Menahem

(Comforter)

2 Kings 15:16-22

“By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.”—Proverbs 11:11

Menahem, Josephus asserts, and not without reason, was general of the Israelitish forces. His coming up from Tirzah to slay Shallum, and afterwards starting “from Tirzah” (where the main army was posted, probably) 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 4:24). 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.” 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 mentions 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, but 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 upon 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 upon 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; 8:4-6; Mi 2:2; 6:10-12.

“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 Tiglath-pileser, 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 1:1).