Fausset's Bible Dictionary


("dispersed to Babylon".) Head of Judah in the Jews' return in the first year of Cyrus. Son of Shealtiel (Salathiel) (Ezr_3:2; Ezr_3:8; Ezr_5:2; Hag_1:1; Hag_1:12; Mat_1:12; Luk_3:27); but in 1Ch_3:19 "son of Pedaiah," Shealtiel's brother. "Son" probably means next heir, the direct line failing; by the Levirate law Shealtiel's widow would marry her brother-in-law Pedaiah, who would raise seed to his brother Shealtiel (Deu_25:5-10; Mat_22:24-28). Matthew deduces his line from Jechonias and Solomon, Luke deduces it through Neri and Nathan, because Zerubbabel was the legal successor and heir of Jeconiah's royalty and at the same time the grandson of Neri and lineal descendant of Nathan the son of David.

At Babylon he bore the Babylonian or Persian name Shesh-bazzar, being governor or tirshatha there (Neh_8:9; Neh_10:1; Ezr_1:8-11; Ezr_5:14-16; Neh_7:65). His name Zerubbabel occurs in Ezr_2:2; Ezr_3:2; "prince (nasi') of Judah," Ezr_1:8. Sheshbazzar laid the foundation of the temple (Ezr_5:16), answering to Zerubbabel (Zec_4:9); "governor of Judah" (Hag_1:1; Hag_1:14; Hag_2:2). To him Cyrus, by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, had committed the precious vessels of the temple to bring to Jerusalem; at the same time he, Zerubbabel, with the chief of the fathers, the priests, and the Levites whose spirit God had raised, led back from Babylon the first caravan, consisting of 42,360 besides servants, etc.

All they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with precious things willingly offered. The chief of the fathers also, when they came to the house of God at Jerusalem, offered freely for it after their ability (Ezr_2:68-69). He and Jeshua in the seventh month (wherein they kept the feast of tabernacles less formal than the celebration, Nehemiah 8), first built the altar of burnt offering, the nucleus and central point of the temple. In the second year of their coming, in the second month, having by Cyrus' decree timber, (including cedars from Lebanon brought by sea to Joppa,) and stone for the building, and money for the builders (Ezr_6:4), they laid the temple foundations with sounding of trumpets by the priests, and of cymbals by the Levites, and mingled shouts of joy and of noise of weeping in remembrance of the past (Ezr_3:7-13).

They used the same psalm of praise, "because Jehovah is good, for His mercy endureth forever toward Israel" (Psa_136:1; 2Ch_5:13; 1Ch_16:7-34), as David had delivered to Asaph for public liturgy, and as Solomon had used at the dedication of His temple; making use also probably of the same style of instrument, to some extent affected by their Babylonian and Assyrian experience. Soon after the work was interrupted by the opposition of the Cuthaean settlers or Samaritans. They had wished to join in building the temple, as sacrificing unto the same God as the Jews; but Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the chief fathers said, "ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God, but we ourselves together will build," etc.

So by hired counselors, in the third year of Cyrus, and by a letter influencing Artaxerxes, they caused the work to cease until the second year of Darius, i.e. for 16 years (Ezr_4:24), namely, the seven remaining years of Cyrus, eight years including Cambyses (Ahasuerus) and Smerdis (Artaxerxes) joint reigns, and one year of Darius. Haggai and Zechariah roused the Jews from the apathy as to God's house which had crept over them while they were keen about building and ceiling their own houses (Hag_1:4). Haggai drew their attention to the tokens of God's displeasure manifested in the adversity which attended all their undertakings and the drought affecting their crops (Hag_1:5-11). "Jehovah hereby stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel (Hag_1:14-15) and of Joshua, so that they rose up, came, and did work in the house of Jehovah of hosts, their God, in the 24th day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king," "and with them were the prophets of God helping them" (Ezr_5:1-2).

They made this bold venture even before Darius had made any decree revoking Smerdis' prohibition. Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shethar Boznai and their companions interrogated them, "who hath commanded you to build this house? ... what are the names of the men that make this building?" and reported their answer to Darius, and requested that search should be made at Babylon for the alleged decree of Cyrus in their favor. The decree was found at Achmetha ((See ECBATANA), a delicate proof of Scripture accuracy, that being Cyrus' court residence; and Darius decreed anew the building of the temple with three rows of great stones and a row of new timber at the king's expense, and the restoration of the golden and silver vessels, and the supply of young bullocks, rams, and lambs for burnt offerings, and wheat, salt, wine, and oil, that they might offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and of his sons.

So the house was completed four years after its recommencement, in the third day of the month Adar, the sixth year of Darius (Ezr_6:15). This successful issue was mainly under God due to the prophets who strengthened the hands of Zerubbabel and Jeshua. "They prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo." Compare Hag_2:4-9; Hag_2:21-23; Zec_4:6-10, directly addressed to Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel also restored the courses of the priests and Levites, and appointed for them, the singers, and the porters, maintenance (Ezr_6:18; Neh_12:47). Moreover he registered by genealogies the returning Jews (Neh_7:5-7).

The last public act of this great man, whose name marks a leading epoch in Jewish history, was his causing the returned children of the captivity to keep the Passover with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful (Ezr_6:22). The priestly power after the time of Zerubbabel overshadowed the royal line of David, notwithstanding the previous prominence of the latter in the person of Zerubbabel. Finally Messiah combined both in Himself the Antitype (Zec_3:7-10; Zec_6:13).


Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)