Manasseh of Judah

Manasseh of Judah

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Manasseh was a king of the Kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

. He was the only son of Hezekiah
Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

 with Hephzi-bah. He became king at an age 12 years and reigned for 55 years. Edwin Thiele
Edwin R. Thiele
Edwin R. Thiele was an American missionary in China, an editor, archaeologist, writer, and Old Testament professor. He is best known for his chronological studies of the Hebrew kingdom period.- Biography :...

 has concluded that he commenced his reign as co-regent with his father Hezekiah in 697/696 BC, with his sole reign beginning in 687/686 BC and continuing until his death in 643/642 BC. William F. Albright
William F. Albright
William Foxwell Albright was an American archaeologist, biblical scholar, philologist and expert on ceramics. From the early twentieth century until his death, he was the dean of biblical archaeologists and the universally acknowledged founder of the Biblical archaeology movement...

 has dated his reign from 687 – 642 BC.

Manasseh was the first king of Judah who would not have had a direct experience of a Kingdom of Israel, which had been destroyed by the Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

ns in c. 720 BC and most of its population deported. He re-instituted pagan worship and reversed the religious reforms made by his father Hezekiah; for which he is condemned by several religious texts.

He was married to Meshullemeth, daughter of Haruz of Jotbah
Yodfat
Yodfat , is a moshav shitufi in the Lower Galilee, south of Carmiel, Israel. Part of the Misgav Regional Council and located in the vicinity of the Atzmon mountain ridge, north of the Beit Netofa Valley, Yodfat is named after the Second Temple-era town of the same name. It is situated north of the...

, and they had a son Amon
Amon of Judah
Amon was the king of Judah who succeeded his father Manasseh of Judah on the throne according to the Bible. His mother was Meshullemeth, daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. He was married to Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath....

, who succeeded him as king of Judah upon his death.

After a reign of 55 years (for 10 of which he was co-regent with his father), the longest in the history of Judah, he died in c. 643 BC and was buried in the garden of Uzza
Uzza
Al-Uzzá was one of the three chief goddesses of Arabian religion in pre-Islamic times and was worshiped as one of the daughters of Allah by the pre-Islamic arabs along with Allāt and Manāt. Al-‘Uzzá was also worshipped by the Nabataeans, who equated her with the Greek goddess Aphrodite Ourania...

, the "garden of his own house" , and not in the City of David, among his ancestors.
The biblical account of Manasseh is found in II Kings 21:1-18 and II Chronicles 32:33-33:20. He is also mentioned in Jeremiah 15:4.

Relations with Assyria


When Manasseh's reign began, Sennacherib
Sennacherib
Sennacherib |Sîn]] has replaced brothers for me"; Aramaic: ) was the son of Sargon II, whom he succeeded on the throne of Assyria .-Rise to power:...

 was king of Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

, who reigned until 681 BC. Manasseh is mentioned in Assyrian records as a contemporary and loyal vassal of Sennacherib's son and successor, Esarhaddon
Esarhaddon
Esarhaddon , was a king of Assyria who reigned 681 – 669 BC. He was the youngest son of Sennacherib and the Aramean queen Naqi'a , Sennacherib's second wife....

. Assyrian records list Manasseh among twenty-two kings required to provide materials for Esarhaddon's building projects. Esarhaddon died in 669 BC and was succeeded by his son, Ashurbanipal
Ashurbanipal
Ashurbanipal |Ashur]] is creator of an heir"; 685 BC – c. 627 BC), also spelled Assurbanipal or Ashshurbanipal, was an Assyrian king, the son of Esarhaddon and the last great king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire...

, who also names Manasseh as one of a number of vassals who assisted his campaign against Egypt.

