Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Zephaniah 2

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-3

Zep 2:1-3

CALL TO REPENTANCE . . . Zephaniah 2:1-3

God’s threatenings are always designed to call men back to Him, Even though He knows few will repent, He is “not willing that any should perish.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Probably these three verses belong to chapter one. They form the usual high note upon which the prophets close a section of threatenings.

The purpose of such denunciations as we have just considered is always to bring about repentance and cleansing. Therefore the prophet concludes with a note of hope.

The meek, i.e. the humble before God, those with the moral courage to see the truth of the prophet’s preaching are called to act in concert, to gather together. Here is the remnant on the eve of judgement, drawn together in a common repentance which bespeaks the truth that even the faithful have not always acted according to their faith.

The word “gather” describes a stooping such as is done in the gleaning of fields. It is to be done “before the day pass as the chaff.” The day of judgement is a time of harvest. Not only are the unfaithful punished but the faithful are rewarded. The nation, per se, has no shame, Judah’s submission to the wooing of Baal marks her as no different from other nations. However, the meek within her still may find hope in gleaning themselves from the whole. Zephaniah 2:3 is a bridge between the pronouncements against Judah in chapter one and the following declaration of judgement against Judah’s neighbors. All the meek of the earth are called upon to seek Jehovah. Peter’s discovery that “. . . in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him,” (Acts 10:35) is the discovery of eternal truth.

The “meek of the earth” are presented by Zephaniah as they “that have kept His ordinances.” This same concept is found in Paul’s Roman letter. Romans 2:14-15 states, “When Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, are a law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts. their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them.” The Jews’ own Bible was indeed the answer to the Jews’ narrowness. Micah 6:8 (b-c) has been lived by others. In all the prophets, escape from God’s wrath, and conversely the receiving of His mercy are matters of ethics and morality rather than nationality. The admonition is to seek meekness. Meekness, we repeat, is the moral courage to be humble before God. Jesus’ statement is that the meek shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5) The achievements of those who are haughty before God are always temporary because they will not stand in the day of Jehovah.

Zerr: Gather together (Zephaniah 2:1) is an exhortation for them to concentrate their attention upon the situation. Nation not desired means that their present state and conduct failed to meet the approval of the Lord. Before the decree bring forth (Zephaniah 2:2). If anything is to be done to avert the impending doom it must be done soon for the time of the invasion is near. As the chaff denotes that the nation was to be threshed and the worthless parts blown away. Zephaniah 2:3 is is another instance of the apparent disagreement between the different announcements made to the people of Israel. The subject is explained by the long note offered in the comments on 2 Kings 22:17.


Judgement of God

1. Discuss Zephaniah’s claim to inspiration.

2. Trace the idea of judgement by fire.

3. What are the stumbling blocks which cause man to sin? (Zephaniah 1:3)

4. Who are “the hosts of heaven on the housetops?”

5. Discuss the religious syncretism of Zephaniah’s day as seen in Judah’s compromise with strange gods as it typlifies modern religious syncretism.

6. Who will likely be most surprised by God’s judgement? (Zephaniah 1:6)

7. Discuss Zephaniah’s pronouncement of judgement against Judah in light of the principle set down in 1 Peter 4:17.

8. Who are those “clothed in foreign apparel?” (Zephaniah 1:8)

9. Who are “those that leap over the threshold?” (Zephaniah 1:9)

10. When the invading Babylonians came against Jerusalem they came from the ___________________.

11. Discuss “I will search with lamps.” (Zephaniah 1:12)

12. Were the apostles and the prophets mistaken as to the soon coming of the final Day of the Lord? Explain,

13. How do you reconcile the wrath of God and the love of God?

14. God’s threatenings are always a call to ___________________.

15. Who are “the meek?”

16. Meekness is _______________ ___________________.

Verses 1-15

Zep 2:1-15

The Universality of Jehovah’s wrath against the Ungodly

(Zephaniah 2:1-15)

“Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation that hath no shame; before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of Jehovah come upon you, before the day of Jehovah’s anger come upon you” (Zephaniah 2:1-2).

Nahum wrote, “Who can stand before his indignation? And who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken asunder by him” (Nahum 1:6). Sin is no laughing matter (Jeremiah 15:17-18). God calls the nation of Judah together to receive her punishment because she has “no shame” (see Jeremiah 6:15).

The day of Jehovah is a day in which the power of God will be unleashed in such a way that He will be seen as actually fighting against Judah (cf. Jeremiah 21:5).

“Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3).

Jehovah makes a plea to the “meek of the earth.” The meek keep God’s ordinances and seek after righteousness. The great character trait that distinguished Moses (Numbers 12:3) and Jesus (Matthew 11:29; Matthew 21:5) from others was meekness. Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:5). To be “meek” (praus) = “meek, gentle, kind, forgiving” (Moulton 340). “Mild, soft, gentle, meek” (LS 666). “Showing patience and humility; gentle” (AHD 782). The thought seems to be that one who is meek knows his or her place. They have the uncanny ability to recognize the heinous nature of sin, they (not Christ) recognize their own sin and weakness of the flesh, they beg God to forgive them, they have deep sorrow over their sins, and they are thereby humbled by the human experience of sin. Such a one is thereby meek in the since that he or she is brought low by their sin. They realize that all sin and thereby have a gentle and kind disposition toward others. Humanity has a common plight and that is that we sin. The meek have a proper disposition or spirit in this experience (see study # 5; A Meek Character).

