🔼The name Manasseh: Summary
- Forgetting, Evaporating
- From the verb נשה (nasha), to forget.
🔼The name Manasseh in the Bible
There are five men and a territory named Manasseh in the Bible:
- The most famous Manasseh is the eldest son of Joseph, son of Jacob, and his Egyptian wife Asenath (Genesis 41:51). The territory of the descendants of Manasseh (the מנשי, Manassites; Deuteronomy 4:43) was situated in the north of Canaan and stretched diagonally across the Sea of Galilee, from south-west to north-east. Even though Manasseh formed a half-tribe (the other half-tribe came from his brother Ephraim), John the Revelator lists his tribe as one of the twelve of Israel (spelled Μανασσης Manasses; Revelation 7:6).
- Another famous Manasseh is the proverbially evil son and successor of king Hezekiah (2 Kings 21:1). Since he is an ancestor of Christ in the genealogy of Matthew through king David's son Solomon, this Manasses is mentioned too in the New Testament (Matthew 1:10).
- A son of Pahath-moab, who had married and was to divorce his foreign wife in the purge of Ezra the Reformer (Ezra 10:30).
- A son of Hashum, who also married and divorced his foreign wife (Ezra 10:33).
- The grandfather of a man named Jonathan, who became the patriarch of a family of idolatrous priests who served the Danites of Laish (Judges 18:30).
🔼Etymology of the name Manasseh
The name Manasseh is generally seen as derived from the verb נשה (nasha), to forget but forgetting due to "evaporation" of a memory the way water evaporates due to solar heat, or the way a principle evaporates due to interest:
Verb נשא (nasa') describes an upward motion, generally of something that is being pulled up and out so as to remove it. This verb occurs very often and can usually be translated with (1) to lift or lift up, (2) to bear or carry, and (3) to take or take away. An identical verb (or rather the same one used in a specialized way) means to loan on interest. The practice of loaning on interest causes the principal sum to slowly but surely evaporate and was prohibited under Mosaic law. A third identical verb (or again the same one) means to deceive or beguile.
Noun משאת (mas'et) reflects all nuances of the parent verb: uprising (of smoke), uplifting (of hands), utterance (of an oracle), a burden or that what's carried. Noun נשיא (nasi') describes a lifted-up one, i.e. (1) a captain or chief, or (2) a mist or vapor. Note this keenly observed connection between paying interest and being formally governed.
Noun משאה (massa'a), describes clouds. It's spelled the same as the noun משאה (mashsha'a), a loan. (It's also spelled the same as משאה, mesho'a, ruin or desolation, from the whole other verb שוא, shw'). Noun משא (mashsha) means a lending on interest. Noun משאון (mashsha'on) means guile. Plural noun משואות (mashshu'ot) means deceptions.
Noun משא (massa') means (1) a load or burden, or (2) utterance or oracle. Noun שיא (si') means loftiness or pride. Noun שאת (se'et) means dignity, swelling or outburst, a rising-up. This noun is spelled the same as שאת (she't), ruin or devastation, from the verb שאה (sha'a), to be noisy or ruinous.
The verb נשה (nasha) is a specialized form of the previous. It either means to lend on interest or to forget, or rather to have a memory slowly evaporate away. Noun נשיה (neshiya) means forgetfulness or oblivion. Noun נשי (neshi) means debt. Noun משה (mashshe) means loan, and is spelled identical to the following.
Verb משה (masha) means to draw or draw out, and appears to specifically describe a drawing out of waters: to extract from water.
The name Manasseh is probably due to a grammatical form in Hebrew that is comparable to the English present continuous. It fixes the letter מ (mem) to the root. That would give the name Manasseh the meaning of Forgetting. Another reason why a mem may occur in front of a root is when it comes from a particle that means "from". Hence the name Manasseh may also mean 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.
For a meaning of the name Manasseh, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Forgetting, Forgetfulness. NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Making To Forget.