The Assyrian records are consistent with archaeological evidence of demographic trends and settlement patterns suggesting a period of stability in Judah during Manasseh's reign. Despite the criticisms of his religious policies in the biblical texts, archaeologists such as Israel Finkelstein
Israel Finkelstein
Israel Finkelstein is an Israeli archaeologist and academic. He is currently the Jacob M. Alkow Professor of the Archaeology of Israel in the Bronze Age and Iron Ages at Tel Aviv University and is also the co-director of excavations at Megiddo in northern Israel...

 and Neil Asher Silberman
Neil Asher Silberman
Neil Asher Silberman is an archaeologist and historian with a special interest in history, archaeology, public interpretation and heritage policy. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University and was trained in Near Eastern archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem...

 credit Manasseh with reviving Judah's rural economy, arguing that a possible Assyrian grant of most favoured nation
Most favoured nation
In international economic relations and international politics, most favoured nation is a status or level of treatment accorded by one state to another in international trade. The term means the country which is the recipient of this treatment must, nominally, receive equal trade advantages as the...

 status stimulated the creation of an export market. They argue that changes to the economic structure of the countryside would have required the cooperation of the 'countryside aristocracy', with restoration of worship at the high places a quid pro quo
Quid pro quo
Quid pro quo most often means a more-or-less equal exchange or substitution of goods or services. English speakers often use the term to mean "a favour for a favour" and the phrases with almost identical meaning include: "give and take", "tit for tat", "this for that", and "you scratch my back,...

 for this. Apparent devastation of the fertile Shephelah
Shephelah
The Shephelah is a designation usually applied to the region in south-central Israel of 10-15 km of low hills between the central Mount Hebron and the coastal plains of Philistia within the area of the Judea, at an altitude of 120-450 metres above sea level. The area is fertile, and a temperate...

 during this period, coupled with growth of the population of the highlands and the southeast of the kingdom (especially in the Beersheba
Beersheba
Beersheba is the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Often referred to as the "Capital of the Negev", it is the seventh-largest city in Israel with a population of 194,300....

 valley) during Manasseh's reign point to this possibility, as does evidence in the Gaza
Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

 area of entrepôt trade
Re-exportation
Re-exportation can occur when one member of a free trade agreement charges lower tariffs to external nations to win trade, and then re-exports the same product to another partner in the trade agreement, but tariff-free. Re-exportation can be used to avoid sanctions by other nations...

, and an apparently flourishing olive oil industry at Ekron
Ekron
The city of Ekron , was one of the five cities of the famed Philistine pentapolis, located in southwestern Canaan. Ekron lies 35 kilometers west of Jerusalem, and 18 kilometers north of ancient Gath, on the eastern edge of Israel's coastal plain.-History:...

 at the time. The construction or reconstruction of forts at sites such as Arad and Horvat Uza, explored by Nadav Na'aman and others, is also argued by Finkelstein and Silberman to be evidence in support of this thesis, as they would have been needed to protect the trade routes. However, Finkelstein and Silberman argue that the trade led to great disparities between rich and poor, which in turn gave rise to civil unrest. As a result, the Deuteronomist
Deuteronomist
The Deuteronomist, or simply D, is one of the sources underlying the Hebrew bible . It is found in the book of Deuteronomy, in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings and also in the book of Jeremiah...

 author or editor of 2 Kings
Books of Kings
The Book of Kings presents a narrative history of ancient Israel and Judah from the death of David to the release of his successor Jehoiachin from imprisonment in Babylon, a period of some 400 years...

 later reworked the traditions about Manasseh to portray his outward-looking involvement in trade as, effectively, apostasy.

According to , Manasseh was on one occasion brought in chains to the Assyrian king, presumably for suspected disloyalty. The verse goes on to indicate that he was later treated well and restored to his throne. However, neither Kings nor Assyrian records mention this incident.

Religious policies



Manasseh reversed some of the religious reforms of his father Hezekiah
Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

, possibly for the economic reasons described above, restoring polytheistic worship in the Temple
Solomon's Temple
Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was the main temple in ancient Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount , before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II after the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BCE....

, for which he is condemned by the author of Kings.
He built altars to pagan gods. His reign may be described as reactionary in relation to his father's; and Kings suggests that he may have executed supporters of his father's reforms.

