Zephaniah

ZEPHANIAH

 

The prophet Zephaniah was a great grandson of Hezekiah, a godly king of Judah.

He lived during the reign of Josiah, another godly king, also of Judah.

Zephaniah would have been aware of the over-throw and captivity of the northern Kingdom of Israel (which had taken place 100 years before) as a result of religious and political degradation. It might be thought that he could have felt complacent about the state of his own Kingdom of Judah, for, under the rulership of Josiah, idol worship had been banned, altars erected to heathen gods had been destroyed, the Temple at Jerusalem repaired, and it's services reinstated. Moreover, the law as given to Moses had been discovered and re-proclaimed, and the feast of the passover and unleavened bread restored.

This revival however proved to be the last – the evil seed of the long reign of the godless Manasseh, for over 50 years previously, had not been rooted out but apparently only driven underground.  To Zephaniah's view there seemed to be two elements in the nation:

The religious faction – a faithful remnant.

The business faction. This faction mocked Yahweh as impotent.

Zephaniah had a message for both elements.

To the business faction:

Judgment under the phrase 'the day of the Prince'. Mentioned 13 times in the first chapter.

It was to be a day of wrath, trouble, distress, waste and desolation, darkness and gloominess, clouds and thick darkness, the sounding of the trumpet which meant 'alarm'.

'The day of the Prince' to Zephaniah, as to other prophets, was synonymous with judgment against apostasy and evil and he regarded the imminent invasion of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar as such a judgment and, at the same time as foreshadowing the judgment of all nations on the earth at the end of the present age.

Zephaniah's message to the religious faction was strikingly different. Them he addressed as 'you meek, (which) have wrought His judgment' – 'the remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies.' 'It may be you shall be hid in the day of the Prince's anger.

We must remember that Zephaniah was primarily thinking of Israel as a nation, and Yahshua as their King, and he foretold the setting up of that Kingdom on earth when the faithful in Israel form the nucleus of that Kingdom and receive His protection ('are hid') - while the judgments of the end time are in the world- to be followed by rejoicing.

 

Zephaniah in the Hebrew is Tsephanyah.

Zephaniah means, 'who Yahweh has hidden' or 'Yahweh has treasured'.

A prophet of Judah during the reign of Josiah (640-609 BC)

 

Zephaniah 1:1  The word of Yahweh 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.   (2Ki 22:1-23:30; 2Chr 34:1-35:27)

 1:2  I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith Yahweh.

 1:3  I will consume man (adam) and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven (sky), and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man (adam) from off the land, saith Yahweh.

 1:4  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;

The Chemarims are said to be the assistants of the Baal priests.

2Kings 23:5  And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of the sky.

Hosea 10:5  The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.

 1:5  And them that worship the host of heaven (the sky) upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by Yahweh, and that swear by Malcham (Milcom);

Malcham is the god of the Ammonites. The Hebrew word is melek, which means king.

The people were worshiping both Yahweh and Malcham. Mixing worship.

2Kings 23:12  And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of Yahweh, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron.

Joshua 23:7  That you come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:

 1:6  And them that are turned back from Yahweh; and those that have not sought Yahweh, nor enquired for Him.

Isaiah 1:4  Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken Yahweh, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.

 1:7  Hold your peace at the presence of Yahweh GOD: for the day of Yahweh is at hand: for Yahweh hath prepared a sacrifice, He hath bid His guests.

 1:8  And it shall come to pass in the day of Yahweh's sacrifice, that I will punish the princes (officials), and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.

Non-Israelite apparel. It also is given as an example for the neglect of the law.

The princes, which did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh after their father died may refer to Josiah's sons, Jehoahaz (Jehoiakim ) and Eliakim.

Here the sacrifice is in the destruction of those of the people of Yahweh who had opposed Him in their apostasy, and who are ostensibly going to be slaughtered for the good of the remnant which shall be preserved.

 1:9  In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit.

The Septuagint: 9 And I will openly take vengeance on the porches in that day, on the men that fill the house of Yahweh their God with ungodliness and deceit.”

Leap on the threshold is a reference to pagan practice.

 1:10  And it shall come to pass in that day, saith Yahweh, 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.

The Septuagint has “...the gate of men slaying”.

2Chronicles 33:14  Now after this he (King Manasseh) built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah.

 1:11  Howl, you inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.

Maktesh was in the northern part of the city of Jerusalem, and many consider that the name was derived from the hollowed-out form of that part of the Tyropeon just north of the walls, where foreign merchants congregated.

