The Seal of Manasseh (2 Kings 21)

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Manasseh became king when he was 12 years old and ruled for 55 years (2 Kings 21:1, ca 697-642 B.C.), during which time Judah was subject to Assyria. His reign, the longest of any king og Judah or Israel, was marred by idolatry, child sacrifice and witchcraft. The Chronicler revealed that God punished Manasseh by allowing the Assyrians to imprison him in Babylon. When he repented, Manasseh was released and permitted to return to Jerusalem, after which he initiated a building program and religious reforms (see 2 Chronicles 33:11-17).

Manasseh’s name has been found in three contemporary documents: a seal and two Assyrian inscriptions. The seal, purchased from an antiquities dealer in Jerusalem in 1974, reads “Belonging to Manasseh Son of the King”. Manasseh was probably coregent with his father Hezekiah for about ten years, and this was most likely the seal he used during that time.

Because of his unusually long tenure as king, Manasseh was on the throne during the reign of two of the strongest kings of Assyria, Esarhaddon (680-669 B.C.) and Ashurbanipal (668-627 B.C.). No record has been found of Manasseh’s imprisonment, but both kings mention him in their records. Manasseh was among 22 kings who “under terrible difficulties” were obliged to transport building materials to Nineveh for Esarhaddon’s palace. His name also appears in a list of kings conscripted by Ashurbanipal in 667 B.C to help repress an Egyptian revolt.

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Illustration: Manasseh, the imprisoned king


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