men'-a-hem (menachem, "one who comforts"; Manaem; 2Ki 15:14-22):
1. Accession and Reign:
Son of Gadi and 16th king of Israel. He reigned 10 years. Menahem was probably the officer in charge of the royal troops in Tirzah, one of the king's residences, at the time of the murder of Zechariah by Shallum. Hearing of the deed, he brought up his troops and avenged the death of his master by putting Shallum to death in Samaria. He then seized the vacant throne. His first full year may have been 758 BC (others, as seen below, put later).
2. Early Acts:
The country at this time, as depicted by Hosea and Amos, was in a deplorable condition of anarchy and lawlessness. Menahem, with a strong hand, enforced his occupation of the throne. One town only seems to have refused to acknowledge him. This was Tiphsah, a place 6 miles Southwest of Shechem, now the ruined village of Khurbet Tafsah. As Menahem is said to have attacked this enclosed city from Tirzah, lying to its North, it is probable that he took it on the way to Samaria, before proceeding to do battle with Shallum. If this was so, it is some explanation of the cruelty with which he treated its inhabitants (2Ki 15:16). One such instance of severity was enough. The whole kingdom was at his feet. He proved to be a strong and determined ruler, and during the 9 or 10 years of his governorship had no further internecine trouble to contend with.
3. Menahem and Assyria:
But there was another source of disquiet. Assyria, under Pul, had resumed her advance to the West and threatened the kingdoms of Palestine. Menahem resolved on a policy of diplomacy, and, rather than risk a war with the conqueror of the East, agreed to the payment of a heavy tribute of 1,000 talents of silver. To raise this sum he had to assess his wealthier subjects to the extent of 50 shekels each. As there are 3,000 shekels in a talent of silver, it is obvious that some 60,000 persons, "mighty men of wealth," must have been laid under contribution in this levy--an indication at once of the enormity of the tribute, and of the prosperity of the country at the time. However short-sighted the policy, its immediate purpose was attained, which was that the hand of the Assyrian king "might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand" (2Ki 15:19).
4. A Conflict of Dates:
A difficulty attaches to the dates of this period. The Pul of 2Ki 15:19 and 1Ch 5:26 is now identified with Tiglath-pileser III, who took this title on ascending the throne of Assyria in 745 BC. In an inscription of Tiglath-pileser, Menahem appears as Minehimmu Samarina (Menahem the Samarian), together with Racunnu (Rezin) of Damascus and Hirumu (Hiram) of Tyre. The date given to this inscription is 738 BC, whereas the last year we can give to Menahem is 749, or 10 years earlier.
5. Proposed Solutions:
The chronological difficulty which thus arises may be met in one of two ways. Either the inscription, like that on the black obelisk of Kurkh (see JEHU), was written some years after the events to which it refers and contains records of operations in which Tiglath-pileser took part before he became king; or Pekah--who was on the throne of Israel in 738 (?)--is spoken of under the dynastic name Menahem, though he was not of his family. The former of these hypotheses is that which the present writer is inclined to adopt. (By others the dates of Menahem are lowered in conformity with the inscription.)
Menahem attempted no reformation in the national religion, but, like all his predecessors, adhered to the worship of the golden calves. On this account, like them, he incurs the heavy censure of the historian.
W. Shaw Caldecott