Zerubabbel as a Messianic Figure

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As my text, I am using the book of Haggai 2:23: “In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel,, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.” Thus, the messianic promise was passed onto Zerubbabel, the man that God entrusted to be the governor of God’s people upon their return to Israel, and with the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem. Zerubbabel was a leader, a man of God, and a faithful servant to God’s will. Zerubbabel was a messianic figure. This can be seen in a series of comparisons and contrast to Christ and His work.

To begin, Zerubbabel was the son of Shealtiel and the grandson of Jehoiachin this is referenced in Ezra 3:2; and Matt 1:12). In I Chronicles 3:19 he is said to be the son of Pedaiah, Shealtiel’s’ brother. The explanation for this apparent discrepancy is very likely that Shealtiel died without having a son; and either his nephew was his legal heir and therefore called his son (reference here to Exod 2:10), or else; Pedaiah married his brother’s widow and, therefore, Zerubbabel became Shealtiel’s son by levirate law as can be referenced in Deut 25:5-10. In 1 Chronicles 3:17-19, Zerubabbel is listed as the heir to the throne of Judah. He is also listed in the genealogy of Christ Jesus in Matt 1:14, and Luke 3:27. He is, therefore, by linage of the House of David, and under the Davidic covenant. Zerubabbel lived in exile in Babylonia with the his fellow Israelites.

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However, God reigns Sovereign over creation, including the nations of the world. As part of God’s process to return His people to the Judah, God delivered the Babylonian empire into the hands of Cyrus the Persian, who became after his conquest of Babylonia became know as Cyrus the Great. God elevated Cyrus to rule over the middle-eastern world of the time. Then, God worked the heart of Cyrus to command Zerubbabel to return with a company of Israelites to the, now, colony of the former kingdom of Judah. Cyrus, also, appointed Zerubabbel governor of the colony (Ezra 1:8, 11; 5:14).

Zerubabbel lead this first contingent, numbering over 42,000 back to Jerusalem. Nothing is revealed about the trip itself, except it can be induced that it took about four months to make the journey. When they first reached Jerusalem, they set up the altar of burnt offerings, then they proceeded to lay the foundation of the new temple, thus beginning the task of re-establishing the Temple as a symbol of God’s covenant presence with His people.

However, adversaries of the Jews came from Samaria and offered to help Zerubabbel and the Jews to rebuild the Temple. These adversaries were people brought to Samaria by the Assyrian kings before the exile of Judah and Benjamin to Babylonia. But Zerubbabel and the other leaders refused to accept their help as seen in Ezra 4. Zerubbabel did not accept the offer of these foreign people, in contrast to Joshua’s being deceived by the Gibeonite’s when he brought the Israelites into the land (Joshua 9:27).

Later, however, during the reign Artaxerxes, opponents of the Jews managed to succeed in stopping the work on the Temple (refer to Ezra 4:6-24). However, during the reign of Darius, the work on the temple resumed and was completed. A great celebration was held to dedicate the new Temple as seen in Ezra 6:16-22. Thus the work of Zerubabbel was completed; he had brought the first returnees back to Jerusalem, and under his direction the Temple was rebuilt. It is not known how Zerubabbel died.

Zerubabbel was never made king of Judah; but he was the crown prince next in line to the throne with no sitting as king. For all purposes, he did perform the legal sanctioned role of ruler over the people of God, and administrator of the land.

Zerubabbel took charge and lead his people out of the bondage that had been Babylonia, just as Moses had lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. Then, like Joshua, Zerubbabel lead the people into the promised land. Like David, Zerubbabel gathered the materials for the construction of the Temple. And then, like Solomon, Zerubbabel built a Temple for God in Jerusalem. Zerubbabel’s performed no miracles like those God performed through Moses, and he was not a general of victorious armies like Joshua, and he is not called a man after God’s own heart like David was called, and neither did he possess the wisdom of Solomon; however, Zerubbabel did manage to perform the all of the same major objectives that Moses, Joshua, David, and Solomon had performed individually. Also, where they had failed in their personal lives, Zerubbabel did not. But it was not Zerubbabel who accomplished these things, it was the Holy Spirit of God working through him. The Word of God to Zerubbabel was this: “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty. What are you, O might mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. The he will bring out the capstone to shouts of God bless it! God bless it!” (Zechariah 4:6-7). Zerubbabel succeeded because he did not rely on his one human nature, neither did he proceed down a way that he personally thought was right. Instead, Zerubbabel let the Holy Spirit work though him, just as Christ did during His work on earth.

Just as Zerubbabel’s work was drawn out, and involved enemies who sought to destroy the Temple work. The same was true for Christ, who initially was accepted and in favor with the people, later however, many of them turn away from Christ and His message.

Zerubbabel became disillusioned by the difficulty and struggles that confronted him, it was only by the Spirit of God that he was able to accomplish his task, Zerubbabel also had the support and help of the High Priest Jeshua, the elders and others among the people. Christ, on the other hand, found that all the people, including His closest disciples, turned away from him when He laid the foundation for the new Temple of God. However, like Zerubbabel, Christ accomplished his task by the power of the Holy Spirit. In both cases, it was the will of God that prevailed by the power of His Holy Spirit, through servants who yielded their will to His.

It should also be noted that Zerubbabel lead God’s people back to take possession of the land. Christ, also, will lead the saints back to take possession of the land during His millennium reign (refer to Rev 19 and 20).

Upon completion of the Temple the people became one in their dedication of both themselves and the Temple, to God’s will. Zerubabbel by the power of the Holy Spirit accomplished God’s will and purpose for the salvation of His people in that time. But more importantly, what was accomplished pointed to a future time when the greater son of David, the Messiah Jesus would come to the Temple.

