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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Zephaniah 1

Gann's Commentary on the BibleGann on the Bible

Verse 1

Book Comments

Walking Thru The Bible

ZEPHANIAH

Author:

Zephaniah lived on the eve of Judah’s fall to Babylon and takes up the theme of the Day of the Lord. He prophesied during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC).

Background:

In King Josiah’s early days idolatry and all kinds of evil were rampant in the land. He became king at age 8 and at age 16 he began to seek the Lord and at 20 he purged the land of idols. While the temple was being repaired the long-forsaken "book of the Law" was found. In response to its teaching King Josiah began an extensive series of religious and social reforms. (cf. 2 Kings 22-23)

Zephaniah evidently prophesied just prior to these great reforms and likely helped to produce them. If the Hezekiah of Zephaniah 1:1 is the good king of Judah, then Zephaniah was of royal blood himself and a cousin to King Josiah. (Jeremiah also came onto the scene about the time of these reforms.)

His Message:

Zephaniah speaks to an idolatrous Judah, whose religion and morality were at a terribly low point. He denounces the sins of his fellow countrymen in direct and unsparing language. His strong convictions and fervent zeal are evident in each line of the book.

The these of the book is that the Day of the Lord is at hand for Judah (Zephaniah 1:1-18). The immediate event in view was Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of the land in 606 BC.

Outline of Zephaniah:

1: 1-3 Zephaniah announces a judgment in the coming Day of the Lord.

4-13 In particular it would come on Judah and Jerusalem.

14-18 It was a day which was very near.

2: 1-3 He pleaded for men to seek deliverance from the Lord

4-15 No nation would be able to escape the Day of the Lord.

3: 1-8 If the heathen were to be punished, Judah should expect her share of the same.

9-10 A remnant would be gathered from among the nations and they would return from captivity and be exalted before the world.

11-20 This is a prophetic glimpse of the restoration under Zerubbabel and Ezra

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Verse Comments

1:1–18 The book of Zephaniah announces the Day of Yahweh in hopes of encouraging Judah to repent and practice obedience. It incorporates a variety of literary techniques, including judgment speeches, calls for response, a hymn, and salvation speeches. The book’s structure resembles Isaiah and Ezekiel: it begins with a set of oracles against Judah, moves to a collection of oracles against foreign nations, and concludes with a series of oracles concerning the future restoration of Israel. The oracles of judgment are marked by an inclusio. The prophecies of worldwide judgment in vv. Zephaniah 1:1-3 and Zephaniah 3:8 unite everything in between.

1:1 Zephaniah’s genealogy is the longest of the writing prophets. The writer includes this lengthy genealogy to show that Zephaniah was the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah. Zephaniah’s royal lineage makes him a distant relative of King Josiah, in whose reign he prophesied. The prophet’s position in the royal family provided him with an ideal opportunity to witness the apostasy of Judah’s leaders firsthand (see vv. Zephaniah 1:8-12; Zephaniah 3:3-4).

“Zephaniah” means “Yahweh hides” (or “protects”) or “Yahweh has hidden.” The name may refer to God’s protection of Zephaniah in his childhood during Manasseh’s wicked reign (2 Kings 21:16). As a member of the royal family, Zephaniah would have lived in Jerusalem, which explains his familiarity with the capital city (e.g., vv. 10–11). Since he ministered during the reign of Josiah (640–609 BC), Zephaniah’s contemporaries include Habakkuk and Jeremiah.

Cushi Means “the Cushite.”

Gedaliah Means “Yahweh is Great.”

Amariah Means “Yahweh has promised.”

Hezekiah Means “Yahweh has strengthened.” Hezekiah, who reigned from 729–686 BC, was a king who “did right in the sight of Yahweh” (2 Kings 18:3).

Josiah Means “Yahweh supports.” Josiah reigned from 640–609 BC, having gained the throne at only eight years of age. He initiated many reforms during his reign and would be known as the final “good” king of Judah.

son of Amon Meaning “builder.” Amon reigned from 642–640 BC.

I. God’s Wrath Upon All - Judah in Partitular. Zep 11-18

A. The Word came to Zephaniah.

B. Great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah

C. Judgment upon Judah. Zep 1:2-6

1. Prelude - judgment upon the entire land. zeph 1:2-3

Verse 2

Zephaniah 1:2

A. God will consume all because they need judgming.

1:2–6 The prophet begins this section with a general announcement of worldwide destruction (vv. 2–3) and then announces Judah’s destruction specifically (vv. Zephaniah 1:4-6).

