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Reference: Manasseh (1)


("causing to forget".) Joseph's firstborn by Asenath, whose birth "made him forget all his toil and all (the sorrow he endured through) his father's house" (Ge 41:51). Jacob adopted them as his own, though "horn in Egypt" and by an alien to Israel (Ge 48:5,9); "as Reuben and Simeon they shall be mine," i.e. patriarchal heads of tribes, as Jacob's immediate sons were; Manasseh and Ephraim gave their names to separate tribes. Joseph had the portion of the firstborn by having the double portion, i.e. two tribal divisions assigned to his sons (1Ch 5:1-2; compare De 21:17). When Joseph took Ephraim in his right toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left toward Israel's right hand, Israel put his right upon Ephraim the younger, and his left upon Manasseh wittingly, notwithstanding Joseph's remonstrance. Their name should be a formula of blessing, "God make thee as Ephraim and Manasseh," and they should "grow as fish do increase" (a natural image near the fish abounding Nile): Ge 48:16,20.

The term "thousands" is especially applied to Manasseh (De 33:17; Jg 6:15 margin.) Manasseh's son by an Aramitess (Syrian) concubine, Machir, had children "borne upon Joseph's knees" (Ge 50:23), i.e. adopted as his from their birth. Manasseh, Ephraim, and Benjamin, the three sprung from Rachel, marched W. of the tabernacle. Moses in his last blessing (De 33:13-17) gives Joseph (i.e. Ephraim and Manasseh) the "precious things of the earth" by "the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush, "in contrast to Joseph's past "separation from his brethren," his horns like the two of the wild bull (not "unicorn"), namely, "the ten thousands of Ephraim and the thousands of Manasseh shall push," etc. At Sinai Manasseh numbered 32,200 (Nu 1:10,35; 2:20-21; 7:54-59), Ephraim 40,500. But 40 years later, at Jordan, Manasseh 52,700, Ephraim 32,590 (Nu 26:34-37).

Manasseh here resumes his place as firstborn (his having two portions of Canaan, one on each side of Jordan, being also a kind of privilege of the firstborn), probably as having been foremost in the conquest of Gilead, the most impregnable portion of Palestine, as Lejah (asylum) the modern name of Argob implies; their inheritance was northern Gilead, Argob, and Bashan (Nu 32:39-42; De 3:4,13-15; Jos 17:1). Gideon, the greatest of the judges, and one whose son all but established hereditary monarchy in their line, and Jephthah, were samples of their warriors. They advanced from Bashan northwards to the base of Mount Hermon (1Ch 5:23). When David was crowned at Hebron western Manasseh sent 18,000, eastern Manasseh with Gad and Reuben 120,000 armed men (1Ch 12:31,37). Moreover, a prince of each of the two sections of Manasseh stands on a level with the princes of entire tribes (1Ch 27:20-21).

But because of apostasy from the God of their fathers to the gods of the people whom He destroyed before them, Manasseh was first cut short by the Syrian Hazael (2Ki 10:32), then God stirred up the spirit of Pul and of Tiglath Pileser of Assyria to carry the eastern half of Manasseh, Reuben, and Gad captives to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan (1Ch 5:25-26). Manasseh failed to occupy all the territory assigned to them. "Geshur and Aram (Syria) took the 23 towns of Jair and the 37 of Kenath and her daughters, 60 in all, from them"; so 1Ch 2:23 ought to be translated In Jg 10:4 we find Jair the judge in possession of 30 of them, recovered from the enemy. Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh successfully warred with and dispossessed the Hagarites with Jetar, Nephish, and Nodab (1Ch 5:18-22). The western half of Manasseh failed for long to dispossess completely the Canaanites (Jg 1:27; Jos 17:11-12).

On their complaining that but one portion had been allotted to them, and that the Canaanite chariots prevented their occupying the Esdraelon and Jordan plains, Joshua advised them to go into the wooded mountain, probably Carmel. Accordingly their towns Taanach, Megiddo, Ibleam, and Endor are in the region of Carmel, within the allotments of other tribes. Bethshean was in the hollow of the Ghor or Jordan valley, the connecting point between the eastern and the western Manasseh. Kerr shows that the land of Manasseh, instead of crossing the country from E. to W., occupied only half that space, and lay along the sea to the W., bounded on the E. by the range of Mount Carmel.

Jos 17:7 defines its coast. En Tappuah is Atuf. The town was given to Ephraim, the land N. of it was Manasseh's. Conder thinks that Asher was separated from Manasseh by Zebulun, and that the Asher in Jos 17:10 is Asherham-Michmethah (now Es Sireh) at the N.W. corner of Ephraim. Issachar lay to the E. of Ephraim and Manasseh, along the entire line of the Jordan, from the sea of Chinneroth to the wady Kelt not far from the Salt Sea: thus it was a triangle, its apex at Jericho, its base N. of the Jezreel plain (Palestine Exploration Quarterly Statement, January, 1877, p. 41-50). In the declension of the nation Isaiah (Isa 9:20-21) foretells that the two sons of Joseph, once so intimately united, should be rent into factions thirsting for one another's blood, "they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm, Manasseh Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh, and they together against Judah."

After the fall of the ten tribes, Psalm 80 expresses Judah's prayer of sympathy for her sister: "give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock. ... Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh (advancing at their head, as formerly in the pillar of cloud in the wilderness) ... come and save us." The book of Numbers (Nu 2:17-24) represents these three kindred tribes together marching after the ark; so in the Psalms. Many out of Manasseh were among the penitents coming southwards to Judah, and joining in the spiritual revivals under Asa (2Ch 15:9), Hezekiah (2Ch 30:1,10-11,18; 31:1), and Josiah (2Ch 34:6-9).

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