According to , Manasseh was taken captive to Babylon by an unnamed king of Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

 (some have proposed that Esarhaddon was this unnamed king). Such captive kings were usually treated with great cruelty. They were brought before the conqueror with a hook or ring passed through their lips or their jaws, having a cord attached to it, by which they were led. (see also ).

The severity of Manasseh's imprisonment brought him to repentance. According to one of the two Biblical accounts ( does not have the account of Manasseh's captivity or repentance), Manasseh was restored to the throne, and abandoned idolatry
Idolatry
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

, removing foreign idols and enjoining the people to worship in the traditional Israelite manner.

Chronological notes


Thiele dates Manasseh's reign back from the dates of the reign of his grandson, Josiah
Josiah
Josiah or Yoshiyahu or Joshua was a king of Judah who instituted major reforms. Josiah is credited by most historians with having established or compiled important Jewish scriptures during the Deuteronomic reform that occurred during his rule.Josiah became king of Judah at the age of eight, after...

. Josiah died at the hands of Pharaoh Necho II
Necho II
Necho II was a king of the Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt .Necho II is most likely the pharaoh mentioned in several books of the Bible . The Book of Kings states that Necho met King Josiah of the Kingdom of Judah at Megiddo and killed him...

 in the summer of 609 BC. By Judean reckoning that began regnal years in the fall month of Tishri, this would be in the year 610/609 BC. Josiah reigned for 31 years and began to reign after the short two-year reign of Amon
Amon of Judah
Amon was the king of Judah who succeeded his father Manasseh of Judah on the throne according to the Bible. His mother was Meshullemeth, daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. He was married to Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath....

. Manasseh's last year, 33 years earlier, would be 643/642 BC.

The length of Manasseh's reign is given as 55 years in . Assuming non-accession reckoning, as he usually did for coregencies, Thiele determined 54 "actual" years back to 697/696 BC, as the year when the Hezekiah/Manasseh coregency began. Non-accession reckoning means that the first partial year of a king in office was counted twice, once for him and once for his predecessor, so that one year must be subtracted when measuring spans of time. An analysis of the data for Jeroboam II
Jeroboam II
Jeroboam II was the son and successor of Jehoash, , and the fourteenth king of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, over which he ruled for forty-one years according to 2 Kings . His reign was contemporary with those of Amaziah and Uzziah , kings of Judah...

 of Israel and Jehoshaphat
Jehoshaphat
Jehoshaphat was the fourth king of the The Kingdom of Judah, and successor of his father Asa. His children included Jehoram, who succeeded him as king...

 of Judah, both of whom had coregencies, shows that their years were measured in this way.

Regarding the Hezekiah/Manasseh coregency, Thiele observes Manasseh began his reign when he was 12 years old , and then comments, "A Hebrew lad when he reached the age of twelve was a "son of the law" and had become gadol. He had then passed from the days of childhood to youth and was considered old enough to concern himself with the serious work of life . . . "it is only to be expected that the king, facing the prospect of the termination of his reign within fifteen years [], would at the earliest moment give the heir-presumptive every advantage of training in leadership."

In other literature


In rabbinic literature
Isaiah in rabbinic literature
Allusions in rabbinic literature to the Biblical prophet Isaiah contain various expansions, elaborations and inferences that go beyond what is presented in the text of the Bible itself.-Ancestry:...

 he is credited with the death of Isaiah
Isaiah
Isaiah ; Greek: ', Ēsaïās ; "Yahu is salvation") was a prophet in the 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah.Jews and Christians consider the Book of Isaiah a part of their Biblical canon; he is the first listed of the neviim akharonim, the later prophets. Many of the New Testament teachings of Jesus...

.

The Prayer of Manasseh
Prayer of Manasseh
The Prayer of Manasseh is a short work of 15 verses of the penitential prayer of king Manasseh of Judah. Manasseh is recorded in the Bible as one of the most idolatrous kings of Judah . Chronicles, but not Kings, records that Manasseh was taken captive by the Assyrians...

, a penitential prayer attributed to Manasseh, appears in some Christian Bibles, but is considered apocryphal by Jews
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, Catholics
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 and Protestants
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

.