1:2 destroy everything An allusion to the flood (see Genesis 6:7; Genesis 7:4).

Verse 3

Zephaniah 1:3

A. God will consume man and beast. He describes how Babylon would sweep down over them.

B. Even the animal creation affected by man’s sin. (c. Joel 1:18; Hosea 4:3; Jeremiah 12:4)

1:3 fish of the sea This event will be even more catastrophic than the flood, which fish survived.

from the face of the earth Forms an inclusio with v. 2.

Verse 4

Zephaniah 1:4

2. Judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem becauuse of idolatry. Zephaniah 1:4-6

A. God would stretch out his hand; phrase also found in Isaiah.

1. He would bring judgment.

2. He will spare no one.

B. The remnant of Baal stands for all kinds of idolatry.

C. The remnant was left by Josiah - God would take care of them.

D. The Chemarims (KJV) were idolatrous prophets and priests of God who practicted idolatry.

1:4 my hand An anthropomorphic figure commonly used to emphasize God’s judgment (see Isaiah 5:25; Jeremiah 21:5).

Jerusalem -- . Its central position in Israel made it the ideal location for the capital. The Israelites had conquered the city of Jerusalem by the time of the judges (ca. 1350 BC), but they did not occupy it during that time (Judges 1:8). Jerusalem was made the political capital of the nation after King David (1011–971 BC) conquered it and built a palace there (2 Samuel 5:6-12). In 966 BC, when Solomon built the temple, Jerusalem became the religious capital of the nation as well. From this point forward, the city of Jerusalem occupied a place of prominence in the political and religious life of Israel.

Baal The Canaanite storm god. The prophets consistently condemned the worship of Baal (compare 1 Kings 18:20-21; Jeremiah 2:8, Jeremiah 2:23; Hosea 2:13; Hosea 11:2).

idolatrous priests Refers to the priests who served foreign gods at the high places.

with the priests Refers to the apostate priests who served in Jerusalem. Since this phrase may represent a later explanatory gloss, certain translations do not include it (e.g., NIV).

Verse 5

Zephaniah 1:5

A. Two classes of worshippers (star worshippers and false swearers.)

1. Star worshippers (astrology - see Deuteronomy 4:19)

2. And those who combined worship with God with worship of idols. (Divided loyalty)

1:5 the rooftops Ancients worshiped fertility gods such as Baal on high places so that the gods could watch from their heavenly dwelling places.

the host of heaven Refers here to idol gods.

bow down, swearing to Yahweh The Israelites had developed a syncretistic form of religion, blending the worship of Yahweh with the worship of pagan gods like Milcom (Molech), the chief god of the Ammonites (1 Kings 11:7).

Verse 6

Zephaniah 1:6

A. Third class: the religious indifference; those who do not concern themselves about God.

Verse 7

Zephaniah 1:7

Judgment upon all alike. Zephaniah 1:7-13

1. Upon princes, Zephaniah 1:7-8

A. Be silent: Humbly silent; submissibe to the judgment of God.

B. The guests: The nations around them. After Babylon, others would pick up the pieces.

1:7 Be silent The term hush is an onomatopoetic expression, much like the English term “Hush!” (Habakkuk 2:20; Zechariah 2:13).

the day of Yahweh The prophets use this phrase to denote the time when God will intervene in human affairs and judge the wicked (see Isaiah 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 30:3; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1; Amos 5:18; Obadiah 1:15; Malachi 4:5).

provided a sacrifice Refers to a sacrificial feast to which guests are invited (Deuteronomy 12:17-18; 1 Kings 1:9-10, 1 Kings 1:24-25).

consecrated Meaning they were “set apart” or “dedicated.”

Verse 8

Zephaniah 1:8

A. Judgment would fall equally upon idolaters and sinners of all ranks. Babylon carried off royal seed first.

B. They were clothed in strange apparel - this was one way they took the lead in sinning.

C. They were becoming more and more like their neighbors; they began to think like the other nations.

D. When we partake of the dress of the world, we are thinking like the world.

the officials The term sar is used to designate city officials (Judges 8:6), provincial supervisors (1 Kings 20:14), military leaders (2 Kings 5:1), and religious leaders (Ezra 8:24). These officials were especially important during the early years of Josiah’s reign since the king was too young to govern the nation himself.

sons of the king Refers to Josiah’s sons, the princes, who clothed themselves in foreign garments—a sign of their disrespect for Israel’s God and desire to live like foreigners. Ironically, the guests of the banquet would themselves become the sacrificial meal.

who dress in foreign clothing Though the prophet may refer figuratively to adopting pagan customs in religious practice, the literal meaning is also possible.

