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Bible Commentaries
Zephaniah 2

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;

Gather yourselves together - to a religious assembly, to avert the judgment by prayers, (Joel 2:16, "Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders," etc.) So Jerome (Grotius). Or, so as not to be dissipated "as the chaff" (Zephaniah 2:2). The Hebrew [ hitqowshªshuw (H7197)] is akin to a root meaning chaff [ qash (H7179)] (Kimchi). Gather yourselves, so as to rid yourselves of all chaff-like vanities and sins. Self-confidence and corrupt desires are the dissipations from which they are exhorted to gather themselves (Calvin). The foe, otherwise, like the wind, will scatter you "as the chaff." Repentance is the gathering of themselves meant. 'Collect yourselves, and be ye collected' - i:e., collect your thoughts, and look into your state of mind (Gesenius). So Chaldee, Syriac, and the Septuagint versions. Maurer and Henderson, not so well, take the word from a root [ qowsh (H6983)], bent, or curved in back, answering to a similar Arabic word, 'Bend yourselves, and be ye bent' - i:e., break down your haughty spirits, afflict yourselves, and so turn to repentance.

O nation not desired - (cf. 2 Chronicles 21:20, "Jehoram reigned eight years, and departed without being desired") -

i.e., not desirable; unworthy of the grace or favour of God; and yet God so magnifies that grace as to be still solicitous for their safety, though they had destroyed themselves, and forfeited all claims on His grace (Calvin). Margin, from Chaldee version, has, 'not desirous'-namely, of returning to God. Maurer and Gesenius translate [ lo' (H3808) nikcaap (H3700), from kaacap (H3700), to be pale], 'not waxing pale' - i:e., dead to shame. But the Hebrew is never used of being pale through shame. In Isaiah 29:22 a different Hebrew verb is used, "Jacob shall not be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale." The English version, "not desired," may be explained as Calvin explains it, or else better, 'not (now, as formerly) a nation in whom God has pleasure,' or a desire toward: as 2 Chronicles 21:20 uses the similar, though not the same, Hebrew phrase: also Jeremiah 12:10, "my portion of desire," margin; Psalms 45:11, "so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty." But I prefer, as margin, Kimchi, and Buxtorf, taking the Hebrew in the ordinary sense. 'Not desiring'-namely, to repent,-not desiring to do that to which they are here exhorted, to gather themselves together for a national humiliation and repentance.

Verse 2

Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD's anger come upon you.

Before the decree bring forth - i:e., before God's decree against you announced by me (Zephaniah 1:1-18) have its fulfillment. As the embryo lies hid in the womb, and then emerges to light in its own due time, so though God for a time hides His vengeance, yet He brings it forth at the proper season.

Before the day pass as the chaff - i:e., before the day for repentance pass, and with it you, the ungodly, pass away, as the chaff (Job 21:18; Psalms 1:4). Maurer puts it parenthetically, 'the day (i:e., time) passes as the chaff' (i:e., most quickly). Calvin, 'before the decree bring forth (the predicted vengeance), (then) the chaff (the Jews) shall pass in a day' - i:e., in a moment, though they thought that it would be long before they could be overthrown. But the Hebrew is against this translation. The English version is best; the latter clause being explanatory of the former, and so the before being understood, not expressed.

Verse 3

Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD's anger.

Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth ... seek rigteousness, seek meekness. As in Zephaniah 2:1 (cf. note, Zephaniah 1:12), he had warned those hardened among the people (like the "lees," or crust formed beneath wines long undisturbed) to humble themselves, so now he admonishes "the meek" to proceed in their right course, that so they may escape the general calamity (Psalms 76:9). The meek bow themselves under God's chastisements to God's will, whereas the ungodly become only the more hardened by them.

Seek ye the Lord - in contrast to those that "sought not the Lord" (Zephaniah 1:6). The meek are not to regard what the multitude do, but seek God at once.

