ZERAH (Heb. זֶרַח), name of five biblical figures. The etymology of the name is uncertain. It may mean "rising sun" or "brightness" or, possibly, "crimson" (see below). 1) One of the twins of tamar (Gen. 38:30; 46:12; I Chron. 2:4). The narrative relates that when the twins were being delivered, Zerah put out his hand and the midwife tied a crimson thread to it to signify his priority of birth. However, he withdrew his hand and his brother unexpectedly emerged. Because of this his brother was named perez (Gen. 38:27–30). The Bible seems to ascribe the name to the crimson thread attached to his hand. It has been suggested that Zerah is derived from zeḥorita, the Aramaic for shani ("scarlet thread").   This story closely resembles that of the twin birth of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:24–26), and probably is a variation of the same theme. Zerah became the eponymous ancestor of a Judahite clan, and the narrative of his birth may reflect the prior ascendancy of this clan over that of Perez, and its subsequent decline and supersession by Perez. 2) An Edomite chief descended from both Esau and Ishmael. His father Reuel was born of the marriage of Esau to Basemath, daughter of Ishmael. Zerah was the father of Jobab, an early Edomite king (Gen. 36:13, 17, 33; I Chron. 1:37, 44). 3) Son of Simeon and eponymous ancestor of a Simeonite tribe called the Zerahites (Num. 26:13; I Chron. 4:24). He is referred to as Zohar (Heb. צֹחַר) in Genesis 46:10 and Exodus 6:15. 4) A levite, grandson of Levi, of the family of Gershom (I Chron. 6:6, 26). 5) zerah the cushite (II Chron. 14: 8ff.).

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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