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Manasseh, Manasses [Mānăs’seh,Mānăs’sēs]—causing forgetfulness.

  1. The elder son of Joseph, who was born in Egypt and was half Hebrew and half Egyptian. He was the founder of a tribe (Gen. 41:51; Num. 1:10). Manasseh and his brother Ephraim were Jacob’s Gentile descendants, since both were children of an Egyptian mother. Ephraim means “the multitude of nations,” or “the fulness of the Gentiles,” and was prophetic of Christ as the Saviour of the world. The tribe of Manasseh produced two out of the four Old Testament men whose faith has been thought worthy of notice in the New Testament—Gideon and Jephthah (Heb. 11:32).
  2. The grandfather of Jonathan who, with his sons, became a priest to the tribe of Dan when they set up a graven image in Laish (Judg. 18:30). Perhaps Moses should be read for Manasseh in the verse.
  3. The son of Hezekiah and father of Amon, king of Judah, who succeeded his father when he was only twelve years of age (2 Kings 20:21; 21).

The Man Whose Policy Was Wrong

Manasseh, the prodigal king of the Old Testament, was overwhelmed by Assyrian forces and in the twenty-third year of his reign was taken as a prisoner to Babylon where he lingered for twelve years. During these years he turned to God and was restored to freedom and his kingdom. For the next twenty years left to him, he sought to undo the wrong of the past. His long reign of fifty-five years, the longest in Jewish history, closed not inauspiciously. He died a penitent, and left a son who followed his father in his sins but not in his repentance.

Gathering together what we can of Manasseh’s life, it would seem that he was a man of policy:

His policy of idolatry. How he hated the first two commandments of Sinai, and reversed the reforms of his father! How exceedingly bold he was in his idolatry!

His policy of immorality. Idolatry and immorality go together, thus in rejecting God there came the worship of the Syrian Venus. This action let loose a flood of iniquity over the land of Judah.

His policy of persecution. Manasseh allowed nothing to stand in the way of license and open evil. Martyrdom became the cost of service. Idolatry was set up under the pain of death.

His policy of destruction. As far as he could, Manasseh destroyed the Word of God. Every copy found was consigned to the flames. God’s truth testified too plainly against the sins of king and people. So complete was this destruction of the Word of God that when Josiah, Manasseh’s grandson, came to the throne, a copy of it was found in the Temple.

But Manasseh’s eyes were opened to his sinful condition and he sobbed out the misery of his helpless and craven soul. The occasion of his repentance was affliction. In the prison-house of Babylon he prayed. As to the character of his repentance, he besought the Lord and humbled himself before the God of his fathers and prayed unto Him. Penniless and penitent, his cry for mercy came from a broken heart, and God graciously received this prodigal king. Alas, however, he stopped short of being out-and-out for God! He allowed the high places of idolatry to remain. It will not be possible to doubt God’s grace in heaven in the ages to come if we can but catch a glimpse of Manasseh—godly-reared, apostate, idolatrous, devilish, stricken, humbled, repentant Manasseh!

4. One of the family of Hashum who had married a foreign wife (Ezra 10:33).

5. One of the family of Pahath-moab who had done the same (Ezra 10:30).

Devotional content drawn from All the Men of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer. Used with permission.

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