The book opens with the announcement of the Day of the Lord, which is characterized as a day of massive, even total, destruction. It is a day that reverses creation; humans, animals, birds, and the whole world will be swept away (1:2-3; 17-18). Officials (1:8), persons of means (1:13), and other subgroups are mentioned, but the chapter does not limit the devastation to specific groups within Judah. A possibility of being protected through the destruction is mentioned at the start of chapter 2, but it is not promised. The bulk of chapter 2 contains oracles against nations and shifts to destruction outside of Judah. Chapter 3 returns to Judah. Threats against Judah are intermingled with references to a surviving remnant that is cleansed of their deceit. They will speak purely and are enjoined to rejoice and sing in concert with God's own rejoicing over them as restored people.
In three chapters Zephaniah ranges through the major prophetic themes of
judgment and salvation. The book announces judgment in comprehensive
terms matched only by the extensiveness of God's transformation and
restoration. The book prompts consideration of the communal consequences
of sin and squarely focuses any future beyond judgment on God's removal
of the judgments and reconstitution of a faithful people.
The superscription (1:1) attributes the book to Zephaniah and traces his
genealogy back to Hezekiah. The Bible does mention other persons named
Zephaniah, notably a priest in Jeremiah (21:1; 29:25, 29; 37:3; 52:24),
but there is no linkage to the Zephaniah named in the superscription. It
is often claimed that Zephaniah had a royal background based on his
ancestry. The superscription, however, does not call Hezekiah a king. It
is best to admit that besides having the name Zephaniah, we know
nothing else about the author.
The superscription places Zephaniah in the reign of Josiah, whose reign
extended from 640 to 609 B.C.E., but the book itself does not directly
provide additional information to fix the date more specifically.
Josiah's reform and Judean expansion are not mentioned. Assyria and
Nineveh are mentioned, but Babylon is not. The combined effect of these
factors has led most interpreters to assume the book is set in the early
part of Josiah's reign.
The book announces the destructive Day of the Lord directed against both
Judah and the nations and God's subsequent transformation of the people
into a faithful and rejoicing community in harmony with God.
The book of Zephaniah employs standard styles of prophetic speech. The
announcement of judgment that opens the book can only evoke repentance,
though without the repentant being promised deliverance (see the
"perhaps" in 2:3). The book assumes a communal context; the guilty, the
less guilty, and the innocent are not differentiated in the destruction
that is announced and to be experienced. A gracious future, if it is to
exist at all, is on the other side of the destruction of the community
and is God's act of transforming the community into a faithful
community. To read in concert with the book (that is, to be addressed by
the book), contemporary readers need to step outside of an
individualistic understanding of guilt, innocence, and grace,
recognizing themselves as part of a larger social matrix in which the
acts of each affect all.
AUTHOR: Richard W. Nysse, Professor of Old Testament
The Book Of ZEPHANIAH
word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of
Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah
the son of Amon, king of Judah.
2 I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.
3 I will
consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the
fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked: and I will
cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.
4 I will
also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of
Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and
the name of the Chemarims with the priests;
them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that
worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham;
6 And them that are turned back from the LORD; and those that have not sought the LORD, nor enquired for him.
thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at
hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.
8 And it
shall come to pass in the day of the LORD's sacrifice, that I will
punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed
with strange apparel.
9 In the
same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which
fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit.
10 And it
shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that there shall be the
noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a
great crashing from the hills.
11 Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.
12 And it
shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with
candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in
their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.
their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they
shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant
vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.
great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the
voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness
and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and
16 A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.
17 And I
will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men,
because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be
poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.
their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of
the LORD's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of
his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that
dwell in the land.
1 Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;
the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the
fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD's
anger come upon you.
3 Seek ye
the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment;
seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day
of the LORD's anger.
Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out
Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.
unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites!
the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the
Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no
6 And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks.
7 And the
coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed
thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening:
for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.
8 I have
heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon,
whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against
as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab
shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the
breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the
residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people
shall possess them.
shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and
magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts.
LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the
earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the
isles of the heathen.
12 Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword.
13 And he
will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and
will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness.
flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the
nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper
lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall
be in the thresholds; for he shall uncover the cedar work.
is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I
am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place
for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss,
and wag his hand.
1 Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!
2 She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.
3 Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.
4 Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.
just LORD is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every
morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the
unjust knoweth no shame.
6 I have
cut off the nations: their towers are desolate; I made their streets
waste, that none passeth by: their cities are destroyed, so that there
is no man, that there is none inhabitant.
7 I said,
Surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction; so their
dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them: but they rose
early, and corrupted all their doings.
wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the
prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble
the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce
anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.
then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call
upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.
10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering.
that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast
transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of
thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty
because of my holy mountain.
12 I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.
remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a
deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie
down, and none shall make them afraid.
14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.
LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the
king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not
see evil any more.
16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.
LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will
rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over
thee with singing.
18 I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden.
at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her
that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them
praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.
that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you:
for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth,
when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD.