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Bible Commentaries
Zephaniah 1

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



The time when Zephaniah prophesied, Zephaniah 1:1. God's severe judgment against Judah for divers sins, Zephaniah 1:2-18.

Verse 1

The word; the declaration of the purpose of God, either spoken audibly, or clearly manifested by signs.

Of the Lord, God of Israel; here is the Divine authority of this prophecy with which the prophet's word is seconded.

Which came: the precise manner how it came we need not inquire into;

Zephaniah did not hammer out of his own brain any such news, he received from God what he communicated to them. Zephaniah; by derivation of the name. it is one hidden of the Lord, whom God doth hide, or God's secretary; or else one that is God's Watchman, whom God hath set over the house of Judah, as Ezekiel is said to be, Ezekiel 3:17.

The son of Cushi, &c. his pedigree here gives us no certainty what his progenitors were, whether prophets, or only eminent known men; or whether he were, as some think him, the great-grandson of Hezekiah, the name being the same.

In the days of Josiah; before the captivity; he was then contemporary with Jeremiah and Ezekiel. prophesied before the captivity, and foretells much like what Jeremiah or Ezekiel did.

Amon; whose reign was very full of impiety and idolatry, and hastened the captivity upon Judah. This Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which Manasseh had made, 2 Chronicles 33:22.

Verse 2

I will utterly consume, Heb. Gathering up I will gather up, or take up, intimating particularly the manner how all should be consumed, i.e. swept away as a prey to the Babylonians.

From off the land of Judah, the two tribes.

Saith the Lord: this is added to confirm and assure the truth hereof.

Verse 3

The former verse denounced the future desolation in general terms. This verse specifieth what desolation in particular God would bring upon the land.

I will consume man and beast; man shall be consumed for his own sin, and the beasts consumed for man’s sake; men by the pestilence and famine, the beasts by murrain, and devoured by multitudes of hungry soldiers, that shall make greater havoc than any murrain ordinarily doth.

The fowls of the heaven; either by some unknown disease among them, or else by a distaste at the stench of putrefying carcasses, they fled away, so that none, or very few, appeared, insomuch that it looked as if all were consumed.

The fishes of the sea: by sea, some understand ponds, lakes, or smaller seas, such as that of Gennesareth and Tiberias, the waters whereof might be made noisome to the fish by the streams of blood and carcasses which might possibly be east into them; or God might destroy the fishes by some consuming disease too. He hath ways to do it, who hath once said he will do it.

The stumbling-blocks; the idols.

The wicked; the idolatrous priests, and others who worshipped them.

I will cut off man, all shall disappear,

from off the land of Judah.

Verse 4

I will also, Heb. And I will, or, And I have; so prophets speak of what shall most certainly be as if already done.

Stretch out mine hand: this seems to intimate. some immediate stroke from God, he speaks so in Jeremiah 51:25; Ezekiel 6:14; Ezekiel 14:13; Ezekiel 25:13.

Upon Judah; Benjamin is included, though Judah only is named.

Upon all the inhabitants; it will be universal destruction of them, either by sword, famine, pestilence, or captivity; both citizens and sojourners, all shall perish, or suffer by some or other of these ways.

Of Jerusalem: though it was the holy city, beautified with the temple of God, yet all should not secure it, Jeremiah 7:4; Ezekiel 9:6.

I will cut off the remnant of Baal; whatsoever remains of the idolatry of Baal, both the idols, their temples, sacrifices, priests, ornaments, and worshippers: whether this refers to times after the reformation by Josiah, or to times before it, needs not scrupulously be inquired into.

From this place: this idolatry had filled Jerusalem itself.

The names; both the persons, and the memory of them also, for names includeth both.

The Chemarims; either called so from their black garments they went in, or from their swarthy colour accustomed by the black smoke of incense, which they were almost continually in; or door-keepers, sextons of Baal; or voluntary servants; or such as the popish monks, some ministers of Baal distinct from the priests.

The priests; either the priests of Baal, or the apostates of Aaron’s house, who (though priests by birth and office) should have been stedfast to, but had fallen from the true God and his worship to Baal and his worship.

Verse 5

And them that worship; those among the people that adhered to this idolatry.

The host of heaven; the sun, moon, and stars, frequently in the Scripture called the host of heaven.

Upon the house-tops; openly, as the manner of those idolaters was, either because they thought those deities they imagined to dwell in the body of those stars better saw them, or were better pleased thus, or because these places were nearer heaven. On the flat roofs of their houses they were used to have their altars and worship.

That swear by the Lord, or, to the Lord, (as the Hebrew bears,)

and by Malcham; persons that mix idol worship and the worship of the true God; that devote themselves to God and Baal, or Malcham; called Milcom, and Molech, and Moloch, Amos 5:26; probably it was their chief idol, fancied to be king of gods and men.

Verse 6

Them that are turned back; apostates, who have forsaken the Lord and his worship, or that are turned atheists, or that in matter of religion have taken up not what is purest and truest, but what is nearest and most in fashion.

That have not sought the Lord; sluggishly neglected to examine pretended religions, according to the law, which they might and ought to have done, and who have embraced a fall religion instead of the true.

Nor inquired for him: though the prophets have preached against this apostacy, and called the priests and people to forsake the idols, and inquire after God, yet they would not inquire; these also are here doomed to destruction.

Verse 7

Hold thy peace; thou that murmurest in discontent, or disputest out of frowardness against God, his worship, and his government, that thinkest of him but little better than of Baal or Malcham, cease all thy quarrels and dispute, stand in awe.

At the presence of the Lord God; who is almighty, omniscient, who ruleth and will avenge.

The day of the Lord; a day of vengeance from the Lord. The Lord hath prepared a sacrifice; the wicked among the Jews, whom he will sacrifice by the Chaldean’s sword.

He hath bid his guests; summoned in beasts of the field and fowls of the air, to eat the flesh and drink the blood of slain Jews, whom the Babylonians slew.

Verse 8

It shall come to pass; it shall most certainly be fulfilled what I threaten I will most surely execute.

In the day of the Lord’s sacrifice; of slaughter to be made by the Babylonians, called here a day of sacrifice, that we might see clearly the just and exemplary proceedings of God; these people sinned in sacrificing to strange gods, and God will punish them, making them a strange sacrifice to his anger.

I will punish; the punishment shall appear to be from my hand, as he threatens often by Ezekiel.

The princes; nobles about the court, the great ones, who dreamed of shifting better than others, but fell with the first, 2 Kings 25:19-21.

The king’s children; sons and grandchildren too of good Josiah. Jehoahaz died a captive in Egypt, 2 Kings 23:34. Jehoiakim died on the way, or in Babylon, buried with the burial of an ass, Jeremiah 22:18,Jeremiah 22:19. Jeconiah, carried to Babylon, sped somewhat, yet but little, better; there he died a captive. As for Zedekiah and his children, these were slain before his face, then his eyes put out, and he led into miserable captivity.

Clothed with strange apparel; some say the strange apparel of idolatrous priests; others say, and more likely, the garb of foreigners, imitated by the wanton Jews.

Verse 9

In the same day; not to be taken for a single day, but more largely for that time wherein God would visit and punish.

That leap on the threshold; insolently, and with rage, break open the doors of such whose goods they seize, upon pretence of forfeitures or fines; a sin that Ezekiel both taxed and threatened, Ezekiel 8:17; Ezekiel 12:19; Ezekiel 45:9.

Their masters; either the oppressing kings, whose officers these were, or public officers and judges, whose servants thus did (to enrich their masters) spoil the poor and the oppressed.

With violence; goods taken away by force, and kept as much against right, as at first taken away without right;

and deceit, by false accusations, and by suborned evidence for proof, and by perjuries.

Verse 10

In that day: see Zephaniah 1:9.

Saith the Lord; to assure us of the certainty of the thing.

