(Ma·nasʹseh) [One Making Forgetful; One Who Makes Forget].
1. Joseph’s firstborn son and a grandson of Jacob. After Joseph became Egypt’s food administrator, Pharaoh gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera the priest of On, as a wife, and she bore Joseph two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh, because, he said: “God has made me forget all my trouble and all the house of my father.”—Ge 41:45, 50-52.
When Jacob blessed Manasseh and Ephraim, he persisted in putting his right hand on Ephraim and his left on Manasseh, thereby placing the younger Ephraim before Manasseh. (Ge 48:13-20) As indicated thereby, Ephraim was to become greater than Manasseh.
2. The tribe of Israel that descended from Joseph’s son Manasseh and consisted of seven tribal families. About a year after the Israelites left Egypt, Manasseh’s able-bodied men from 20 years old upward numbered 32,200. (Nu 1:34, 35) This doubtless included Gaddi, one of the ten men bringing back a bad report after spying out the Promised Land. (Nu 13:1, 2, 11, 25-33) By the time a second census was taken nearly four decades later, the tribe’s registered males had increased to 52,700, outnumbering Ephraim by 20,200. (Nu 26:28-34, 37) Evidently, therefore, it was with reference to the lesser future role of Manasseh that Moses spoke of the “tens of thousands of Ephraim” but the “thousands of Manasseh.”—De 33:17.
In the wilderness, the tribe of Manasseh, under the leadership of its chieftain Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, encamped W of the tabernacle, along with Ephraim and Benjamin. This three-tribe division was third in the order of march.—Nu 1:10, 16; 2:18-24; 7:54; 10:23.
Conquests on Both Sides of Jordan River. When the Israelites defeated Amorite Kings Sihon and Og, Moses granted their conquered land to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half of the tribe of Manasseh on condition that these tribes participate in the conquest of the territory W of the Jordan. (Nu 32:20-33; 34:14, 15; De 29:7, 8) The northern section of the area E of the Jordan appears to have been taken primarily through Manassite efforts, portions thereof being conquered by Jair, Nobah, and “the sons of Machir.” For this reason Moses assigned this region to them.—Nu 32:39-42; De 3:13-15; 1Ch 2:21, 22.
Later, men from “the half tribe of Manasseh” that had received their inheritance did cross the Jordan and shared in the conquest of the land to the west. (Jos 1:12-18; 4:12) They were also among those assembled in front of Mount Gerizim when Joshua “read aloud all the words of the law, the blessing and the malediction.” (De 27:12; Jos 8:33, 34) Under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites broke the power of the Canaanites, defeating 31 kings in the course of about six years. (Jos 12:7-24) Thereafter, although unconquered territory yet remained, Joshua, assisted by High Priest Eleazar and divinely appointed representatives from ten tribes (including the Manassite Hanniel the son of Ephod), divided the land into inheritance portions.—Nu 34:17, 23; Jos 13:1-7.
Land Inheritance. Half of the tribe of Manasseh, of course, already had its inheritance E of the Jordan. It included Bashan and a part of Gilead. (Jos 13:29-31) To the S lay Gad, the border city being Mahanaim. (Jos 13:24-26, 30) This region was chiefly a high plateau, with an average elevation of some 610 m (2,000 ft). Here were located Golan, one of the six cities of refuge, and Beeshterah (Ashtaroth), another Levite city.—Jos 20:8, 9; 21:27; 1Ch 6:71.
The remaining half of the Manassites received as their inheritance territory W of the Jordan. (Jos 17:2, 5) It was bounded by Ephraim on the S, Asher on the NW, Issachar on the NE, and the Mediterranean Sea on the W. From Michmethath the border between Ephraim and Manasseh extended to Tappuah, continued along the torrent valley of Kanah, and terminated at the Mediterranean. (Compare Jos 16:5-8; 17:7-10.) Whereas the Ephraimites had certain enclave cities in Manasseh, the Manassites were assigned enclave cities (Beth-shean, Ibleam, Dor, En-dor, Taanach, and Megiddo, as well as their dependent towns) both in Issachar and Asher. (Jos 16:9; 17:11) The Manassites failed to drive out the Canaanites from these enclave cities but, in time, subjected them to forced labor. (Jos 17:11-13; Jg 1:27, 28; compare 1Ch 7:29.) Two of these enclave cities, Taanach (Aner?) and Ibleam (Bileam or Gath-rimmon?), were assigned to Kohathite Levites.—Jos 21:25, 26; 1Ch 6:70.
History. After the distribution of the land had been completed, Joshua blessed the men of Reuben, Gad, and the eastern “half tribe of Manasseh” and encouraged them to continue serving Jehovah. (Jos 22:1-8) They left Shiloh, traveled to the Jordan, and then near that river built an altar. This almost precipitated civil war, as the other tribes regarded this as an act of unfaithfulness and rebellion. However, the issue was settled peaceably when it was explained that the altar had been erected, not for sacrifice, but to serve as a memorial of faithfulness to Jehovah.—Jos 22:9-31.
In a later period Manassite Judge Gideon was the one used by Jehovah to deliver the Israelites from Midianite oppression. (Jg 6:11-16, 33-35; 7:23; 8:22) Jephthah was evidently yet another judge from the tribe of Manasseh. It was during his judgeship that Israel was liberated from Ammonite harassment.—Jg 11:1, 32, 33.
