The Hebrew Bible lists Shealtiel as the second son of King Jeconiah (). The Neo-Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II exiled to Babylon Joconiah and Jeconiah's uncle King Zedekiah the last king of Judah and killed Zedekiah there. Potentially, Shealtiel became the legal heir to the throne, if the Davidic monarchy was restored.
The Hebrew Bible has conflicting texts regarding whether Zerubbabel is the son of Shealtiel or of Pedaiah. Several texts (that are thought to be more-or-less contemporaneous) explicitly call "Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel" (, ). Surprisingly, one text makes Zerubbabel a nephew of Shealtiel (): King Jeconiah is the father of Shealtiel and Pedaiah, then Pediah is the father of Zerubbabel.
Various attempts have been made to show how both genealogies could be true. One explanation suggests Shealtiel died childless and therefore Pedaiah, his brother, married his widow according to a Jewish law regarding inheritance (). If so, Zerubbabel would be the legal son of Shealtiel but the biological son of Pedaiah.
The other speculation suggests the title "son of Shealtiel" does not refer to being a biological son but to being a member in Shealtiel's "household" (בית, bet). The Hebrew term "father" (אב, av) can refer to a father of a household, similar to the Latin term paterfamilias. In this sense, a man who is the "father" of a household can therefore be referred to as the "father" of his own biological siblings, nephews and nieces, or anyone else who cohabitates in his "household". Zerubbabel (and possibly his father Pedaiah) could be called a "son" if they lived in Shealtiel's household.
Perhaps both speculations could be true. Zerubbabel could be the legal son of Shealtiel and therefore also a member of his household. Notably, if Shealtiel had no biological children, Zerubabbel as a legal son would have inherited Shealtiel's household and become its new "father" with authority of over the other members of the household.
Yet another speculation simply suggests that the text which identifies Zerubbabel as a son of Pedaiah could be a scribal error. It occurs in a part of the text where the Hebrew seems discongruent and possibly garbled (()). The expected mention of Shealtiel being a father seems accidentally omitted, and thus his children became confused with Pedaiah's. There may be other problems with these verses as well.
In any case, those texts that call Zerubbabel "son of Shealtiel" have a context that is overtly political and seems to emphasize Zerubabbel's potential royal claim to the throne of the Davidic Dynasty by being Shealtiel's successor. Zerubbabel is understood as the legal successor of Shealtiel, with Zerubbabel's title paralleling the Highpriest Jeshua's title, "son of Jozadak", that emphasizes Jeshua's rightful claim to the dynasty of highpriests, descending from Aaron. Therefore, with one descending from David and the other from Aaron, these two officials have the divine authority to rebuild the Temple.
He was determined to be among the wisest of men in Persia, following a dissertation on women and truth, which he presented before Cyrus. He was given sanction to rebuild the Temple and return the sacred Temple vessels that Darius had preserved after the conquest of Bablyon. This is explained in detail in the Apocryphal book 1 Esdras.
He plays a large role in Sholem Asch's final work The Prophet. He is announced as the Prince of Judah upon his return to the Holy Land. One of the firm and long-standing followers and friends of the Prophet Isaiah, and descendant of the Davidic Dynasty.
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