Manasseh, Tribe of
Manasseh, Tribe Of
— On the prophetic benediction of Jacob, above referred to, although Manasseh, as the representative of his future lineage, had, like his grand- uncle Esau, lost his birthright in favor of his younger brother, he received, as Esau had, a blessing only inferior to the birthright itself. Like his brother, he was to increase with the fertility of the fish which swarmed in the great Egyptian stream, to "become a people, and also to be great" — the "thousands of Manasseh," no less than those of Ephraim, indeed more, were to become a proverb in the nation; his name, no less than that of Ephraim, was to be the symbol and the expression of the richest blessings for his kindred.
The position of the tribe of Manasseh during the march to Canaan was with Ephraim and Benjamin on the west side of the sacred tent. The standard of the three sons of Rachel was the figure of a boy, with the inscription "The cloud of Jehovah rested on them until they went forth out of the camp" (Targ. Pseudojon. on Nu 2:18). The chief of the tribe at the time of the census at Sinai was Gamaliel ben-Pedahzur, and its numbers were then 32,200 (Nu 1:10,35; Nu 2:20-21; Nu 7:54-59). The numbers of Ephraim were at the same date 40,500. Forty years later, on the banks of the Jordan, these proportions were reversed. Manasseh had then increased to 52,700, while Ephraim had diminished to 32,500 (Nu 26:34,37). On this occasion it is remarkable that Manasseh resumes his position in the catalogue as the eldest son of Joseph. Possibly this is due to the prowess which the tribe had shown in the conquest of Gilead, for Manasseh was certainly at this time the most distinguished of all the tribes. Of the three who had elected to remain on that side of the Jordan, Reuben and Gad had chosen their lot because the country was suitable to their pastoral possessions and tendencies. But Machir, Jair, and Nobah, the sons of Manasseh, were no shepherds. They were pure warriors, who had taken the most prominent part in the conquest of those provinces which up to that time had been conquered, and whose deeds are constantly referred to (Nu 32:39; De 3:13-15) with credit and renown. "Jair, the son of Manasseh, took all the tract of Argob... sixty great cities" (De 3:14,4). "Nobah took Kenath and the daughter-towns thereof. and called it after his own name" (Nu 32:42). "Because Machir was a man of war, therefore he had Gilead and Bashan" (Jos 17:1). The district which these ancient warriors conquered was among the most difficult, if not the most difficult, in the whole country. It embraced the hills of Gilead, with their inaccessible heights and impassable ravines, and the almost impregnable tract of Argob, which derives its modern name of Lejah from the secure "asylum" it affords to those who take refuge within its natural fortifications. Had they not remained in these wild and inaccessible districts, but gone forward and taken their lot with the rest, who shall say what changes might not have occurred in the history of the nation, through the presence of such energetic and warlike spirits? The few personages of eminence whom we can with certainty identify as Manassites, such as Gideon and Jephthah-for Elijah and others may with equal probability have belonged to the neighboring tribe of Gad — were among the most remarkable characters that Israel produced. Gideon was, in fact, "the greatest of the judges, and his children all but established hereditary monarchy in their own line" (Stanley, S. and P. p. 230). But, with the one exception of Gideon, the warlike tendencies of Manasseh seem to have been confined to the east of the Jordan. There they throve exceedingly, pushing their way northward over the rich plains of Jaulan and Jedur — the Gaulanitis and Ituraea of the Roman period — to the foot of Mount Hermon (1Ch 5:23). At the time of the coronation of David at Hebron, while the western Manasseh sent 18,000, and Ephraim itself 20,800, the eastern Manasseh, with Gad and Reuben, mustered to the number of 120,000, thoroughly armed — a remarkable demonstration of strength, still more remarkable when we remember the fact that Saul's house, with the great Abner at its head, was then residing at Mahanaim, on the border of Manasseh and Gad. But, though thus outwardly prosperous, a similar fate awaited them in the end to that which befell Gad and Reuben; they gradually assimilated themselves to the old inhabitants of the country — they "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" (ver. 25). They relinquished, too, the settled mode of life and the definite limits which befitted the members of a federal nation, and gradually became Bedouins of the wilderness, spreading themselves over the vast deserts which lay between the allotted possessions of their tribe and the Euphrates, and which had from time immemorial been the hunting-grounds and pastures of the wild Hagarites, of Jetur, Nephish, and Nodab (1Ch 5:19,22). On them first descended the punishment which was ordained to be the inevitable consequence of such misdoing. They, first of all Israel, were carried away by Pul and Tiglath- Pileser, and settled in the Assyrian territories (ver. 26). The connection, however, between east and west had been kept up to a certain degree. In Bethshean, the most easterly city of the cis-Jordanic Manasseh, the two portions all but joined. David had judges or officers there for all matters sacred and secular (1Ch 26:32); and Solomon's commissariat officer, Ben-Geber, ruled over the towns of Jair and the whole district of Argob (1Ki 4:13), and transmitted their productions, doubtless not without their people, to the court of Jerusalem.
