SHESHBAZZAR (shĕsh-bāz'êr, Heb. sheshbatstsar). A prince of the Jews when Cyrus made a decree permitting the Jews to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the house of God. He was made governor, was given the sacred vessels of the temple that had been taken at the Captivity, and helped lay the foundation of the temple (Ezra.1.8, Ezra.1.11; Ezra.5.14, Ezra.5.16). He may be the same as Zerubbabel.
Some authorities have proposed that Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel were in fact the same person. 1 Esdras 6:18, however, states that the Temple vessels previously taken from Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar II were entrusted to Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel as separate individuals, but there is some confusion among the MSS and conflation is evidenced so that the names are either substituted or combined as one. The objection often has been raised that the account of Ezra and Haggai represent both Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel as beginning the renovation and rebuilding of the Temple. This is in no way a contradiction, as Ezra 3:2 refers to the state of the Temple’s reconstruction in the time closest to that of the author while 5:16 refers to the previous decree of Cyrus. In so far as Darius’ decree was only a recommissioning of Cyrus’ decree, both leaders were carrying out Cyrus’ original order. It is well known that the OT narratives of whatever era are not concerned with the chronological analysis of historical continuities, but comprehend history in relation to an overarching theme which is self-consciously metaphysical, in fact spiritual. To demand chronological inflexibility of Ezra is to look at the rebuilding of the Temple in preparation for the Messianic appearance through the eyes of Thucydides, a patent impossibility. A further argument has been raised that Sheshbazzar is the governor’s Akkado-Babylonian name while Zerubbabel is his Jewish name, on the analogy of the parallel names in Daniel 1:7. However, such a proposal is specious as Zerubbabel is simply a transliteration of the Akkad. zēr-bābili (cf. J. J. Stamm, “Die Akkadische Namengebung,” Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft 44 , 269ff.). There is additional evidence that Zerubbabel’s career is placed by the author of the Ezra chronicles in the reign of Darius. Although Sheshbazzar is one of the minor characters of the OT narrative he holds an important place in the continuation of the Davidic royal line, which after the return and restoration of the city of David and the other covenant sites of his once glorious kingdom, should produce the Savior which is Christ the Lord. The hope of Cyrus, called by God, “his anointed” (Isa 45:1) was that the divine Temple of the Jews be rebuilt and that the core of Israel’s heritage be preserved and both were accomplished through Sheshbazzar.
W. F. Albright, “Date and Personality of the Chronicler,” JBL, XL (1921) 108-110; J. Gabriel, Zorobabel (1927), 48-79; R. D. Wilson, “Sheshbazzar,” ISBE Vol. IV (1939), 2766; E. F. Wiedner, “Jojachin, König von Juda,” Mélanges Syriens, Dussaud-Festschrift II (1939) 925ff.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Sheshbazzar is the Hebrew or Aramaic form of the Babylonian Shamash-aba-ucur, or Shamash-bana-ucur: "Oh Shamash, protect the father." It is possible that the full name was Shamash-ban-zeri-Babili-ucur, "Oh Shamash, protect the father (builder) of the seed of Babylon." (See Zerubbabel, and Compare the Babylonian names Ashur-banaucur, Ban-ziri, Nabu-ban-ziri, Shamash-ban-apli, Shamash-apil-ucur, Shamash-ban-achi, and others in Tallquist’s Neubabylonisches Namenbuch, and the Aramaic names on numbers 35, 44, 36, and 45 of Clay’s Aramaic Dockets.) If this latter was the full name, there would be little doubt that Sheshbazzar may have been the same person as Zerubbabel, since the former is called in Ezr 5:14 the governor of Judah, and the latter is called by the same title in Hag 1:1,14; 2:2,21. It is more probable, however, that Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel were different persons, and that Sheshbazzar was governor of Judah in the time of Cyrus and Zerubbabel in that of Darius. It is possible that Sheshbazzar came to Jerusalem in the time of Cyrus and laid the foundations, and that Zerubbabel came later in the time of Darius Hystaspis and completed the building of the temple (compare Ezr 2:68; 4:2; Hag 1:14).
According to Ezr 1:8 Sheshbazzar was the prince (Hannasi) of Judah into whose hands Cyrus put the vessels of the house of the Lord which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem and had put in the house of his gods. It is further said in 1:11 that Sheshbazzar brought these vessels with them of the captivity which he brought up from Babylon to Jerusalem. In Ezr 5:14 f it is said that these vessels had been delivered by Cyrus unto one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor (pechah), and that Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God which was in Jerusalem.
R. Dick Wilson