(Ze·rubʹba·bel) [from Akkadian, meaning “Seed (Offspring) of Babel”].
First governor of the repatriated Jews (Hag 2:21); a descendant of King David and an ancestor of Jesus Christ; likely the actual son of Pedaiah but legally reckoned as the son of Shealtiel. (1Ch 3:19; Mt 1:12, 13; Lu 3:27; see GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST [Problems in Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus].) The genealogical listing of 1 Chronicles (3:19, 20) names seven sons of Zerubbabel (Meshullam, Hananiah, Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah, Jushab-hesed) and one daughter (Shelomith). Zerubbabel’s official or Babylonian name appears to have been Sheshbazzar.—Ezr 1:8, 11; 5:14, 16; compare Ezr 3:8.
After the liberation from Babylonian exile, Zerubbabel, in 537 B.C.E., led a Jewish remnant back to Jerusalem and Judah. (Ezr 2:1, 2; Ne 7:6, 7; 12:1; MAP, Vol. 2, p. 332) As the governor appointed by King Cyrus, Zerubbabel had been entrusted with sacred gold and silver vessels that had years earlier been taken from the temple by Nebuchadnezzar. (Ezr 5:14, 15) At Jerusalem, the temple altar was erected in the seventh month (Ethanim, or Tishri, September-October), under the direction of Zerubbabel and High Priest Jeshua (Ezr 3:1, 2), and in the second year in the second month (Ziv, or Iyyar, April-May, of 536 B.C.E.), the actual construction of the temple began. (Ezr 3:8) Recognizing the bad motive of the non-Jews who asked to have a share in the rebuilding work, Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the heads of the paternal houses stated: “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God, for we ourselves shall together build to Jehovah the God of Israel, just as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”—Ezr 4:1-3.
These non-Jews, however, continued to dishearten the temple rebuilders and finally (in 522 B.C.E.) succeeded in having an official ban placed on the work. Two years later, stirred up by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Joshua) courageously resumed the construction of the temple despite the ban. (Ezr 4:23, 24; 5:1, 2; Hag 1:1, 12, 14; Zec 1:1) Thereafter an investigation of the Persian archives vindicated the legality of their work. (Ezr 6:1-12) Throughout, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah continued to encourage Zerubbabel, strengthening him for the work and assuring him of divine favor. (Hag 2:2-4, 21-23; Zec 4:6-10) Finally (in 515 B.C.E.) the temple was completed. (Ezr 6:13-15) Also during Zerubbabel’s governorship the needs of the Levites were cared for, the singers and gatekeepers receiving their portion “according to the daily need.”—Ne 12:47.