The meek recognize the sovereign rule of God and voluntarily subject themselves to his ordinances have a glimmer of hope that they may be spared the heinous day of God fierce anger and judgment.

“For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation; they shall drive out Ashdod at noonday and Ekron shall be rooted up. Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea-coast, the nation of the Cherethites! The word of Jehovah is against you, O Canaan, the land of the Philistines; I will destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant. And the sea-coast shall be pastures, with cottages for shepherds and folds for flocks. And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed their flocks thereupon; in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening; for Jehovah their God will visit them, and bring back their captivity” (Zephaniah 2:4-7).

Zephaniah delivers a prophecy against the Philistines. The inhabitants of Philistia will not escape the fierce wrath of God. The four principle cities of Philistia are named with the exclusion of Gath (cf. Amos 1:6-8). Their land shall be taken and given to the captives of Judah who return under Zerubbabel.

“I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, wherewith they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border. Therefore as I live, saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, a possession of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall make a prey of them, and the remnant of my nations shall inherit them. This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of Jehovah of hosts. Jehovah will be terrible unto them; for he will famish all the godds of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the nations” (Zephaniah 2:8-11).

Zephaniah delivers a prophecy against Moab due to her pride and magnifying herself against Judah and Jerusalem. Jeremiah reveals Moab’s sin to be that of pride, idolatry, faith in their mighty fortresses and treasures. Moab had no concern or fears of Jehovah in relation to their sinful ways (cf. Jeremiah 48).

“Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword. And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria, and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like the wilderness. And heards shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the pelican and the porcupine shall lodge in the capitals thereof; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he hath laid bare the cedar-work. This is the joyous city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, am there is none besides me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in? Every one that passes by her shall hiss, and wag his hand” (Zephaniah 2:12-15).

Jehovah would put His sword of victory into the hands of the Babylonians and they would utterly destroy the Ethiopians and or Egypt. During the days of Josiah Assyria had not yet been defeated by the Babylonians. They are foretold as having been defeated by the hand of Jehovah as well. Those who heard this prophecy may have been in disbelief and utter surprise that the great city of Nineveh would fall to anyone or power. The Lord depicts Nineveh’s defeat so thoroughly that it will only be a place for wild animals to dwell.

Verses 4-15

Zep 2:4-15


Zephaniah 2:4-15

Just as God’s mercies are universal, so is His wrath. Those who have not the law not only may keep the essential moral requirements of it and thus be excused by their consciences, they may likewise also violate this moral reality to their own detriment. (Romans 2:15) In fact this is precisely what the Bible claims they have done. (Romans 3:9-23)

The often heard argument made by those who do not believe in missions; that the people who have not heard are excused somehow by their ignorance will not stand up in light of either the Old Testament or the New. They have violated the light of their own consciences and so stand as objects of God’s wrath along with those who have access to His written Word. Surely the love of Christ in us ought to drive us to give them the same chance to repent as ourselves.

(Zephaniah 2:4-7) In verses four through seven, Zephaniah names the areas to the south and west of Judah who are to feel God’s wrath along with the Hebrews. The statements are general rather than descriptive as had been Nahum’s rather delighted picture of Nineveh’s downfall. Nevertheless, the names roll from the prophet’s pen like the muffled drums of a funeral dirge. Gaza . . . forsaken, Ashkelon . . . desolation, Ashdod . . . driven out at noon, Ekron . . . rooted up, the Cherethites . . . woe, the Philistines . . . destroyed. The entire coast will be pasture land.

Zerr: The towns and places named in Zephaniah 2:4-5 were those of the Philistines and adjoining territory. Those people had been enemies to God’s nation and He decreed that they should be punished. And when the Lord’s own people have received their just chastisement and have come back to their native land, these other spots will serve for the use of the returning nation. Some of the uses that will be made of these territories are specified in Zephaniah 2:6. One of the chief industries in the land of Palestine was that of the production and raising of sheep. The area under consideration was to furnish shelter for the shepherds and their flocks. Zephaniah 2:7 specifically looks beyond the captivity about to come upon Judah and includes the return to Palestine. The captivity was to serve as a chastisement for the people of Judah and was not intended to be continued any longer than was necessary to accomplish the Lord’s purposes.

