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Meaning and etymology of the name Manasseh

Manasseh Manasseh

The name Manasseh occurs five times in the Bible. The most famous Manasseh is the oldest son of Joseph and Asenath (Genesis 41:51). Another famous Manasseh is the son and successor of king Hezekiah (2 Kings 21:1). Among the men that divorce their foreign wives during the purge of Ezra are also two men named Manasseh (Ezra 10:30, 33). In Judges 18:30 a Manasseh is mentioned among the tribe of Dan.

The name Manasseh is generally seen as derived from the verb nasha (nasha) basically meaning forget. The name is formed by this verb, and the prefix letter mem, which may indicate the particle that means "from," hence From Forgetting. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Forgetting, Forgetfulness. NOBS Study Bible Name List reads Making to Forget.

But there's quite a bit more to this name. The verb nasha (nasha) means to forget but forgetting something to the Hebrews worked different than for us. We may forget something because it fades from our consciousness, it withers due to lack of attention. To the Hebrews forgetting had to do with an active taking away of something. Something was forgotten because God took that something away. And when God forgets something or someone (obviously impossible when forgetting works the way we know it - God can not forget the way we do), He actively pushes that someone away (Jeremiah 23:29), or that something (Job 11:6). The antonym of forgetting is remembering, and since God can not forget the way we do, He also doesn't remember the way we do. When God remembers someone, He pulls that someone close (Genesis 30:22).

And to make matters even more complicated, there is another verb that is identical to nasha meaning to forget, and that is nasha (nasha), meaning to lend or be a creditor. Scholars perhaps see these two verbs as separate because they seem to denote such different ideas. Perhaps it's been demonstrated that these two verbs evolved into the same form through different paths. But perhaps these two verbs evolved into the same verb so readily because when we lend to someone, we really push that something away from us. When the person who lends from us then brings it back, we remember the item. In our times of banks and interests, we think of lending completely different than the folks in Biblical times did. Possibly because only a needy person would come and ask to borrow something, Jesus insists that we don't ask back what we lend (Luke 6:34-35). Biblical lending is really quite like forgetting.

The name Manasseh, therefore, also means From A Debt. This is significant because Manasseh's brother is named Ephraim, a name with a distinctly bitter secondary meaning. Perhaps Joseph named his son From A Debt, because he figured that besides his gratitude for being rescued, he felt that either God or his family owed him a debt for tearing him away from his father.



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