The New International Encyclopædia/Manasseh (King of Judah)
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Manasseh (King of Judah)
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MANASSEH. King of Judah, son of Hezekiah and father of Amon. He began to reign c.692 B.C., at the age of twelve. His reign is said to have extended over fifty-five years (II. Kings xxi. 1; II. Chron. xxxiii. 1), but this figure may be somewhat too high, as his death appears to have taken place no later than B.C. 641. Of the events during his long reign we know little. The narrator in Kings, being so largely interested in the religious side of history, contents himself merely with references to religious conditions in the days of Manasseh. The King is not viewed with favor by the pious narrator. The religious reforms introduced by Hezekiah, tending toward a purer Yahweh worship freed from the Canaanitish practices, naturally aroused opposition, and during Hezekiah's lifetime symptoms of a reaction already began to manifest themselves. The death of Hezekiah marked the height of the reaction, and Manasseh favored the old system and went even to greater lengths than his predecessors in blending the Yahweh with foreign elements. Besides readoption of the old Canaanitish practices, Babylonian and Assyrian customs were introduced (II. Kings, xxi. 5-7), and for this the King naturally incurred the hatred of the later Hebrew historians, who purposely ignored other events of his reign. It appears on the whole to have been peaceable and prosperous, but Manasseh was obliged to pay tribute to Assyria. The story told in Chronicles (II. Chron. xxxiii.) of Manasseh's capture by the Assyrians, and of his humbling himself before God and his acts of repentance, is thought to be fictitious. The Book of Kings does not say a word about it, and it resembles a Midrashic tale to illustrate the punishment merited by a king who, to the author of Chronicles, appeared the embodiment of wickedness. The later Jewish Haggada added to such stories of Manasseh's wickedness and subsequent conversion. The Prayer of Manasseh, the composition of which was suggested by the statement in II. Chronicles xxxiii. 18-19, belongs to the Apocryphal literature, though received as canonical by the Greek Church. It appears to have been originally written in Greek, though the sentiments are distinctively Jewish. The date of composition is uncertain; in a general way it may be said to belong to the Hellenistic period. Consult the commentary by Ball in the Speaker's Commentary, and the German translation with notes by Ryssel, in Kautsch, Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen (Halle, 1899).