King Manasseh (Hebrew מְנַשֶּׁה, I cause to forget, or Greek Μανασσῆς) (710-r. 698-643 BC according to Ussher, or 709-vr. 697-r. 686-642 BC according to Thiele) was the thirteenth king of the Southern Kingdom of Israel in direct line of descent. He was arguably the worst king that the Southern Kingdom ever had, for he undid all of the work that his father Hezekiah had done. And yet, as the Chronicler records, he repented of his sin and was more faithful from then on--but never in the way that his father was.
Manasseh was born in 710 BC or 709 BC, the son of Hezekiah and Hephzibah. In Ussher's chronology, Manasseh was a child of Hezekiah's "extended life," for he was born three years after Hezekiah was miraculously cured of a life-threatening illness that might, from the brief description given by the prophet Isaiah, have been cancer. Thiele, however, assumes that Manasseh was born eight years before Hezekiah fell ill.
Accession and alleged viceroyalty
The Bible says that Manasseh succeeded to the throne of the Southern Kingdom when he was twelve years old. James Ussher and Edwin R. Thiele are only a year apart in deciding when this took place. But whereas Ussher assumed that Manasseh became sole ruler at twelve, Thiele insists that Manasseh became viceroy under his father Hezekiah in 697 BC, and that Hezekiah died eleven years later. For the full particulars of why Thiele assumed this, see here and here.
A wicked reign
The Bible describes Manasseh in the worst light of all the kings of the Southern Kingdom. He rebuilt all the high places that his father Hezekiah had made such an effort to destroy. He built altars to Baal everywhere, even in the Temple of Jerusalem itself. He carved an Asherah pole and also carved an image that he set up in the Temple. Like his grandfather Ahaz, he burnt some of his own children alive as human sacrifices. He dabbled in astrology, enchantment, witchcraft, and wizardry--all the black arts that previous kings of the House of David had abolished.
King Esarhaddon of Assyria was at the time also king of Babylonia, the only ruler of Assyria ever to hold this dual distinction. In this time, Esarhaddon captured Manasseh and brought him in chains--and with a hook through his jaw, as was Assyrian custom--to Babylon. The Bible does not say specifically when this happened, but James Ussher placed it in the twenty-second year of Manasseh's reign--which was also sixty-five years after Isaiah had advised Ahaz that a day would come in which the tribe of Ephraim would cease to be a distinct people. Esarhaddon, according to Ussher, conducted the final mass relocation of people to and from Ephraimite country, and captured Manasseh at the same time. Under Ussher's chronology, this took place in 676 BC. (However, the WebBible Encyclopedia states that this happened in 681 BC.)
Only the Chronicler mentions this captivity. The Chronicler also gives this detail: that Manasseh prayed earnestly to God for forgiveness and reinstatement. (The Apocrypha contains an alleged text of the Prayer of Manasseh.) God heard his prayer and restored him to his kingdom.
Manasseh reigned for another thirty-three years. But now he removed all the altars he had made, and the images (including the carved image in the Temple), and the Asherah pole, and repaired the main altar of the Temple and offered proper sacrifices on it. He also added to the fortifications in and around Jerusalem. He did not remove the high places, but an interesting change took place: those who used the high places, did so to worship God and not to worship Baal in any of his forms, nor any other pagan god. This, however, was not according to God's desire.
Marriage and a son
In the thirty-third year of his reign (either 665 or 664 BC), Manasseh married a woman named Meshullemeth and by her had a son named Amon, his eventual successor.
Death and succession
Manasseh died at the age of sixty-seven, and was buried in a private tomb. So evil had he been that he was not even deemed worthy to be buried in the same city as the other kings of the Southern Kingdom. His son Amon succeeded him, but only briefly.
Extrabibilical evidence and disputed synchrony with Assyria
The two kings that various sources cite as the king who captured Manasseh are Esarhaddon and Assur-bani-pal. Esarhaddon boasts in his inscriptions that Manasseh was one of twenty-two vassal kings who paid him tribute in the form of building materials. Another inscription has Esarhaddon boasting of rebuilding Babylon, and this is the reconciliation of how Ussher could identify a king of Assyria as a king of Babylon. However, Wood states that Assur-bani-pal put down a revolt of several vassal states south of Assyria proper from 652-648 BC--which would accord with the Thiele chronology.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 671, 683-684, 698, 700, 708, 717
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Manasseh at the WebBible Encyclopedia; retrieved May 26, 2007.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 309-310
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, Entry for 'MANASSEH (3)' by John Franklin Genung, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1915.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Manasseh, Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2001-5
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 II_Kings 21:1-19 (NASB)
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 II_Chronicles 33:1-20 (NASB)
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Spurgeon, The Rev. Charles H., Manasseh, Sermon 105, November 30, 1856. Retrieved May 26, 2007. Also copied here (requires PDF reader)
- ↑ Larry Pierce, Evidentialism–the Bible and Assyrian chronology TJ 15(1):62–68 April 2001
- ↑ David Holt Boshert, Jr., and David Ettinger, Manasseh King of Judah, Christ-Centered Mall. Retrieved May 26, 2007
- ↑ Kirby, Peter. "Prayer of Manasseh." Early Christian Writings. 2007. Retrieved May 26, 2007
- ↑ Authors unknown. "Manasseh King of Judah." Bible History Newsletter, 2004. Retrieved May 26, 2007.