It is, also, important to understand that the fourth oracle by Haggai in 2:20-33 was addressed to Zerubabbel under the Davidic covenant. As previously noted, he was a descendant of the line of David through Jehoiachin. In the book of Jeremiah, God had earlier likened Jehoiachin to a signet ring on His hand that He would be pulled off and discarded (Jer 22:24-25). In Haggai, God uses the same imagery of the signet ring, however He reverses it, this time describing Zerubbabel, a descendant of Jehoiachin, as a valued signet ring on the hand of God. This confirms that God had reaffirmed the Davidic covenant with the line of David.

Zerubbabel is, now, shown to be one of the Davidic covenant who’s God’s wrath is non-longer upon. He becomes a legal substitution for a king, in order to perform a work under the Law that Christ would, later, perform under Grace. For Zerubbabel it was the rebuilding of the Temple for God to dwell in, a place for God’s people to come and seek forgiveness through sacrifice. Zerubbabel, however, rebuild a new Temple, much different from the type and kind that Solomon had constructed in all of its earthly glory. But Solomon’s glory failed because his human nature did not keep focus on God.

This was the same loose of focus that the first ruler that God placed in the world had: Adam. Adam lost the communion of heart with God. Christ would restore that ability for all people to have that communion by building a new Temple in the hearts of those who accepted God’s Grace, thus making it each born-again person a living Temple that God indwells. This new Temple of the human heart being born-again was as radically different from Zerubbabel’s Temple.

The parallels are that each, Zerubbabel in his work of restoring the physical Temple to the people, and Christ in his work of restoring the heart to God, were performing Messianic functions in God’s process to restore man to Himself. Both were endued and acted by the power of the Holy Spirit, with Zerubbabel’s work pointing toward Christ.

Likewise, Zerubbabel’s Temple was quite different from Solomon’s Temple. Zerubbabel’s Temple lacked the grandeur of the one build by Solomon; the land, also, was far less glorious than in the days of Solomon when the first Temple was built. There were meager resources, causing some of the people to fail to realize that God was not interested in the grand scale of the Temple, but rather in the hearts of men. Many of the people, also, failed to realize this same thing when Christ came. The result was that while the Jewish nation rejected Christ, the gentile nations accepted Him.

Also, it is without saying that Haggai, Zechariah, and their contemporaries desired to have the gentile domination ended in Jerusalem, and Davidic rule restored in their own time; however, Zerubbabel would not be this Davidic king. Instead, he would point forward to an eschatological day when God would shake the heavens and the earth as stated in Haggai 2:6-7, 21.

Gentile domination, basically, remained upon the land, and was still in control when Christ came. The reason was that in Christ time, just as in Zerubbabel’s time, God used the gentiles to keep the hard-heartedness and stiff-neckness of the Israelites under control. The people had proven to God time and time again during their history that they could not be trusted to maintain their responsibility to keep the Temple and their covenant unless their was physical control over them. God chose to use a gentile sword to keep them in under control until His purpose and will was fulfilled with Christ’s work on the Cross.

Zerubabbel’s administration as a Davidic prince was part of the process to prepare the Jewish nation for the coming of the true Messiah. Zerubbabel’s rebuilding of the Temple was only a provisional step in anticipation of the events to come. It is in approaching the New Testament that the Zerubabbel’s work reaches forth in time. The visible presence of God would not, finally, appear in the second Temple until Jesus came and as is described in John 1:14, “ The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

In fulfillment of God’s plan for humanity, the wealth of nations came to Jerusalem in the gifts of the gentile wisemen (Matt 2:1-12). The new Temple of Christ was to be made of living stones, Jews and Gentile alike (1 Cor 3:16-17; 1 Peter 2: 4-10). Zerubbabel rebuilt the earthly temple with earthly stones, and it was a Temple that no gentile could help reconstruct or enter into the congregation to worship God.

Christ kingdom, however, would be a new kingdom, one that transcends the world and rules over all things. Zerubbabel administered an earthly realm that was ruled over by a gentile ruler, who himself could not enter into worship with the congregation in the Temple that Zerubbabel had built, but limited only to the outer court. Yet, just as gentile’s brought their wealth to Christ, symbolic of the wisemen, so did the gentile ruler who sent Zerubbabel to rebuild the Temple supply the wealth of the nations for construction. Both Christ and Zerubbabel introduced the Temple of God to the nations, each performing their own task, with Zerubbabel’s work pointing toward Christ.

The final end of the process is spoken of in Rev 21, with all things being only a step toward the consummation of all things, which will be made new again, and the dwelling of God will be with men.

The election of Zerubbabel to go and rebuild the Temple was tied to more than the inauguration of a Davidic prince; it can be likened to Christ coming and rebuilding the relationship structure between God with man. The work of each prefigures a cataclysmic change in the cosmos (Haggai 2:6-7, 21-22). The writer of Hebrews views this eschatological age as already having been inaugurated in the person of Christ (Heb 12:26-29).

In closing, the Temple that Zerubbabel rebuilt was only for the remnant that God had chosen to reestablish in the land. The work of Zerubbabel through the Holy Spirit made it possible for those who’s hearts were bent toward God to come back to Him and have a Temple to worship in. More notably, the work of Christ was to allow all who want God to be able to have Him live within their heart, and they themselves be a living Temple, and to have an intimate relationship with God. Unfortunately, just as in Zerubbabel’s time, there will be only a remnant of people, out of all of humanity, who’s heart’s will turn to God for His salvation.

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Zerubabbel as a Messianic Figure. (2018, Aug 30). Retrieved from


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