 1:12  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 (dregs, of wine): that say in their heart, Yahweh will not do good, neither will He do evil.

Jeremiah 48:11  Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees (dregs), and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.

Psalm 94:5-7

5  They break in pieces Your people, O Yahweh, and afflict Your heritage.

6  They slay the widow and the stranger (sojourning kinsman), and murder the fatherless.

7  Yet they say, Yahweh shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.

They have become insolent in their prosperity.

 1:13  Therefore their goods (wealth) 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.

 1:14  The great day of Yahweh is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of Yahweh: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.

 1:15  That 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 thick darkness,

 1:16  A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.

 1:17  And I will bring distress upon men (adam), that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against Yahweh: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh (bowels) as the dung.

Deuteronomy 28:29  And you shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and you shalt not prosper in your ways: and you shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save you.

The “great day of Yahweh” here is a reference to the judgment which is about to come upon Judah by the hand of the Babylonians as a result of their sin.

 1:18  Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of Yahweh'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.

Ezekiel 7:19  They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of Yahweh: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumblingblock of their iniquity.

 

 

The day of wrath

Zephaniah 2:1  Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;

Would a cheating wife be desired? Neither is a cheating nation.

The Hebrew has: “O nation not ashamed;”.

Not ashamed of being in apostasy.

 2:2  (Zephaniah speaking) Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of Yahweh come upon you, before the day of Yahweh's anger come upon you.

 2:3  Seek you Yahweh, all you meek of the earth (land), which have wrought His judgment (done His law); seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be you shall be hid in the day of Yahweh's anger.

The ancient Israelite nations, as well as ours today, WILL go through judgment. If you follow His righteousness, and practice His ways, He will protect you through it.

 2:4  For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.

 2:5  Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites (mercenaries)! the word of Yahweh is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy you, that there shall be no inhabitant.

Ezekiel 25:16  Therefore thus saith Yahweh GOD; Behold, I will stretch out Mine hand upon the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast.

 2:6  And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks.

Isaiah 17:2  The cities of Aroer are forsaken: they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

 2:7  And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they (flocks) shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for Yahweh their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.   (Isa 14:29-31; Jer 47:1-7; Eze 25:15-17; Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:6-8; Zec 9:5-7)

Micah 5:7-8

7  And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from Yahweh, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.

8  And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles (nations) in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

 2:8  (Yahweh speaking) 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 their border.

Jeremiah 48:27  For was not Israel a derision (mocked) unto you (Moab)? was he found among thieves? for since you spakest of him, you skippedst for joy.

Ezekiel 25:3  And say unto the Ammonites, Hear the word of Yahweh GOD; Thus saith Yahweh GOD; Because you saidst, Aha, against My sanctuary, when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel, when it was desolate; and against the house of Judah, when they went into captivity;

 2:9  Therefore as I live, saith Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding (place) of nettles (weeds), and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of My people shall spoil them, and the remnant of My people shall possess them.  (Isaiah 15 The burden of Moab) (Amos 1:13)

 2:10  (Zephaniah speaking) This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of Yahweh of hosts.

Isaiah 16:6  We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so.

 2:11  Yahweh will be terrible (fear inspiring) unto them: for He will famish all the gods of the earth (land); and men shall worship Him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen (nations).

 2:12  (Yahweh speaking) Ye Ethiopians also, you shall be slain by My sword.

Ethiopians are black today.

The Ethiopians then were descendants of Ham, Noah's son, through Cush.

Ethiopian means, sun burnt face. They were white Cushites.

 2:13  And He will stretch out His hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness (desert).   (Isa 10:5-34, 14: 24-27; Nah 1:1-3:19)

 2:14  And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant (pelican) and the bittern (porcupine, hedgehog) 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.

This is exactly what happened to the Assyrians, and Nineveh was the greatest city of it's time.

 2:15  This 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.

Beasts often represent of the other races in scripture. And in the context here, the Israelites have allowed idolatry and other races into their midst. Yahweh commands we remain separate.

 

 

The future of Jerusalem

Zephaniah 3:1  Woe to her (Jerusalem) that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!

 3:2  She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in Yahweh; she drew not near to her God.

The revival of Josiah was the last chance of many for the people of Jerusalem to hearken to Yahweh.

 3:3  Her princes (offficials) within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow (they leave aside nothing for the morning).

 3:4  Her prophets are light (froth, to be unimportant) and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law (torah).

Hosea 9:7  The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of your iniquity, and the great hatred.

 3:5  The just Yahweh is in the midst thereof; He will not do iniquity (injustice): every morning doth He bring His judgment to light, He faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.