The genealogies of the tribe are preserved in Nu 26:28-34; Jos 17:1, etc.; and 1Ch 7:14-19. But it seems impossible to unravel these so as to ascertain, for instance, which of the families remained east of Jordan, and which advanced to the west. From the fact that Abi-ezer (the family of Gideon), Hepher (possibly Ophrah, the native place of the same hero), and Shechem (the well-known city of the Bene- Joseph) all occur among the names of the sons of Gilead, the son of Machir, it seems probable that Gilead, whose name is so intimately connected with the eastern, was also the immediate progenitor of the western half of the tribe.
Nor is it less difficult to fix the exact position of the territory allotted to the western half. In Jos 17:14-18. a passage usually regarded by critics as an exceedingly ancient document, we find the two tribes of Joseph complaining that only one portion had been allotted to them, viz. Mount Ephraim (ver. 15), and that they could not extend into the plains of Jordan or Esdraelon, because those districts were still in the possession of the Canaanites, and scoured by their chariots. In reply Joshua advises them to go up into the forest (ver. 15, A.V. "wood") into the mountain which is a forest (ver. 18). This mountain clothed with forest can surely be nothing but the various spurs and off-shoots of Carmel, the "mountain" closely adjoining the portion of Ephraim whose richness of wood was so proverbial. It is in accordance with this view that the majority of the towns of Manasseh-which, as the weaker portion of the tribe, would naturally be pushed to seek its fortunes outside the limits originally bestowed-were actually on the slopes either of Carmel itself or of the contiguous ranges. Thus Taanach and Megiddo were on the northern spurs of Carmel; Ibleam appears to have been on the eastern continuation of the range, somewhere near the present Jenin. En-Dor was on the slopes of the so-called "Little Hermon." The two remaining towns mentioned as belonging to Manasseh formed the extreme eastern and western limits of the tribe; the one, Bethshean (Jos 17:11), was in the hollow of the Ghôr, or Jordan Valley; the other, Dor (ibid.), was on the coast of the Mediterranean, sheltered behind the range of Carmel, and immediately opposite the bluff or shoulder which forms its highest point. The whole of these cities are specially mentioned as standing in the allotments of other tribes, though inhabited by Manasseh; and this, with the absence of any attempt to define a limit to the possessions of the tribe on the north, looks as if no boundary- line had existed on that side, but as if' the territory faded off gradually into those of the two contiguous tribes from whom it had borrowed its fairest cities. On the south side the boundary between Manasseh and Ephraim is more definitely described, and may generally be traced with tolerable certainty. Their joint possessions were bounded by the territory of Asher on the north and Issachar on the north-east (Jos 17:10), but the division line between the two kindred tribes is defined by a place called Asher (ver. 7), now Yasir, twelve miles north-east of Nablis. Thence it ran to Michmethah, described as facing Shechem (Nablfs); then went to the right, i.e. southward, to the spring of Tappuah, and so doubtless to the Jordan. In the opposite direction it fell in with the watercourses of the torrent Kanah-probably the Nahr Falaik — along which it ran to the Mediterranean. See TRIBE.
From the indications of the history, it would appear that Manasseh took very little part in public affairs. They either left all that to Ephraim, or were so far removed from the center of the nation as to have little interest in what was taking place. That they attended David's coronation at Hebron has already been mentioned. When his rule was established over all Israel, each half had its distinct ruler — the western, Joel ben-Pedaiah; the eastern, Iddo ben-Zechariah (1Ch 27:20-21). From this time the eastern Manasseh fades entirely from our view, and the western is hardly kept before us by an occasional mention. Such scattered notices as we do find have almost all reference to the part taken by members of the tribe in the reforms of the good kings of Judah — the Jehovah-revival under Asa (2Ch 15:9)-the Passover of Hezekiah (2Ch 30:1,10-11,18), and the subsequent enthusiasm against idolatry (2Ch 31:1) — the iconoclasm of Josiah (2Ch 34:6), and his restoration of the buildings of the Temple (ver. 9). It is gratifying to reflect that these notices, faint and scattered as they are, are all colored with goods and exhibit none of the repulsive traits of that most repulsive heathenism into which other tribes of Israel fell.
