Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin and was a governor under the rule of King Cyrus of Persia. He was given permission to lead the first group of Jews from the Babylonian captivity back to Jerusalem. About 50,000 Jews returned with Zerubbabel, as well as some of the stolen possessions and contributions donated by the surrounding nations that King Cyrus had persuaded them to donate.
Zerubbabel and Jeshua, the high priest, built an offering to the Lord because they desired to honor Him. Under their direction plans were made for the rebuilding of the temple of God. When the foundation of the new temple was built a service was held to dedicate it to the Lord. The old and the young were gathered together, and out of the collected company a mix of sounds rose up.
The old wept because they remembered the old temple and all of its splendor; this was so plain compared to the one Solomon had built with its fine craftsmanship and precious materials.
The young, however, rejoiced as they had never known anything else.
Zerubbabel was approached by a group of people wanting to help with the rebuilding of the temple. These people were descendants of colonists from other countries and they had married with the Jews that had remained in Jerusalem during the Babylonian captivity. These people became known as the Samaritans.
Zerubbabel turned down their offer of help, for the Samaritans did not worship God alone. The Samaritans were upset that their help was unwanted and decided to start discouraging the Jews as they worked. Soon the discouragement turned threats, trying to scare the Jews, and finally they started meddling with the building process so much that the building had to stop.
God’s messengers, Haggai and Zechariah, told the Jews that they were to continue with their building. More opposition arose and the Jews were challenged about whose authority they were under. They boldly responded that they were under God’s authority, but added that King Cyrus had authorized all of this under his reign as king.
King Cyrus was no longer king, King Darius was and he received a letter with all of these details about the happenings in Jerusalem. King Darius had his records searched and found that King Cyrus had supported the rebuilding of the temple, so he made an official order that the building of the temple must continue. His order stated that the Jews were not to be hindered and that if anyone tried it would be considered a crime.
Basically, it was against the law to try to stop the rebuilding of the temple of God! King Darius also made more provisions to help them with them with the building.
The building of the temple continued and was completed four years later – twenty years after the foundation was first laid. The people were joyful and worshiped the Lord.
The temple they constructed was not even close to the spectacular one Solomon had built. The sacrifices they made in worship were not as many as in previous times. But the God of the good and plentiful times is still the God through the hard and poor times and He is always worthy of honor and praise, for He is good.
We are not told how Zerubbabel died. According to Matthew 1 we know that he is the father of Abihud, who is the father of Eliakim, who is the father of Azor, who is the father of Zadok, the father of Akim, who is the father of Elihud, who is the father of Eleazar, who is the father of Matthan, the father of Jacob, who is the father of the man we will read about tomorrow.