Which have wrought his judgment - i:e., His law. The true way of "seeking the Lord" is to "work judgment," not merely to be zealous about outward ordinances.

Seek meekness - not perversely murmuring against God's dealings, but patiently submitting to them, and composedly waiting for deliverance.

It may be ye shall be hid - (Isaiah 26:20; Amos 5:6). This phrase does not imply doubt of the deliverance of the godly, but expresses the difficulty of it, as well that the ungodly may see the certainty of their doom, as also that the faithful may value the more the grace of God in their case (1 Peter 4:17-19), and be stirred up to greater diligence to make their calling and election sure (Calvin). So accordingly it came to pass the meek and despised "poor of the land" were "left" by the captain of the Babylonian guard, amidst the general overthrow and captivity of the Jewish nation, "to be vinedressers and farmers" (2 Kings 25:12).

Verse 4

For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.

For. He makes the punishment awaiting the neighbouring states an argument why the ungodly should repent (Zephaniah 2:1) and the godly persevere-namely that so they may escape from the general calamity.

Gaza shall be forsaken. In the Hebrew there is a play of similar sounds, Gazah Gazubah; Gazah shall be forsaken, as its name implies. So the Hebrew of the next clause.

Ekron shall be rooted up - Ekron teeakeer. "Ekron," probably meaning the firm rooting, "shall be rooted up."

They shall drive out Ashdod at the noon-day - when, on account of the heat, Orientals usually sleep, and military operations are suspended. So "Ishbosheth lay on a bed at noon" when the two assassins attacked him, (2 Samuel 4:5, etc.) Hence, an attack at noon implies one sudden and unexpected (Jeremiah 6:4-5; Jeremiah 15:8).

Ekron. Four cities of the Philistines are mentioned, whereas five was the normal number of their leading cities. Gath is omitted, being at this time under the Jews' dominion. David had subjugated it (1 Chronicles 18:1). Under Joram the Philistines almost regained it (2 Chronicles 21:16), but, Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6) and Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:8) having conquered them, it remained under the Jews. Amos 1:6, etc.; Zechariah 9:5-6; Jeremiah 25:20, similarly mention only four cities of the Philistines.

Verse 5

Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.

Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast - the Philistine dwelling on the strip of sea coast southwest of Canaan. Literally, the cord or line of sea (cf. Jeremiah 47:7; Ezekiel 25:16).

The Cherethites - the Cretans, a name applied to the Philistines as sprung from Crete. Elsewhere the Philistines are said to have come from Caphtor, (Deuteronomy 2:23; Jeremiah 47:4; Amos 9:7, "Have not I brought up the Philistines from Caphtor?") Caphtor is probably Cappadocia (as the Targums and Vulgate and Syriac versions state). The term [ 'iy (H336)], 'isle of Caphtor,' margin, Jeremiah 47:4, is made an argument by some for identifying Caphtor with Crete: but the term 'isle' is often used of maritime regions as Cappadocia. There were probably successive immigrations from Mizraim, and Crete was a half-way to Cappadocia. See note, Amos 9:7. Philistine means 'an emigrant' [from paalash (H6428), akin to the Ethiopic similar word, 'to migrate,' 'to rove.']

O Canaan, the land of the Philistines. They occupied the strip of shore land between the hills and the sea on the southwest of Canaan (Joshua 13:2-3); a name which hints that they are doomed to the same destruction as the early occupants of the land. This country was originally held by the Avims, whose land was seized on by "the Caphtorim from Caphtor." The Caphtorim, as well as the Philistim, are stated in Genesis 10:14 to have come out from the Casluhim, and these from Mizraim, or Egypt, and so from Ham. Tacitus,' 'Historiae,' 5: 2, says, the inhabitants of Palestine, whom he calls Jews, came from Crete. Probably they originally occupied part of Palestine, as the Canaanites, other descendants of Ham, also did; thence they went westward to Crete and Cappadocia, whence they were "brought up" to Palestine again, their original home, by the goodness of God (Amos 9:7). We know from other sources that Minos and the Hellenes supplanted the previous population of Crete: perhaps it was then that the final return of the Philistines from Crete to Palestine took place, though, doubtless, many previous bands successively had passed to Palestine from Crete, and also from Caphtor or Cappadocia.

