Topical Studies

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Bible verses about Manasseh's Warrior Culture
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Before the children of Israel entered the Land of Promise, the folk of Gad, Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh appealed to Moses to let them settle in the grazing lands of Transjordan, east of the Jordan River. Moses acquiesced to their request on the condition that "all your armed men cross over the Jordan before the LORD until He has driven out His enemies from before Him" (Numbers 32:21). Later, Joshua reminds the people of these tribes of the bargain they had struck with Moses:

Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this [east] side of the Jordan. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them. . . . (Joshua 1:14)

This was precedent breaking! Numbers 2:3-9 shows that, in the long wilderness trek, Judah (with Issachar and Zebulun) led the march: "These shall break camp first" (verse 9; see also, Numbers 10:14). Joshua's change in the order of march must have appeared to him only good strategy. Manasseh must have proven itself a formidable fighting force in Joshua's experience.

Manasseh did not renege. Joshua 4:12-13 tells us that "about forty thousand" men of Reuben, Gad, and the eastern half-tribe of Manasseh "crossed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho." Considering the victories of the Israelites, Manasseh must have carried the big stick very well.

Nor was the other half-tribe of Manasseh, which finally settled to the west of the Jordan River, made up of wimps. As he was parceling out the land, Joshua describes Machir, a Manassite leader, as "a man of war" (Joshua 17:1). In verse 17, Joshua encourages a griping (western) Manasseh and Ephraim, telling them, "You are a great people and have great power. . . ." In verse 18, he continues:

. . . the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong.

Joshua was fully confident that Manasseh could defeat its enemies, even though the Canaanites, having entered the Iron Age, then deployed a military technology far superior to that of the Israelites.

Manasseh maintained a challenging military capability for many years. I Chronicles 5:18-22 describes a war in which the eastern half-tribe of Manasseh, along with Gad and Reuben, were victorious over various Gentile peoples. The Israelite troops were "valiant men, men able to bear shield and sword, to shoot with the bow, and skillful in war" (verse 18). Their leaders were "mighty men of valor, famous men" (verse 24).

The record of David's coronation in Hebron bears witness that Manasseh's warrior culture was alive and well about a thousand years before Christ. Of the 304,822 troops sent by the various tribes to this august occasion, 158,800, or 52.6% were from Ephraim and Manasseh (along with Gad and Reuben). I Chronicles 12:23-40 tells the story. Joseph appears to be a major contributor largely due to his warrior culture.

Charles Whitaker
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