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A biblical character, Manasseh (687-642 B.C.) was the son of the righteous king Hezekiah, but was himself the most wicked king of Judah.

His exploits are detailed in 2 Kings 21:1-17 and again in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20. The two passages agree that he became king at age twelve, reigned for fifty-five years, and did a lot of seriously bad shit in between. They disagree in that the Manasseh from 2 Chronicles repents and gets back into God's good graces, whereas the Manasseh from 2 Kings never repents.

There is also a short Psalm called The Prayer of Manasseh in the Pseudepigrapha (or the Apocrypha, depending on who you ask) in which the Manasseh from 2 Chronicles prays to God for forgiveness.

Also, I'm involved in a Role Playing Game called In Nomine by Steve Jackson Games. I play a demon named Manasseh who, as a Shedite can possess people and make them do evil things. Being many thousands of years old, my character did indeed possess Hezekiah's son way back when, and therefore was the biblical Manasseh.

According to 2 Chronicles I let him go before he died. According to 2 Kings I didn't. Which really happened? Only the Game Master knows for sure.

Background: Assyria is taking over countries left and right. Anybody who stands in its way gets wiped out. Israel, under Hosea, is finally swallowed up in 722. Judea manages to hold on because they pay off the Assyrians, and agree to pay a yearly tribute.

Now Hezekiah comes to the throne in Judea, and after a few years he decides he's not gonna pay the Assyrians any more. He holds a national religious revival, shakes up the priesthood and in general does a lot of "yay we're so great" things to get the people ready for war. He fortifies his cities, digs a tunnel under Jerusalem so they will have water in case of siege (this has been found), and asks Egypt for help.

Sennacherib of Assyria comes to Judea and captures a bunch of the fortified cities. Then he sieges Jerusalem. However, he hears of trouble at home, and decides he needs to make a deal quick so he can get out of there. He forces Hezekiah to give up a bunch of stuff, and does NOT lower the tribute -- even though Hezekiah now has a whole lot less cities to work with. Then he leaves. (In the Bible, this is where all the Assyrians are slain overnight by the angel of the lord.) Hezekiah is left on the throne. Sennacherib goes home and is assassinated by two of his sons.

This happens around 701. After a little while, his son Manesseh comes to the throne at age 12. He is pro-Assyrian, probably because he thinks it's suicidal not to be. He brings in a lot of Near Eastern religion so he can show the Assyrians that hey, we're just like you guys! Don't wipe us out! Among other things, he builds, in the temple, altars for the sun and moon and stars, as well as Baal and any other gods anybody can think of; makes it legal to practice divination and soothsaying and necromancy; rebuilds all the little local shrines outside of Jerusalem so people can sacrifice there too; and kills a lot of people, who might have been pro-Assyrian, or might not. He reigned 55 years after all, he had plenty of time. He also practices the Moloch sacrifice, which is the sacrifice of his first-born son. Usually this is done to ensure victory in battle, but his battles are not mentioned.

Manasseh established an Asherah pole -- it's been speculated that Asherah was supposed to be the wife of YHWH, and that the pole was her symbol. YHWH himself is never given a statue or a form, but Asherah was. She's also represented by lions.

Baal, who also got an altar, is a big deal in most places in that time. The name can be a pun in ancient Hebrew: Baal means "lord" in Hebrew, and plus he was a thunder god -- he's got fertility stuff connected with him too. They ate sacred raisin cakes every harvest for him, and built idols out of precious metals to him. There were lots of different local Baals, all subsumed into BAAL.

When he finally dies, his son Amon comes to power. This kid is 22, and only reigns for 2 years before he is assassinated. Why this son? Manasseh died when he was 67, surely he had older sons...did he sacrifice them all? Or were they just not right for the throne?

Amon is assassinated, and his son comes to power: Josiah, at the age of 8. By now Assyria is weakening, and Josiah starts to take back lands that were once part of Judea, and even some of Israel's lost lands. Then one of his priests, Hilkiah, finds a scroll, and when Josiah reads it, he rends his garments because the scroll says everybody is going to be punished unless they straighten up. On the basis of this scroll he performs religious reforms much like Hezekiah. (It is pretty certain that the scroll is Deuteronomy, but it is not certain whether Josiah had it written, or one of the other priests did, or perhaps it was Jeremiah, or, most unlikely of all, they *did* find an ancient scroll, just by accident.) It is interesting to note what he clears out of the temple of YHWH, which was put there by Manasseh, besides the altars to just about every god available, he clears out male prostitutes (probably female ones as well), the great golden horses and chariots to the Sun at the gates of the temple, the necromancers and the diviners and the soothsayers, and he stops the Moloch sacrifice. It's astounding that most of this stuff was IN the temple. He also initiates Passover -- this had not been one of the Jewish festivals before. He was probably trying to raise lots of national feeling like Hezekiah did, since Assyria is just about gone and he wants to go to war. But then he goes out and gets himself killed by the Pharoah Necho, and that is just about the end of Judea. The Babylonians come in and destroy the temple, and everybody is shipped off to Babylon.

Manasseh was also the first son of Joseph, the second being Ephraim.

When Jacob, or Israel, as he was also known, gathered his children to bless them before he died, he gave the two brothers the blessing that "may you be blessed like Ephraim and Manasseh". This aludes to the fact that, while they grew up in a foreign culture in the upper class (their father was an advisor to the Pharoah) with little influence from the teachings of their fathers (that of monotheism), they still maintained a strong belief in these teachings and remained loyal to them and their family. This blessing is said over sons by parents every Friday night before the Sabbath evening meal.

When Jacob blessed the two brothers, he declared them to be like his sons, saying that he considered them direct descendants of him and therefore worthy of being tribes. However, when Jacob blessed them, he placed his right hand on Ephraim instead of upon Manasseh. When Joseph asked why, Jacob told him that, while Manasseh was the first born, Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh and would receive a double portion in the inheritance. By giving Ephraim the blessing of the first born, Jacob also forsook Reuven and continued a division that began with Jacob's favoritism of Joseph.

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