Verse 9

Zephaniah 1:9

2. Judgment upon thieves, v. 9

A. Leaping on the thresholds is a picture of stewards rushing upon houses to steal or extort property.

B. The master could disavow any knowledge; this happens today.

1:9 leap over the threshold A reference to practicing idolatry at the threshold of the temple (see Zephaniah 2:14).

on that day See note on v. 7.

house of their master Refers to the temple in Jerusalem.

their master The term adonei is often used as a title for God (see e.g., Obadiah 1:1; Zechariah 6:5; Zechariah 9:4; Malachi 1:12, Malachi 1:14).

violence and deceit Several other prophets also bemoan the presence of chamas, or “violence,” among the Israelites (see Jeremiah 6:7; Amos 3:10; Micah 6:12; Habakkuk 1:2).

Verse 10

Zephaniah 1:10

On that day -- cf Zephaniah 1:7, the day of Yahweh, God judgment day upon them when the Babylonians come.

(see Isaiah 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 30:3; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1; Amos 5:18; Obadiah 1:15; Malachi 4:5)

1:10–11 All three of the districts mentioned in vv. 10–11 are located on the northern side, the section where Nebuchadnezzar broke through the walls of the city in 586 BC.

Fish Gate An entrance to Jerusalem located on the northern section of city walls. It was the site of a fish market. Since this gate was on the north side of Jerusalem, the fish sold here probably came from the Sea of Galilee.

Second District A newer section of the city, probably located near the Tyropoeon Valley on the northern side of the city. It was probably built after the construction of the temple to provide housing for those who worked in the temple and surrounding area.

from the hills Refers to the western (Mount Zion), central (Mount Moriah), and eastern (Mount of Olives) hills of Jerusalem.

Verse 11

Zephaniah 1:11

the Mortar This term doesn’t appear elsewhere in the Bible. It may be associated with a site in the northern Tyropoeon Valley.

the traders Literally “people of Canaan.” The phrase is often translated as “traders” or “merchants” because the Canaanites were known as traders.

all who trade with silver Refers to merchants.

have been cut off They are taken into exile.

Verse 12

Zephaniah 1:12

1:12 at that time Parallel to “on that day” (see v. 10). See note on Zephaniah 1:7.

Jerusalem See note on Zephaniah 1:4.

complacent -- (dulled) This phrase appears nowhere else in the OT. It describes the residents of Jerusalem, who do not believe that Yahweh will interfere in the affairs of the nation and are at ease.

Verse 13

Zephaniah 1:13 God would send an invading force to plunder Jerusalem. The destruction would come so quickly that those with ill-gotten gain would not survive to enjoy their wealth.

their goods ... The inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Verse 14

Zephaniah 1:1

1:14 great day of Yahweh See note on Zephaniah 1:7.

coming very swiftly It is coming very quickly.

is bitterness The term mar could also be viewed as an adverb—“mighty man cries bitterly” (NASB).

Verse 15

Zephaniah 1:15

1:15 That day See note on v. 7.

of trouble and distress See Obadiah 1:12, Obadiah 1:14.

of disaster and ruination See Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 13:9.

of darkness and deep gloom Compare Joel 2:31; Amos 5:18, 20. See note on Joel 2:2.

clouds and thick clouds See Ezekiel 30:3 and note.

Zephaniah 1:15 darkness and gloom: See also Isaiah 13:9-10; Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20.

Verse 16

Zephaniah 1:16

1:16 a day of trumpet and trumpet blast See Joel 2:1 and note.

Verse 17

Zephaniah 1:17

1:17 grope around like the blind: An example of God’s justice (see also Romans 1:21-32). Because God’s people were blind ethically and spiritually (see Exodus 23:8; Romans 2:19; 1 John 2:11) and had sinned against the LORD and his commandments, they would incur the just penalties specified in God’s covenant with them (Deuteronomy 28:28-29).

1:17 their entrails Yahweh declares that the carcasses of the slain will fertilize the earth like dung. [see NCV]

Verse 18

Zephaniah 1:18

1:18. They would have no hope of deliverance; their wealth (silver [cf. “silver” in v. 11] and gold) would not be able to buy off their attackers (cf. Ezekiel 7:19).

1:18 the people on earth: Or the people living in the land.

the whole land -- . of Israel, and not just Jerusalem as the prophet on which the prophet has been zeroed.

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Zephaniah 1". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/zephaniah-1.html. 2021.
 
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