Menaham begins his reign with the assassination of Shallum. So far, he is the bloodiest king when it comes to the common people.
I know God classified Ahab as the most wicked of all kings but I thing Menaham MUST have ranked second. We don’t see him worshiping Baal or the Asherath but his beginnings are atrocious! We saw in our reading last time where he sacked Tiphsah and “ripped open all the women in it who were pregnant” (verse 16b). Why did he do this? Because they wouldn’t let him in. I have a feeling “open it to him” was more than just a door or a city gate. I think he was looking for a position as leader in this area instead of just being welcome among them.
After Menaham finished with the territory of Tiphsah, he set his sights higher. He didn’t want to just rule a territory, he wanted rule of ALL Israel. And that could only be accomplished by deposing the latest king; Shallum had to die.
Even after taking the throne by force Menaham still isn’t secure in his position. He was confronted by the king of Assyria. I’m not certain how to interpret this section of our text. I’m going to lay out the possibilities.
Scenario 1: Menaham, after a push into the city with his troops he sets himself on the throne. Within minutes he knew there would be pushback from the people. He had committed atrocities in Samaria just as he had done in Tiphsah. Death lay at his feet and he stood atop the bodies of women and children. He had nothing worse he could do in order to subdue the people. He needed a greater threat than himself. That threat was the king of Assyria.
Before entering Samaria Menaham had made an agreement with Pul the king of Assyria. The king would threaten to invade Samaria. Menaham would rally his people by promising to keep them safe. He would pay a ransom to the invading king to protect his new subjects. What Pul didn’t know though was that Menaham was going to extort this money from the people he was supposedly protecting.
Menaham knew better than to approach the poor for his ‘ransom’ as they had nothing more to lose. But the rich had businesses to protect. “Pay me and I will make sure your business is safe.” Once Menaham had gathered the money from the rich he passed at least a large portion of it to the king of Assyria to ‘make him withdraw’ and leave the people in peace. Both kings went away happy. Pul, king of Assyria got spoils without the cost of battle and Menaham ‘earned’ the respect of the people because he stood up for them.
Scenario 2: Menaham takes the throne in Samaria. The people see the carnage he brought with him to Tiphsan but he left it behind. It has only been a month since Shallum took the throne and six months before that Zechariah claimed it. They haven’t had time to grow an allegiance to any of their recent kings. Internal political squabbles don’t interest them.
Shortly after Menaham took the throne Pul, the king of Assyria, threatens an attack. Menaham knows the greed of the kings around him and decides to appeal to him on that level. But Menaham’s pockets are running low due to the costs associated with gaining his present position. He needs the people’s help. He knows the poor have nothing to contribute but the wealthy do.
Rather than inflicting a heavy tax to raise the money for a ransom he calls for a ‘donation’ from each wealthy person. It isn’t a huge amount but, taken together, it should be sufficient to turn the king of Assyria away.
Menaham gathers the money and delivers it to Pul. The people of Samaria are safe once again.
I would like to believe scenario 2 was what happened but I have a feeling that scenario 1 is closer to the reality of Israel in those days. A man that evil doesn’t turn to kindness so quickly, or at least I don’t see him doing that. I wonder what other ‘great ideas’ he had in store for the people of Israel. He certainly didn’t lead them back to worshiping God. We are told that part of his character. I shudder to think of life under his leadership.
Father God, thank You that I live where I do and when I do. I can’t imagine living under. There are plenty of things in my time now that need Your touch but I’m not in fear for my life from my leaders. Others are in this day and age though. Please move on behalf of those of Your children who are in danger from their leaders. I know it has to get worse before Jesus returns. Hold us securely in Your hands until that day, no matter what our leaders do. Thank You that I can trust You in that task; with my life!