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Zerubbabel

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(Heb. Zerubbabel', זְרבָּבֶל , sown in Babylon; Sept. Ζοροβάβελ; Josephus, Ζοροβάβελος ), the phylarch or head of the tribe of Judah at the time of the return from the Babylonian captivity in the first year of Cyrus. B.C. 536. His exact parentage is a little obscure from his being always called the son of Shealtiel (Ezra 3:2; Ezra 3:8; Ezra 5, 2, etc.; Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:12; Haggai 1:14, etc.), and appearing as such in the genealogies ("Zorobabel," Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27),whereas in 1 Chronicles 3:19 he is represented as the son of Pedaiah, Shealtiel's or Salathiels brother, and .consequently as Salathiel's nephew. Probably the genealogy in 1 Chronicles exhibits his legal parentage, and he succeeded his uncle as head of the house of Judah a supposition which tallies with the facts that Salathiel appears as the first-born, and that no children are assigned to him. It is worth noting that Josephus speaks of Zorobabel as "the son of Salathiel of the posterity of David and of the tribe of Judah" (Ant. 11:3, 10). Had he believed him to be the son of Jeconiah, of whom he had spoken (10, 11, 2), he could hardly have failed to say so (comp. 10:7, 1). (See below.)

1. Canonical History. In the first year of Cyrus, Zerubbabel was living at Babylon, and was the recognized prince (נָשַׂרא ) of Judah in the Captivity, what in later times was called, רֵישׁ הִגְּלוּתָה or "the Prince of the Captivity." On the issuing of Cyrus's decree, he immediately availed himself of it, and placed himself at the head of those of his countrymen "whose spirit God had raised to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem." It is probable that he was in the king of Babylon's service, both from- his having, like Daniel and the three children, received a Ghaldee name (Sheshbazzar), and from' his receiving from Cyrus the office of governor (פֶּחָה ) of Judaea. The restoration of the sacred vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had brought from the Temple having been effected, and copious presents of silver and gold and, goods and beasts having been bestowed upon the captives, Zerubbabel went forth at the head of the returning colony, accompanied by Jeshua the high-priest, and perhaps by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and a considerable number of priests, Levites, and heads of houses of Judah and Benjamin, with their followers. On arriving at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel's first care was to build the altar on its old site, and to restore the daily sacrifice.

Perhaps, also, they kepit the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is said they did in Ezra 3:4. But his great work, which he set about immediately, was the rebuilding of the Temple. Being armed with a grant from Cyrus of timber and stone for the building, and of money for the expenses of the builders (Ezra 6:4), he had collected the materials, including cedar-trees brought from Lebanon to Joppa, according to the precedent in the time of Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:16), and got together masons and carpenters to do the work by the opening of, the second year of their return to Jerusalem. Accordingly, in the second month of: the second year of their return, the foundation of the Temple was laid with all the pomp which they could command: the priests in their vestments with trumpets, and the sons of Asaph with cymbals, singing the very same psalm of praise for God's unfailing. mercy to Israel which was sung when Solomon dedicated his Temple (2 Chronicles 5:11-14); while the people responded with a great shout of joy "because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid." How strange must have been the emotions of Zerubbabel at this moment! As he stood upon Mount Zion and beheld from its summit the desolations of Jerusalem, the site of the Temple blank, David's palace a heap of ashes, his father's sepulchers defiled and overlaid with rubbish, and the silence of desertion and emptiness hanging oppressively over the streets and waste places of what was once the joyous city; and then remembered how his great ancestor David had brought up the ark in triumph to the very spot where he was then standing, how-Solomon had reigned there in all his magnificence and power, and how the petty kings and potentates of the neighboring nations had been his vassals and tributaries how must his heart alternately have swelled with pride, and throbbed with anguish, and sunk in humiliation! In the midst of these mighty memories he was but the officer of a foreign heathen despot, the head of a feeble remnant of half-emancipated slaves, the captain of a band hardly able to hold up their heads in the presence of their hostile and jealous neighbors; and yet there he was, the son of David, the heir of great and mysterious promises, returned by a wonderful providence to the home of his ancestors. At his bidding the daily sacrifice had been restored after a cessation of half a century, and now the foundations of the Temple were actually laid, amid the songs of the Levites singing according to David's ordinance, and the shouts' of the tribe of Judah. It was a heart-stirring situation; and, despite all the discouragements attending it, we cannot doubt that Zerubbabel's faith and hope were kindled by it into fresh life.

