Ze'rah (Heb. Ze'rach, זֶרִח [in pause Za'rach, זָרִה, 1Ch 2:4; "Zarah," Ge 38:30], rising of the sun; Sept. usually Ζαρά, but sometimes Ζαρέ, Ζαρές, etc.), the name of several Hebrews and one foreigner.
1. Second named of the three sons of Reuel, son of Esau (Ge 36:13; 1 Chronicles 1, 37), and one of the "dukes" or phylarchs of the Edomites (Ge 36:17). B.C. considerably post 1927. . Jobab of Bozrah, one of, the early kings of Edom, perhaps belonged to his family (ver. 33; 1Ch 1:44).
2. Twin son with his elder brother Pharez of Judah and Tamar (Ge 38:30; 1Ch 2; 1Ch 6; "Zara," Mt 1; Mt 3). B.C. cir. 1895. His descendants were called Zarhites, Ezrahites, and Izrahites (Nu 26:20; 1Ki 4:31; 1Ch 27:8,11), and continued at least down to the time of Zerubbabel (9, 6; Ne 11:24). Nothing is related of Zerah individually beyond the peculiar circumstances of his birth (Ge 38:27-30), concerning which see Heidegger, Hist. Patriarch. 18:28; Geddes, Critical Remarks, p. 126, 127.
3. Fourth named of the five sons of Simeon (1Ch 4; 1Ch 24), and founder of the family of Zarhites (Nu 26:13). B.C. 1874. In Ge 46; Ge 10 he is called ZOHAR.
4. A Gershonite Levite, son of Iddo (or Adaiah) and father of Jeaterai (1Ch 6:21,41 [Heb 6:20]). B.C. ante 1043.
5. The Ethiopian or Cushite (הִכּוּשַׁי) king who invaded Judah, and was defeated by Asa (2Ch 14:9). The incident derives great importance from the synchronism thus afforded between Biblical and other history.
1. The Name. — In its form Zerah is identical with the Hebrew proper name above. It has been supposed to represent the Egyptian Usarken, possibly pronounced Usarchen, a name almost certainly of Shemitic origin. SEE SHISHAK. The difference is great, but may be partly accounted for if we suppose that the Egyptian deviates from the original Shemitic form and that the Hebrew represents that form, or that a further deviation than would have been made was the result of the similarity of the Hebrew proper name Zerah. So, סוֹא even if pronounced Sewa or Seva, is more remote from Shebek or Shebetek than Zerah from Usarken. It may be conjectured that these forms resemble those of Memphis, Moph, Noph, which evidently represent current pronunciation, probably of Shemites.
2. The Date. — The war between Asa and Zerah appears to have taken place soon after the, tenth (2Ch 14:1) or early in the fifteenth year of Asa (15, 10). It therefore occurred in about the same year of Usarken II, fourth king of the, twenty-second- dynasty, who began to reign about the same time as the king of Judah. We may therefore date the invasion in B.C. 939.
3. The Event. — The first ten years of Asa's reign were undisturbed by war. Then: Asa.took counsel with his subjects, and walled and fortified the cities of Judah. He also maintained. an army of 580,000 men, 300,000 spearmen of Judah, and 280,000 archers of Benjamin. This great force was probably the whole number of men able to bear arms (2Ch 14:1-8). At length the anticipated danger came. Zerah the Ethiopian, with a mighty army of a million, Cushim and Lubim, with three hundred chariots, invaded the kingdom, and advanced unopposed in the field as far as Mareshah. As the invaders afterwards retreated by way of Gerar, and Mareshah lay on the west of the hill-country of Judah, where it rises out of the Philistine plain, in the line of march from Egypt to Jerusalem, it cannot be doubted that they came out of Egypt. Between the border on the side of Gerar and Mareshah lay no important city but Gath. Gath and Mareshah were both fortified by Rehboam before the invasion of Shishak (11:8), and were no doubt captured and probably dismantled by that king (comp. 12:4), whose list of conquered towns, etc., shows that he not only took some strong towns, but that he subdued the country in detail. A delay in the capture of Gath, where the warlike Philistines may have opposed a stubborn resistance, would have removed the only obstacle on the way to Mareshah, thus securing the retreat that was afterwards made by this route. From Mareshah or its immediate neighborhood was a route to Jerusalem, presenting no difficulties but those of a hilly country, for not one important town is known to have lain between the capital and this outpost of the tribe of Judah. The invading army had swarmed across the border and devoured the Philistine fields before Asa could march to meet it. The distances from Gerar, or the southwestern border. of Palestine, to Mareshah was not much greater than from Mareshah to Jerusalem, and, considering the nature of the tracts, would have taken about the same time to traverse; and only such delay as would have been caused by the sieges of Gath and Mareshah could have enabled Asa hastily to collect a levy and march to relieve the beleaguered town or hold the passes. "In the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah" the two armies met. We cannot perfectly determine the site of the battle. Mareshah, according to the Onomasticon, lay within two miles of Eleutheropolis, and Dr. Robinson has reasonably conjectured its position to be marked by a remarkable "tell," or artificial mound, a mile and a half south of the site of the latter town. Its signification, "that which is at the head," would scarcely suit a position at the opening of a valley. But it seems that a narrow valley