A positive connection between Manasseh and Benjamin is implied in the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 7, where Machir is said to have married into the family of Huppim and Shuppim, chief houses in the latter tribe (ver. 15). No record of any such relation appears anywhere else.
The following are all the Biblical localities in both sections of the tribe, with their preserved modern representatives:
II. According to the usual reading of the text in Jg 18:30, Manasseh was the father of Gershom who is named as the father of Jonathan that acted as priest to the Danites at Laish; but besides that this would not make him a Levite, and, in addition to the fact that Gershom is a Levitical name, the reading is marked as suspicious (מנִשֶּׂה, Sept. Μανασσῆ), and should doubtless be corrected to "Moses," as in the Vulg. and many copies of the Sept. SEE JONATHAN.
III. The fourteenth separate king of Judah, son and successor of Hezekiah, who began to reign at the early age of twelve years, and reigned fifty-five years. B.C. 697-642. For the synchronisms with profane history especially,of Assyria, Babylon, an d Egypt, SEE CHRONOLOGY. The reign of this monarch is the larger than that of any other of the house of David. There is none of which we know less. In part, it may be, this was the direct result of the character and policy of the man. In part, doubtless, it is to be traced to the abhorrence with which the following generation looked back upon it as the period of lowest degradation to which their country had ever fallen. Chroniclers and prophets pass it over, gathering from its horrors and disasters the great, broad lessons in which they saw the foot-prints of a righteous retribution, the tokens of a divine compassion, and then they avert their eves and will see and say no more. This is in itself significant. It gives a meaning and a value to every fact which has escaped the sentence of oblivion. The very reticence of the historians of the O.T. shows how free they were from the rhetorical exaggerations and inaccuracies of a later age. The struggle of opposing worships must have been as fierce under Manasseh as it was under Antiochus, or Decins, or Diocletian, or Mary. Men must have suffered and died in that struggle of whom the world was not worthy, and yet no contrast can be greater than that between the short notices in Kings and Chronicles, and the martyrologies which belong to those other periods of persecution.
1. The birth of Manasseh is fixed (B.C. 709) twelve years before the death of Hezekiah (2Ki 21:1). We must, therefore, infer either that there had been no heir to the throne up to that comparatively late period in his reign, or that any that had been born had died, or that, as sometimes happened in the succession of Jewish and other Eastern kings, the elder son was passed over for the younger. There are reasons which make the former the more probable alternative. The exceeding bitterness of Hezekiah's sorrow at the threatened approach of death (2Ki 20:2-3; 2Ch 32:24; Isa 38:1-3), is more natural if we think of him as sinking under the thought that he was dying childless, leaving no heir to his work and to his kingdom. When, a little later, Isaiah warns him of the captivity and shame which will fall on his children, he speaks of those children as yet future (2Ki 20:18). This circumstance will explain one or two facts in the contemporary history. Hezekiah, it would seem, recovering from his sickness, anxious to avoid the danger that had threatened him, of leaving his kingdom without an heir, married, at or about this time, Hephzibah (2Ki 21:1), the daughter of one of the citizens or princes of Jerusalem (Joseph. Ant. 10:3, 1). The prophets, we may well imagine, would welcome the prospect of a successor named by a king who had been so true and faithful. Isaiah (in a passage clearly belonging to a later date than the early portions of the book, and apparently suggested by some conspicuous marriage), with his characteristic fondness for tracing auguries in names, finds in that of the new queen a prophecy of the ultimate restoration of Israel and the glories of Jerusalem (Isa 62:4-5; compare Blunt, Scriptural Coincid. part 3:5). The city, also, should be a Hephzibah, a delightsome one. As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so would Jehovah rejoice over his people. SEE HEPHZIBAH. The child that is born from this union is called Manasseh. This name, too, is strangely significant. It appears nowhere else in the history of the kingdom of Judah. The only associations connected with it were that it belonged to the tribe which was all but. the most powerful of the hostile kingdom of Israel. How are we to account for so singular and unlikely a choice? The answer is, that the name embodied what had been for years the cherished object of Hezekiah's policy and hope. To take advantage of the overthrow of the rival kingdom by Shalmaneser, and the anarchy in which its provinces had been left, to gather round him the remnant of the population, to bring them back to the worship and faith of their fathers, this had been the second step in his great national reformation (2Ch 30:6). It was at least partially successful. "Divers of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem." They were there at the great passover. The work of destroying idols went on in Ephraim and Manasseh as well as in Judah (2Ch 31:1). What could be a more acceptable pledge of his desire to receive the fugitives as on the same footing with his own subjects than that he should give to the heir to his throne the name in which one of their tribes exulted? What could better show the desire to let all past discords and offenses be forgotten than the name which was itself an amnesty?