The noise, Heb. the voice, of a cry, i.e. a very great outcry and lamentation, from the fish-gate, which was on the west side of Jerusalem, through which gate they brought in fish from Joppa and other sea towns on the west sea, or great sea, now the Mediterranean, at which gate the Babylonians are said first to enter into the city when they took it: thus it will be a prediction at what gate the enemy should enter.

A howling, the great, horrid, and confused lamentations of desperate and undone multitudes, crying out and bitterly bemoaning themselves, from the second gate, which was in the second wall of Jerusalem, which on that side was fortified with three walls; or second part of the city, or the middle city, for it was divided into three parts. Others read second as a proper name, and make it the school, college, or university, and so render, the howling of the university, i.e. of students either slaughtered or captivated by Chaldeans.

A great crashing; breaking in pieces, or the noise of what is broken into shivers; possibly the noise of doors, windows, closets, and chests broken up, or burning, in the houses of nobles, likened here to hills; or, more literally, in

Gareb and

Goath, on which the fleeing Jews, pursued by the Chaldees, lost what they carried with them, and their life too: so all places were full of miserable slaughter and outcries.

Verse 11

Howl, cry aloud, and bitterly,

ye inhabitants of Maktesh: some read it appellatively: the mortar in which of old, before the corn-mill was known and used, they did pound and beat their corn for bread; they also pounded spices. Others say it is the lower town, or valley of Cedron in Jerusalem, a deep valley that surrounded the mountain of the temple, to which, fancied like a deep mortar, they gave the name Maktesh.

All the merchant people; who were wont either to lodge in this place when they came to trade, or, if Jewish merchants, dwelt there, which was much to the advantage of the place; but now, by the invasion of the land, and by the siege, all trade is cut off, and many merchants either slain or made slaves.

All they that bear silver, that brought it with them to pay for what they bought up, and so enriched the inhabitants of this Maktesh, all that traded and paid ready money,

are cut off. Others say the money-changers or bankers are here meant by them that bear silver, persons that furnished all sorts of people with silver for goods laid to pledge or bartered.

Are cut off, i.e. shall be as surely as if it were already done.

Verse 12

At that time; it was

day. Zephaniah 1:10, which see.

I will search Jerusalem with candles: God speaks after the manner of man, who searcheth dark places with candles in hand. God’s omniscience seeth all things, and-needs no help for discovery, but by this expression he foretells how fully he would both discover and punish. It is like enough this was literally fulfilled when the Chaldeans did search the vaults, and cellars, and sewers of Jerusalem for men or goods hidden in them.

Settled on their lees; in allusion to liquors, which, not being poured out from vessel to vessel to refine them, grow thick and settled; so men that have known none or little changes settle in security, and fear no menaces.

Say in their heart; entertain an opinion, or begin to flatter themselves into thoughts.

The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil; no Providence to countenance the good, or to punish the bad; no God, or none that regardeth what is done on earth; or as they, Ezekiel 8:12, think God hath forsaken the earth. These atheists God will punish severely, as the sin well deserveth; they shall see it shall be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked.

Verse 13

Therefore; as a punishment for other sins, so for this secure, atheistical denial of Providence; though they have denied, they shall feel, and confess, that the evil they suffer is both just, and from my hand too.

Their goods; stores in their shops and warehouses, furniture in their chambers, and wardrobes.

A booty; a prey divided among the Babylonish soldiers, invading, prevailing, wasting villages and cities.

Their houses a desolation; that they may remember the curse threatened in the law, executed on them, and acknowledge that he who gave the law rules by it.

Build houses, but not inhabit them, & c.; according to that Deuteronomy 28:30,Deuteronomy 28:39.

Verse 14

The great day; not the day of general judgment, but the day in which the great God will bring his great armies against Judah and Jerusalem, and do great things by those armies.

Of the Lord; appointed, foretold, and now actually brought on them by the Lord.

It is near; very near; it is doubled to show the nearness of it, and to assure us it is so.

And hasteth greatly; your enemies’ eagerness for the prey, your sins and security, and the Lord’s justly provoked anger, hasten this day.

