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.
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)
The Chemarims are said to be the assistants of the Baal priests.
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.
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.
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.
The Septuagint has “...the gate of men slaying”.
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.
They have become insolent in their prosperity.
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.
The day of wrath
Would a cheating wife be desired? Neither is a cheating nation.
The Hebrew has: “O nation not ashamed;”.
Not ashamed of being in apostasy.
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.
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.
This is exactly what happened to the Assyrians, and Nineveh was the greatest city of it's time.
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
The revival of Josiah was the last chance of many for the people of Jerusalem to hearken to Yahweh.
The Septuagint end verse 5 as: 'and He knows not injustice by extortion, nor injustice in strife.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
There were afflicted and poor people among the ruling class of Edomite Jews at the time of Christ.
By taking the nation from its position, the infiltrators who perverted and corrupted it were also taken away. For this the people should rejoice.
This has not happened yet, as there is still evil in the world.
Septuagint is arranged a little different:
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.
The Septuagint is more intimate:
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.
The 'her' is the children of Israel.
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'.
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).
Summary of the Book of Zephaniah
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.
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).
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.