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What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerub′babel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerub′babel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.

Historically Zerubbabel did not complete God's house, namely the restored Temple of Jerusalem. It was finished in a later generation {@Biblasia's answer shows that it finished sooner than this} during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra 4 describes how Zerubbabel refused help from fellow would-be-worshipers (apparently the future Samaritans), saying:

“You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” Ezra 4:3

Why was Zechariah's prophecy, that Zerubbabel would finish God's house, not fulfilled? If he had accepted the help of these future Samaritans, would things have turned out differently? And since the prophet mentions the success of Zerubbabel's building project as a test for us to know the God has sent him (Zechariah), how should we respond?

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Historically Zerubbabel did not complete God's house, namely the restored Temple of Jerusalem. It was finished in a later generation during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra 4 describes how Zerubbabel refused help from fellow would-be-worshipers (apparently the future Samaritans), saying: . . .

There is no evidence to support this allegation. In fact, Zerubbabel was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah: he did not live in an earlier generation prior to them.

The temple rebuilding was completed, start to finish, within a 49-year period of time, well within the lifetime of a single man and not requiring multiple generations. The prophecy of Daniel 9 marks out the seven-week, representing 49 years, period of time for the restoration of the temple. And the Jews declared how many years of this were occupied in the actual construction.

Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? (John 2:20, KJV)

(Several years more involved delays over the legal hassles imposed by the enemies of Jerusalem.)

One possible clue to the progress and work of the temple is that Zerubbabel also went by another name, in similar fashion to the Babylonian names given to Daniel and his three friends. Zerubbabel's other name was "Sheshbazzar." These names are used somewhat interchangeably, as can be seen in the following verses.

Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them. (Ezra 5:2, KJV)

Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished. (Ezra 5:16, KJV)

(And notice, too, that these parallel verses are both in the same chapter of Ezra. But this connection is confirmed in the prophecy under study.)

The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. (Zechariah 4:9, KJV)

Notice, too, the position each is designated.

Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. (Ezra 1:8, KJV)

And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; (Ezra 5:14, KJV)

And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, (Haggai 1:14, KJV)

According to the Bible, the temple was completed during the time of Haggai and Zechariah and Nehemiah.

14 And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. 15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.16 And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy. (Ezra 6:14-16, KJV)

So what began in the time of Cyrus was completed in the time of Darius. And Zerubbabel was clearly the one who was building during the time of Darius.

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, (Haggai 1:1, KJV)

Conclusion

It was indeed Zerubbabel in charge of the work when the rebuilding of the temple was completed. Zerubbabel, also known as Sheshbazzar, was a contemporary of Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Cyrus, and Darius, as the Biblical record indicates. Therefore, the prophecy of Zechariah 4:9 was fulfilled during his time, as promised.

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  • Excellent answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Dec 17, 2022 at 10:22
  • + 1 Thanks to @Biblasia for this useful answer. I admit my error about the completion of the Temple being in a later generation. But there is still no evidence that Zerubbabel was on the scene when it was finished, for it was finished in the 6th year and the last mention of Zerubbabel is the 2nd year. Perhaps the question should be: "why was Zerubbabel not mentioned at the dedication of the Temple in Ezra 6:13-18? when the Temple is actually shown as completed? Dec 18, 2022 at 4:25
  • I take God's word on it as evidence enough.
    – Biblasia
    Dec 18, 2022 at 13:04

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