Those who are left behind of Judah will pasture their flocks in the lands and cities of the condemned peoples. The shepherds will sleep at night in their deserted homes. The remnant shall return from Babylon to inhabit their land. Four of the cities mentioned here, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ekron are chief cities of the Philistines. The fifth, Gath, Was wiped out earlier by the Assyrians and so is not mentioned by Zephaniah in regard to the Babylonian invasion. These sea people, whose entrance into Canaan had been contemporary with that of Abraham and who had been a constant thorn in the Hebrews’ side, would now feel the devastating wrath of God as never before.

Zephaniah 2:8-11 pronounces judgement against the nations of trans-Jordan. For centuries they have spoken against God’s people. Now Ammon and Moab will feel His wrath. (cp. Jeremiah 48:27-29, Isaiah 16:6, Ezekiel 21:28; Ezekiel 25:3; Ezekiel 25:6; Ezekiel 25:8) They had long boasted they would annex land belonging to the Hebrews. Now, lest they carry out their boast during the captivity of Judah, they will share that captivity! The desolation described here is evident today. The gods who once were worshipped in Ammon and Moab are no more. Jehovah worship, even when He is called Allah, as in Moab and Ammon today, is a far cry from the pagan abomination called Moloch. Zephaniah’s promise is that, when all the false gods are made desolate, famished by God, every man will worship Jehovah in his own place, even all the isles and nations.

Zerr: These heathen nations had spoken lightly of the Lord’s people (Zephaniah 2:8) and he was aroused in his jealousy over it, so that He was determined to make them feel the sting of divine wrath. Sodom and Gomorrah (Zephaniah 2:9) were destroyed by fire from heaven (Genesis 19), and these Moabites and Ammonites were to be destroyed; not literally by fire, but with a destruction as decisive. Residue of my people means the remnant that was to return from the captivity ( Ezra 2:64). A feeling of self-importance is often attributed to pride (Zephaniah 2:10), and such was the case of the nations that arrayed themselves against Judah. The heathen nations all depended upon their false gods and the Lord proposed to expose their weakness (Zephaniah 2:11). Men shall worship him when they see His power to be superior to that of the idols. This does not mean they will become true servants of God in all of the requirements of divine law, but they will recognize Him as the superior deity over all beings claiming the adoration of mankind.

There are Messianic overtones here. Jesus said concerning His coming as Messiah that. “. . . neither in this mountain (Samaritan Gerazim) nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father . . . but the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth . . .” (John 4:23 -f) The universal worship of Jehovah in every place rather than in a particular “holy land” was more than an after-thought on Jesus’ part. It was the main thrust of the Old Testament.

Zephaniah, in Zephaniah 2:12-15, broadens the scope of this pronouncement. Not only are Judah and her near neighbors to feel the sting of God’s wrath, far way Ethiopia and Assyria and Nineveh shall feel it also. The Hebrew Kushim, translated Ethiopians in Zephaniah 2:12, included parts of Arabia and all of Nubia. It may possibly also include Egypt at this period when the Nile was ruled by Ethiopic dynasties. Nineveh, five hundred miles to the northeast of Judah, is singled out by Nahum and her final judgement predicted in vivid detail. Here Zephaniah includes her among the other far flung Gentile peoples. Brief though it is, Zephaniah’s picture of Nineveh’s desolation is every bit as expressive as Nahum’s.

Zerr: Ethiopia (Zephaniah 2:12) was another heathen nation that had made light of God’s people and hence was threatened with divine vengeance. The rest of the chapter is against the Assyrians and especially against the city of Nineveh (Zephaniah 2:13) which was their capital. That empire had invaded the land of Palestine in the days of the 10-tribe kingdom and had taken it into exile. As a punishment its territory was destined to become a wilderness. After the Assyrians lost control of their territory, the same was to be used by their successors as a pasturage for their stock (Zephaniah 2:14). Not only so, but wild creatures were to infest the desirable spots and enjoy themselves in the doleful place. Uncover the cedar work. The important buildings of ancient countries were lined with this beautiful wood, and the Lord predicted that they were to be ransacked and the ornamental cedar finishing be exposed to decay. The disgrace of Nineveh is the subject of Zephaniah 2:15. This was one of the proudest cities of the ancient world, but her pride was doomed to be brought down so low that all people passing by would cast reproachful glances and sneers at her.

All those included in this sweeping indictment shall feel the sword of the Lord, just as the Philistines, Moab, and Ammon. “My sword” is whatever instrument of judgement God uses. (cp. Isaiah 34:5). Ethiopia was neither an enemy nor a neighbor of Israel or Judah. It is apparently named here to indicate the universality of God’s judgement. It is in this sense that the entire passage is frought with undefined but very definite Messianic and eschatological overtones.


The Judgement of God is Universal

1. Just as God’s mercies are universal, so is His _________________________.

2. How do you answer the opinion that those who have never heard the Word of God will be saved in their ignorance?

3. Locate, on a map, the cities and areas mentioned in chapter Zephaniah 2:4-15.

4. Why does the prophet pronounce God’s judgement against people who were neither neighbors nor enemies of Judah?

5. Discuss the Messianic overtones of this passage . . . eschatological overtones.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Zephaniah 2". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/zephaniah-2.html.
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