MANASSEH (Heb. מְנַשֶּׁה), elder son of joseph and the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Manasseh was born to Joseph in Egypt by asenath , daughter of Poti-Phera (Gen. 41:50–51). The name is said to be symbolic of Joseph's turn of fortune. Manasseh is distinguished by several traditional historical peculiarities. Whereas ten of the tribes (or 11 if Levi is included) are conceived as immediate sons of Jacob, Manasseh and ephraim are presented as the sons of Joseph and, thus, as the grandsons of Jacob. This feature of the tradition is in part a device to retain the number 12 as normative for the tribal roster. There are in fact two basic versions of the tribal roster: (1) the enumeration which counts Joseph as one tribe and includes Levi and (2) the enumeration which subdivides Joseph into Ephraim and Manasseh and omits Levi. It is commonly believed that the former is the older reckoning dating to the time when Joseph was still a single tribal entity and when Levi was as yet a secular tribe. The second is assumed to stem from a later period when Joseph broke into two segments and Levi became a priestly tribe and was dropped from the tribal roster. However, it may also be argued that the tribal league of 12 members did not become the normative until David made the old tribes into administrative subdistricts of his kingdom, in which case the version including Ephraim and Manasseh was older. Once the kingdom divided after Solomon's reign, the 12-fold tribal roster became a sacral tradition and Levi had to be included for religious reasons. To retain the number 12, Ephraim and Manasseh were coalesced under the heading   Joseph. This bracketing of Ephraim and Manasseh as Joseph within the 12-tribe roster points, however, to an older affinity between the two tribes reflected in some texts (e.g., Gen. 41:50–52; 48:8–22; Deut. 33:13–17; Josh. 17: 14–18). Ephraim and Manasseh were geographically contiguous, occupying the fertile mountains and small plains extending northward from Bethel to the plain of Jezreel in the region later to be known as Samaria. Manasseh lay to the north of Ephraim. The relationship between the two tribes is portrayed in the Bible as ethnic; they migrated into the central highlands as one people who later divided under the decentralizing pressure of settlement in rather different geographical-agricultural and cultural-political zones. It is, however, conjectured by some scholars that they were ethnically distinct and had entered the land separately, but were closely linked in a common religious conversion. The decision on this point depends largely on whether Ephraim and Manasseh are seen as Exodus tribes or are regarded as early converts to the religion brought to them by Levi or other tribes. The rivalry and struggle for priority between Manasseh and Ephraim is strongly attested to in the traditions. In most tribal lists Ephraim is named first, which reflects its political predominance as epitomized in the leadership of Ephraimites (e.g., Joshua and Jeroboam I). By contrast, some lists name Manasseh first (Num. 26:28–37), which accords with the genealogical claim that Manasseh was the firstborn of Joseph (Gen. 41:50–52). This discrepancy between Ephraim's genealogical subordination and its historical dominance has been harmonized by inserting an etiology that accounts for the greater blessing which Jacob gave to Ephraim (Gen. 48:17–20). That Manasseh is sometimes represented as having priority probably points to its larger territory and population, to the prominence of the Manassite city of Shechem, and to the tribe's political leadership under Gideon. Yet another traditional historical peculiarity of Manasseh is its stylization as a "half-tribe" in the central highlands west of Jordan and as a "half-tribe" in the highlands east of Jordan. It appears that colonists from the Manassite holdings in the Samarian highlands crossed the Jordan eastward and settled on the slopes of the Gilead Mountains from the Jabbok River northward to the Sea of Galilee. Since the biblical account of the conquest tradition pictured all Israel as entering the Land of Canaan from the east as a unit, the presence of Israelites in Transjordan is explained by an initial occupation of Transjordan by two and a half tribes: Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (Num. 32). There are scholars, however, who believe that all these Transjordan settlements were the result of movements from the western highlands eastward across the Jordan. Historically, the Transjordan settlement was relatively light and always tenuous prior to the monarchy; even under the monarchy it was precarious except when a strong king secured the frontiers against the Arameans, Ammonites, and Moabites. The colonization of Transjordan by Manassites was matched by Ephraimite colonization in the same region (Judg. 12:4; II Sam. 18:6), and it is strongly suspected that Reuben and Gad were either offshoots of more established tribes in Territory of the tribe of Manasseh. After Y. Aharoni in Lexicon Biblicum, Dvir Co. Ltd, Tel Aviv, 1965. Territory of the tribe of Manasseh. After Y. Aharoni in Lexicon Biblicum, Dvir Co. Ltd, Tel Aviv, 1965.   