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Answering The Atheist
September 12, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 37

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Who was Zerubbabel’s faither? 1 Chronicles 3:19 says it was Pedaiah, but Ezra 3:2 and Nehemiah 12:1 say it was Shealtiel. Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
If the meaning of the Hebrew word ben were so specific as to mean one’s immediate and biological son, then certainly there would be a contradiction here. Of course, the most common rendering is son, but of the 4906 occurrences of the word, we find son (2978), children (1568), old (51), young (35), man (20), child (10), stranger (10), people (5), miscellaneous (92).

Shealtiel and Pedaiah were brothers (1 Chronicles 3:18-19). Since in the genealogical listing, Zerubbabel is said to be Pedaiah’s son, he would thus be Shealtiel’s nephew. The question then, why do Ezra and Nehemiah speak of Zerubbabel as Shealtiel’s son?

It has been suggested by some that though Zerubbabel was begotten of Pedaiah, that he was raised in the house of Shealtiel. There is no way to prove or disprove such a claim, but it is noteworthy that only in 1 Chronicles 3 is Pedaiah, the father of Zerubbabel referenced. Everywhere else, Shealtiel is identified as his father. Though circumstantial, it certainly gives credibility to the thought.

Also, given the generic scope of the Hebrew word ben, it would not be out of the question for a man’s son, grandson, nephew, or other kin to be referred to as such.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible