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Menahem was the King of Israel. Menahem’s reign was characterized by brutality and cowardice.He continually did evil in the sight of the Lord and caused Israel to sin against the Lord.
After a period of upheaval that saw back-to-back assassinations, Menahem restored a degree of stability to the northern kingdom of Israel —but the price was astronomical.
Only months before Menahem’s rise to power, a man named Zechariah had taken the throne. His murder ended a dynasty that had lasted four kings—an impressive period of stability for such a volatile nation. Zechariah’s murderer was a man named Shallum, who seized Samaria’s throne for himself.
But it was not to last. Menahem—who probably commanded a military force based in nearby Tirzah—had been loyal to Zechariah. Barely one month into Shallum’s reign, Menahem marched on Samaria and killed the usurper.
It has been said that power corrupts people. Such was the case in Menahem’s story. His path to the throne clear, the avenger became the usurper. Menahem placed himself in command—the fourth king to sit on Israel’s throne in less than a year.
When one of the cities of Samaria refused to acknowledge his legitimacy, Menahem not only sacked the city, but the writer of Kings reports that he ripped open all the pregnant women
Then Menahem smote Tiphsah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on; he attacked it because they did not open to him. And all the women there who were with child he ripped up (2 Kings 15:16).
Such brutality was designed to send a message to the next generation of would-be insurgents.
Eventually, however, every aggressor found himself confronted by a larger, more powerful aggressor. Menahem met his match in Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria—known in the Bible as Pul. The Assyrians invaded and demanded that Menahem pay tribute, acknowledging Tiglath-Pileser as his overlord. Menahem obliged, raising the necessary funds—a breathtaking one thousand talents of silver—from Israel’s wealthy class. Menahem’s ability to collect such an amount suggests that the northern kingdom enjoyed great prosperity at the time.
Menahem, who reigned for ten years, is mentioned outside the Bible. The records of Tiglath-Pileser confirm the accuracy of the Bible’s account, noting that Menahem was one of several regional rulers who paid tribute to Assyria.