1. Eldest son of Joseph, brother of Ephraim, and ancestor of the tribe of Manasseh. According to various territorial lists, the tribe of Manasseh was settled on both sides of the Jordan River, on the east, north of the Jabbok (e.g., Num. 32.39–42; Josh. 13.29–31), and on the west, in the central hill country (Josh. 17; see Map 3:4XY). It was in its later history weaker than Ephraim; this political fact is reflected in the story of Jacob's blessing, in which he reverses the birth order (Gen. 48). Manasseh is also described as the father of Machir, a genealogical explanation of a more complicated history between two apparently separate tribal entities; note that in Judges 5.14, Machir is mentioned along with Ephraim, but Manasseh is not named. (See also Tribes of Israel.)
2. King of Judah (697 [or 687–642 BCE]). His reign was the longest of any Israelite or Judean king, and in the difficult times of Assyrian domination he achieved a measure of autonomy for Judah. This apparently involved some compromises with older ideals, for Manasseh is condemned by the Deuteronomic history as the worst of the Davidic kings, whose “sin” was responsible for God's punishment of Judah (2 Kings 21.9, 17; 24.3). His portrayal in Chronicles is less harsh.
Michael D. Coogan