terminates, and a broad one commences, at the supposed site. The valley of Zephathah, "the watch-tower," is supposed by Dr. Robinson to be the latter, a broad wady, descending from Eleutheropolis in a northwesterly direction towards Tell es-Safieh, in which last name he is disposed to trace the old appellation (Bibl. Res. 2,- 31). . The two have no connection whatever, and Robinson's conjecture is extremely hazardous. SEE ZEPHATHAH. If this identification be correct, we must suppose that Zerah retired from before Mareshah towards the plain, that he might use his "chariots and horsemen" with effect, instead of entangling them in the narrow valleys leading towards Jerusalem. From the prayer of Asa we may judge that, when he came upon the invading army, he saw its hugeness, and so that, as he descended through a valley, it lay spread out beneath him. The Egyptian-monuments enable us to picture the general disposition of Zerah's army. The chariots formed the first corps in a single or double line; behind them, massed in phalanxes, were heavy-
armed troops; probably on the flanks stood archers and horsemen in lighter formations. Asa, marching down a valley, must have attacked in a heavy column; for none but the most highly disciplined troops can -form line from column in the face of an enemy. His spearmen of Judah would have composed this column: each bank of the valley would have been occupied by the Benjamite archers, like those who came to David," helpers of the war, armed with bows, and [who] could use both the right hand and the left in [hurling] stones and [shooting] arrows out of a bow" (1Ch 12:1-2). No doubt, the Ethiopian, confident in his numbers, disdained to attack the Hebrews or clear the heights, but waited in the broad valley, or the plain. Asa's prayer before the battle is fill of the noble faith of the age of the Judges: "Lord [it is] alike to thee to help, whether the strong or the weak: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. 0 Lord, thou [art] our God; let not man prevail against thee." From the account of Abijah's defeat of Jeroboam, we may suppose that the priests sounded their trumpets, and the men of Judah descended with a shout (2Ch 13:14-15). The hills and mountains were the favorite camping-places of the Hebrews, who usually rushed down upon their more numerous or better-disciplined enemies in the plains and valleys. If the battle were deliberately set in array, it would have begun early in the morning, according to the usual practice of these times, when there was not a night-surprise, as when Goliath challenged the Israelites (1Sa 17:20-23), and when Thothmes III fought the Canaanites at Megiddo; and, as we may judge from the long pursuits at this period, the sun would have been in the eyes of the army of Zerah, and its archers would thus have been useless. The chariots broke, by, the charge and with horses made unmanageable by flights of arrows, must have been forced back upon the cumbrous host behind. "So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled, And Asa and the people that [were] with him pursued them unto Gerar; and [or "for"] the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves." This last clause seems to relate to an irremediable overthrow at the first; and, indeed, had it not been so, the pursuit would not have been carried, and, as it seems, at once, beyond the frontier. So complete was the overthrow that the Hebrews could capture and spoil the cities around Gerar, which must have been in alliance with Zerah. From these cities they took very much spoil, and they also smote "the tents of cattle, and carried away sheep and camels in abundance" (2Ch 14:9-15). More seems to have been captured from the Arabs than from the army of Zerah; probably the army consisted of a nucleus of regular troops, and a great body of tributaries, who would have scattered in all directions, leaving their country open to reprisals. On his return to Jerusalem, Asa was met by Azariah, who exhorted him and the people to be faithful to God. Accordingly, Asa made a second reformation, and collected his subjects at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year, and made a covenant, and offered of the spoil "seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep" (2Ch 15:1-15). From this it would, appear that the battle was fought in the preceding winter. The success of Asa, and the manifest blessing that attended him, drew to him Ephraimites, Manassites, and Simeonites. His father had already captured cities in the Israelitish territory (2Ch 13:19), and he held cities in Mount Ephraim (2Ch 15:8), and then was at peace with Israel. Simeon, always at the mercy of a powerful king of Judah, would have naturally turned to him. Never was the house of David stronger after the defection of the ten tribes; but soon the king fell into the wicked error, so constantly to be repeated, of calling the heathen -to aid him against the kindred Israelites, and hired Ben-hadad, king of Syria-Damascus, to lay their cities waste, when Hanani the prophet recalled to him the great victory he had achieved when he trusted in God (2Ch 16:1-9). The after-years of Asa were troubled with wars (ver. 9); but they were with Baasha (1Ki 15:16,32). Zerah and his people had been too signally crushed to attack him again. SEE ASA.
4. The identification of Zera has occasioned some difference of opinion. The term Cushite or Ethiopian may imply that he was of Arabian Cush; the principal objection to which is that history affords no indication that Arabia had at that epoch, or from its system of government could well have, any king so powerful as Zerah. That he was of Abyssinia or African Ethiopia, is resisted by the difficulty of seeing how this "huge host" could have obtained a passage through Egypt, as it must have done to reach Judaea. If we could suppose, with Champollion (Precis, p. 257), whom Coquerel follows (Biog, Sacr. s.v.), that Zerah the Cushite was the then king of Egypt, of an Ethiopian dynasty, this difficulty would be satisfactorily met. But lately it has been supposed that Zerah is the Hebrew name of Usarken I, second king of the Egyptian twenty-second dynasty; or perhaps more probably Usarken II, his second successor. This is a tempting explanation, but cannot be received without question, and it is not deemed satisfactory by Rosellini, Wilkinson, Sharpe, and others. Jahn hazards an ingenious conjecture, that Zerah was king of Cush on both sides of the Red Sea, that is, of bath the Arabian and African Ethiopia; and thus provides him a sufficient power without subjecting him to the necessity of passing through Egypt. There are two other suppositions, which are not destitute of probability. It is conceived either that he was a native Ethiopian general who, on this occasion, commanded the armies of Egypt, or that he was an Ethiopian general who led an Ethiopian army through Egypt, now separate from Ethiopia, and invaded Judah through Egypt. This question is a wider one than seems at first sight. We have to inquire whether the army of Zerah was that of an Egyptian king, and, if the reply be affirmative, whether it was led by either Usarken I or II.
The war of Shishak had reduced the angle of Arabia that divided Egypt from Palestine. Probably Shishak was unable to attack the Assyrians, and endeavored, by securing this tract, to guard the approach to Egypt. If the army of Zerah were Egyptian, this would account for its connection with the people of Gerar and the pastoral tribes of the neighborhood. The sudden decline of the power of Egypt after the reign of Shishak would be explained by the overthrow of the Egyptian army about thirty years later.
The composition of the army of Zerah, of Cushim and Lubirm (2Ch 16:8), closely resembles that of Shishak, of Lubim, Sukkim, and Cushim (12:3): both armies also had chariots and horsemen (12:3; 16:8). The Cushim might have been of an Asiatic Cush, but the Lubim can only have been Africans. The army, therefore, must have been of a king of Egypt, or Ethiopia above Egypt. The uncertainty is removed by our finding that the kings of the twenty-second dynasty employed mercenaries of the Mashuwasha, a Libyan tribe, which apparently supplied the most important part of their hired force. The army, moreover, as consisting partly, if not wholly, of a mercenary force, and with chariots and horsemen, is, save in the horsemen, exactly what the Egyptian army of the empire would have been, with the one change of the increased importance given to the mercenaries, which we know marked it under the twenty-second dynasty. That the army was that of an Egyptian king therefore cannot be doubted.
As to the identification of Zerah with a Usarken, we speak diffidently. That he is called a Cushite must be compared with the occurrence of the name Namuret, Nimrod, in the line of the Usarkens, but that line seems rather to have been of Eastern than of Western Ethiopians. The name Usarken "has been thought to be Sargon, in which case it is unlikely, but not impossible, that another Hebrew or Shemitic name should have been adopted to represent the Egyptian form. On the other hand, the kings of the twenty- second dynasty were of a warlike family, and their sons constantly held military commands. It is unlikely that an important army would have been entrusted to any but a king or prince. Usarken is less remote from Zerah than seems at first sight, and, according to our computation, Zerah might have been Usarken II, but according to Dr. Hincks's, Usarken II.
5. Preternatural Character of the Deliverance. — The defeat of the Egyptian army by Asa is without parallel in the history of the Jews. On no other occasion did an Israelitish army meet an army of one of the great powers on either side and defeat it. Shishak was unopposed; Sennacherib was not met in the field; Necho was so met, and overthrew Josiah's army; Nebuchadnezzar, like Shishak, was only delayed by fortifications.
The defeat of Zerah thus is a solitary instance, more of the power of faith than of the bravery of the Hebrews, a single witness that the God of Israel was still the same who had led his people through the Red Sea, and would give them the same aid if they trusted in him. We have, indeed, no distinct statement that the defeat of Zerah was a miracle, but we have proof enough that God providentially enabled the Hebrews to vanquish a force greater in number, stronger in the appliances of war, with horsemen and chariots more accurate in discipline, no raw levies hastily equipped from the king's armory, but a seasoned standing militia, strengthened and more terrible by the addition of swarms of hungry Arabs, bred to war and whose whole life was a time of pillage. This great deliverance is one of the many proofs that God is to his people ever the same, whether he bids them stand still and behold his salvation, or nerves them with that courage that has wrought great things in his name in our later age; thus it bridges over a chasm between two periods outwardly unlike, and bids us see in history the immutability of the divine actions. SEE EGYPT.