1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Manasseh (tribe)

MANASSEH (apparently Hebrew for “he who causes to forget,” but see H. W. Hogg, Encyc. Bib., s.v.); in the Bible, a tribe of Israel, the elder but less important of the “sons” of Joseph. Its seat lay to the north of Ephraim, but its boundaries can scarcely be defined. It merged itself with its “brother” in the south, and with Issachar, Zebulun and other tribes in the north (Josh. xvii. 7 sqq.). From the latter it was separated for a time by a line of Canaanite cities extending from Dor to Bethshean, which apparently were not all subdued till the days of David or Solomon (Judg. i. 27; 1 Sam. xxxi. 10; 1 Kings ix. 15). Besides its western settlement in the fertile glades of northern Samaria, running out into the great plain, there were territories east of the Jordan reckoned to Manasseh. Gilead and Bashan were said to have been taken by Machir, and a number of places of uncertain identification were occupied by Nobah and Jair (Num. xxxii. 41; Judg. x. 3–5). It seems most natural to suppose that these districts were held before the Israelites crossed over to the west (cf. the tradition Num. xxi., Deut. iii.). On the other hand, in Judg. v. 14, Machir may conceivably belong to the west, and it is possible that, according to another tradition, these movements were the result of the complaint of the Joseph tribes that their original territory was too restricted.[1] In the genealogical lists, Machir, perhaps originally an independent branch, is the eldest son of Manasseh (Josh. xvii. 1 b, 2); but according to later schemes he is Manasseh’s only son (Num. xxvi. 28–34). Intermixture with Arameans is indicated in the view that he was the son of Manasseh and an Aramean concubine (1 Chron. vii. 14), and this is supported by the statement that the Arameans of Geshur and Maacah (cf. 2 Sam. x. 6; Gen. xxii. 24) dwelt among the Israelites of eastern Jordan (Josh. xiii. 13). Subsequently, at an unknown period of history, sixty cities were lost (1 Chron. ii. 23). The story of the daughters of the Manassite Zelophehad is of interest for the Hebrew law of inheritance (Num. xxvii. 1–11, xxxvi.).

Some details of the history of this twofold branch of the Israelites are contained in the stories of Gideon (W. Manasseh) and Jephthah (E. Manasseh). The relations between Saul and Jabesh-Gilead point to the close bond uniting the two districts, but the details have been variously interpreted: Winckler, for example, suggesting that Saul himself was originally from E. Manasseh and that he followed in the steps of Jephthah (Keilinschr. u. d. alte Test., pp. 216 seq. 227). Generally speaking, its position in the west made it share the fortunes of Ephraim, whilst on the east the proximity of Ammonites and Moabites controlled its history; see also the articles on its southern neighbours, Gad and Reuben, and the articles Genealogy (Biblical); and Jews: History.  (S. A. C.) 

  1. So Budde (Richter u. Samuel), who recovers certain old fragments and arranges Josh. xvii. 14–18 (v. 18 read “hill-country of Gilead”); Num. xxxii. 39, 41 seq.; Josh. xiii. 13.