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(1-4) The prophet denounces the corruption and moral obduracy which characterise all classes in Jerusalem. This denunciation comes in with startling abruptness. The prophet does not even name the object of his reproof. The literal rendering is, Woe, rebellious and polluted, thou oppressive city!
(2) Obeyed not the voice.—Better, hearkened not to the voice—i.e., of Jehovah, when He addresses her, as in Zephaniah 2:1-36.2.3. She trusts not in Jehovah, but in her own wealth (Zephaniah 1:12); she draws not nigh to her God, but to Baal and Moloch (Zephaniah 1:4-36.1.6).
(3) Till the morrow.—Better, on the morrow. The meaning is just the opposite to that given in the Authorised Version. They are so greedy that they devour their prey instantly, leaving no portion of it for the morrow.
(4) Light and treacherous persons.—Better, braggarts and men of treachery.
(5-7) In contradistinction to this universal corruption, Jehovah daily exemplifies the law of righteousness, yet sinners are not moved to repentance (Zephaniah 3:5). He sets forth the great judgments He has executed on other sinful nations, but the warning is not heeded (Zephaniah 3:6-36.3.7).
(6) The nations.—Those that were destroyed by the agency of Israel on invading the Promised Land; those also which were cut off by the Assyrians and the other great powers whom God used as His instruments (Isaiah 37:26).
(7) I said, Surely thou wilt fear me . . .—Better, I said, Wouldest thou only fear me? wouldest thou receive correction? then should her dwelling-place not be destroyed, according to all that I have appointed for them; but they only speeded their infamous doings. Our Saviour’s lamentation over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37 naturally suggests itself.
All that I have appointed—i.e., in the way of punishment.
(8-10) This is an enlargement of the consolation addressed to the “meek of the earth” in Zephaniah 2:3, and of the prediction of Zephaniah 2:11. The great day of the Lord, which shall overthrow all that opposes itself to His sovereignty, shall also introduce an extension of religious knowledge to the nations.
(9) To the people.—Better, To the peoples, or nations.
A pure language.—The discord of Babel shall, as it were, give place to unity of language, when the worship of “gods many” shall yield to the pure service of Jehovah, whom men shall “with one mind and one mouth glorify.”
(10) The daughter of my dispersed.—i.e., dropping the Hebrew idiom, “my dispersed people.” Even from the southern limit of the known world shall the new Church draw adherents. The “dispersed people” are not Jewish exiles, but the Gentile tribes of the dispersion (of Genesis 11:8) which have been hitherto alienated from their Creator by ignorance and vice. Similarly, Caiaphas prophesies that Christ should not only die for the Jewish nation, but that “He should gather together in one” the children of God that “were scattered abroad” (John 11:51-43.11.52).
Bring mine offering.—The minchâh or bloodless oblation. The phrase here merely represents homage rendered to Jehovah as paramount. So in Malachi 1:11 it is foretold that “in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure minchâh.” In Isaiah 66:20, on the other hand, the Gentiles are represented as bringing the dispersed Jews back to Jerusalem “as a minchâh to Jehovah.” De Wette and others (wrongly, as we believe), give this passage the same force, rendering, “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia shall men bring my suppliants, even my dispersed people, as my offering.”
(11) No more be haughty . . .—His very privileges—the adoption and the Shechinah, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the Temple service—had hitherto been used by the Jew as a pretext for obduracy. “We have Abraham for our father,” “The temple of the Lord are these:” such was their response to the preaching of repentance. The reinstated nation shall be purged of this spiritual pride.
(11-13) Jerusalem shall then have no occasion to blush for obdurate iniquity (Zephaniah 3:5), for she shall be inhabited by a remnant who have learnt meekness and righteousness in the school of adversity.
(12) Afflicted.—ânî, a condition which is likely to make them also “meek,” ânâv, instead of “haughty.”
(14-20) The blessedness of Jerusalem when she has been thus brought through suffering to glory.
(15) Taken away thy judgments.—i.e., removed what He had “appointed concerning them” (Zephaniah 3:7) in the way of punishments.
The king of Israel.—The recognition of Jehovah as king is elsewhere a prominent feature in the portraiture of the extended dispensation. Thus we have, “Say among the heathen that Jehovah is king” (Psalms 96:10). “Jehovah is king” (Psalms 93:1; Psalms 97:1; Psalms 99:1). “The kingdom shall be Jehovah’s” (Obadiah 1:21).
(16) Compare Isaiah 35:3-23.35.4; Isaiah 62:11, et seq.
(17) He will rest . . .—Better, He will keep silence in His love; He will exult over thee with a shout of joy. Unutterable yearnings and outbursts of jubilant affection are both the expressions of sexual love. By a bold anthropomorphism, both are attributed to the Heavenly Bridegroom, as He gazes on “a glorious Church . . . holy, and without blemish.”
(18) The festival of the accomplishment of salvations is represented under the figure of the joyous Feast of Tabernacles, as in Zechariah 14:16. None shall be impeded from attending on this joyous occasion, for the oppressors shall be overthrown (Zephaniah 3:19-36.3.20).
To whom the reproach of it was a burden.—Or, on whom reproach was a burden—i.e., on whom their exile, and consequent inability to attend at Jerusalem, had brought derision. On the construction, the Hebrew student may consult Hitzig or Kleinert.
(19) I will undo.—Better, I will deal with, as in Ezekiel 23:25. The clauses following are based on Micah 4:6; Deuteronomy 26:19.
(20) See Deuteronomy 30:3, et seq.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Zephaniah 3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
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