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Bible Commentaries
Zephaniah 3

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-8


The Call to Repentance in View of the Judgment

1. The call to repentance (Zephaniah 2:1-3 )

2. The judgment of the Philistines (Zephaniah 2:4-7 )

3. The judgment of Moab and Ammon (Zephaniah 2:8-10 )

4. The judgment of the other nations (Zephaniah 2:11-15 )

5. The woe and warning to Jerusalem and His people (Zephaniah 3:1-8 )

Zephaniah 2:1-3 . As we found it in Joel, so it is here. In view of the coming of the day, the call goes forth to the nation to humble themselves and to repent. On the near horizon in Joel the Assyrian invasion was threatening. In Zephaniah it is the Babylonian power. But all points to the future day of the Lord. They are to gather themselves together. The word used for “gather” has the meaning of gathering stubble or wood for burning. In their unbelief they were worthless as stubble and dry wood, fit for the burning. The phrase “not desired” has been translated “which does not turn pale.” But this cannot be sustained. The better meaning is “unashamed.”

The second verse gives the reason why they should humble themselves and be ashamed of all their evil doings. Because the decree of judgment has gone forth, the fierce anger of the Lord in His day is about to pass as the chaff. This is followed by the appeal to seek the Lord. This is addressed to the meek in the land, the godly remnant which fears the Lord, both in Zephaniah’s day and in the end of the age, when “that day” comes. They are meek and seek to keep the statutes and judgments of the Lord in a righteous life. Still they are exhorted to seek meekness. For it is this, meekness and lowliness, that pleases the Lord. The promise is held out that they would be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger. Zephaniah means “hidden by the LORD” or “whom the LORD hides; ” His name comes into play as a comfort that the godly will be hid in the day of the Lord. In Isaiah we have a more direct word about this. “Come, My people, enter thou in thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a moment, until the indignation be overpast” Isaiah 26:20 . This has often been used as a proof text that the true Church is not to pass through the great tribulation period. But it has nothing whatever to do with the Church, but is the promise given to the godly remnant Revelation 12:1-17 , the preservation of the seed of the woman). It is the teaching of the New Testament that the true Church will be taken to her heavenly abode by the coming of the Lord for His saints 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 ).

Zephaniah 2:4-7 . Judgment is to come in that day upon Gaza and Ashkelon, upon Ashdod and Ekron, the chief cities of Philistia. The inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites, and all the land of the Philistines, will undergo judgment. The seventh verse (Zephaniah 2:7 )gives the connection with the opening message of the chapter, the call to repentance. “And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon; in the house of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening; for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.” Because the remnant is to possess this territory when Philistia is judged they ought to repent and seek the Lord. That this is still unaccomplished hardly needs to be pointed out. It was not fulfilled in the remnant which returned from the Babylonian captivity. Since the day of their rejection, when they rejected Christ, they have been out of the land. Here is a prophecy of ultimate blessing to the remnant in the day of the Lord, when they will be regathered.

Zephaniah 2:8-10 . Moab and Ammon had sinned against Israel, they reviled them and magnified themselves against their border. Their judgment is announced, as it is in the former prophets, like Joel, Amos, and Ezekiel. Moab will be overthrown like Sodom, and Ammon will become like Gomorrah. Then when the judgment of Moab and Ammon finally takes place, as it will in His day, the remnant of His people shall spoil them, and the remnant shall possess them. It is obvious this also remains to be fulfilled.

This judgment of Moab and Ammon is the harvest which their pride and self-exaltation has brought to them (Zephaniah 2:10 ).

Zephaniah 2:11-15 . The Lord, in that day, will be terrible unto all these nations. The idol gods will all be abolished. In their place He alone will be worshipped Zechariah 14:1-21 ). All the isles of the nations will turn in worship to Him. The Ethiopians, the African nations, will fall under the judgment. He will stretch out His hand against Assyria, the power of the north, including both the Assyrian which then was and the Assyrian of the end-time, still to come. It is evident from Zephaniah 2:13 that when Zephaniah penned these words Nineveh had not yet fallen. Her utter desolation is predicted by Zephaniah as it was predicted by Nahum. The fate of Nineveh announced was literally accomplished. And some day all the proud cities of the nations, steeped in iniquity, will also fall as Nineveh was dethroned from her place of mistress of the world.

Zephaniah 3:1-8 . The filthy, polluted and oppressing city is Jerusalem. Four charges are laid against her.

1. She obeyed not the voice. 2. She received not correction. 3. She trusted not in the Lord. 4. She drew not near to her God.

And because she was untrue to her God and Lord, oppressive cruelty and evil persisted. It was the outcome of her wrong attitude toward the Lord. Her leaders, the princes, were like roaring lions, devouring the prey. Her judges in oppressing the poor were like ravening wolves, ferocious and destructive. How all this fits Christendom today. There is disobedience to the Lord, no faith in Him, no humiliation and no repentance. Hence the moral conditions of today.

Their prophets and priests were also corrupt, as we have learned before in the former prophets. Yet the holy and just Jehovah was in the midst of them. Yet the unjust was not ashamed, but continued in evil-doing.

Then Jehovah addresses the nation: “I have cut off nations; their towers are desolate; I have made their streets waste, that none passeth by; their cities are destroyed, so that there is no man, that there is none inhabitant. I said, Surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction; so their dwelling should not be cut off; howsoever I punished them, they rose early, and corrupted all their doings.” But they did not heed His plea. They did not take warning from what happened to other nations.

Verses 8-20

CHAPTER 3:8-20

Judgment and Glory

1. The waiting for the end (Zephaniah 3:8 )

2. The glory that follows (Zephaniah 3:9-20 )

Zephaniah 3:8 . “Therefore wait for me, saith Jehovah, for the day when I arise for the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, to assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, all my fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.” This verse leads us back to the opening exhortation of this chapter. They are as a nation to wait for Him, till the day comes in which He arises to execute the judgment of the nations. It has been a long waiting. Centuries have come and gone; His earthly people have been the wanderers among the nations of the world, where they have been a byword and a curse, yet witnesses for Him also. Still they are waiting for “that day,” the day which closes the times of the Gentiles, when the stone strikes the great man image and becomes a mountain filling the whole earth Daniel 2:1-49 .

Zephaniah 3:9-20 . The opening verse of this glory section has been variously interpreted. It has been used by the “Pentecostal-delusion” as being a prophecy concerning their imagined gift of tongues restoration. In the first place it must be noticed that in the Hebrew the word people is in the plural. We read therefore this verse as follows: “For then will I turn to the nations a pure lip, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve Him with one shoulder.” Luther paraphrased this verse in the following way: “Then will I cause that nations to be preached to otherwise, with friendly lips, that they may call upon the name of the Lord.” But this interpretation is not sustained by the text. It means that the nations which escaped the judgment-wrath of the day of the Lord will be converted, and as a result of their conversion they will call upon the Lord with pure lips; all idolatry will cease and all serve the Lord as one man.

While the peoples in Zephaniah 3:9 are the Gentiles, the suppliants in Zephaniah 3:10 are Jews brought back from the dispersion. They are brought back by the converted Gentiles as an offering unto the Lord Isaiah 66:20 . When that takes place the restored nation will not have need to be ashamed for all their doings, for the Lord in infinite grace will have cleansed them from their iniquity, and now they are no longer proud and haughty, but a remnant humbled, trusting in the Lord. The great chapter in Ezekiel tells us of the conversion of this remnant Ezekiel 36:1-38 . They will then be a righteous nation, do no iniquity, nor speak lies. The speaking of lies, the use of deceit, is one of the traits of the Jews today, and has often been responsible for their sufferings among the Gentiles. But when that day comes the deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouth. They will feed and lie down and none shall make them afraid. They have become once more “the sheep of His pastures, gathered by the Good Shepherd. The time of singing and rejoicing has come.

Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice With all thy heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem.

Jehovah has removed thy judgments; He has cast out thine enemy; The King of Israel, Jehovah, Is in the midst of thee, Thou wilt see evil no more.

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear not, Zion, let not thy hands be feeble.

Jehovah, thy God is in the midst of thee, A mighty One who saves; He rejoices over thee with gladness; He rests in His love; He rejoices over thee with singing.

What a glorious day that will be! It will be glory for Him and glory for His people. The great prophetic song recorded by Isaiah (chapter 12) will then be heard in the midst of His redeemed people. The great Psalms of praise and worship will fill Jerusalem. Judgments are forever gone; no enemy will threaten them again. He Himself is in their midst, none other but He whom their fathers delivered once into the hands of the Gentiles, over whom they cried, “His blood be upon us and our children.” He is King. The throne of His father David is now filled. The Mighty One saves, and rejoices over His redeemed people. He has the travail of His soul to the full and is satisfied.

Then He will make them a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth. Thus ends the great message of Zephaniah, the great-great-grandson of the pious King Hezekiah.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Zephaniah 3". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/zephaniah-3.html. 1913-1922.
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