ze-rub'-a-bel (zerubbabhel, probably a transliteration of the Babylonian name Zeru-Babili, "seed of Babylon"; Zorobabel):
Is commonly called the son of Shealtiel (Ezr 3:2,8; 5:2; Ne 12:1; Hag 1:1,12,14; Mt 1:12; Lu 3:27); but in 1Ch 3:19 he is called the son of Pedaiah, the brother apparently of Shealtiel (Salathiel) and the son or grandson of Jeconiah. It is probable that Shealtiel had no children and adopted Zerubbabel; or that Zerubbabel was his levirate son; or that, Shealtiel being childless, Zerubbabel succeeded to the rights of sonship as being the next of kin.
Whatever may have been his blood relationship to Jeconiah, the Scriptures teach that Zerubbabel was his legal successor, of the 3rd or 4th generation. According to 1Ch 3:19, he had one daughter, Shelomith, and seven sons, Meshullam, Hananiah, Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah and Jushab-hesed. In Mt 1:13 he is said to have been the father of Abiud (i.e. Abi-hud). As it is the custom in Arabia today to give a man a new name when his first son is born, so it may have been, in this case, that Meshullam was the father of Hud, and that his name was changed to Abiud as soon as his son was named Hud. In Lu 3:27, the son of Zerubbabel is called Rhesa. This is doubtless the title of the head of the captivity, the resh gelutha', and would be appropriate as a title of Meshullam in his capacity as the official representative of the captive Jews. That Zerubbabel is said in the New Testament to be the son of Shealtiel the son of Neri instead of Jeconiah may be accounted for on the supposition that Shealtiel was the legal heir or adopted son of Jeconiah, who according to Jer 36:30 was apparently to die childless.
3. Relation to Sheshbazzar:
It has been shown in the article on Sheshbazzar that he and Zerubbabel may possibly have been the same person and that the name may have been Shamash-ban (or bun)-zer-Babili-usur. It seems more probable, however, that Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah, was governor under Cyrus and that Zerubbabel was governor under Darius. The former, according to Ezr 1:8 and Ezr 5:14-16, laid the foundations, and the latter completed the building of the temple (Ezr 2:2,68; 4:2; Hag 1:14; Zec 4:9).
All that is known certainly about Zerubbabel is found in the canonical books of Zechariah, Haggai and Ezra-Nehemiah. According to these he and Jeshua, the high priest, led up a band of captives from Babylon to Jerusalem and began rebuilding the temple in the second year of Darius Hystaspis. They first constructed the altar of burnt offerings, and afterward built a temple, usually called the Second Temple, much inferior in beauty to that of Solomon. According to Josephus and the apocryphal Book of Ezra (1 Esdras 3,4), Zerubbabel was a friend of Darius Hystaspis, having successfully competed before him in a contest whose object was to determine what was the strongest thing in the world--wine, kings, women, or truth. Zerubbabel, having demonstrated that truth was the mightiest of all, was called the king's "cousin," and was granted by him permission to go up to Jerusalem and to build the temple. Zerubbabel was also made a governor of Jerusalem, and performed also the duties of the tirshatha, an official who was probably the Persian collector of taxes.
R. Dick Wilson