Verse 6

And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks.

And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, [ nªwot (H5116) kªrot (H3741)] - rather, dwellings (with) cisterns (i:e., water tanks dug in the earth) for shepherds. Instead of a thick population and tillage, the region shall become a pasturage for nomad shepherds' flocks. The Hebrew for dug cisterns, Ceroth [from kaaraat, to dig], seems a play on sounds, alluding to their name Cherethites (Zephaniah 2:5): their land shall become what their national name implies, a land of cisterns. Maurer translates, 'Feasts for shepherds' (flocks)' -

i.e., the Philistine sea coast, bereft of its inhabitants, shall be one wide pasturage [from keeraah (H3740), which means also, in 2 Kings 6:23, a feast, or viands]. The English version takes the word, in the sense 'cottages,' from the root 'to dig:' because the shepherds in the East often dwelt in subterranean cottages, to avoid the excessive heat of the sun. So Drusius and Bochart. If this be preferred, perhaps it will be better to translate, as Maurer, the first noun [ nªwot (H5116)], 'pastures' and cottages (subterranean): or else, as Rosenmuller [taking kªrot (H3741), the Qal infinitive, from kaaraah (H3738), to dig, instead of a noun], to translate 'the dwellings of digging' - i:e., 'the dug (or subterraneous) dwellings.'

Verse 7

And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.

And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah - those of the Jews who shall be left after the coming calamity, and who shall return from exile.

They shall feed thereupon - namely, in the pastures of that sea coast region (Zephaniah 2:6).

For the Lord their God shall visit them - in mercy (Exodus 4:31).

Verse 8

I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border.

I have heard the reproach of Moab - a seasonable consolation to Judah, when wantonly assailed by Moab and Ammon with impunity: God saith, "I have heard" it all, though I might seem to men not to have observed it because I did not immediately inflict punishment.

Whereby they have ... magnified themselves against their border - acted haughtily, invading the territory of Judah (Jeremiah 48:29), and seizing on the territory of the ten tribes of Israel (especially the land of Gad, east of Jordan), after these had been carried captive into Assyria, as if Ammon, and not Israel's own brother Judah, were the 'heir' of the vacated territory (Jeremiah 49:1: cf. Zephaniah 2:10; Psalms 35:26; Obadiah 1:12, "spoken proudly;" margin, magnified thy mouth).

Verse 9

Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.

Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles - or, the overspreading of nettles - i:e., a place overrun with them.

And salt pits - found at the south of the Dead Sea. The water overflows in spring, and salt is left by the evaporation. Salt land is barren (whence arose the usage of "sowing with salt" a destroyed city and depopulated region, Judges 9:45; margin, saltness for "barrenness," Psalms 107:34).

The remnant of my people shall possess them - i:e., their land; in retribution for their having occupied Judah's land.

Verse 10

This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts.

This shall they have for their pride - (cf. Zephaniah 2:8, "magnified themselves").

Their pride - in antithesis to the meek (Zephaniah 2:3).

Verse 11

The LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.

He will famish - bring low, by taking from the idols their former fame: as beasts are famished by their food being withheld. Also, by destroying the kingdoms under the tutelage of idols (Psalms 96:4; Isaiah 46:1).

All the gods of the earth - who have their existence only on earth, not in heaven, as the true God.

And men shall worship him, every one from his place - each in his own Gentile home, taught by the Jews in the true religion: not in Jerusalem alone shall men worship God, but everywhere (Psalms 68:29-30; Malachi 1:11; John 4:21; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Timothy 2:8). It does not mean, as the meaning is in Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1-2; Zechariah 8:22; Zechariah 14:16, they shall come from their several places to Jerusalem to worship (Maurer).

