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The Untold Story of the Kingdom of Judah

(E6) The Untold Story of King Manasseh

Prof. Oded Lipschits

This chapter deals with the most untold story about one of the kings of Judah. King Manasseh reigned longer than any of the other kings of Judah, he was the son of Hezekiah and the grandfather of Josiah, and during his long reign Judah recovered from the severe blow inflicted on it by Sennacherib’s campaign. Judah was integrated into the Assyrian Empire which was at the height of its power and strength, and the archaeological evidence from this time testifies to the prosperity that the region experienced during this period. The economy and the administration continued to develop, and Manasseh is also remembered in Assyrian documents as a king who maintained his loyalty to Assyria and fulfilled his duties as a vassal. And yet, nothing was written in the Book of Kings about Manasseh, except for a very broad description of the cultic sins that existed in his day.
This is the most extreme example of the untold story about a king who completely disappeared from the biblical historiography and all his deeds were forgotten, and this in a period very close to the days of his reign, when many details about the king and the kingdom of Judah in his time were known to the authors and their readership even without the need for any written sources. Still, the story about the days of Manasseh is not told, and Manasseh became a king in the biblical historiography, and all that is told about him are the cultic sins he committed and which took place in his time.
In this chapter of the podcast we will clarify why the biblical historiographer singled out Manasseh as playing the one definite role of the one who caused the sins that Josiah corrected, and in doing so he created a one-dimensional figure that matched his assessment of the king who was enslaved to Assyria all his life and also committed serious cultic sins.
In this respect, the untold story of Manasseh is the most extreme example of an omission left purposefully out by the biblical historiographers, who acted according to their cultic ideology and according to the literary interests of the story they wrote.

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