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(1) Gather yourselves together.—This rendering has little to recommend it. Two translations of the obscure verb here used are possible: Sift yourselves, yea sift—i.e., winnow out the sins which have roused Jehovah’s anger; or Bend yourselves, yea bend. We prefer the latter. The contumacious nation is exhorted to bend in submission to Jehovah before His judgment is revealed.
O nation not desired.—Better, O nation that art not abashed—scil. by God’s threats: the shameless defiant nation; so the 70, ἔθνος .
(1-3) An exhortation to seek God before His day of vengeance is revealed.
(2) Before the decree bring forth.—i.e., before God’s decree or ordinance, against which they have offended, brings forth the curse foretold in Zephaniah 1:0. There is no occasion to identify the “decree” with the Book of the Law brought to light at the time of Josiah’s Reformation (see Introd. II.).
Before the day pass as the chaff.—Better, perhaps, parenthetically, for the day is passing by like chaff. The time for repentance is speeding by like chaff whirled before the wind.
(3) Wrought his judgment.—Or, rather, executed His sentence—acted in compliance with His revealed will by refraining from the sins above specified.
(4) In the words “Gaza (Azzâh) shall be forsaken (âzab)” and “Ekron shall be rooted up (âkar)” there is a paronomasia, or play on the words, similar to that in Micah 1:10, et seq.
At the noon day.—i.e., this city shall be so weak and defenceless that there will be no need to surprise it at night: it shall be “spoiled at noon day” (Jeremiah 15:8).
It is noticeable that it is these four of the five Philistine cities which are denounced by Amos (Amos 1:6-8) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:20). See also Zechariah 9:5. Gaza was captured by Alexander the Great in B.C. 332, after a two months’ siege, and re-peopled. It was destroyed by Antiochus in B.C. 198, for its fidelity to the cause of Ptolemy. It was razed to the ground by Alexander Jannæus, but was rebuilt, and appears to have been a place of importance in the time of Antipater. It was assigned by the Romans to the kingdom of Herod, and after his death to the province of Syria. The modern Gaza is described as “a place of very considerable size, larger than Jerusalem.” Of the ancient Ashkelon little is known, but the town in later times rose to a position of considerable importance. Antipater is said to have conciliated both “the Gazites and Ascalonites by many and large presents” (Jos., Ant. xiv. 1 § 3. Its inhabitants joined with those of Gaza in the perpetration of some horrible atrocities in A.D. 361. The Ascalonites are described as the “hostes immanissimi” of the Crusaders. Ashdod, the Greek Azotus, was destroyed by the Maccabees, and not restored till the Roman conquest, when Gabinius rebuilt it, B.C. 55. It was allotted to Salome after Herod’s death. Ekron is scarcely mentioned in post-Biblical history. The prophecy appears only to indicate broadly that the Philistines as a nation should be obliterated, and the remnant of Judah be exalted. This effacement of the Philistine race had probably occurred before the Christian era. The last mention of the Philistines as a nation is in 1MMalachi 3:5.
(4-7) The sentence against the great Philistine strongholds.
(4-15) Jehovah’s chastisement of foreign powers. These Divine visitations are introduced somewhat abruptly. The connection is perhaps that they are intended to lead God’s people to repent, and put their faith in Him who orders the destinies of all mankind. Also, as being inflicted on hostile peoples, they are in Israel’s favour, and ought therefore to elicit gratitude. But more especially are they all steps towards the establishment of Jehovah’s supremacy, and the inclusion of the Gentiles in His kingdom upon earth. (Comp. Zephaniah 2:11; Zephaniah 3:9, et seq.) This part of the Divine sentence is presented in three strophes of four verses each—viz., the chastisement of Philistia (Zephaniah 2:4-7); of Moab and Ammon (Zephaniah 2:8-11); of Ethiopia and Assyria (Zephaniah 2:12-15).
(5) The Cherethites.—Perhaps Cretans. See on 1 Samuel 30:14; Ezekiel 25:16, where the same term is applied to the Philistines.
Canaan originally means “low-lying ground.” It here indicates the low maritime plain inhabited by the Philistines.
