genuineness of his change of heart by giving himself to measures of defense, administration, and religious reform. To harmonize the Chronicler's testimony with that of the Hebrew contemporary writings is even more difficult. The crying need in the days of Josiah, Manasseh's immediate successor, was religious reform; Jeremiah declared (xv. 4; comp. II Kings xxiii. 26) that Manasseh's sins had yet to be expiated.
The writer in Kings emphasizes three deplorable details of the reign of Manasseh: the religious reaction which followed hard upon his accession; its extension by the free adoption of foreign cults; and the bitter persecution of the prophetic party. During Manasseh's half-century the popular worship was a medley of native and foreign cults, the influence of which was slow to disappear (Ezek. viii.).
Such a reaction involved the persecution of those who had bitterly condemned the popular syncretism. The prophets were put to the sword (Jer. ii. 30). "Innocent blood" reddened the streets of Jerusalem (II Kings xxiv. 4). For many decades those who sympathized with prophetic ideas were in constant peril.
- 4. Son of Johanan the high priest and brother of Jaddua; married Nicaso, daughter of Sanballat (Josephus, "Ant." xi. 7, § 2). In Neh. xiii. 28 he is referred to as "one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest," but is not mentioned by name. It is further said (ib.) that, owing to his being Sanballat's son-in-law, Nehemiah had deposed him from the priesthood.Josephus describes this fact at greater length. He says that the high priest Jaddua, Manasseh's brother, was himself indignant at Manasseh on account of his marriage with a foreign woman, and, joining the people of Jerusalem, he gave Manasseh the alternative of divorcing his wife or of leaving the priesthood. Manasseh went to Sanballat, and declared to him that in spite of his love for his wife he gave the preference to the priesthood. Whereupon Sanballat promised him that if he would retain his wife he would obtain for him from the king the dignity of a high priest. He further promised that he would build with the king's approval a temple upon Mount Gerizim, where Manasseh should officiate as high priest. Manasseh, accordingly, remained with his father-in-law and became high priest in the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim ("Ant." xi. 8, §§ 2-4). Still, Josephus says (ib. xii. 4, § 1) that Manasseh officiated as high priest at Jerusalem between the priesthood of his nephew Eleazar and that of Onias II. (see Sanballat).
- Gräatz, Gesch. ii. 161, 167, 242;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 182.