Sistine Chapel - Ezekias, Manasses, Amon
Three generations in the line of Jesus' ancestors are represented in a single tempera of Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling: Hezekiah, Manasseh and Amon.
Two men who bore the name Manasseh figured prominently in Old Testament history. The first was one of the two sons of Joseph born before the Israelites were delivered from Egypt. He and his brother Ephraim were said to be children of an Egyptian woman, and were given half-shares when the land was distributed among the tribes in the land on Canaan.
British Museum Manasseh Copy after Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling
Later a boy only twelve years old, became king of Israel. His reign was long, corrupt and bloody. He departed from the religion of the Israelites and worshiped the gods of the enemies of Israel. This Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah and the father of Amon.
Athough Hezekiah had followed Yahweh's command to destroy the altars to Baal, his son and grandson rebuilt them and worshiped and served Baal instead the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This is the irony of the ancestry of Jesus: it includes both the most admirable and the most despicable characters. We cannot eradicate individuals from the genetic material we receive from our ancestors. Nor can we eliminate the mistakes we make as we travel our journeys through life. But we can learn to recognize error when we see it distorting our ability to engage in creative relationships and activities. It is the repetition of the same errors which stymies development .
In Milton, Blake had his hero recognize his error and set about rebuilding his psyche in accordance with the vision which was given to him.
Kay Parkhurst Easson and Roger Easson, in their book Milton, describe the dramatic reconstruction of the personality required to get past the erroneous thinking which inhibits growth:
"Like Milton in Blake's poem, the loving reader of Blake journeys into recognition of his selfhood, that error of perception which limits imagination and spiritual growth. Reading Milton is like a journey of unlearning. Blake describes his task in Milton as displaying 'Nature's cruel holiness, the deceits of Natural Religion.' In other words, one of the basic tasks of Blake's poem is to expose the false reality of the so called 'natural world' and its assertion that it is the only reality. This 'false reality' is the result of the selfhood of each reader; it is the world we naturally perceive as 'without,' the world we externalize and desire to control and which in turn controls us. Consequently, Blake's vision of the world is so dissonant with our usual understanding that we must 'unlearn'; we must give up our preconceptions about the world and about ourselves with that world." (Page 138)
Milton, Plate 14 , (E 108) "Then Milton rose up from the heavens of Albion ardorous! The whole Assembly wept prophetic, seeing in Miltons face And in his lineaments divine the shades of Death & Ulro He took off the robe of the promise, & ungirded himself from the oath of God And Milton said, I go to Eternal Death! The Nations still Follow after the detestable Gods of Priam; in pomp Of warlike selfhood, contradicting and blaspheming. When will the Resurrection come; to deliver the sleeping body From corruptibility: O when Lord Jesus wilt thou come? Tarry no longer; for my soul lies at the gates of death. I will arise and look forth for the morning of the grave. I will go down to the sepulcher to see if morning breaks! I will go down to self annihilation and eternal death, Lest the Last Judgment come & find me unannihilate And I be siez'd & giv'n into the hands of my own Selfhood The Lamb of God is seen thro' mists & shadows, hov'ring Over the sepulchers in clouds of Jehovah & winds of Elohim A disk of blood, distant; & heav'ns & earth's roll dark between What do I here before the Judgment? without my Emanation? With the daughters of memory, & not with the daughters of inspiration[?] I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One! He is my Spectre! in my obedience to loose him from my Hells To claim the Hells, my Furnaces, I go to Eternal Death. And Milton said. I go to Eternal Death! Eternity shudder'd For he took the outside course, among the graves of the dead A mournful shade. Eternity shudderd at the image of eternal death Then on the verge of Beulah he beheld his own Shadow; A mournful form double; hermaphroditic: male & female In one wonderful body. and he enterd into it In direful pain for the dread shadow, twenty-seven-fold Reachd to the depths of direst Hell, & thence to Albions land: Which is this earth of vegetation on which now I write,"Matthew 1
 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias;
 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias;
 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon
 And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
 And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.
 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near unto him.
 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.
 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head.
 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.
Second Kings 21
 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hephzi-bah.
 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
 For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
 And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name.
 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.
 And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
 And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:
 Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.
 But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel.
 And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying,
 Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:
 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.
 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.
 And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies;
 Because they have done that which was evil in my sight,and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.
 Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.
 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and all that he did, and his sin that he sinned, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
 And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.
 Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah.
 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his father Manasseh did.
 And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them:
 And he forsook the LORD God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the LORD.
 And the servants of Amon conspired against him, and slew the king in his own house.
 And the people of the land slew all them that had conspired against king Amon; and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead.
 Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
 And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza: and Josiah his son reigned in his stead.