The last twelve years of Hezekiah's reign were not, however, it will be remembered, those which were likely to influence for good the character of his successor. His policy had succeeded. He had thrown off the yoke of the king of Assyria, which Ahaz had accepted, had defied his armies, had been delivered from extremest danger, and had made himself the head of an independent kingdom, receiving tribute from neighboring princes instead of paying it to the great king, the king of Assyria. But he goes a step further. Not content with independence, he enters on a policy of aggression. He contracts an alliance with the rebellious viceroy of Babylon against their common enemy (2Ki 20:12; Isa 39). He displays the treasures of his kingdom to the ambassadors, in the belief that this will show them how powerful an ally he can prove himself. Isaiah protested against this step, but the ambition of being a great potentate continued, and it was to the results of this ambition that the boy Manasseh succeeded at the age of twelve.
2. The accession of the youthful king appears to have been the signal for an entire change, if not in the foreign policy, at any rate in the religious administration of the kingdom. At so early an age he can scarcely have been the spontaneous author of so great an alteration, and we may infer accordingly that it was the work of the idolatrous, or Ahaz party, which had been repressed during the reign of Hezekiah, but had all along, like the Rorish clergy under Edward VI in England, looked on the reform with a sullen acquiescence, and thwarted it when they dared. The change which the king's measures brought about was, after all, superficial. The idolatry which was publicly discountenanced was practiced privately (Isa 1:29; Isa 2:20; Isa 65:3). The priests and the prophets, in spite of their outward orthodoxy, were too often little better than licentious drunkards (Isa 28:7). The nobles of Judah kept the new moons and sabbaths much in the same way as those of France kept their Lents when Louis XIV had made devotion a court ceremonial (Isa 1:13-14). There are signs that even among the king's highest officers of state there was one, Shebna the scribe (Isa 37:2), the treasurer (Isa 22:15) "over the house," whose policy was simply that of a selfish ambition, himself possibly a foreigner (comp. Blunt's Script. Coinc. 3:4), and whom Isaiah saw through and distrusted. It was, moreover, the traditional policy of "the princes of Judah" (compare one remarkable instance in the reign of Joash, 2Ch 24:17) to favor foreign alliances and the toleration of foreign worship, as it was that of the true priests and prophets to protest against it. It would seem, accordingly, as if they urged upon the young king that scheme of a close alliance with Babylon which Isaiah had condemned, and, as the natural consequence of this, the adoption, as far as possible, of its worship, and that of other nations whom it was desirable to conciliate. The morbid desire for widening the range of their knowledge and penetrating into the mysteries of other systems of belief may possibly have contributed now, as it had done in the days of Solomon, to increase the evil (Jer 2:10-25; Ewald, Gesch. Isr. 3. 666). The result was a debasement which had not been equaled even in the reign of Ahaz, uniting in one center the abominations which elsewhere existed separately. Not content with sanctioning their presence in the Holy City, as Solomon and Rehoboam had done, Manasseh defiled with it the sanctuary itself (2Ch 33:4). The worship thus introduced was, as has been said, predominantly Babylonian in its character. "He observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards" (ver. 6). The worship of "the host of heaven," which each man celebrated for himself on the roof of his own house, took the place of that of the Lord God of Sabaoth (2Ki 23:12; Isa 65:3,11; Zep 1:5; "Jer 8:2; Jer 19:13; Jer 22:29). With this, however, there was associated the old Molech worship of the Ammonites. The fires were rekindled in the valley of Ben-Hinnom. Tophet was (for the first time, apparently) built into a stately fabric (2Ki 16:3; Isa 30:33, as compared with Jer 7:31; Jer 19:5; Ewald, Gesch. Isr. 3:667). Even the king's sons, instead of being presented to Jehovah, received a horrible fire-baptism dedicating them to Molech (2Ch 33:6), while others were actually slaughtered (Eze 23:37,39). The Baal and Ashtaroth ritual, which had been imported under Solomon from the Phoenicians, was revived with fresh splendor, and, in the worship of the "queen of heaven," fixed its roots deep into the habits of the people (Jer 7:18). Worse and more horrible than all, the Asherah, the image of Astarte, or the obscene symbol of a phallic worship ( SEE ASHEKAH, and, in addition to the authorities there cited, Mayer, De Reforme. Josiae, etc., in the Thes. Theo. philol. Amstel. 