A Righteous Edomite
Zerah was the name of an Edomite Chief. He was listed as the second son of Reuel, son of Basemath, who was Ishmael's daughter and one of the wives of Esau the brother of Jacob (Israel) (Genesis 36:13 and 36:17).
Zerah the Cushite, is an individual mentioned by the Book of Chronicles as having invaded the Kingdom of Judah with an enormous army, in the days of Asa. According to the text, when Zerah's army reached that of Asa at Zephathah, Zerah's army was utterly defeated, by divine intervention, and Asa's forces collected a large volume of spoils of war.
The invasion, and its implied time-frame, means that the traditional view was to consider this Zerah to have actually been Osorkon II or Osorkon I, both being rulers of Egypt. Osorkon II, is known to have entered the Kingdom of Judah, with a huge army, in 853BC; however, rather than attacking Judah, the army was just passing through, on its way to attack the Assyrian forces. In addition, Asa's reign is traditionally dated to have ended in 873BC, making it impossible for the biblical text to be accurate if Osorkon II was Zerah, since Osorkon II's reign hadn't even begun until one year later - 872BC. In the Book of Kings, which doesn't mention Asa's defeat of Zerah, Asa is described as being extremely weak from a defensive point of view, and Biblical scholars regard the idea that Asa could defeat an enormous Egyptian army to be untenable.
Furthermore, Cushite refers to Kush (historic Ethiopia), and it is unclear why either Osorkon should be described as a Cushite, since the assertion would be unjustified. It is a possibility that Cushite (כושי)is a typographic error for Kassite (כישי), and that it consequently refers to a Babylonian (Kassite) invasion, but it is considered far more likely that it refers to an invasion by a marauding group of Arabs, whose numbers have been vastly exaggerated.
Under King Jeroboam of Israel, Jerusalem is attacked and plundered by Shishak king of Egypt (2 Chronicles 12:9), who actually is Pharaoh Hedjkheperre Setepenre Shoshenq I (c.943-922 BCE). He was a Libyan-Berber Meshwesh king of Egypt and the founder of the Twenty-second Dynasty. King Asa, grandson of King Jeroboam, was attacked by Zerah, whose name is close to Sekhemkheperre—meaning "Powerful are the Manifestations of Re"--, a throne name for Osorkon I. Zerah is more likely Osorkon I or Osorkon II because King Asa's reign coincides with their period of rule over Egypt. In addition, Berber people, most of whom are dark-skinned, are easily confused with the Nubians or black Africans referred to as Cushites in the Bible.
Son of Tamar
According to the Book of Genesis, Zerah was the son of Tamar and of Judah, and was the twin of Pharez. The text says that he was called Zerah because when he had stuck his hand out before being born, the midwife tied a bright scarlet thread around his wrist; although all other biblical uses of the word zerah translate as rise, here the name is implied to derive from the colour of the bright thread - scarlet - which is similar to the initial colour of sunrise.
Avodah Zerah in the Talmud discusses strange worship. And, Edomites are asociable with idolatry. However, in Hebrew a persons name is as a chemical formula for who they are. That Zerah was the son of Judah and Tamar indicates that he was indeed righteous. Additionally, Zerah appears in the book of Numbers, which is post Sinai, as a Simeonite and a Judahite indicating his Jewishness, and belonging to the nation of Abraham.
Names in the Genealogies of the Book of Chronicles
Zerah was a Gershonite Levite (1 Chr. 6:21, 41).
|Wikisource has the text of the 1920 Encyclopedia Americana article Zerah.|