Zerubbabel (Biblical character)

Zerubbabel , a character in the Old Testament of the Bible , descendant of King David and according to the New Testament is one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ . It was he who led the first group of Jews (42,360 people according to the Bible ) who returned to Judah after the Babylonian captivity and during the reign of Cyrus . He was appointed by Cyrus as the first governor of these Jews and was also the one who laid the foundation for the Second Temple in Jerusalem . According to the Muslim historian Ya’qubi, it was Zerubbabel who recovered the Torahand the Books of the Prophets , although these facts are attributed by Judaism to Ezra.


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  • 1 Etymology of the name
  • 2 Life and work
    • 1 Genealogy
    • 2 Governor of the Jews and the construction of the Temple
  • 3 Zerubbabel in the Hebrew Bible
    • 1 Son of Salathiel
    • 2 Zerubbabel and Sheshbazar
  • 4 Zerubbabel in other texts
  • 5 Zerubbabel in the New Testament
  • 6 Sources

Etymology of the name

Zerubbabel in Hebrew , may be a contraction of Zərua ‘Bāvel , which means’ seed of Babylon’, referring to a child conceived and born in Babylon , or Zərûy Bāvel , which would mean, ‘the expelled from Babylon’. In Akkadian language, the name means: ‘seed (offspring) of Babel’.

Life and work


He was apparently born in Babylon during exile. He was probably the son of Pedaiah, although he was legally considered the son of Salathiel. ( First Book of Chronicles  3:19; Book of Matthew  1:12, 13; Book of Luke  3:27 ). The genealogical list in the First Book of Chronicles (3:19, 20) mentions by name seven sons of Zerubbabel (Mesulam, Hananiah, Hasubá, Ohel, Berekías, Hasadías, Jusab-Hésed) and a daughter (Selomit). It seems that Zorobabel’s official or Babylonian name was Sesbazar. ( Ezra 1: 8, 11; 5:14, 16; compare Ezra 3: 8).

Governor of the Jews and the construction of the Temple

The Jewish people had been held captive in Babylon for many years. Many of them had settled there with comfortable lifestyles and wanted to stay. There were, however, almost 60,000 who had not forgotten Judah. When Babylon was defeated by Cyrus, the ruler of Persia, he allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple.

After the liberation, in the year 537 a. n. and. It was Zerubbabel who led the return of the first and largest group of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and Judah (the promised land). (Ezra 2: 1, 2; Nehemiah 7: 6, 7; 12: 1). As governor appointed by King Cyrus, Zerubbabel had taken away the sacred vessels of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple years earlier. (Ezra 5:14, 15.) Once established in Jerusalem, the temple altar was erected in the seventh month (Etanim or Tisri, September-October) under the direction of Zerubbabel and Jesua, the high priest (Ezra 3: 1 , 2), and the second year, in the second month (Ziv or Iyar, April-May, from the year 536 BC), the construction of the temple itself began. (Ezra 3: 8).

Perceiving that the non-Jews who asked to participate in the reconstruction work did not have a good reason, Zerubbabel, Jesúa and the heads of the paternal houses declared: “You have nothing to do with us in building a house for our God, because together we ourselves will build for Jehovah the God of Israel, just as king Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us “(Ezra 4: 1-3).

However, these non-Jews continued to discourage those who rebuilt the temple, and eventually (in 522 B.C.E. ) got the official ban on the work. Two years later, encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zacharias , Zerubbabel and Jesua valiantly resumed the construction of the temple despite the ban. ( Ezra 4:23, 24; 5: 1, 2; Haggai 1: 1, 12, 14; Zechariah1: 1) A subsequent investigation of the Persian archives confirmed the legality of the work. (Ezra 6: 1-12). Meanwhile, the prophets Haggai and Zacharias continued to encourage Zerubbabel, and strengthened him for the work, reminding him that he had divine favor. (Haggai 2: 2-4, 21-23; Zechariah 4: 6-10). At last (in 515 a. E. ), The building of the temple was completed ( Book of Ezra  6: 13-15). During the rule of Zerubbabel, the needs of the Levites were also met , since the singers and gatekeepers received their portion “according to daily need” ( Book of Nehemiah  12:47).