1701) was seen in the house of which Jehovah had said that he would there put his name forever (2Ki 21:7). All this was accompanied by the extremest moral degradation. The worship of those old Eastern religions has been well described as a kind of "sensuous intoxication," simply sensuous, and therefore associated inevitably with a fiendish cruelty, leading to the utter annihilation of the spiritual life of men (Hegel, Philos. of History, 1:3). So it was in Jerusalem in the days of Manasseh. Rival priests (the Chemarim of Zep 1:4) were consecrated for this hideous worship. Women dedicating themselves to a cultus like that of the Babylonian Mylitta wove hangings for the Asherah as they sat there (Mayer, cap. 2, § 4). The Kadeshim, in closest neighborhood with them, gave themselves up to yet darker abominations (2Ki 23:7). The awful words in Isa 1:10 had a terrible truth in them. Those to whom he spoke were literally "rulers of Sodom and princes of Gomorrah." Every faith was tolerated but the old faith of Israel. This was abandoned and proscribed. The altar of Jehovah was displaced (2Ch 33:16). The very ark of the covenant was removed from the sanctuary (2Ch 35:3). The sacred books of the people were so systematically destroyed that fifty years later men listened to the Book of the Law of Jehovah as a newly-discovered treasure (2Ki 22:8). It may well be, according to a Jewish tradition, that this fanaticism of idolatry led Manasseh to order the name Jehovah to be erased from all documents and inscriptions (Patrick, ad loc.). All this involved also a systematic violation of the weekly sabbatic rest and the consequent loss of one witness against a merely animal life (Isa 56:2; Isa 58:13). The tide of corruption carried away some even of those who, as priests and prophets, should have been steadfast in resisting it (Zep 3:4; Jer 2:26; Jer 5:13; Jer 6:13).
It is easy to imagine the bitter grief and burning indignation of those who continued faithful. The fiercest zeal of Huguenots in France, of Covenanters in Scotland, against the badges and symbols of the Latin Church, is perhaps but a faint shadow of that which grew to a white heat in the hearts of the worshippers of Jehovah. They spoke out in words of corresponding strength. Evil was coming on Jerusalem which should make the ears of men to tingle (2Ki 21:12). The line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab should be the doom of the Holy City. Like a vessel that had once been full of precious ointment (comp. the Sept. ἀλαβάστρον), but had afterwards become foul, Jerusalem should be emptied and wiped out, and exposed to the winds of Heaven till it was cleansed. Foremost, we may well believe, among those who thus bore their witness was the old prophet, now bent with the weight of fourscore years, who had in his earlier days protested with equal courage against the crimes of the king's grandfather. On him, too, according to the old Jewish tradition, came the first shock of the persecution. Enraged at the rebukes which the aged prophet doubtless administered, the king is said to have caused him to be sawn asunder with a wooden saw; this fate seems to be alluded to in Heb 11:37. SEE ISAIAH. Habakkuk may have shared his martyrdom (Keil on 2 Kings 21; but SEE HABAKKUK ). But the persecution did not stop there. It attacked the whole order of the true prophets, and those who followed them. Every day witnessed an execution (Josephus, Ant. 10:3, 1). The slaughter was like that under Alva or Charles IX (2Ki 21:16). The martyrs who were faithful unto death had to endure not torture only, but the mocks and taunts of a godless generation (Isa 57:1-4). Long afterwards the remembrance of that reign of terror lingered in the minds of men as a guilt for which nothing could atone (2Ki 24:4). The persecution, like most other persecutions carried on with entire singleness of purpose, was for a time successful (Jer 2:30). The prophets appear no more in the long history of Manasseh's reign. The heart and the intellect of the nation were crushed out, and there would seem to have been no chroniclers left to record this portion of its history.