Even all the isles of the heathen - i:e., all the maritime regions, especially the West, now being fulfilled in the gathering in of the Gentiles to Messiah; about to receive its full and final fulfillment in the conversion of all nations after the second coming of Messiah (Revelation 11:15).

Verse 12

Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword.

Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword. Fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar (God's sword, as was the Assyrian, Isaiah 10:5) conquered Egypt, with which Ethiopia is closely connected as its ally (Jeremiah 46:2-9; Ezekiel 30:5-9).

Ye - literally, they. The third person expresses estrangement: while doomed before God's tribunal in the second person, they are spoken of in the third as aliens from God.

Verse 13

And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria. Here he passes suddenly to the north. Nineveh was destroyed by Cyaxares and Nabopolassar 625 BC The Scythian hordes, by an inroad into Media, and thence into the southwest of Asia (thought by many to be the forces described by Zephaniah as the invaders of Judea, rather than the Chaldeans), for awhile interrupted Cyaxares' operations; but he finally succeeded. Arbaces and Belesis previously subverted the Assyrian empire under Sardanapalus (i:e., Pul?) 877 BC

Verse 14

And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds; for he shall uncover the cedar work.

And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her - of sheep, answering to "beasts" in the parallel clause. Wide pastures for sheep, and haunts for wild beasts, shall be where once there was a teeming population (cf. Zephaniah 2:6). Maurer, needlessly for the parallelism, makes it 'flocks of savage animals.'

All the beasts of the nations - i:e., "beasts of the earth" (Genesis 1:24). Not as Rosenmuller, 'all kinds of beasts that form a nation' - i:e., gregarious beasts (Proverbs 30:25-27).

Both the cormorant, [ qaa'at (H6893)] - rather, the pelican (so Psalms 102:6; margin, Isaiah 34:11); or spoonbill (Buxtorf), an aquatic bird; unclean in the eye of the law (Leviticus 11:18), [derived from quw', to vomit, as it vomits out shellfish, which it swallows. Aristotle, 'History of Animals,' 9: 10].

Bittern - delighting in "pools of water," which shall be the condition of the whole region of Babylon, soon to be reduced to its original state, a marsh near the Euphrates. Zephaniah has in view Isaiah's words, "I will make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water" [ qipowd (H7090)] (Isaiah 14:23). Maurer translates, 'the hedgehog;' Henderson, 'the porcupine.' But its connection with the "pelican" (or cormorant) here, and its being "in the upper lintels" (or capitals of columns) make it more likely that some bird is meant; some think 'the duck-hawk' (anataria aquila).

Upper lintels, [ bªkaptoreyhaa (H3730)] - rather, 'the capitals of her columns'-namely, in her temples and palaces (Maurer). Or, 'on the pomegranate-like knops at the tops of the houses' (Grotius).

Their voice shall sing in the windows. The desert-frequenting birds' "voice in the windows" implies desolation reigning in the upper parts of the palaces, answering to "desolation ... in the thresholds" - i:e., in the lower.

For he shall uncover the cedar-work - laying the cedar wainscoting on the walls, and carved beams of the ceiling, bare to wind and rain, the roof being torn off, and the windows and doors broken through. All this is designed as a consolation to the Jews, that they may bear their calamities patiently, knowing that God will avenge them.

Verse 15

This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.

This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly. Nothing then seemed more improbable than that the capital of so vast an empire, a city 60 miles in compass, with walls 100 feet high, and so thick that three chariots could go abreast on them, and with 1,500 towers, should be so totally destroyed that its site is with difficulty discovered. Yet so it is, as the prophet foretold.

