THE CAPTIVITY OF KING MANASSEH
Its significance for chronology
When Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon died in 559bc, (according to Adam Rutherford's version of Ptolemy's Canon), he was succeeded by his son. Evil Merodach. It is recorded that he, "in the first year of his reign lifted up the head of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, and brought him forth out of prison", Jer.52:31. Though he sustained recognition as a king of Judah he was still a captive in Babylon, as he had been for thirty-seven years. Prior to this it is stated that "he reigned in Jerusalem for three months". But while this king of Judah was a captive in Babylon he was not reigning in Jerusalem - an obvious comment but it needs to be stressed.
In contrast with the brief reign of Jehoiachin is that of Manasseh, the longest reigning yet the most wicked of all Judah's monarchs. It is written of him that, "he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem", 2Chron.33.1. He, too, was a onetime captive in Babylon for an unstated time period. But while this king of Judah was a captive in Babylon he was not reigning in Jerusalem.
It is remarkable that no known chronologist takes into account this clear hiatus in Manasseh's fifty-five year reign. Though unrecorded, the duration of this captivity can be determined from the evidence for Jubilees occurring both before and after the 55 years of his reigning.
The 37th year of Jehoiachin's captivity when he was freed from his bonds was, as noted above, [559bc]; which in terms of the rectified chronology used in this study needs to be reduced by 108 years to 451bc. It follows that his fifth year, as also that of Zedekiah, was in 483bc; this year also being the 30th in a 49-year sabbatic series, see Ezek.1:1.. Now allowing for Zedekiah's five years and the previous eleven of Jehoiakim, it will be found that Josiah's last and his 31st year was 499bc. Deducting the remaining 14 of the 30 years indicates that the preceding Jubilee began in 513bc, Josiah's 17th year (the passover in his 18th year being during that same Jubilee). This now provides the date of one post-Manasseh Jubilee for the purpose of calculation.
Isaiah's declaration in 2Kings.l9:29. to Hezekiah in his 14th year is recounted by Josephus in brief in Ant.X/I/3, where Whiston in an editorial note points out the evidence of a Jubilee. Now the 14th year of Solomon was one in which the 10th Jubilee began, since his 4th year was the 480th after Israel reached the promised land, see 1Kings.6.1..
The chronologies of both Van Lennep and of Ivan Panin independently show the period from Solomon to Hezekiah as 294 years, or six jubilees. This confirms that Hezekiah's 14th year was indeed a Shemittah in which the 16th Jubilee began in Tishri, so providing our pre-Manasseh datum.
Now Van Lennep and Panin again concur in showing that the period between Hezekiah's 14th year and Josiah's 17th year as 89 years. But neither of them realised that these were jubilee years, and that their difference would be divisible by 49. Thus the actual period was 98 years, so indicating that Manasseh's captivity lasted nine years. Julian years can now be assigned to Hezekiah's 14th year as 611bc; to Solomon's 14th as 905bc and to his final 40th year as 879bc.
Thus the first year of both Rehoboam and Jeroboam was BC 878, the year that Jeroboam set up his idolatrous altar in Bethel which the unnamed "man of God" cursed, and also prophesied that one, Josiah, would sacrifice its priests upon it, 1Kings.13:1-3.. Josephus, in Ant.X/4/4, tells us that his name was Jadon, and that his prophecy was fulfilled 361 years later. How could he be so sure, and is this figure correct ?
Now 361 years on from 878bc locates the year 517bc; and as Josiah's 17th year was 513bc, this was four years before and in his 13th year. This is exactly so; for "in the 12th year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem" and eventually went "throughout all the land of Israel", as stated in 2Chron.34:3-7.. Thus it is that Manasseh's nine-year Babylonian captivity is proved by two sources.
In common with others Van Lennep ignores these nine years; however, he does relate the inter-regnum to the fulfilment of Isaiah 22:15-25. It seems that Hezekiah's onetime scribe, Shebna. see 2Kings.l9:2., during Manasseh's time had usurped the office of chamberlain from Eliakim, son of Hilkiah. The death of Shebna in a foreign land is foretold by Isaiah as well as the restoration of Eliakim to an even greater position as "father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah" during the parenthetical administration about to be caused by Manasseh's predicted absence.
The only account of the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy is that given in 2Chron.33:10-11. which is very brief and makes no mention of Shebna, which does not mean that he too was not involved.
There are grounds for identifying the occasion with Esarhaddon's return victorious from Egypt with its monarch, the Ethiopian Tirhakah in bonds. It was doubtless then that Manasseh and Shebna were pressganged to join the captives as the military expedition returned to Babylon.
The "Bible Students Encyclopaedia" has an illustration of the Monolith of Esarhaddon. This depicts an oversized Esarhaddon holding by cords attached to their noses two smaller figures, who no doubt are Manasseh and Tirhakah, Shebna being then dead.
The linking campaign of Esarhaddon was in his 10th year for which the date was 563bc, this being Manasseh's 33rd year of reigning at Jerusalem. He was obviously released later by the son of Esarhaddon, called Ashurbanipal, in his 6th year, which was 554bc; so Manasseh was allowed to return to reign at Jerusalem. In 553bc he resumed his reigning, his 34th year, the year when also Amon was born, and he then continued until his 55th year in 532bc.
Just why the Prayer of Manasses in the Apocrypha is regarded as spurious is difficult to grasp; since it reads like the expression of a genuine penitent. In chapter 33 of 2Chron., it is stated that his prayer was recorded in two places.
The rectified chronology from which the dates are quoted takes the Royal Canon of Ptolemy to be correct from Darius Codommanus in 335bc onwards. It does not accept as valid the Canon's dates preceding because they have been inflated by 108 years in the Medo-Persian period. Moreover, it regards the 62 Weeks of Daniel as running from the 6th year of Darius Hystaspis in 407-408bc, the 70 Weeks starting at the end of the 62. The view of Conder and of Van Lennep, that the 480th year of 1Kings.6:1 refers to the arrival not to the exodus, is accepted. Years shown in brackets do not conform to this rectified chronology.
M. S. Lloyd Glasgow. May 1995
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