3. Retribution came soon in the natural sequence of events. There are indications that the neighboring nations — Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites — who had been tributary under Hezekiah, revolted at some period in the reign of Manasseh, and asserted their independence (Zep 2:4-15; Jer 47; Jer 48; Jer 49). The Babylonian alliance bore the fruits which had been predicted. Hezekiah had been too hasty in attaching himself to the cause of the rebel prince against Assyria. The rebellion of Merodach-Baladan was crushed, and then the wrath of the Assyrian king fell on those who had supported him. SEE ESAR-HADDON. According to others, during the constant war between Assyria and Egypt, Manasseh adhered to the policy of his father in making common cause with the latter power. One or the other of these causes, although not stated by the sacred historian, brought into Judaea an Assyrian army, under the general of Esar-haddon, and this time the invasion was more successful than that of Sennacherib. The city apparently was taken. The miserable king attempted flight, but was discovered in a thorn-brake in which he had hidden himself, was laden with chains, and sent away as a captive to Babylon, which was then subject to the Assyrians, where he was cast into prison. His name has been discovered on the Assyrian monuments (Journ. of Sac. Lit. April, 1859, p. 75). SEE NINEVEH. Here, at last, Manasseh had ample opportunity and leisure for cool reflection; and the hard lessons of adversity were not lost upon him. He saw and deplored the evils of his reign — he became as a new man — he humbly besought pardon from God, and implored that he might be enabled to evince the sincerity of his contrition by being restored to a position for undoing all that it had been the business of his life to effect. His prayer was heard. His captivity is supposed to have lasted a year, and he was then restored to his kingdom under certain obligations of tribute and allegiance to the king of Assyria, which, although not expressed in the account of this transaction, are alluded to in the history of his successors (2Ch 33:11-13; comp. Maurice, Prophets and Kings, p. 362). SEE MANASSES, PRAYER OF.
Two questions meet us at this point. (a) Have we satisfactory grounds for believing that this statement is historically true? (b) If we accept it, to what period in the reign of Manasseh is it to be assigned? It has been urged in regard to
(a) that the silence of the writer of the books of Kings is conclusive against the trustworthiness of the narrative of 2 Chronicles. In the former there is no mention made of captivity or repentance or return. The latter, it has been said, yields to the temptation of pointing a moral, of making history appear more in harmony with his own notions of the divine government than it actually is. His anxiety to deal leniently with the successors of David leads him to invent at once a reformation and the captivity which is represented as its cause (Rosenmüller, Bibl. Alterth. 1:2, p. 131; Hitzig, Begr. d. Kritik, p. 130). It will be necessary in dealing with this objection to meet the skeptical critic on his own ground. To say that his reasoning contradicts our belief in the inspiration of the historical books of Scripture, and is destructive of all reverence for them, would involve a petitio principii, and, however strongly it may influence our feelings, we are bound to find another answer. It is believed that the answer is not far to seek.
(1) The silence of a writer who sums up the history of a reign of fifty-five years in nineteen verses as to one alleged event in it is surely a weak ground for refusing to accept that event on the authority of another historian.
(2) The omission is in part explained by the character of the narrative of 2 Kings 21. The writer deliberately turns away from the history of the days of shame, and not less from the personal biography of the king. He looks on the reign only as it contributed to the corruption and final overthrow of the kingdom, and no after repentance was able to undo the mischief that had been done at first.
(3) Still keeping on the level of human probabilities, the character of the writer of 2 Chronicles, obviously a Levite, and looking at the facts of the history from the Levitical point of view, would lead him to attach greater importance to a partial reinstatement of the old ritual and to the cessation of persecution, and so to give them in proportion a greater prominence.
(4) There is one peculiarity in the history which is, in some measure, of the nature of an undesigned coincidence, and so confirms it. The captains of the host of Assyria take Manasseh to Babylon. Would not a later writer, inventing the story, have made the Assyrian, and not the Babylonian, capital the scene of the captivity; or, if the latter were chosen for the sake of harmony with the prophecy of (233901>Isaiah 39, have made the king of Babylon rather than of Assyria the captor? As it is, the narrative fits in, with the utmost accuracy, to the facts of Oriental history. The first attempt of Babylon to assert its independence of Nineveh failed. It was crushed by Esar-haddon (the first or second of that name; SEE ESAR-HADDON, and Ewald, Gesch. Isr. 3:675), and for a time the Assyrian king held his court at Babylon, so as to effect more completely the reduction of the rebellious province. There is
(5) the fact of agreement with the intervention of the Assyrian king in 2Ki 17:24, just at the same time. The king is not named there, but Ezr 4:2,10, gives Asnapper, and this is probably only another form of Asardanapar, and this = Esar-haddon (compare Ewald, Gesch. 3:676; Tob. 1:21 gives Sarchedonus). The importation of tribes from Eastern Asia thus becomes part of the same policy as the attack on Judah. On the whole, then, the objection may well be dismissed as frivolous and vexatious. Like many other difficulties urged by the same school, it has in it something at once captious and puerile. Those who lay undue stress on them act in the spirit of a clever boy asking puzzling questions, or a sharp advocate getting up a case against the evidence on the other side, rather than in that of critics who have learned how to construct a history and to value its materials rightly (comp. Keil, Comment. on 2 Kings 21). Ewald, a critic of a nobler stamp, whose fault is rather that of fantastic reconstruction than needress skepticism (Gesch. Isr. 3:678), admits the groundwork of truth. Would the prophecy of Isaiah, it may be asked, have been recorded and preserved if it had not been fulfilled? Might not Manasseh's release have been, as Ewald suggests, the direct consequence of the death of Esar- haddon? Indeed, all the soberer German critics accept it as truth, and place Manasseh's captivity under Esar-haddon (Bertheau, ad loc.). Bertheau suggests that some support to the account may perhaps be found in 2Ki 20:17 sq. For other discussions of the alleged improbabilities of the Biblical narrative, see Dahlers, Defide Chronic. hist. p. 139, Gramberg, Chron. p. 199, 210; Religionsid. 2:234; Rosenmüller, Alterth. I, 2:131; Keil, Apoloq. der Chronik. p. 425; Havernick, Einleit. II, 1:221; Stud. u Krit. 1860, vol. 3.