The Septuagint end verse 5 as: 'and He knows not injustice by extortion, nor injustice in strife.

Deuteronomy 32:4  He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.

 3:6  (Yahweh speaking) 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.

The children of the twelve tribes of Israel are first called nations in Deuteronomy 32:43.

Here in verse 6, the nations refers to the tribes of Israel.

 3:7  I said, Surely you wilt fear Me, you wilt receive instruction; so their dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them: but they rose early, and corrupted all their doings.

Jeremiah 8:6  I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.

 3:8  Therefore wait you upon Me, saith Yahweh, until the day that I rise up to the prey (the one whom judgment will fall): 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 (land) shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy (ardour of anger).

Proverbs 20:22  Say not you, I will recompense evil; but wait on Yahweh, and He shall save you.

 3:9  For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Yahweh, to serve Him with one consent.   (Is 19:18)  

This happened in America.

The Septuagint has: 'For then will I turn to the peoples a tongue for her generation, that all may call on the name of Yahweh, to serve Him under one yoke.'

Note: In the above verses, the nations (H1471) are the nations of the tribes of Israel. This number, H1471, is the same number used for the word 'Gentiles'. Gentile, according to “churchianity” is taught to mean non-Israelites. But Gentile only means, a nation or race of people, any people. So we can see the deception is to trick True Israelites (us) into believing that we are “Gentiles”. The truth shall not be hidden.

Now the vision turns to future hope.

 3:10  From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia (Kush) My suppliants, the daughter of My dispersed, shall bring Mine (grain) offering.

The reference to the rivers of Ethiopia is certainly not a reference to the land called Ethiopia which is below Egypt, but rather refers to the rivers of Cush. Therefore the suppliants of Yahweh must be the dispersed of the tribes of Israel, who at that time were dwelling beyond the rivers of Mesopotamia, beyond the Euphrates in northern Anatolia and around the Black Sea.

The dispersed is the northern house of Israel. After captivity, they did not return to Canaan. They migrated and settled elsewhere, mainly the European nations and eventually America. The “churches” wrongly teach that non-Jews are the “Gentiles”, but gentile only means a nation of people. Most of the time “Gentiles” is referring to the dispersed children of Israel. According to the context, it sometimes refers to the nations of other peoples.

 3:11  In that day shalt you not be ashamed for all your doings (practices), wherein you hast transgressed against Me: for then I will take away out of the midst of you them that rejoice in your pride, and you shalt no more be haughty (proud, arrogant) because of My holy mountain (Kingdom of Israel).

The Septuagint: 'In that day you shalt not be ashamed of all your practices, wherein you hast transgressed against Me: for then will I take away from you your disdainful pride, and you shalt no more magnify yourself upon My holy mountain.'

This seems to reference the Jews. The reference brings us to Matthew 3:9.

Matthew 3:9  And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

This seems to prophecy the Edomite infiltration into the priesthood, and the ministry of Christ.

The Jews claim Abraham as their father. They came from Esau, who was an Adamic man, but since he race mixed with Canaanites, his descendants are not pure bloods, therefore they are bastards. Deuteronomy 23:2  A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of Yahweh;  

Only unmixed children of Jacob count for the blessings and promises.

Verse 11 may also be a reference to the Temple. They were arrogant because they thought they were something because they had Yahweh's temple.

 3:12  I will also leave in the midst of you an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of Yahweh.

There were afflicted and poor people among the ruling class of Edomite Jews at the time of Christ.

 3:13  The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity (injustice of speech), 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.

Revelation 14:5  And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

 3:14  Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.

By taking the nation from its position, the infiltrators who perverted and corrupted it were also taken away. For this the people should rejoice.

 3:15  Yahweh hath taken away your judgments (against you), He hath cast out your (hated) enemy: the king of Israel, even Yahweh, is in the midst of you: you shalt not see evil any more.

This has not happened yet, as there is still evil in the world.

 3:16  In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear you not: and to Zion, Let not your hands be slack.

Septuagint is arranged a little different:  'At that time Yahweh shall say to Jerusalem, Be of good courage, Zion; let not your hands be slack.'

Isaiah 35:3-4

3  Strengthen you the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.

4  Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; He will come and save you.

Jerusalem and Zion are not always referring to places, rather they are used to describe the people, the anointed children of Israel. If you are an Anglo-Saxon, rejoice, for you are one of these.

 3:17  Yahweh your God in the midst of you is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over you with singing.

The Septuagint is more intimate:  'Yahweh your God is in you; the Mighty One shall save (preserve) you: He shall bring joy upon you, and shall refresh you with His love; and He shall rejoice over you with delight as in a day of feasting.'

