Zerah the Cushite, is an individual mentioned by the Book of Chronicles as having invaded the Kingdom of Judah with an enormous army, in the days of Asa. According to the text, when Zerah's army reached that of Asa at Zephathah, Zerah's army was utterly defeated, by divine intervention, and Asa's forces collected a large volume of spoils of war.
The invasion, and its implied time-frame, means that the traditional view was to consider this Zerah to have actually been Osorkon II or Osorkon I, both being rulers of Egypt. Osorkon II, is known to have entered the Kingdom of Judah, with a huge army, in 853BC; however, rather than attacking Judah, the army was just passing through, on its way to attack the Assyrian forces. In addition, Asa's reign is traditionally dated to have ended in 873BC, making it impossible for the biblical text to be accurate if Osorkon II was Zerah, since Osorkon II's reign hadn't even begun until one year later - 872BC. In the Book of Kings, which doesn't mention Asa's defeat of Zerah, Asa is described as being extremely weak from a defensive point of view, and Biblical scholars regard the idea that Asa could defeat an enormous Egyptian army to be untenable.
Furthermore, Cushite refers to Kush (historic Ethiopia), and it is unclear why either Osorkon should be described as a Cushite, since the assertion would be unjustified. It is a possibility that Cushite (כושי)is a typographic error for Kassite (כישי), and that it consequently refers to a Babylonian (Kassite) invasion, but it is considered far more likely that it refers to an invasion by a marauding group of Arabs, whose numbers have been vastly exaggerated.
Son of Tamar
According to the Book of Genesis, Zerah was the son of Tamar and of Judah, and was the twin of Pharez. The text says that he was called Zerah because when he had stuck his hand out before being born, the midwife tied a bright scarlet thread around his wrist; although all other biblical uses of the word zerah translate as rise, here the name is implied to derive from the colour of the bright thread - scarlet - which is similar to the initial colour of sunrise.
Names in the Genealogies of the Book of Chronicles
Zerah was a Gershonite Levite (1 Chr. 6:21, 41).
- This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.
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