(b.) The circumstance just noticed enables us to return an approximate answer to the other question. The duration of Esar-haddon's Babylonian reign is calculated as being in B.C. 680-667; and Manasseh's captivity must therefore have fallen within those limits. A Jewish tradition (Seder Olam Rabba, c. 24) fixes the twenty-second year of his reign as the exact date.
4. The period that followed is dwelt upon by the writer of 2 Chronicles as one of a great change for the better. The discipline of exile made the king feel that the gods whom he had chosen were powerless to deliver, and he turned in his heart to Jehovah, the God of his fathers. The compassion or death of Esar-haddon led to his release, and he returned after some uncertain interval of time to Jerusalem. It is not improbable that his absence from that city had given a breathing time to the oppressed adherents of the ancient creed, and possibly had brought into prominence, as the provisional ruler and defender of the city, one of the chief members of the party. If the prophecy of Isa 22:15 received, as it probably did, its fulfillment in Shebna's sharing the captivity of his master, there is nothing extravagant in the belief that we may refer to the same period the noble words which speak of Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, as taking the place which Shebna should leave vacant, and rising up to be "a father unto the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah," having "the key of the house of David on his shoulder." The return of Manasseh was at any rate followed by a new policy. The old faith of Israel was no longer persecuted. Foreign idolatries were no longer thrust, in all their foulness, into the sanctuary itself. The altar of the Lord was again restored, and peace-offerings and thank-offerings sacrificed to Jehovah (2Ch 33:15-16). But beyond this the reformation did not go. The ark was not restored to its place. The book of the law of Jehovah remained in its concealment. Satisfied with the feeling that they were no longer worshipping the gods of other nations by name, they went on with a mode of worship essentially idolatrous. "The people did sacrifice still in the high places, but to Jehovah their God only" (ibid. ver. 17).
5. The other facts known of Manasseh's reign connect themselves with the state of the world round him. The Assyrian monarchy was tottering to its fall, and the king of Judah seems to have thought that it was still possible for him to rule as the head of a strong and independent kingdom. If he had to content himself with a smaller territory, he might yet guard its capital against attack by a new wall defending what had been before its weak side (comp. Zep 1:10), "to the entering in of the fish-gate," and completing the tower of Ophel, which had been begun with a like purpose by Jotham (2Ch 27:3). Nor were the preparations for defense limited to Jerusalem. "He put captains of war into all the fenced cities of Judah." There was, it must be remembered, a special reason for this attitude, over and above that afforded by the condition of Assyria. Egypt had emerged from the chaos of the Dodecarchy and the Ethiopian intruders, and again become strong and aggressive under Psammitichus. Pushing his arms northwards, he attacked the Philistines, and the twenty- nine years' siege of Azotus must have fallen wholly or in part within the reign of Manasseh. So far his progress would not be unacceptable. It would be pleasant to see the old hereditary enemies of Israel, who had lately grown insolent and defiant, meet with their masters. About this time, accordingly, we find the thought of an Egyptian alliance again beginning to gain favor. The prophets, and those who were guided by them, dreaded this more than anything, and entered their protest against it. Not the less, however, from this time forth, did it continue to be the favorite idea which took possession of the minds of the lay-party of the princes of Judah. The very name of Manasseh's son, Amon, barely admitting a possible Hebrew explanation, but identical in form and sound with that of the great sungod of Egypt (so Ewald, Gesch. 3:665), is probably an indication of the gladness with which the alliance of Psammitichus was welcomed. As one of its consequences, it probably involved the supply of troops from Judah to serve in the armies of the Egyptian king. Without adopting Ewald's hypothesis that this is referred to in De 28:68, it is yet likely enough in itself, and Jer 2:14-16 seems to allude to some such state of things. In return for this, Manasseh, we may believe, received the help of the chariots and horses for which Egypt was always famous (Isa 31:1). (Comp. Aristeas, Epist. ad Philocr. in Havercamp's Josephus, 2:104). If this was the close of Manasseh's reign, we can well understand how to the writer of the books of Kings it would seem hardly better than the beginning, leaving the root-evil uncured, preparing the way for worse evils than itself. We can understand how it was that on his death he was buried as Ahaz had been, not with the burial of a king, in the sepulchers of the house of David, but in the garden of Uzza (2Ki 21:26), and that, long afterwards, in spite of his repentance, the Jews held his name in abhorrence, as one of the three kings (the other two are Jeroboam and Ahab) who had no part in eternal life (Sanhedr. 11:1, quoted by Patrick on 2Ch 33:13).