the western highlands or transplants of reduced or decimated tribes originally located in cis-Jordan. That Manasseh alone was credited with territory on both sides of the Jordan is probably an index of its greater success in colonization. Another name for Manasseh was Machir (Judg. 5:14). Machir elsewhere is credited as a major clan within Manasseh, the latter's "firstborn" and "the father of Gilead" (Gen. 50:23; Josh. 17:1). If Machir was the original name of the tribe, Manasseh would have been introduced once colonization had extended the group holdings and the need was felt for a more inclusive term. The adoption of the term Manasseh would probably also have been a function of the desire to relate the tribe more closely to Ephraim, the two being regarded as "sons of Joseph." Manasseh's territorial holdings as described in Joshua 17 and in Judges 1:27–28 appear in an account of the tribal allotments at the time of the Conquest, which some exegetes regard as an incomplete and mutilated sketch of the tribal administrative subdistricts of David's kingdom. The boundary of Manasseh with Ephraim to the south is given with some precision. The borders with Issachar and Asher to the north have been obscured as a result of redaction of the sources. Similar uncertainty exists in delimiting the Transjordan holdings of Manasseh in relation to Gad. It is doubtful whether, before the time of David, Manasseh settled the coastal plain on the west, the Carmel highlands on the northwest, the plain of Jezreel to the north, or the plain of Beth-Shean on the northeast. In Transjordan, Manassite colonization, it is supposed, hardly penetrated beyond the crest of the Gilead Mountain Range and perhaps some distance up the Jabbok Valley. The major settlements in west Manasseh, prior to the expansion under David, were Shechem, Dothan, Tirzah, Thebez, Arumah, Ophrah, Bezek, and Arubboth. In east Manasseh the major towns were Jabesh-Gilead and Abel-Meholah. The settlements of Succoth, Penuel, Zarethan, and Zaphon, located   in or around the Jabbok Valley and its juncture with the Jordan, may also have been Manassite, although some of them are attributed to Gad. Among the clans of Manasseh (Josh. 17:2–3) are Canaanite cities, such as Shechem, some of which probably remained non-Israelite down to David's time, even though surrounded by Israelites. The approximate position of several of the clans in the west Jordan highlands can be plotted on the basis of their occurrence as place names in the Samaria Ostraca (Albiezer, (A)sriel, Helek, Hoglah, Noah, Shechem, Shemida). (Norman K. Gottwald) -In the Aggadah Manasseh emerges in the aggadah as his father's right-hand man. He was sent by Joseph to spy on his brothers after they entered Egypt (Tanḥ. B., Gen. 202). He is identified as the interpreter between Joseph and his brothers (Gen. 42:23) when his father feigned ignorance of Hebrew (Gen. R. 91:8), and it was he who overcame Simeon despite his martial prowess and cast him into prison (Tanḥ, Va-Yiggash, 4). As the steward of his father's house, Manasseh also prepared the repast for Joseph's brothers (Tar. Pseudo-Jon. Gen. 43:16), and was later sent to search the sacks for the silver cup (Tanḥ. B., Gen. 197). On the flag of the tribe of Manasseh was embroidered a wild ox, an allusion to Deuteronomy 33:17, which refers to Gideon (Judg. 6:11), a descendant of Manasseh (Num. R. 2:7). For the relationship between Ephraim and Manasseh see ephraim in the Aggadah. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: EM, 5 (1968), 45–51 (incl. bibl.); M. Noth, in: PJB, 37 (1941), 50–101; idem, in: ZAW, 60 (1944), 11–57; J. Simons, in: PEQ, 79 (1947), 27–39; idem, in: Orientalia Neerlandica (1948), 190–215; M. Naor, Ha-Mikra ve-ha-Areẓ, 1 (1952), 145–6; 2 (1954), 63–68; E. Danelius, in: PEQ, 89 (1957), 55–67; 90 (1958), 32–43; E. Jenni, in: ZDPV, 74 (1958), 35–40; W. Phythian-Adams, in: PEQ, 61 (1929), 228–41; IDB, 3 (1962), 252–4; 4 (1962), 705; Aharoni, Land, index; Z. Kallai, Naḥalot Shivtei Yisrael (1967), 142–51, 248–54, 259, 375ff. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, index.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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