York Rite Education - Zerubbabel and the Royal Arch

Zerubbabel and the Royal Arch

Graig Huber

Zerubbabel appears in several Masonic degrees but for the purposes of this post we will explore Zerubbabel and the Holy Royal Arch Degree. Zerubbabel is of great importance to Capitular Masonry. Our Chapters are “erected to God and dedicated to Zerubbabel”. He is mentioned in the Canon Bible approximately 25 times and several more times in the Apocrypha. He was, per biblical accounts, a direct descendant of King David and was most likely born during the Jewish exile in Babylon. As many scholars point out when doing research on Zerubbabel, his name translates closely to “seed of Babylon”. After the Persians captured Babylon, the Persian King Cyrus II decreed that the Jews could return home to “rebuild the house of the Lord, The God of Israel” (Ezra 1:3). Upon the Jewish return to Jerusalem work began on re-building the Temple. Part of this work would be to remove the rubbish from the First Temple and as Capitular Masons we know how this fits into the timeline of the Royal Arch Degree. Very soon after work began it was delayed, and eventually; halted due to disagreements between the returned Jewish exiles and the local Non-Jewish population. This delay lasted for several years until Haggai (another prominent fixture worthy of research at another time) convinced Zerubbabel to restart construction on the Temple. Amazingly, according to scholarly reports, it only took about four years to complete the Second Temple - a significant reduction of time over the First Temple. The author John H. VanGorden - writer of Biblical Characters in Freemasonry - says this about Zerubbabel: “In the Masonic degrees, Zerubbabel illustrates loyalty to conviction, faithfulness to duty, devotion to truth, and determination to fulfill the obligations of these virtues. The lesson particularly emphasize truth, and teach that truth is the strongest force affecting mankind.”

One last thought - as stated earlier Zerubbabel is in several Masonic degrees. According to my research, he appears in the Holy Royal Arch, Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, and in versions of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 22nd degrees in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. With such a prominent role in so many degrees, I think it is safe to say that he is a major character in all of Freemasonry and further research then just provided in this short post will probably result in further light by the Mason who continues to search….


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