Sometime during the reign of Israel’s first king, Saul, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the eastern “half tribe of Manasseh” gained a decisive victory over the Hagrites and their allies. (1Ch 5:10, 18-22) Also in this general period, Manassites, including men of outstanding valor, were among those who deserted Saul to join David. (1Ch 12:19-21) After the death of Saul and his successor Ish-bosheth, 18,000 Manassites from the region W of the Jordan and other thousands from the area E of the Jordan came to Hebron to make David king over all Israel (1070 B.C.E.).—1Ch 12:31, 37, 38.
Years later, the extensive religious reforms undertaken by Judean King Asa prompted many Manassites to desert the northern kingdom “when they saw that Jehovah his God was with him.” (2Ch 15:8, 9) On the occasion of a grand assembly in the 15th year of Asa’s reign (963 B.C.E.), they joined with others in making a covenant to search for Jehovah. (2Ch 15:10, 12) Similarly, in the reign of Judean King Hezekiah (745-717 B.C.E.), while many mocked the messengers sent by him to extend the invitation to come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, other Manassites were willing to humble themselves and responded favorably. Thereafter these responsive ones shared in destroying appendages of idolatry.—2Ch 30:1, 10, 11, 18; 31:1.
Earlier (c. 760 B.C.E.), Tiglath-pileser (Tilgath-pilneser) III had taken the Manassites living E of the Jordan into exile. (1Ch 5:23-26) About the same time it appears that intertribal conflicts existed between Ephraim and Manasseh. But both tribes were united in their opposition to Judah.—Isa 9:20, 21.
Nearly a century after the ten-tribe kingdom came to its end, Judean King Josiah extended his destruction of altars, incense stands, sacred poles, and images, all used for false worship, to the devastated places of Manasseh and other areas outside Judah (from and after 648 B.C.E.). This Judean king also had repair work done on the temple, the work itself being financed by contributions received from Israelites of various tribes, including Manasseh.—2Ch 34:1-11.
After the return from Babylonian exile (537 B.C.E.), some Manassites resided at Jerusalem.—1Ch 9:1-3.
3. A name appearing in the Masoretic text at Judges 18:30, because of scribal modification. The account concerns Danite apostasy, and the New World Translation says that “Jonathan the son of Gershom, Moses’ son, he and his sons became priests to the tribe of the Danites.” (See also AT; Mo; Ro; RS.) Jewish scribes inserted a suspended letter (nun = n) between the first two letters in the original Hebrew name so as to give the reading “Manasseh’s” instead of “Moses’,” doing so out of regard for Moses. The scribes thus sought to hide the reproach or disgrace that might be brought upon the name of Moses because of Jonathan’s action. In addition to the altered Masoretic text, “Manasseh’s” appears in the Vatican Manuscript No. 1209 of the Greek Septuagint and in the Syriac Peshitta. However, “Moses’” is found in the Alexandrine Manuscript of the Greek Septuagint and in the Latin Vulgate at Judges 18:30.
4. King of Judah who was the son and successor of King Hezekiah. (2Ki 20:21; 2Ch 32:33) Manasseh’s mother was Hephzibah. He was 12 years old when he ascended the throne as the 14th king of Judah after David and ruled for 55 years (716-662 B.C.E.) in Jerusalem. (2Ki 21:1) He did what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes, rebuilding the high places his father had destroyed, setting up altars to Baal, worshiping “all the army of the heavens,” and building false religious altars in two temple courtyards. He made his sons pass through the fire, practiced magic, employed divination, and promoted spiritistic practices. Manasseh also put the graven image of the sacred pole he had made into the house of Jehovah. He seduced Judah and Jerusalem “to do worse than the nations that Jehovah had annihilated from before the sons of Israel.” (2Ki 21:2-9; 2Ch 33:2-9) Though Jehovah sent prophets, these were not heeded. Manasseh was also guilty of shedding innocent blood in great quantity (2Ki 21:10-16), which, according to the literature of the Jewish rabbis, included that of Isaiah, who they say was sawed apart at Manasseh’s command.—Compare Heb 11:37.
Manasseh was punished for paying no attention to Jehovah’s message, the king of Assyria taking him captive to Babylon, one of the Assyrian monarch’s royal cities. (2Ch 33:10, 11) ‘Manasseh of Judah’ is mentioned in Assyrian King Esar-haddon’s list of 22 tribute-paying “kings of Hatti, the seashore and the islands.” Manasseh’s name also appears in a list of kings tributary to Ashurbanipal.—Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by J. Pritchard, 1974, pp. 291, 294.
While in captivity, Manasseh repented, humbled himself, and prayed to Jehovah. God heard his request for favor and restored him to the kingship in Jerusalem. (2Ch 33:12, 13) Manasseh thereafter “built an outer wall for the City of David,” put military chiefs in Judah’s fortified cities, and removed the foreign gods and the idol image from Jehovah’s house, as well as the altars he had built “in the mountain of the house of Jehovah and in Jerusalem.” Manasseh prepared the altar of Jehovah and began to sacrifice upon it, encouraging others also to serve Jehovah. However, the people were still sacrificing on the high places, though to Jehovah. (2Ch 33:14-17) At Manasseh’s death, he was succeeded in the kingship by his son Amon.—2Ch 33:20.