The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), September 21
“Now these are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seriah, Jeremiah, Ezra” (Neh. 12:1).
Zerubbabel, the grandson of Jehoiachin, Israel’s king taken into captivity and jailed for 37 years, leads Judah during the time of the return from the Babylonian exile. He leads the first group of captives back to Jerusalem in 538 BC and begins rebuilding the Temple on the old site. Zerubbabel is closely associated with Jeshua, the post-exilic high priest, and Ezra, a Levitical priest. Together, they lead out in the building of the new Temple, which is completed and dedicated around 516 BC. The sacrificial system is re-established 70 years after the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians.
With the blessing of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-2), Zerubbabel and Jeshua the high priest lead the first band of captives back to Jerusalem. They also return the gold and silver vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had removed from the Temple.
After rebuilding the Temple foundation in the first two years, construction comes to a standstill for 17 years, in part due to the opposition and disruption of Tobiah and his followers. Urged on by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1-2), Zerubbabel resumes work on the Temple in the second year of the reign of Darius Hystaspes of Persia (Hag. 1:14-15), from whom he receives large grants of money and materials from Persia.
The Temple is finished in four years, around 516 BC, and is dedicated with great celebration (Ezra 6:15-19). On God’s instructions, Haggai promises Zerubbabel a special blessing: “‘In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the LORD, ‘and will make you as a signet ring; for I have chosen you’” (Hag. 2:23).
Zerubbabel knows who he is in relation to the past: he descends from King David, and God had promised David that he would never lack a descendant upon his throne. Zerrubabel’s genealogy, however, doesn’t stop here, but continues in the genealogy of Joseph, “Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ” (Matthew 1:12-16. See also Luke 3:27).
This scene reveals a number of important truths regarding leaders and their council:
- Leaders disconnected from the past fail to understand their purpose in the present.
- Leaders who understand the past surround themselves with likeminded men who speak into their life and keep them on task.
- Leaders who understand the past and fulfill their purpose in the present will celebrate with great joy when they see the greater story yet to be revealed in the future.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Neh. 11:1-12:26; 1 Chron. 9):
Review Proverbs 16:33; 18:18. How do the returning exiles decide who will dwell in Jerusalem? What does this reveal about decision-making, fairness, and maintaining a unified community?