Menahem (Hebrew מְנַחֵם, comforter) (r. 771-761BC by Ussher, or r. 752-742BC by Thiele) was the sixteenth king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Though his name means "comforter," he was anything but "comforting" to the Northern Kingdom in the ten years of his reign. His reign is most notable for the special capitation tax he levied on the wealthiest of his subjects in order to pay a handsome tribute to an Assyrian ruler.
Menahem's accession was bloody and brutal. He marched from Tirzah to Samaria and attacked and killed Shallum, who had himself seized the throne a month before. Menahem also attacked Tipshah, a town that had refused to support him, and brutally ripped out the unborn children from all the pregnant women in the town.
The Bible says that an Assyrian ruler named Pul moved his army to the border of the Northern Kingdom, with a view to invasion. Menahem hastily raised a handsome sum of 1,000 silver talents by taxing every wealthy man in the kingdom a flat tax (called a capitation tax or head tax) of fifty silver shekels. Pul took this tribute and marched away.
Thiele and other Assyriologists identified this Pul as Tiglath-Pileser III, mainly because Tiglath-Peleser III says that he received a tribute from a king of Israel. This, according to the Thiele system, would have occurred in the seventh or eighth year of Menahem's reign.
In fact, Tiglath-Pileser did receive a tribute from an ancient Israelite king--but it was Ahaz of the Southern Kingdom. Both the Chronicler and the author of Kings attest to this. The author of Kings also states that Tiglath-Pileser did invade the Northern Kingdom in ernest--during the twenty-year reign of King Pekah.
If Tiglath-Pileser actually said that he also received a tribute from Menahem, then he might have been misattributing to himself the deeds of an earlier monarch, an act having ample precedent among the rulers of Assyria. On the other hand, Thiele also asserts that Pekah actually held sway in another part of the kingdom in Menahem's day, and therein lies Thiele's basis for identifying Pul as Tiglath-Pileser.
Ussher identifies Menahem's Pul as the king occupying a position in the king list two kings earlier than Tiglath-Pileser. This would be Ashur-Dan III (r. 809-767 BC according to Ussher), also known as "Anabaxares." Ussher also says that this was the same king who received the prophet Jonah and led his kingdom to repentance to avoid the impending destruction of their capital, Nineveh.
Ussher also says that Menahem paid this tribute in the first year of his reign, and did not consider himself established until after that time.
Death and Succession
Both Ussher and Thiele state that Menahem began his reign in the thirty-ninth year of the reign of Uzziah. But in addition to each man having an entirely different reckoning of Uzziah's reign, they also have a different reckoning of the territorial extent of Menahem's reign. Ussher states that Menahem reigned in Samaria over all Israel--but Thiele insists that Menahem did not have complete control over all the kingdom. Instead, according to Thiele, the renegade general Pekah held sway in Gilead beginning at the same time that Menahem killed Shallum. Pekah would not rule in Samaria until much later. Thiele's primary reason for so assuming is to time the Fall of Samaria at 722-1 BC, while also timing the Jehu Revolution at 841 BC. (See here for a detailed discussion of the primary issue.)
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pghh. 570, 573-6, 581
- Leon J. Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, rev. ed. David O'Brien, Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986 (ISBN 031034770X), pp. 278-280
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Menahem." WebBible Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
- Authors unknown. "Entry for Menahem." Holy Spirit Interactive. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
- II_Kings 15:14,16-17
- II_Kings 15:19-20
- Caldecott, W. Shaw. "Ahaz." International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. Edited by James Orr. Blue Letter Bible. 1913. 5 May 2003. Retrieved 4 June 2007.
- II_Chronicles 28:20-21
- II_Kings 16:7-8
- II_Kings 16:9
- Larry Pierce, Evidentialism–the Bible and Assyrian chronology TJ 15(1):62–68 April 2001
- Wood, op. cit., pp. 280-281.
- Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 574.
- Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 573, 575.
- II_Kings 15:22