SHESHBAZZAR (Heb. שֶׁשְבַּצַּר, שֵׁשְׁבַּצַּר), the prince (nasi) of Judah at the beginning of the return to Zion of the Babylonian Exile (538 b.c.e.). According to the Book of Ezra (1:8–11), King Cyrus of Persia delivered the Temple vessels, taken by Nebuchadnezzar from Jerusalem, to Sheshbazzar, the prince of the Jews, who brought them to Jerusalem during the return from Babylon. This is also mentioned in Ezra 5:14, where Sheshbazzar is called governor. Opinions differ on the origin, rank, and role of Sheshbazzar during the return to Zion. Some assumed him to have been a gentile, Persian or Babylonian, governor in the service of the king of Persia; others thought that he was a Jewish officer, not from the House of David, who was appointed over Judah for a short while at the beginning of the return to Zion; and some even held that his role in connection with the return to Zion was to restore the Temple vessels to Jerusalem. However, the title "prince" by which the prophet Ezekiel designates the Davidic ruler (Ezek. 37:25), supports the supposition that Sheshbazzar was the leader of the people of Davidic origin, and was appointed ruler of Judah by the king of Persia. There were also those who attempted to identify Sheshbazzar with *Zerubbabel on the assumption that this was Zerubbabel's Babylonian name. This hypothesis is, however, unlikely if only because both Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel are Babylonian names. Many scholars have accepted the more probable view, which identifies Sheshbazzar with Shenazzar, son of Jehoiachin, the uncle of Zerubbabel, who is mentioned in i Chronicles 3:18. An examination of the Septuagint transliterations of these two names supports the view of W.F. Albright that both revert to a basic form, Sin-abuṣur, a name common in the cuneiform documents of this era and found in an Aramaic document in the form of Shenabazar. If Sheshbazzar is Shenazzar, the uncle of Zerubbabel, then he quite naturally stood at the head of the returnees, and since he was born close to the time of the exile of Jehoiachin (c. 595 b.c.e.; see *Jehoiachin), he would have been about 60 years old at the time of the return to Zion, and apparently did not live long. Because he apparently stood at the head of the returnees for only a short time, the image of Zerubbabel overshadowed him in the narratives of subsequent generations, and thus Sheshbazzar is mentioned in the Book of Ezra only in connection with the return of the Temple vessels.
E. Meyer, Die Entstehung des Judenthums (1896), 75ff.; S. Jampel, in: mgwj, 46 (1902), 318ff.; J.W. Rothstein, Die Genealogie des Koenigs Jojachin (1902), 25ff.; W.F. Albright, in: jbl, 40 (1921), 108ff.; J. Gabriel, Zorobabel (1927), 48ff.; Alt, Kl Schr, 2 (1953), 333–4; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 1 (1951), 150–3; J. Liver, Toledot Beit David (1959), 9–11, 79–87.