Manasseh of Judah
King Manasseh (Hebrew: מנשה, Menasheh; Greek: Μανασσῆς, Manassēs; "Name means::causing to forget") (710 BC-r. 698 BC-642 BC according to Ussher, or 709 BC-vr. 697 BC-r. 686 BC-642 BC according to Thiele) was the thirteenth king of the Kingdom of Judah in direct line of descent. He was arguably the worst king that the Kingdom of Judah ever had, for he undid all of the work that his father Hezekiah had done. (2_Kings 21:1-19 ) 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. (2_Chronicles 33:1-20 )
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 Kingdom of Judah when he was twelve years old. James Ussher and Edwin 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 Kingdom of Judah. 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.
Worse yet, he executed those who opposed him in these sins. Allegedly this includes Isaiah, whom he is said to have executed by sawing him in sagittal section between two wooden planks. It might also have included the high priest Azariah III, though the Bible does not say this.
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 Kingdom of Israel (of which the tribe of Ephraim is a metaphor) would cease to be a distinct entity. Esarhaddon, according to Ussher, conducted the final mass relocation of people to and from the original lands of the Kingdom of Israel, and captured Manasseh at the same time. He might also have killed the high priest Hoshea at this time.
Under Ussher's chronology, this took place in 676 BC. (The WebBible Encyclopedia states that this happened in 681 BC. This is the year in which modern Assyriologists agree that Esarhaddon took the throne.)
Only the Chronicler mentions this captivity. The Chronicler also gives this detail: that Manasseh prayed earnestly to God for forgiveness and reinstatement. (An alleged text of the Prayer of Manasseh appears as an Apocryphon.) 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
Death and Succession
Manasseh of JudahBorn: Born:: Abib 3294 AM Died: Died:: Abib 3362 AM
|King of Ruler of::Kingdom of Judah
Accession::Abib 3306 AM–Died::Abib 3362 AM
| Succeeded by|
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 Kingdom of Judah. 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. Both these things were contemporary with Manasseh at different periods of his reign. 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.
- 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
- Jones, Floyd N., The Chronology of the Old Testament, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003, Chart 5.
- Manasseh at the WebBible Encyclopedia; Accessed May 26, 2007.
- 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
- Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, Entry for 'MANASSEH (3)' by John Franklin Genung, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1915.
- Manasseh, Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2001-5
- Spurgeon, The Rev. Charles H., Manasseh, Sermon 105, November 30, 1856. Accessed 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. Accessed May 26, 2007
- Kirby, Peter. "Prayer of Manasseh." Early Christian Writings. 2007. Accessed May 26, 2007
- Authors unknown. "Manasseh King of Judah." Bible History Newsletter, 2004. Accessed May 26, 2007.