Zerubbabel, the chosen servant

Zerubbabel, the chosen servant

14th December

On that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will take you, Zerubbabel, my servant, son of Shealtiel, says the Lord, and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, says the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:23)

A new chapter of Christ’s family tree began with the birth of another royal child, Zerubbabel. He was the grandson of one of the last kings of Judah, Jeconiah. Zerubbabel was born in Babylon in the 6th century BC, when the Jews were exiled there. He was chosen by God to lead the people back to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple.

When Cyrus, the king of Persia, permitted the Jews to return to their homeland, Zerubbabel led almost 50,000 people back to Jerusalem. He then became the governor of Judah, which at that time was a part of the Persian Empire. In this he was supported by the high priest of the time, Joshua.

After the return, Zerubbabel began to rebuild the temple on the site on which Solomon’s temple had stood. After about twenty years, the new temple was completed, and dedicated amid great celebrations. Through the prophet Haggai, God said that afterwards, Zerubbabel would be made like a “signet ring”, which meant that he would have God’s authority (Haggai 2:23 cf Esther 8:8).

Zerubbabel and his colleague, the high priest Joshua, are described in the book of Zechariah using the symbol of two olive trees. They are referred to as “the two anointed ones who stand in attendance on the Lord of the entire earth” (Zechariah 4:1-14). This means that they were symbols of the coming Messiah, because that word means ‘anointed one’.

This stained glass image of Zerubabbel is found within the Jesse Tree window of Farm Street church, in London. Designed by the Hardmans firm and completed in 1912, the window pictures Christ’s ancestors as outlined in St Matthew’s gospel. Zerubbabel is pictured holding a royal standard, as testament to his descent from the line of Judah. He is referred to by the Latin version of his name, Zorobabel.

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