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"Zarach" redirects here. For the city in Iran, see Zarach, Iran. For the administrative subdivision of Iran, see Zarach District.

Zerah or Zérach (זֶרַח / זָרַח "Sunrise", Standard Hebrew Zéraḥ / Záraḥ, Tiberian Hebrew Zéraḥ / Zāraḥ) refers to five different people in the Hebrew Bible.

A Righteous Edomite[edit]

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).

The Cushite[edit]

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.[1] According to the text, when Zerah's army reached that of Asa at Zephathah,[2] Zerah's army was utterly defeated, by divine intervention,[3] and Asa's forces collected a large volume of spoils of war.[4]

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,[5] 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. 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,[6] and Biblical scholars regard the idea that Asa could defeat an enormous Egyptian army to be untenable.[7]

Furthermore, Cushite refers to Kush (historic Ethiopia), and it is unclear why either Osorkon should be described as a Cushite,[8] since the assertion would be unjustified.[9] It is a possibility that Cushite (כושי)is a typographic error for Kassite (כישי), and that it consequently refers to a Babylonian (Kassite) invasion,[8] but it is considered far more likely that it refers to an invasion by a marauding group of Arabs,[7][8][10] whose numbers have been vastly exaggerated.[10]

Son of Tamar[edit]

According to the Book of Genesis, Zerah was the son of Tamar and of Judah, and was the twin of Pharez.[11] 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;[11] 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. This same Zerah is briefly mentioned in the New Testament in Matthew 1:3.

Zerah is also listed as the ancestor of Achan, who was stoned to death as recounted in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 7:18 and 7:24, where Achan is called the son of Zerah, skipping the father and grandfather).

The Bible also identifies Zerah as the name of the founder of one of the Simeonite clans.[12]

Names in the Genealogies of the Book of Chronicles[edit]

Zerah was a Gershonite Levite (1 Chr. 6:6; 6:26).


  1. ^ 2 Chronicles 14:9
  2. ^ 2 Chronicles 14:10
  3. ^ 2 Chronicles 14:12-13
  4. ^ 2 Chronicles 14:13-15
  5. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  6. ^ 1 Kings 15:16-22
  7. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica, "Asa"
  8. ^ a b c Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  9. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible
  10. ^ a b Peake's commentary on the Bible
  11. ^ a b Genesis 38:30
  12. ^ Numbers 26:13

Further reading[edit]

  • Zerah the Kushite: A New Proposal Regarding His Identity (with Peter James), in: P. James and P. van der Veen (eds.), Solomon and Shishak, BAR International Series 2732, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2015 [1]