Zerubbabel is best remembered for his role in supervising the construction of the second temple when King Cyrus allowed the Israelite exiles in Babylon to return to Jerusalem. He was born in Babylon during the exile and his name, Zerubbabel, means "offspring of Babylon." When the king allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem, Zerubbabel joined the forty-two thousand people heading back and was named governor of Judah (Haggai 1:1; Ezra 1:1–4; 2:64).
First Chronicles 3:19 lists Zerubbabel as the grandson of King Jeconiah (1 Chronicles 3:17) in the line of David. Jeconiah, also known as Coniah, was the last king of Judah (2 Kings 24:8–17). Jeremiah pronounced a curse on him saying, "As I live, declares the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off" (Jeremiah 22:24). Haggai reversed that curse by prophesying to Zerubbabel, "On that day, declares the LORD of Hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts" (Haggai 2:23). So God restored that promise of a Messiah through the lineage of Zerubbabel. He, therefore, became the people's hope of restoring Davidic kingship and liberating the Israelites from their oppressors. Although Zerubbabel was not the ultimate Messiah for whom Israel waited, he is one of the ancestors named in the lineage of Jesus, the true Messiah (Matthew 1:12, 13; Luke 3:27).
Zerubbabel "obeyed the voice of the LORD" and "worked on the house of the LORD" (Haggai 1:12, 14). He was faithful to the work to which God had called him. Unfortunately, after laying the foundation of the temple, the construction was halted by King Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:1–24). It wasn't until seventeen years later, under King Darius, that construction was allowed to continue (Ezra 5—6).
In a vision God gave the prophet Zechariah this promise, "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this house; his hands shall also complete it" (Zechariah 4:9). He also encouraged, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!'" (Zechariah 4:6–7). While Zerubabbel's name is not specifically mentioned at the dedication of the temple, the temple was finished about four years after reconstruction under Zerubbabel's leadership resumed (Ezra 4:24; 5:2; 6:14–16). God's promise came true.
Although this second temple was less impressive than Solomon's original temple, it was privileged to be the temple where Jesus, the Messiah Himself, visited, worshipped, and taught.
Zerubbabel can be remembered as a member of the messianic lineage of Christ, a leader who faithfully served God by governing His people well, and an organizer who oversaw the God-given task of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.
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