Skip to main content

Zerah the Cushite


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.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Zerah the Cushite." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . 17 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Zerah the Cushite." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . (February 17, 2019).

"Zerah the Cushite." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved February 17, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.