 3:18  I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of you, to whom the reproach of it was a burden.

The Geneva Bible: 'After a certain time will I gather the afflicted that were of you, and them that bare the reproach for it.'

Them that are upset about all the sin.

Lamentations 2:6  And He hath violently taken away His tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: He hath destroyed His places of the assembly: Yahweh hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of His anger the king and the priest.

 3:19  Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict you: and I will save her that halteth (limps, wounded), 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.

The 'her' is the children of Israel.

 3:20  At 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 (land), when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith Yahweh.

Isaiah 11:12  And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the land.

Ezekiel 28:25  Thus saith Yahweh GOD; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen (nations), then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to My servant Jacob.

The language goes to show that the people whom Christ had come to gather are the same people whom He had driven out so many centuries before. They still await deliverance from that same captivity, even though they are no longer aware of it.

 

 

ZEPHANIAH – CHURCH DOCTRINE VS. SCRIPTURE

Below are 3 sources of what the modern churches preach today about the book of Zephaniah.

The purpose is to expose the apostasy and perversion of the scriptures, and to educate our people about the truth of our heritage. That we, the anglo-saxon race who are the descendants of ancient Israel, are the people of Abraham's seed and therefore the heirs of the promises of Yahweh. Not the Jews who distort and pervert the scriptures and teach the 'traditions of men'.

 

 

Biblehub.com

The small book of Zephaniah is Narrative History and Prophetic Oracle. Zephaniah wrote it circa 630 B.C. very soon before the fall of Judah in the Southern Kingdom. The purpose of this book was to show that God raised up his prophet Zephaniah to proclaim a warning of coming judgment and to encourage repentance.

The Southern Kingdom was complacent in their wicked lives. They not only suffered under wicked kings they also would suffer under the holy judgment of God. Zephaniah was God’s method in bringing a stern warning of the day of the Lord “Near is the great day of the Lord...a day of wrath is that day” (1:14-15). He also brought a message of hope, when the nation would be restored.

•    In chapters 1-2, Zephaniah, 20 years prior to their captivity, foretells about the looming judgment that was awaiting Judah if they did not turn back to YHWH. WOW, very rare you will see the Hebrew word for Yahweh God. Awesome! He also predicted the desolation of Nineveh the capital city of Assyria in 612 B.C. “And He will stretch out His hand against the north And destroy Assyria, And He will make Nineveh a desolation, Parched like the wilderness” (2:13).

•    Chapter 3, God demonstrates how He gives the sinner what they do not deserve... Mercy. Zephaniah wrote that there would be a day of hope, when the remnant of Israel would come back out of captivity under the YHWH’s protection, to fulfill His promise. “The LORD has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; You will fear disaster no more” (3:15).

 

Biblestudytools.com

Summary of the Book of Zephaniah

Author

The prophet Zephaniah was evidently a person of considerable social standing in Judah and was probably related to the royal line. The prophecy opens with a statement of the author's ancestry (1:1), which in itself is an unusual feature of the Hebrew prophetic tradition. Zephaniah was a fourth-generation descendant of Hezekiah, a notable king of Judah from 715 to 686 b.c. Apart from this statement, nothing more is said about his background. Whereas the prophet Micah dealt carefully and sympathetically with the problems of the common people of Judah, Zephaniah's utterances show a much greater familiarity with court circles and current political issues. Zephaniah was probably familiar with the writings of such prominent eighth-century prophets as Isaiah and Amos, whose utterances he reflects, and he may also have been aware of the ministry of the young Jeremiah.

Date

According to 1:1, Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 b.c.), making him a contemporary of Jeremiah, Nahum and perhaps Habakkuk. His prophecy is probably to be dated relatively early in Josiah's reign, before that king's attempt at reform (and while conditions brought about by the reigns of Manasseh and Amon still prevailed) and before the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal's death in 627 (while Assyria was still powerful, though threatened).

Purpose and Theological Theme

The intent of the author was to announce to Judah God's approaching judgment. A Scythian incursion into Canaan may have provided the immediate occasion. The Scythians were a blend of Japhethites and Israelites. This fierce, horse-mounted people originated in what is now southern Russia, but by the seventh century b.c. they had migrated across the Caucasus and settled in and along the northern territories of the Assyrian empire. Alternately the enemies and allies of Assyria, they seem to have thrust south along the Mediterranean sometime in the 620s, destroying Ashkelon and Ashdod and halting at the Egyptian border only because of a payoff by Pharaoh Psamtik (Psammetichus). Ultimately, however, the destruction prophesied by Zephaniah came at the hands of the Babylonians after they had overpowered Assyria and brought that ancient power to its end.

