Menahem

MENAHEM (mĕn'a-hēm, Heb. menahēm, comforted). Son of Gadi and king of Israel (2Kgs.15.13-2Kgs.15.22). His reign of ten years began by his killing his predecessor Shallum. “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Through gifts collected from his subjects, he bribed the Assyrian king Pul (Tiglath-Pileser III) and was thereby able to retain his throne. In this restless period of the northern kingdom, with sinful men usurping the throne time and again, Menahem was the only king who died a natural death. His son Pekahiah inherited the kingdom.


MENAHEM mĕn’ ə hĕm (֠מְנַחֵם, LXX Μαναημ, comforting, perhaps for the death of an earlier child); name found in various epigraphical sources, see Noth, Israelitische Personennamen, p. 222; Sennacherib mentions a Menahem of Samsimuruna in Pal. (Taylor Prism, ANET 287); one of the last kings of Israel (2 Kings 15:16-23).

Career.

Menahem is called “son of Gad”; this might mean simply “a Gadite,” but the use of a patronymic generally denotes some status. We know nothing else of his antecedents. He was at Tirzah when Shallum assassinated Zechariah, the last of Jehu’s dynasty; a month later, he in turn killed Shallum and assumed the kingship. Unger suggests that he was an army commander who, like Omri, avenged his master. The Book of Kings records: (1) Shallum’s death, and the scandal of Menahem’s sack of “Tiphsaht”; (2) the formal notice (vv. 17, 18) of Menahem’s reign; (3) the heavy tribute to Tiglath-pileser III; (4) the formal notice of Menahem’s death in the fiftieth year of Uzziah.

Chronology

Biblical data.

The synchronisms in 2 Kings 15:17, 23 date Menahem’s reign from the thirty-ninth to the fiftieth year of Uzziah, ten years plus his accession year (this shows that Israel used the accession year system by this time, also that the regnal years in Israel and Judah did not coincide; otherwise the tenth of Menahem would have covered Uzziah’s forty-ninth).

Assyrian synchronism.

Tiglath-pileser became king of Assyria in 745 b.c. and king of Babylon, under the name Pulu, in 727, the year before his death; this is proved by a correlation of the Babylonian Chronicle with a Babylonian king list. Correctly interpreted, 1 Chronicles 5:26 reflects this identification, the verb “carried” being sing. and the waw epexegetical, not copulative (so RSV). A passage in the Annals of Tiglath-pileser records tribute paid by “Menihimmu of Samarina”; this event generally had been dated 738 b.c., as the next section of the Annals covers the events of his ninth year. Albright accordingly takes 738 as the earliest date for Menahem’s death, but Thiele has shown that the relevant passage could well refer to Tiglath-pileser’s third (743) or to any intermediate year; cf. Poebel, JNES 2, 89, n. 23.

Absolute dating.

Consistently with the above, Thiele (pp. 87ff.) derives the dates 752/1-742/1 (for the basic problems see Uzziah). Albright follows a different method, avoiding Thiele’s extended co-regency of Amaziah and Uzziah; Uzziah is dated 783-742, and Menahem 745-738. This involves rejecting a synchronism in 2 Kings 15:1, but elsewhere rejecting the lengths of reign and working by the synchronisms. Some older systems put Menahem’s reign earlier to make room for the years given for the remaining kings (15:23, 27; 17:1); but it is now clear that the Assyrian cross reference is incontrovertible, and another explanation must be found. (See Pekah.)

Tiphsah.

A very abrupt statement (2 Kings 15:16) records that, after ousting Shallum, Menahem sacked “Tiphsah” (Tappuah) and ravaged the district with a brutality unprecedented among Israelites, though it had been practiced by Syrians (2 Kings 8:12) and Ammonites (Amos 1:13). The name is that of a town on the upper Euphrates (Gr. Thapsacus), but this cannot be meant. Lucian appears to have been the first to emend to “Tappuah” (the corruption implied, from waw to sameḵ, would be plausible for Early Heb.). Montgomery (ICC, p. 450) objects that “such a barbarous raid is incomprehensible between neighbouring cities”; the distance was some fifteen m., with Shechem between. The MT mittirşah appears to insist on their proximity, though it might mean rather that Menahem was not yet in control of Samaria. In the last years of Israel, “no man spares his brother” (Isa 9:18-21).

Relations with Assyria.

If Menahem became king in 752/1, there was a recession of Assyrian power during his early years, and he paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser toward the end of his reign; or if Albright’s chronology is followed, a principal argument for it would be the interpretation of the Assyrian record as referring to Menahem’s last year, 738 b.c. A figure of 1,000 talents is mentioned in Kings, representing fifty shekels a head (2 Kings 15:20) of 60,000 people, the “men of power,” i.e. of substance. This was the price of a slave in Assyria; it makes an interesting comparison with the thirty shekels of Zechariah 11:12. The statement is valuable evidence as to the population of Israel, and incidentally concerning the keeping of fairly accurate records at court. A similar tribute was extracted by Tiglath-pileser again when he overthrew Pekah (ANET 284), and by Sennacherib from Hezekiah (ANET 288); Adadnirari took 2,300 talents from Damascus in 806 b.c. with twenty talents of gold (ANET 281f.); but this was not, apparently, exacted from the people.

The question arises whether this tribute was altogether imposed; Kings implies that Menahem was bargaining for special protection “to confirm his hold of the royal power.” This has led some authorities to date the event to Menahem’s early years; but, apart from the chronological problems of such a view, taxation at the end of the reign would help explain Pekah’s revolt and successful instigation of an anti-Assyrian policy. Menahem may have been facing internal disaffection, or he may have sought, in view of the resurgence of Assyria, to secure himself by vassalage rather than take his chance with the states of Aram and Phoenicia. Hosea (5:13; 8:9) may refer to this policy, which could be regarded as dating from Jehu’s time.

Bibliography

K. Galling, Biblische Reallexikon (1937), s.v. Gewicht; F-M Abel, Géographie II (1938), 485f.; W. F. Albright, BASOR 100 (1945), 16-22; J. Montgomery, Kings, ICC (1951); J. B. Pritchard, ANET2 (1955), 272, 283f.; M. Unger, Israel and the Aramaeans (1957), 97ff.; D. W. Thomas (ed.), Documents of OT Times (1958), 53-57; W. Hallo, BA 23 (1960), 47f.; H. Tadmor, Studies in the Bible (1961), 248-266; IEJ 12 (1962), 114ff.; C. Schedl, VetTest 12 (1962), 101ff.; V. Pavlovsky, E. Vogt, Biblica 45 (1964), 333ff.; J. Gray, Kings (1964), 60, 562-565; E. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers2 (1965), 87-117.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(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.)

See Chronology of the Old Testament.

6. Character:

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