The voice; it is within hearing, the sound of it is in mine ears, methinks you might hear it also.

The mighty man, the valiant and stout-hearted among the Jews, they who should support others, shall be really to sink themselves, and as much need a cordial themselves.

Shall cry there bitterly; their courage broken, they shall cry out most vehemently, or like hopeless women.

Verse 15

That day, great day, Zephaniah 1:14,

is a day of wrath, from the Chaldeans; and from the Lord, actively, upon the Jews, passively.

A day of trouble and distress: here the prophet heapeth up words of much the same sense, to express the grievousness of the troubles of those times which shall suddenly come upon them; most distressing trouble, none knowing how to bear it, or where to hide from it.

Of wasteness and desolation; most desolate wasteness in city, villages, and fields; every where the spoiling soldier shall lay waste, carrying away all he can, and destroying what he cannot carry away,

Of darkness and gloominess; possibly it might be so as to the temper of the air, dark and gloomy, but figuratively I am sure it was so.

Of clouds and thick darkness; either literally, from the heavens clouded over them, or (if it refer, as it may, to the day of sacking Jerusalem, and effects of it) darkness, gloominess, clouds, and thick darkness, arising from the smoke and fire of the city every where fired by the enemy; but metaphorically these speak the most unparalleled calamities.

Verse 16

The trumpet; God’s trumpet calling the Chaldeans, the Chaldeans’ trumpet also gathering together their troops.

Alarm, threatening and affrighting, against the fenced cities of Judah.

The high towers; stately palaces and strong munitions, fortified with high towers, built at the angles of walls, and therefore the Hebrew calls them high corners; it may mean also the great men, which, as corners well built are the strength and beauty of a wall, so they of a state, Judges 20:2; Zechariah 10:4.

Verse 17

I will bring distress; cast them into, and surround or besiege them with distress, calamities which shall greatly trouble and perplex.

Upon men; the chiefest among them, the richest, and who think themselves safest; the mighty men, as Zephaniah 1:10,

like blind men, shall neither know what to do nor where to flee, neither be fit for counsel nor action.

Because they have sinned against the Lord; all this for their great sins against the Lord; these men of note have been as much greater in sin as in state above others, and shall be as much deeper in distress.

Their blood shall be poured out as dust; as freely, abundantly, and as contemptibly, as dust in the highway.

And their flesh as the dung; shall be spread as dung on the face of the earth to fatten and improve it; their life shall be of no more value than dust, their honour no more regarded than dung, and they shall be so used after death.

Verse 18

Neither their silver nor their gold: sometimes these have purchased friends, and redeemed a life at the hand of greedy soldiers, who have spared on promise of money; but now it shall not be so, neither silver nor gold shall help.

Shall be able to deliver; to pacify the enraged sultan of Babylon, who had been formerly appeased with presents and tribute money, but will no more. Nor shall his soldiers dare to spare or save any when they are charged to slay man, woman, and child, as in the taking of Jerusalem it is probable they were charged, Psalms 137:7-9.

The Lord’s wrath: were it the wrath of man only, gifts might appease it; but it is the wrath of God, who is a righteous Judge, and receives not gifts.

Shall be devoured; utterly ruined, its wealth carried away, its provisions eat up, its stores exhausted, and its stock (which should continue their provision) utterly destroyed, as Zephaniah 1:2.

By the fire of his jealousy; to which their sins provoked the Lord, which their sins enkindled, and now it burns that notre can quench it; see Deuteronomy 28:15, to the end of the chapter; all which God will now make good against them.

For he shall make even a speedy riddance: though lie had with wonderful patience waited and forborne, now he would wait no longer, but with speedy executions fulfil his threats and accomplish his wrath; which he did within less than twenty years after this prophecy, as is most likely, on the accuratest computation we can make of the times of Zephaniah’s prophesying and Nebuchadnezzar’s taking the city.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Zephaniah 1". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/zephaniah-1.html. 1685.
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