Zephaniah's main theme is the coming of the day of the Lord ( Isa 2:11,17,20; Joel 1:15; 2:2; Am 5:18; 8:9), when God will severely punish the nations, including apostate Judah. Zephaniah portrays the stark horror of that ordeal with the same graphic imagery found elsewhere in the prophets. But he also makes it clear that God will yet be merciful toward his people; like many other prophets, he ends his pronouncements of doom on the positive note of Judah's restoration by Yahweh, "King of Israel" (3:15).

 

 

Insight.org

Who wrote the book?

In Zephaniah 1:1, the author introduces himself as “Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah.” Among the prophets, this is a unique introduction with its long list of fathers back to Zephaniah’s great-great grandfather, Hezekiah. So why stop with Hezekiah? Most likely, the prophet wanted to highlight his royal lineage as a descendant of one of Judah’s good kings. The reference to “this place” in Zephaniah 1:4 indicates that he prophesied in Jerusalem, while his many references to temple worship display a strong familiarity with Israel’s religious culture. All these factors paint the picture of a man who was at the center of Judah’s political and religious world, a man whose close proximity to those in power would have given his shocking message an even greater impact.

Where are we?

The book tells us that Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah, the king of Judah from 640 to 609 BC (Zephaniah 1:1). We can begin to pinpoint exactly when Zephaniah prophesied by accounting for a few details in the text. First, in 2:13 the prophet predicted the fall of Nineveh, an event which occurred in 612 BC. Further, Zephaniah made frequent quotations from the Law (for example, compare 1:13 to Deuteronomy 28:30, 39), a document that remained lost in Judah for much of Josiah’s reign. Therefore, Zephaniah more than likely prophesied in the latter part of Josiah’s rule, after the king discovered the scrolls of the Law in 622 BC (2 Chronicles 34:3–7).

This all means that Zephaniah grew up under the reign of Josiah’s predecessors: Josiah’s grandfather, the evil king Manasseh, and Manasseh’s son, the young and evil Amon. As a young man, the prophet-to-be would have been surrounded by the trappings of idolatry, child sacrifice, and unjust killings—strong influences on a young mind (2 Kings 21:16; 2 Chronicles 33:1–10). But Zephaniah grew into a man of God, able to stand before the people and proclaim God’s message of judgment and hope to a people that had gone astray.

Why is Zephaniah so important?

This book mentions the day of the Lord more than does any other book in the Old Testament, clarifying the picture of Judah’s fall to Babylon and the eventual judgment and restoration of all humanity in the future. All humanity in Bible terms means the generations of Adam. Adam is the white race. The Bible is the heritage of this race, and the promises and covenants are only for this race, a peculiar people to Yahweh. Chosen, set apart, anointed. No other race can claim this family inheritance. The “churches” teach that we are all God's children. The scriptures reveal much different. In this case, it refers primarily to God’s impending time of judgment on the nation of Judah. Zephaniah saw in the day of the Lord the destruction of his country, his neighbors, and eventually the whole earth (Zephaniah 1:2, 4; 2:10). Zephaniah wrote that the day of the Lord was near (1:14), that it would be a time a wrath (1:15), that it would come as judgment on sin (1:17), and that ultimately it would result in the blessing of God’s presence among His people (3:17).

What's the big idea?

Like the writings of many of the prophets, the book of Zephaniah follows a pattern of judgment on all people for their sin followed by the restoration of God’s chosen people. Zephaniah’s primary target for God’s message of judgment, the nation of Judah, had fallen into grievous sin under the reign of their king, Manasseh. Zephaniah’s prophecy shouted out for godliness and purity in a nation sinful to its core. The people of Judah had long since turned their backs on God, not only in their personal lives but also in their worship. This reflected the depth of their sin and the deep need for God’s people to be purged on their path to restoration.

How do I apply this?

Those living in Judah had turned the worship of God into a fiasco. Not only had they built their own places of worship to revere other gods (called “high places” in the Old Testament), but they had begun to desecrate the temple, which at that time was the dwelling place of God (Zephaniah 1:9).

As modern-day believers in Christ, we, too, make a mockery of worship when we live in open sin. Do you come before the Lord with a false face, week in and week out, looking the part without acting it? Allow Zephaniah to remind you how seriously God takes your life and your relationship with Him. And if you have failed, remember the message of Zephaniah 3—God is always a God of restoration and hope.