But there were many hindrances and delays to be encountered before the work was finished. The Samaritans or Cutiheans put in a claim to join with the Jews in rebuilding the Temple; and when Zerubbabel and his companions refused to admit them into partnership, they tried to hinder them from building, and hired counselors to frustrate their purpose. They probably contrived, in the first instance, to intercept the supplies of timber and stone, and the wages of the workmen, which were paid out of the king's revenue, and then by misrepresentation to calumniate them at the court of Persia. Thus they were successful in putting a stop to the work during the seven remaining years of therein of Cyrus, and through the eight years of Cambyses and Smerdis. Nor does Zerubbabel appear quite blameless for this long delay. The difficulties in the way of building the Temple were not such as need have stopped the work; and during this long suspension of sixteen years, Zerubbabel and the rest of the people had been busy in building costly houses for themselves, and one might even suspect that the cedar-wood which had been brought for the Temple had been used to decorate private dwellings (comp. the use of, סָפִּן in Haggai 1:4, and 1 Kings 7:3; 1 Kings 7:7). They had, in fact, ceased to care for the, desolation of the Temple (Haggai 1:2-4), and had not noticed that God was rebuking their lukewarmness by withholding his blessing from their labors (Haggai 1:5-11). But in the second year of Darius light dawned upon the darkness of the colony from Babylon.. In that year-it was the: most memorable event in Zerubbabel's life-the spirit of prophecy suddenly blazed up with a most brilliant light among the returned captives; and the long silence which was ton ensue till the ministry of John the Baptist was preceded by the stirring utterances of-Haggai and Zechariah. Their words fell like sparks upon tinder. In a moment Zerubbabel, roused from his apathy, threw his whole strength into the work, zealously seconded by Jeshua and all the people. Undeterred by a fresh attempt of their enemies to hinder the progress of the building, they went on with the work even while a reference was made to Darius; and when, after the original decree of Cyrus had been found at Ecbatana, a most gracious and favorable decree was issued by- Darius, enjoining Tatnai and Shetharboznai to assist the Jews with whatsoever they had need of at the king's expense, the work advanced so rapidly that on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of Darius, the; Temple was finished, and was forthwith dedicated with much pomp and rejoicing. It is difficult to calculate how great was the effect of the prophecies of Haggai! and Zechariah in sustaining the courage and energy of Zerubbabel in carrying his work to completion. Addressed, as many of them were, directly to Zerubbabel by name; speaking, as they did, most glorious things of the Temple which lie was building; conveying to Zerubbabel himself extraordinary assurances of divine favor, and coupling with them magnificent and consolatory predictions of the future glory of Jerusalem and Judah and of the conversion of the Gentiles, they necessarily exercised an immense influence upon his mind (Haggai 1:13-14; Haggai 2:4-9; Haggai 2:21-23; Zechariah 4:6-10). It is not too much to say that these prophecies upon Zerubbabel were the immediate instrument by which the Church and commonwealth of Judah were preserved from destruction and received a life, which endured till the coming of Christ.

The only other works of Zerubbabel which we learn from the Scripture history are the restoration of the courses of priests and Levites, and of the provision for their maintenance, according to the institution of David (Ezra 6:18; Nehemiah 12:47); the registering of the returned captives according to their genealogies (7:5); and the keeping of a Passover in the seventh year of Darius, with which last event ends all that we know of the life of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel a man inferior to few of the great characters of Scripture, whether we consider the perilous undertaking to which he devoted himself, the importance in the economy of then divine government of his work, his courageous faith, or the singular distinction of being the object of so many and such remarkable prophetic utterances.

2. The Apocryphal history of Zerubbabel, which, as usual, Josephus follows, may be summed up in a few words. The story told in 1 Esdras 3-7 is that on the occasion of a great feast made by Darius on his accession, three young men of his bodyguard had a contest who should write the wisest sentence. One of the three (Zerubbabel) writing "Women are strongest, but above all things Truth beareth away the victory," and afterwards defending his sentence with much eloquence, was declared by acclamation to be the wisest, and claimed for his reward at the king's hand that the, king should perform his vow which he had vowed to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Upon this the king gave him letters to all his treasurers and governors on the other side the river, with grants of money and exemption from taxes, and sent him to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, accompanied by the families of which the list is given in Ezra 2, Nehemiah 7; and then follows, in utter confusion, the history of Zerubbabel as given in Scripture. Apparently, too, the compiler did not perceive that Sanabasar (Sheshbazzar) was the same person as Zerubbabel. Josephus, indeed, seems to identify Sheshbazzar with Zerubbabel, and tries to reconcile the story in 1 Esdras by saying, "Now it so fell out that about this time Zorobabel, who had been made governor of the Jew-s that had been- in captivity, came to Darius from Jerusalem, for there had been an old friendship between him and the king," etc. (Ant. 11:3).

