Two famous people were named Manasseh in the Bible: the first son of Joseph of Egypt and one of the kings of Judah. One of Israel’s 12 tribes was also called Manasseh, because Joseph’s son was his patriarch.
Manasseh, the founder of a tribe
After he became prime minister of Egypt, Joseph married and had two children: Manasseh and Ephraim ( Genesis 41: 50-52 ). Manasseh was the eldest son but his grandfather Jacob gave the eldest son blessing to Ephraim. Jacob prophesied that the descendants of Ephraim would be more powerful than the descendants of Manasseh ( Genesis 48: 19-20 ).
Read Ephraim’s story here .
Each of Jacob’s sons became a tribe of Israel. Manasseh and Ephraim were adopted by Jacob, each becoming a tribe, instead of being just one (Joseph). Although the greatest blessing went to Ephraim, the descendants of Manasseh also became a very large tribe.
After Israel left Egypt and arrived in the promised land, the tribe of Manasseh received a large portion of the land because it had many families. Half of Manasseh was in the east of the Jordan River and another half was on the west side.
The Ephraim tribe had more leaders and powerful people. However, the tribe of Manasseh also produced a great leader: Gideon .
See Gideon’s story here .
Manasseh, king of Judah
Another famous Manasseh was one of the king of Judah. After Solomon’s reign, Israel divided into two kingdoms: Judah, to the south, ruled by David’s descendants, and Israel, to the north, ruled by whoever was stronger. By the time of Manasseh, the kingdom of Israel had already been destroyed by the Assyrians and only the kingdom of Judah remained.
Manasseh was the king of Judah’s longest reign – 55 years. He was the son of Hezekiah, a God-fearing king, who fought against idolatry. But Manasseh was not like his father. He abandoned God and committed many sins.
Manasseh built many idolatrous altars, even inside the temple of God! He engaged in witchcraft and burned his own son as a sacrifice ( 2 Kings 21: 5-6 ). Manasseh also killed many innocent people and led the people of Judah to do many terrible things.
See also: what does God say about idolatry?
Because of all that Manasseh did, God promised to destroy Jerusalem and bring disaster on the whole country. God sent prophets to warn Manasseh of the punishment, but he paid no attention ( 2 Kings 21: 10-12 ). So God allowed Manasseh to be captured by the Assyrians.
The Assyrians took Manasseh in prison to Babylon ( 2 Chronicles 33: 10-11 ). There, he had a change of heart, humbled himself and sought God. Was there a solution for such a bad man? Yes!
God heard Manasseh and brought him back to Jerusalem ( 2 Chronicles 33: 12-13 ). Then Manasseh began to undo everything he had done before. He took the idols out of the temple and restored the altar of God. Manasseh began to worship only God.
However, the damage was already done. The people continued to idolize and Manasseh was unable to reverse all the harm he had caused. After Manasseh died, his son Amon became king and continued to practice idolatry and other sins, which eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem.