Menahem

2 Kings 15:16‑22  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 10
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By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. Prov. 11:1111By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. (Proverbs 11:11)
Josephus asserted that Menahem was general of the Israelite forces. His coming up from Tirzah to slay Shallum, and afterward starting from Tirzah (where the main army was posted) on his expedition of slaughter against Tiphsah, implies as much. “Then Menahem smote Tiphsah, and all that were therein, and the coasts thereof from Tirzah: because they opened not to him, therefore he smote it; and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up.” Tiphsah was originally one of Solomon’s northeastern border cities, on the Euphrates (1 Kings 4:2424For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him. (1 Kings 4:24)). It was doubtless recovered to Israel under Jeroboam II, and was probably in revolt when so cruelly attacked by the war-king Menahem. “Situated on the western bank of the Euphrates, on the great trade road from Egypt, Syria, and Phenicia to Mesopotamia, it was important for Menahem to rescue it” (Fausset). He, in all likelihood, expected by his brutal treatment of the Tiphsahites to strike terror to all who were likely to oppose his tenure of the crown.
In the nine and thirtieth year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel, and reigned ten years in Samaria. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land (2 Kings 15:17-2017In the nine and thirtieth year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel, and reigned ten years in Samaria. 18And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. 19And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. 20And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land. (2 Kings 15:17‑20)).
This is the first mention of the dreaded “Assyrian” in Scripture. Assyriologists are not perfectly agreed as to just who this Pul of Scripture was. The name (that form of it, at least) is not found on any of the Assyrian monuments. A Phulukh is mentioned in the Nimrud inscription, with whom some would identify him. Berosus mentioned a Chaldean king named Pul, who reigned at just this time, and where the wise cannot among themselves agree we must not venture even to put forth an opinion. Instead we pass on to that concerning which there can be no doubt—his invasion of the land, and the enormous price paid by Menahem for peace. Some suppose that Pul regarded Menahem’s reduction of Tiphsah as an attack on his territory; hence his march against his kingdom. But it is more probable that it was a mere plundering incursion, as most of these ancient military expeditions were, especially those of Assyria. The burden of the levy fell on the rich, which needs not excite much sympathy when we learn from the prophets Amos and Micah how their riches were obtained (see Amos 4:1; 5:11-12; 8:4-61Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink. (Amos 4:1)
11Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. 12For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. (Amos 5:11‑12)
4Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, 5Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? 6That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat? (Amos 8:4‑6)
; Mic. 2:2; 6:10-122And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. (Micah 2:2)
10Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? 11Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights? 12For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. (Micah 6:10‑12)
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“And the rest of the acts of Menahem, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? And Menahem slept with his fathers; and Pekahiah his son reigned in his stead.” Though he probably reigned as a military dictator merely, he evidently died in peace, as the expression “slept with his fathers” implies. The expression “his fathers” implies too that he was an Israelite, though his name Menahem does not sound like Hebrew. It is found nowhere else in Scripture, nor is that of his father (Gadi, “fortunate”)-a peculiar and somewhat remarkable, if not significant, circumstance. A competent and spiritually-minded Semitic philologist would, we believe, find an ample and productive field for original research here, as well as in many other portions of Old Testament Scripture, especially the opening chapters of 1 Chronicles.
Menahem’s name appears on the monuments of Tiglathpileser, though it is thought by some, for various reasons, that the Assyrian chroniclers confused the name of Menahem with that of Pekah—his son’s slayer. But this, like everything of merely human origin, is uncertain. Only in divinely inspired Scripture have we absolute exactitude and certainty; for He who was the Truth declared, “the Scripture cannot be broken.” Hence they “are most surely believed among us” (Luke 1:11Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, (Luke 1:1)).