“Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord.”
Ezra 3:8 ESV
Zerubbabel is one of the most interesting minor characters in the Old Testament. I’ve often wondered why he doesn’t get his own book, and I am halfway convinced that it’s because his name is so hard to spell. He is first mentioned here in Ezra 2:2. He’s the main character of the first half of Ezra, and also features prominently in Haggai and Zechariah.
He also shows up in the New Testament, in the genealogy of Jesus. Which makes him a descendant of David and the eleventh great grandfather of the Messiah (see Matthew 1:13).
Zerubbabel led the first delegation of exiles back from Babylon to Jerusalem. He oversaw the re-building of the Temple. His name literally means “Planted in Babylon.” So the future Messiah came from one who was born in Babylon.
I love the language used in Ezra 3:8, when Zerubbabel and his fellow builders first laid the foundations of the temple. They “made a beginning.” It wasn’t elaborate. Those who had seen the original temple wept because it didn’t match the glory of the first temple (see Ezra 3:12, compare Haggai 2:3).
Yet this temple, which “seemed like nothing” to the older generation, would be the one in which Jesus, God’s messiah, would be dedicated one day. In a couple of days, we will read Haggai’s prophecy that one day,
“The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’””
Haggai 2:9 ESV
And it began when one who was planted in Babylon laid the foundations.
Do you remember when Jeremiah contradicted all the false prophets who were telling the people that the exile would be over before they knew it? God told Jeremiah to tell the people:
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Jeremiah 29:4-7 ESV
I am so thankful that Zerubbabel’s parents were obedient to God’s command to be fruitful even in a hard season. It is a challenge to all of us during this time in our own history. No matter our circumstances, no matter the culture around us, God’s people can still be obedient to God’s command.
Beloved, God made Zerubbabel— planted in Babylon— the great-times-eleven grandfather of Jesus! The Lord grew something beautiful from what was planted during a difficult season. And he can do that in your life as well.