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Zerubbabel displays a plan of Jerusalem to Cyrus the Great

Zerubbabel (Hebrew: זְרֻבָּבֶל‎, Zərubbāvel; Greek: Ζοροβαβελ, Zŏrobabel; Latin: Zorobabel) was a governor of Judah (Haggai 1:1) and the grandson of Jehoiachin, penultimate king of Judah. Zerubbabel led the first band of Jews, numbering 42,360, who returned from the Babylonian Captivity in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia (Ezra)(538 BC). Zerubbabel also laid the foundation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem the next year. Muslim historian Ya'qubi attributed the recovery of the Torah and the Books of the Prophets to him instead of Ezra.[1] The Seder Olam Zutta lists him as the Exilarch in Babylon to succeed Shealtiel. The texts are conflicting as to whether Zerubbabel was the son of Shealtiel or his nephew. His son Meshullam succeeded him as Exilarch, and was followed by another son Hananiah. His other sons were Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah and Jushab-hesed (1 Chronicles 3:20). He also had a daughter called Shelomith (1 Chronicles 3:19). Little else is known about him.

The name

If the name Zerubbabel is Hebrew, it may be a contraction of Zərua‘ Bāvel (Hebrew: זְרוּעַ בָּבֶל‎), meaning "the one sown of Babylon", and referring to a child conceived and born in Babylon; or perhaps even, Zərûy Bāvel (Hebrew: זְרוּי בָּבֶל‎), meaning, "the winnowed of Babylon", in the sense of being exiled in Babylon. If the name is not Hebrew but Assyrian-Babylonian, it may contract, Zəru Bābel, meaning, "Seed of Babylon", the one conceived in Babylon. (Contrast the related Hebrew form for "Seed": Hebrew: זֶרַע‎, Zera‘.)


Whether the identity of Zerubbabel with Sheshbazzar (Hebrew: שֵׁשְׁבַּצַּר, Modern {{{2}}} Tiberian {{{3}}}; Greek: Σασαβασαρ; Latin: Sassabasar), "the prince of Judah" and leader of the first great band of exiles returning to Jerusalem is correct is discussed in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

Zerubbabel in the Hebrew Bible

Son of Shealtiel or Pedaiah


Zerubbabel from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum "

The Hebrew Bible lists Shealtiel as the second son of King Jeconiah (1 Chronicles 3:17). The Neo-Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II exiled to Babylon Joconiah and Jeconiah's uncle King Zedekiah the last king of Judah and killed Zedekiah there. Potentially, Shealtiel became the legal heir to the throne, if the Davidic monarchy was restored.

The Hebrew Bible has conflicting texts regarding whether Zerubbabel is the son of Shealtiel or of Pedaiah. Several texts (that are thought to be more-or-less contemporaneous) explicitly call "Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel" (Ezra 3:2,8; 5:2, Nehemiah 12:1, Haggai 1:1,12,14). The Seder Olam Zutta also supports that position. Surprisingly, 1 Chronicles 3:17-19 makes Zerubbabel a nephew of Shealtiel: King Jeconiah is the father of Shealtiel and Pedaiah, then Pedaiah is the father of Zerubbabel.

Various attempts have been made to show how both genealogies could be true. One explanation suggests Shealtiel died childless and therefore Pedaiah, his brother, married his widow according to a Jewish law regarding inheritance (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). If so, Zerubbabel would be the legal son of Shealtiel but the biological son of Pedaiah.

The other speculation suggests the title "son of Shealtiel" does not refer to being a biological son but to being a member in Shealtiel's "household" (Hebrew: בית‎, bet). The Hebrew term "father" (Hebrew: אב‎, av) can refer to a father of a household, similar to the Latin term paterfamilias. In this sense, a man who is the "father" of a household can therefore be referred to as the "father" of his own biological siblings, nephews and nieces, or anyone else who cohabitates in his "household". Zerubbabel (and possibly his father Pedaiah) could be called a "son" if they lived in Shealtiel's household.

Perhaps both speculations could be true. Zerubbabel could be the legal son of Shealtiel and therefore also a member of his household. Notably, if Shealtiel had no biological children, Zerubbabel as a legal son would have inherited Shealtiel's household and become its new "father" with authority of over the other members of the household.

Yet another speculation simply suggests that the text which identifies Zerubbabel as a son of Pedaiah could be a scribal error. It occurs in a part of the text where the Hebrew seems discongruent and possibly garbled (1 Chronicles 3:16-21).[2] The expected mention of Shealtiel being a father seems accidentally omitted, and thus his children became confused with Pedaiah's. There may be other problems with these verses as well.

In any case, those texts that call Zerubbabel "son of Shealtiel" have a context that is overtly political and seems to emphasize Zerubbabel's potential royal claim to the throne of the Davidic Dynasty by being Shealtiel's successor. Zerubbabel is understood as the legal successor of Shealtiel, with Zerubbabel's title paralleling the Highpriest Jeshua's title, "son of Jozadak", that emphasizes Jeshua's rightful claim to the dynasty of highpriests, descending from Aaron. Therefore, with one descending from David and the other from Aaron, these two officials have the divine authority to rebuild the Temple.

Zerubbabel in the New Testament

In the New Testament, Zerubbabel is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew's version of the Genealogy of Jesus (as "Zorobabel"); he is there said to be the son of Shealtiel (Greek "Salathiel"). Zerubbabel is again mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Verse 3:27 states that he is the son of Shealtiel.

Zerubbabel in other texts

He was determined to be among the wisest of men in Persia, following a dissertation on women and truth, which he presented before Cyrus. He was given sanction to rebuild the Temple and return the sacred Temple vessels that Darius had preserved after the conquest of Babylon. This is explained in detail in the Apocryphal book 1 Esdras. This is re-enacted by the Masonic Knights Templar within the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross.[3]

He achieved legendary status in Post-Exilic times, and is mentioned in Ecclesiasticus of Sirach (49:11) among the famous men of Israel.

He is the receiver of an apocalypse in the seventh century Apocalypse of Zerubbabel.[4]

He plays a large role in Sholem Asch's final work The Prophet.[5] He is announced as the Prince of Judah upon his return to the Holy Land. One of the firm and long-standing followers and friends of the Prophet Isaiah, and descendant of the Davidic Dynasty.

External links


  1. Reeves, John C. (2005). Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Reader. Society of Biblical Literature. ISBN 1589831020. 
  2. "Zerubbabel", Jewish Encyclopedia 1908.
  4. Strack, Hermann Leberecht; Gunter Stemberger (1992). Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash. Fortress Press. pp. 327. ISBN 0800625242. 
  5. Asch, Sholem (1955). The Prophet. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 343. ISBN 55-10089. 
Cadet branch of the Tribe of Judah
Preceded by
Leader of the House of David Line lost
Matthew's Ancestry of Jesus - 11th ancestor from Jesus Succeeded by
Luke's Ancestry of Jesus - 20th ancestor from Jesus Succeeded by
bo:བཟེ་རུ་པ་པེལ། (གསུང་རབ།)

ca:Zorobabelno:Serubabelpt:Zorobabel ru:Зоровавель sh:Zerubabel sv:Serubbabel zh:所罗巴伯

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