Indeed, the evil was irreparable. The habits of a sensuous and debased worship had eaten into the life of the people; and though they might be repressed for a time by force, as in the reformation of Josiah, they burst out again, when the pressure was removed, with fresh violence, and rendered even the zeal of the best of the Jewish kings fruitful chiefly in hypocrisy and unreality. The intellectual life of the people suffered in the same degree. The persecution cut off all who, trained in the schools of the prophets, were the thinkers and teachers of. the people. The reign of Manasseh witnessed the close of the work of Isaiah and Habakkuk at its beginning, and the youth of Jeremiah and Zephaniah at its conclusion, but no prophetic writings illumine that dreary half-century of debasement. The most fearful symptom of all, when a prophet's voice was again heard during the minority of Josiah, was the atheism which, then as in other ages, followed on the confused adoption of a confluent polytheism (Zep 1:12). It is surely a strained, almost a fantastic hypothesis, to assign (as Ewald does) to such a period two such noble works as Deuteronomy and the book of Job. Nor was this dying out of a true faith the only evil. The systematic persecution of the worshippers of Jehovah accustomed the people to the horrors of a religious war; and when they in their turn gained the ascendancy, they used the opportunity with a fiercer sternness than had been known before. Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah in their reforms had been content with restoring the true worship and destroying the instruments of the false. In that of Josiah, the destruction extends to the priests of the high places, whom he sacrifices on their own altars (2Ki 23:20).
6. But little is added by later tradition to the O.T. narrative of Manasseh's reign. The prayer that bears his name among the apocryphal books can hardly, in the absence of any Hebrew original, be considered as identical with that referred to in 2 Chronicles 33, and is probably rather the result of an attempt to work out the hint there supplied than the reproduction of an older document. There are reasons, however, for believing that there existed at some time or other a fuller history, more or less legendary, of Manasseh and his conversion, from which the prayer may possibly have been an except, preserved for devotional purposes (it appears for the first time in the Apostolical Constitutions) when the rest was rejected as worthless. Scattered here and there, we find the disjecta membra of such a work. Among the offenses of Manasseh, the most prominent is that he places in the sanctuary an ἄγαλμα τετραπρόσωπον of Zeus (Suidas, s.v. Μανασσῆς; Georg. Syncellus, Chonograph. 1:404). The charge on which he condemns Isaiah to death is that of blasphemy, the words "I saw the Lord" (Isa 6:1) being treated as a presumptuous boast at variance with Ex 33:20 (Nic. de Lyra, from a Jewish treatise: Jebamoth, quoted by Amama, in Crit. Sacri on 2 Kings 21). Isaiah is miraculously rescued. A cedar opens to receive him. Then comes the order tha the cedar should be sawn through (ibid.). That which made this sin the greater was that the king's mother, Hephzibah, was the daughter of Isaiah. When Manasseh was taken captive by Merodach and taken to Babylon (Suidas), he was thrown into prison and fed daily with a scanty allowance of bran- bread and water mixed with vinegar. Then came his condemnation. He was encased in a brazen image (the description suggests a punishment like that of the bull of Perillus), but he repented and prayed, and the image clave asunder, and he escaped (Suidas and Georg. Syncellus). "And the Lord heard the voice of Manasses and pitied him," the legend continues, "and there came around him a flame of fire, and all the irons about him (τὰ περὶ αὐτὸν σιδηρᾶ) were melted, and the Lord delivered him out of his affliction" (Const. Apost. 2:22; compare Jul. Afric. ap. Routh, Rel. Sac. 2:288). Then he returned to Jerusalem and lived righteously and justly.
IV. An Israelite of the descendants (or residents) of Pahath-moab, who repudiated his foreign wife after the exile (Ezr 10:30). B.C. 459.
V. Another Israelite of Hashun who did the same (Ezr 10:33). B.C. 459.