The New International Encyclopædia/Manasseh
MANAS'SEH (Heb. Mēnashsheh, of uncertain etymology). According to Gen. xli. 51, the eldest son of Joseph and eponymous ancestor of the tribe of Manasseh. Manasseh and Ephraim are thought by critics to represent two offshoots of a Joseph clan, the parent branch of which (see Joseph) apparently disappeared in Egypt. Of the two, Manasseh was the first to cut loose, and was therefore represented in tradition as the older; but the far more prominent part played in the history of the northern kingdom by Ephraim is reflected in the forty-eighth chapter of Genesis, where Jacob, in blessing the two, intentionally mentions Ephraim first, although the younger. Both Manasseh and Ephraim are represented as born in Egypt and sons of Joseph's Egyptian wife, which (if the tradition rests upon a genuine reminiscence) may be taken as an indication that the extension of the Joseph clan into several branches took place in that country. At the time of the conquest of Canaan, Manasseh and Ephraim appear as the most prominent of the tribes that afterwards formed the northern kingdom. The territory occupied by Manasseh on the west of the Jordan lay to the north of Ephraim and reached westward to the sea, including the plain of Sharon (Josh. xvii.), but the tribe continued to grow and a branch settled to the east of the Jordan, occupying part of Gilead, the rich pasture lands of Bashan and the country extending northward from a point above the River Jabbok to Mount Hermon (Josh. xiii. 29-31). The heroes Gideon and Jephthah (Judges vi. 15; xi. 1) belonged to Manasseh, but after the formation of the kingdom Ephraim entirely eclipses Manasseh, of which we hear again only at the time of the invasion of Tiglathpileser III. (B.C. 734), who carried off the eastern division of the tribe to Assyria (I. Chron. v. 26). The tribe also suffered severely during the various wars with Aram (II. Kings x. 32-33; cf. Amos i. 3).