(6) Dwellings and cottages for shepherds.—Better, places for shepherds’ pastures. In c’rôth (best taken as plural of car, “a pasture”) there is a paronomasia on c’rêthîm of Zephaniah 2:5. The term “sea coast” (literally, line of the sea) here, as in Zephaniah 2:5, designates maritime Philistia. This tract of country is represented as ravaged and depopulated, so as to be serviceable only as a mere sheep-walk. Afterwards (Zephaniah 2:7) the restored exiles of Judah make it their pasture-ground. That this predominance of the Jewish over the Philistine race actually took place is manifest. The allusion to the captivity of Judah and its termination is remarkable. “Who save He in whose hand are human wills could now foresee that Judah should, like the ten tribes, rebel, be carried captive, and yet, though like and worse than Israel in its sin, should, unlike Israel, be restored” (Pusey). In the opening words of Zephaniah 2:7 there is perhaps another paronomasia, for chebel (“sea coast” in Zephaniah 2:6), may also mean “an apportioned inheritance;” and the words here may be rendered, “and it shall be for an inheritance for the remnant of the house of Judah.”
(7) Visit them.—For their relief, not their punishment. This is plain from the context; but such a use of the verb is rare.
(8) Reproach.—i.e., abusive speech, or offensive design expressed in words. Balak’s appeal to Balaam, “Come, curse me this people,” at once suggests itself. We may instance also the conspiracy described in Psalms 83:0 as illustrating this combination of Moab and Ammon for hostile purposes.
(8-11) The sentence against Moab and Ammon, the descendants of Lot and the enemies of God’s people, even in the post-exilic period, comp. Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 4:1; Nehemiah 4:3; Nehemiah 4:7.)
(9) The breeding of nettles.—Better, an inheritance of nettles. The propriety of illustrating the fate of Moab and Ammon by that of the cities of the plain is the greater in that Lot, the ancestor of these nationalities, was an inhabitant of Sodom, and narrowly escaped sharing its destruction. Ravages in Moab and Ammon were effected by Nebuchadnezzar in B.C. 582, probably in revenge for the murder of Gedaliah, the ruler of his appointment (Jos., Ant. x. 9 § 7). But the allusion here is to some later and more permanent work of destruction. The national existence of both Moab and Ammon appears to have ceased long before the Christian era. Josephus’ assertion (Ant. i. 11 § 5.) that in his own time the Moabites were “a very great nation.” is simply unintelligible. The extraordinary number of ruined towns in Moab has been noticed by every modern explorer.
(11) Famish.—Literally as in margin “make lean:” to “cause to disappear.”
Every one from his place.—It is difficult to accept Keil’s theory of a pregnant construction, “each one coming from his place:” scil. to Jerusalem. This passage, therefore, is one of the very few which foretell that the worship of Jehovah shall find centres outside the Holy Land. The usual prediction, on the other hand, represents the converted nations as “flowing” to Jerusalem.
Isles.—Better, sea coasts.
(12) Ethiopia is to suffer by the sword in the execution of God’s purpose of magnifying His people. The conjunction of Ethiopia and Assyria is probably suggested by the earlier passage in Nahum 3:8. et seq. In addition to its earlier vicissitudes at the hands of Assyrian invaders, Ethiopia perhaps suffered as an ally of Egypt after the battle of Carchemish. It was probably invaded by Nebuchadnezzar; see on Ezekiel 30:4. With the Median ascendancy came a fresh series of calamities. Cambyses, the successor of Cyrus, reduced the country to a condition of vassalage, B.C. 525; and in the time of Xerxes the Ethiopians had to furnish a contingent against the Greeks.
(13-15) The sentence against Assyria in the north. This was fulfilled as early as B.C. 625, when Nineveh was taken and destroyed by the Medes and Babylonians. It will be remembered that this catastrophe is the theme of Nahum’s prophecy. Its effects are here described in language similar to that of Nahum 3:0 which Zephaniah doubtless has in mind.
(14) Both the cormorant. . . .—Better, Both the pelican and the hedgehog shall lodge on her pillar capitals, these lying strewn upon the ground.
Their voice.—Better, The voice [of the bird] shall sing in the windows. “In the midst of the desolation, the muteness of the hedgehog, and the pensive loneliness of the solitary pelican, the musing spectator is startled by the glad strain of some song bird, unconscious that it is sitting in the windows of those at whose name the world grew pale” (Pusey). This description of desolation extends even to the cedar panelling of the roofless walls, which is to be laid open to wind and rain.
(15) The earlier part of this verse is doubtless based on Isaiah 47:8, “Hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am and none else beside me.” (See also Isaiah 23:7, and compare the language in Revelation 18:7.) The remainder of the verse reminds us of Jeremiah 50:23; Nahum 3:19.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Zephaniah 2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension