Zerah the Cushite

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ZERAH THE CUSHITE (Heb. זֶרַח הַכּוּשִׁי), military commander who invaded Judah in the time of *Asa. According to a story, preserved only in ii Chronicles 14:8–14, Zerah commanded a large army and 300 chariots against Judah and reached the environs of *Mareshah. The Judean army defeated and pursued him to Gerar, conquering the cities in the area and looting many sheep and camels. It has generally been contended by scholars that Zerah was Osorkon i, king of Egypt (c. 914–874 b.c.e.); but Osorkon, like his father *Shishak, was not a Cushite (Nubian) but a Libyan. Furthermore, there is no etymological connection between Zerah and Osorkon, and the characters of their armies were different. According to Albright, Zerah was the governor of a Cushite colony, which was established by Shishak after his campaign in Ereẓ Israel. The settlement of Hamite elements near *Gerar in Philistia during the monarchy is also treated in i Chronicles 4:39–41 (according to the Septuagint; not Gedor as in Masoretic text). Nonetheless, it is more probable that Zerah was a Cushite chieftain from the vicinity of Gerar, who raided and plundered the surrounding areas. Thus, Habakkuk (3:7) mentions Cushite tribes with *Midian (cf. also Num. 12:1).

[Yehoshua M. Grintz]

In the Aggadah

Zerah was, for a short period, the owner of all the wealth in the world, which he acquired by capturing from Shishak (king of Egypt), those treasures which the king had taken from Rehoboam (i Kings 14:25ff.). These were the treasures which the Children of Israel had taken from the Egyptians at the time of the Exodus (Ex. 12:36). Ultimately, however, these treasures reverted to Asa, when he defeated Zerah the Cushite in battle (Pes. 119a).


R.H. Hall, The Ancient History of the Near East (19377), 439; Olmstead, Hist, index; Albright, in: jqr, 24 (1934), 370; idem, in: jpos, 4 (1924), 146–8; Bright, Hist, 214–5. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 145.