That said in her heart, I am, and there is none besides me. This special phrase, expressing self-congratulation, as if peerless, is plainly adopted from Isaiah 47:8. The later prophets leant on the predictions of their predecessors, and gave them their inspired sanction, even as these lean on the Pentateuch and Psalms.

Every one that passeth by her shall hiss - in astonishment at a desolation so great and sudden, as was threatened by God against the temple its dedication by Solomon, in the event of Israel's apostasy (1 Kings 9:8); also, in derision (Job 27:23; Lamentations 2:15; Ezekiel 27:36).


(1) National repentance is the only sure safeguard against national overthrow. Without it a people cannot be in favour with God. Even Israel, His elect nation, became for a time, through want of it, a "nation not desired" (Zephaniah 2:1).

(2) The soul is like the "chaff" (Zephaniah 2:2), soon dissipated by the storms of carnal desire, and therefore needs to "gather itself together" by self-examination and earnest seeking after God, "before the day" for repentance pass, and with it the unconverted, "as the chaff, pass away" through "the fierce anger of the Lord."

(3) Whereas "the wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God" (Psalms 10:4), even under chastisements, "the meek of the earth" bend humbly to the chastening of their Heavenly Father, and in patient trust and hope "seek, the Lord," not only in outward ordinances, but in the active exercise of "judgment, righteousness, and meekness" (Zephaniah 2:3). Therefore, whereas to the eye of sense no means of escape in the general calamity are apparent, yet God Himself will be their hiding-place in the day of His anger against the world.

(4) The punishment, "desolation," and "rooting up" of others for sin (Zephaniah 2:4), is the strongest reason why we should repent, if we be as yet unconverted, or persevere in faith, if converted. Prayer is the best way alike to obtain and to maintain spiritual life. The present is the time for prayer, while still God waits to be gracious, and before the day of life, and with it the day of grace, be past.

(5) Woe be to the people who "have the word of the Lord against" them! (Zephaniah 2:5.) For what then can be for them? Let all beware of provoking God to withdraw His Spirit from them. For if God once cease to strive with them in mercy, He will contend with them in judgment, and then nothing but utter destruction is before them.

(6) The fall of Judah's foes (Zephaniah 2:7) is the signal for the restoration of the elect "remnant of Judah." For though He has long visited His elect nation in displeasure, yet, as being "the Lord their God," He "shall visit them" in loving-kindnesses, "and turn away their captivity." This is the comfort of all the people of God of every nation, that their chastisements are comparatively "for a small moment," whereas God's promise to them finally is, "With everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, smith the Lord thy Redeemer" (Isaiah 54:8).

(7) "Revilings" against the people of God (Zephaniah 2:8) only bring ten-fold reproach on the reviler at last. Pride, haughtiness, and injustice are peculiarly offensive before the great God. When the enemy "magnifies himself against" the possessions and against "the people" of God, it is against "the Lord of hosts" (Zephaniah 2:10) that he really magnifies himself. And God will reckon with the transgressor accordingly. "This shall they have for their pride," saith God.

(8) The ungodly fancy that, because they escape immediate punishment, God takes no cognizance of their crimes: and believers at times are cast down because of the delay in the vindication of their cause; but God assures the former, to their confusion, and the latter, to their unspeakable comfort, "I have heard" (Zephaniah 2:8), I know it all. Let this be our stimulus to a holy walk, and to patient forgetting world-kingdoms, once so flourishing, are the necessary endurance unto the end.

(9) All the "terrible" destructions of the God-preparations for the setting up of the kingdom of God and His Christ. When God hath turned into "desolation," not only Nineveh and Babylon, but also their last spiritual antitype, "the rejoicing city, that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none besides me" (Zephaniah 2:15), the Lord shall make "the kingdoms of this world the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ" (Revelation 11:15), and "men shall worship Him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the pagan" (Zephaniah 2:11). May that glorious kingdom soon come, and to this end may every obstacle in its way be speedily removed!

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Zephaniah 2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/zephaniah-2.html. 1871-8.
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