Biblical Studies Manasseh, Tribe/Territory
by
Robert L. Foster
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0200

Introduction

Manasseh is one of two eponymous tribes named after the sons of Joseph (the other is Ephraim) and should not be confused with Manasseh the king who reigned over Judah late in the period of Assyria’s rule over Israel. According to the biblical text, Manasseh received an allotment of land in Palestine, along with the other twelve tribes. What complicates the picture with Manasseh is the claim that, unlike the other tribes, half of the tribe’s allotment fell east of the Jordan and half of it west of the Jordan. Thus, on the one hand, some of the discussion of Manasseh the territory revolves around the actual territorial boundaries of the half-tribe west of the Jordan and whether one can make sense of the boundaries delimited in Joshua 16–17 or whether 1 Kings 4:10 actually intends to include the hill country in the western half-tribe. Other discussion revolves around whether archaeological evidence from the area associated with the territory of Manasseh west of the Jordan indicates some form of conquest or growth in terms of a more gradual settlement. A passage like 1 Chronicles 5:18–26 of the half-tribe east of the Jordan generates a debate about how best to understand the relationship of the Chronicler’s theological assessment in relation to the fate of the historical half-tribe.

General Overviews

Accessible overviews of the territorial visions of Manasseh in the biblical corpus, along with serviceable bibliographies, are Frolov 2008 and Geus 1992. Finkelstein 1988 treats more directly the archaeological digs in sites with the boundaries correlated to the boundaries of biblical Israel and is a good, if a bit dated, resource for students who want to understand the importance of digs in key locations from a critical perspective. Sheriffs 1995 offers a brief survey of biblical texts related to Manasseh.

  • Finkelstein, Israel. “Manasseh.” In The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement. By Israel Finkelstein, 80–91. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1988.

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    Discusses digs at six major sites in Manasseh—Shechem, Mt. Ebal, Tirzah, The “Bull Site,” Dothan, and Taanach—as well as Zertal’s survey (The Manasseh Hill Country Survey), with critical comments.

  • Frolov, Serge. “Manasseh, Mannasites, 1–6.” In New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 3. Edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, 782–785. Nashville: Abingdon, 2008.

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    Surveys the biblical texts and concludes that the territory features predominantly in texts that envision utopian Israel and that the texts favor the Transjordanian branch and reflect conflict between the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.

  • Geus, C. H. J. de. “Manasseh (Place).” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 4. Edited by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, 494–496. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    Discusses Manasseh’s role in tribal listings, the settlement of the territory, and a history of the development of the territory as interpreted in the biblical tradition and compares the visions of its boundaries in various biblical texts.

  • Sheriffs, R. J. A. “Manasseh (‘Making to Forget).” In Baker Encyclopedia of Bible Places. Edited by John J. Bimson, 203. Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity, 1995.

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    Sheriffs offers a concise summary of the biblical texts related to the tribe and territory of Manasseh from the time Israel entered the land of Canaan to the deportation as recorded in 1 Chronicles 5.

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