But it is obvious on the face of it that this is simply Josephus's invention to reconcile 1 Esdr. with the canonical Ezra. Josephus has also another story (ibid. 11:4, 9) which is not found in 1 Esdras, of Zorobabel going on an embassy to Darius to accuse the Samaritan governors and heptarchs of withholding from the Jews the grants made by Darius out of the royal treasury for the offering of sacrifices and other Temple expenses, and of his obtaining a decree from the king commanding his officers in Samaria to supply the high-priest with all that he required. But that this is not authentic history seems pretty certain from the names of the governors, Sambabas being an imitation or corruption of Sanballat, Tanganies of Tatnai (or Thauthanai, as in Sept.), Sadraces of Sathrabouzanes, confused with Shadrach, Bobelo of Zorobabel; and the names of the ambassadors, which are manifestly copied from the list in 1 Esdras 5, 8, whereas Zorobabel, Enenius and Mardochaeus correspond to Zorobabel, Ananias, and Mardochaeus of Josephus. Moreover, the letter or decree of Darius as given by Josephus is as manifestly copied from the decree of Darius in Ezra 6:6-10. In all probability, therefore, the document used by Josephus was one of those numerous Apocryphal religious romances of which the Hellenistic Jews were so fond about the 4th and 3rd century before Christ, and was written partly- to explain Zorobabel's presence at the court of Darius, as spoken of in 1 Esdras, partly to explain that of Mordecai at the court of Ahasuerns, though he was in the list of those who were Zorobabel's companions (as it seemed), and partly to give an opportunity for reviling and humiliating the Samaritans. It also gratified the favorite taste for embellishing and corroborating, and giving, as was thought, additional probability to, the Scripture narrative, and dwelling upon bygone times of Jewish triumphs.

3. The list of Zerubbabel's posterity in 1 Chronicles 3:19-24 is somewhat confused. Perhaps its statements may be harmonized with themselves and with the New Test. genealogies, if the entire passage read thus: [1 Chronicles 3:19] The issue of Pedaiah were Zerubbabel (by his brother Salathiel's widow), Shimei (to whom may be added Zerubbabel's children, Meshullam, Hanamiah, and a daughter Shelomith), [1 Chronicles 3:20] Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, and Hasadiah (called also Jushab-hesed), making in all five sons (besides Zerubbabel, who was reckoned as Salathiel's heir .[Ezra 3:2]). [v. 21] The descendants of the above Hananiah were Pelatiah and Jesaiah, besides the children of a third son Rephaiah, together with those of Arnan (one of the last-mentioned children), and in like manner the issue again of his son Obadiah and grandson Shechaniah. [v. 22] The family of this last consisted of six descendants, namely, his son Shemaiah, and grandchildren Hattush, Igeal, Bariah, Neariah, and Shaphat. [v. 23] Neariah had three sons, Elioenai, Hezekiah, and Azrikam; [v. 24] and Elioenai again seven, namely, Hodaiah, Eliashib, Pelaiah, Akkub, Johanann, Delaiah, and Anani." An objection, it must be admitted, lies against this arrangement, namely, that it brings down the list to a later date than the close of the Old-Test. canon (B.C. 406), requiring the supposition of the addition of some of the last names by a subsequent hand Another lie, which condenses the lineage within earlier limits, is given under DARIUS 2. The above adjustment, however, is not only conformed to the natural view of the text, bun is also confirmed by not a few striking coincidences in names and descent with the genealogies of our Lord as given by the evangelists. The following table will exhibit these at a glance (see Strong, Harmony and Exposition of the Gospels, § 9). (See GENEALOGY (OF CHRIST).)

 

Gener ation

1 Chronicles 3

Matthew 1; Matthew 12-17

1 Chronicles 3

Luke 3;27- 33

Born B.C.

1

Zorobabel

Zorobabel

c. 530

2

Hananiah

 

Hananiah

 

? 530

3

Rephaiah

 

Rephaiah

Rhesa

? 505

4

Arnan

 

Arnan

Joanna

? 475

5

Obadiah

Abiud

Obadiah

Juda

? 445

6

Shechanbiah

Eliakim?

Shechaniah

Joseph?

? 415

7

Shemaiah

 

Shemaiah

Semi

? 385

 

 

 

 

Mattathias

 

 

 

 

 

Maath

 

8

Neariah

 

Neariah

Nagge

? 355

9

Azikam

Azor

Elioenai

Esli

? 325

10

 

 

Johanan

Naum

? 295

11

 

 

 

Amos

? 265

12

 

Sadoc

 

Mattathias

? 235

13

 

Achim

 

Joseph

? 205

14

 

Elliud

 

Janna

? 175

15

 

Eleazar

 

Melchi

? 145

16

 

Matthan

 

Levi

? 105

 

17

 

Jacob

 

Matthat

? 85

18

 

Joseph

 

Heli

? 55

19

 

 

 

Mary

c 25

20

 

Jesus

 

Jesus

6

 

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Zerubbabel'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/z/zerubbabel.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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