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Zerah or Zérach (זֶרַח‎ / זָרַח‎‎ "sunrise" Standard Hebrew Zéraḥ / Záraḥ, Tiberian Hebrew Zéraḥ / Zāraḥ) refers to several different people in the Hebrew Bible.[1]

An 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, 17).

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 (Genesis 38:30). This same Zerah is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus 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, 24), where Achan is called the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah.

Simeonite Clan[edit]

The Bible also identifies Zerah as the name of the founder of one of the Simeonite clans.[2]

The Cushite[edit]

Zerah the Cushite is mentioned by the Book of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 14:9–15). There he is said to have 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 the valley of Zephathah near Mareshah, 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,[3] both being rulers of Egypt. Osorkon II is known to have entered the Kingdom of Judah with a huge army in 853 BCE; 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 873 BCE. 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 (1 Kings 15:16–22) and Biblical scholars regard the idea that Asa could defeat an enormous Egyptian army to be untenable.[4]

Furthermore, Cushite refers to Kush (historic Ethiopia), and it is unclear why either Osorkon should be described as a Cushite,[5] since the assertion would be unjustified.[6] It is a possibility that Cushite (כושי) is a typographic error for Kassite (כישי), and that it consequently refers to a Babylonian (Kassite) invasion,[5] but it is considered far more likely that it refers to an invasion by a marauding group of Arabs,[4][5][6] whose numbers have been vastly exaggerated.[6]

In the genealogies of the Book of Chronicles[edit]

The Book of Chronicles mentions a Zerah who was a Gershonite Levite (1 Chr. 6:6; 6:26).


  1. ^ For the etymology see Chad Brand; Archie England; Charles W. Draper (2003). Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. B&H Publishing Group. p. 2403. ISBN 978-1-4336-6978-1.
  2. ^ Numbers 26:13
  3. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  4. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica, "Asa"
  5. ^ a b c Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  6. ^ a b c Peake's Commentary on the Bible

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]