(zeh ruhb' buh behl) Personal name meaning, “descendant of Babel.” The grandson of King Jehoiachin (taken to Babylon in the first Exile in 597 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar;
2 Kings 24:10-17) and the son of Shealtiel (Ezra 3:2), second son of Jehoiachin (1 Chronicles 3:16-17). He is named in Ezra 2:2 among the leaders of those who returned from Exile. The list in
Ezra 2:1-67 (compare
Nehemiah 7:6-73) probably names people who returned in 539, the first year of the reign of Cyrus the Great, ruler of the Persian Empire (Ezra 1:1), or between 539 and 529, despite the contention of many American scholars that the list belongs to an unmentioned second return led by Zerubbabel in 521/20.
Ezra 3:1, Zerubbabel and Jeshua (or Joshua, the high priest) rebuilt the altar and in their second year (538?) laid the foundation of the Temple, but their work was halted by opposition from persons who had remained in Palestine during the Exile (Ezra 4:1-6,Ezra 4:24). Darius (Persian emperor from 522–486 B.C.) granted the Jews permission to continue rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 6:1-12). Under the urging of Haggai (Haggai 1:1,Haggai 1:12-15;
Haggai 2:1,Haggai 2:20) and Zechariah (Zechariah 4:6-10), Zerubabel, now governor (Haggai 1:1) in place of Sheshbazzar (Ezra 5:14), resume the task (Ezra 5:1-2), completed in 515 B.C.
Zerubbabel himself, however, disappeared from view. He was a Davidic prince, so it is possible that the Jews tried to crown him king during the civil war surrounding the rise of Darius as emperor (522/21).
Zechariah 6:9-14 may reflect the wish to crown Zerubbabel, but his fate remains unknown. See Babylon; Israel; Zechariah.
Paul L. Redditt