Zerubbabel in the Hebrew Bible

Son of salathiel

The Hebrew Bible lists Salathiel as the second son of Joaquin, king of Judah ( First book of Chronicles  3:17). Neo-Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II sends Joaquin into exile in Babylon and kills the last king of Judah and Joaquin’s uncle, King Zedekiah. Salathiel would potentially become the rightful heir to the throne, had David’s monarchy been re-established.

The Hebrew Bible has contradictory texts as to whether Zerubbabel is the son of Salathiel or of Pedaiah. Several texts explicitly call “Zerubbabel the son of Salathiel” ( Ezra 3: 2 , Nehemiah 12: 1 , Haggai 1: 1,12,14 ). Surprisingly, one text speaks of Zerubbabel as a nephew of Salathiel ( First Book of Chronicles 3: 17-19 ): King Jeconiah is the father of Salathiel and Pedaiah only, so Pedaiah is the father of Zerubbabel.

Various speculations have been created to show how both genealogies could be true. One suggests that Salathiel died childless and therefore Pedaiah, his brother, married his widow, as established by the levirate in Halacha or Jewish law regarding inheritance ( Deuteronomy 25: 5-6). If so, Zerubbabel would be Salathiel’s legal son, but Pedaiah’s biological son.

The other speculation asserts that the title “son of Salathiel” does not refer to a biological child, but to the fact of being a member of Salathiel’s “home”. The Hebrew term : “father” can refer to a father of a family, similar to the Latin term paterfamilias . In this sense, a man who is the “father” of a home, refers to being the “father” of his own biological brothers , nephews and nieces, or any other person who cohabitates in his “home”. Zerubbabel (and possibly her father Pedaiah) could be called “sons of this” if they lived in Salathiel’s home.

Perhaps both speculations could be true. Zerubbabel could be Salathiel’s legal son and therefore also a member of his household. In particular, if Salathiel had no biological children, Zerubabbel as Salathiel’s legal son would be the heir to the family and therefore a new “father” with more authority than the other members of the family.

However, another very simple speculation suggests that the text identifying Zerubbabel as a son of Pedaiah might actually be due to a scribal error. It occurs in a part of the text where the Hebrew appears inconsistent and possibly illegible ( First Book of Chronicles 3: 16-21 ). Salathiel’s expected mention of being a “father” seems accidentally omitted, and therefore his children are confused with those of Pedaiah. There may be other problems with these verses as well.

In any case, the texts where Zerubbabel is called “son of Salathiel” have a context that is openly political and is intended to demonstrate Zerubbabel’s potential right to the throne of the Davidic dynasty, as a direct descendant of King David: Salathiel is the firstborn of King Jeconiah and it is therefore more “convenient” for Zerubbabel to appear as his son and successor (albeit an adoptive one) to play the role of leader and ruler of the Jews in Babylon (recognized and endorsed by Cyrus the Great ) and charged with organizing the return to Judah, with the support and co-leadership of the high priest Jeshua, “son of Jozadak”, who also asserted his right to belong to the dynasty of high priests, as a descendant of Aaron. Therefore, if it is shown that one is a descendant ofDavid and the other from Aaron , these two officials have divine authority to rebuild the Temple and rule the destiny of the Jewish people.

In the Kadosh Bible (translation from the original into Spanish) the First Book of Chronicles 3:19 makes it clear that Zerubbabel (Zerubavel) was the son of Salathiel.

Zerubbabel and Sheshbazar

In the Jewish Encyclopedia it is considered the possible identification of Zorobabel to Sheshbazzar, who could be “the prince of Judah ” and leader of the first large group of Jewish exiles returning to Jerusalem .

Zerubbabel in other texts

  • Receiver of an apocalypse according to the Sefer Zerubbabel(Apocalypse of Zerubbabel, 7th century) .Apocalypse of Zerubbabel.
  • He plays an important role in the last work of the Hebrew writer Sholem Asch titled The Prophet(1955). There he is presented as the “Prince of Judah” in the Holy Land . He is one of the constant followers and best friends of the prophet Isaiah and descends from the Davidic dynasty .

Zerubbabel in the New Testament

In the New Testament , Zerubbabel is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew , in the genealogy of Jesus , it is there that he is said to be the son of Salathiel (from the Greek Salathiel ). Zerubbabel was mentioned again in the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth recorded in the Gospel of Luke , verse 3:27, which says that he is the son of Salathiel.


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