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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Zephaniah 3

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3374. B.C. 630.

Returning to Jerusalem, God, by his prophet,

(1,) Sharply reproves and threatens her for the abundance of wickedness found in her, of which divers instances are given, with their aggravations, Zephaniah 3:1-7 .

(2,) He exhorts the people to wait on him, graciously promising to destroy their enemies, Zephaniah 3:8 , Zephaniah 3:15 , Zephaniah 3:19 ; to reform their manners, Zephaniah 3:9-13 ; and restore their happiness and honour, Zephaniah 3:14-20 .

Verses 1-2

Zephaniah 3:1-2. Wo to her that is filthy (Bishop Newcome reads, rebellious, and the Vulgate, provoking,) and polluted That is, defiled with various crimes; to the oppressing city It is well deserving of our notice, that the oppression of the poor is always ranked by God among those things which are most offensive to him. She obeyed not the voice Namely, of God’s messengers, the prophets. She received not correction Or instruction, as מוסר may be rendered: she did not attend to it; was not amended by it. She trusted not in the Lord Did not place her confidence and hopes in the power and goodness of God, but in other things. She drew not near to God In prayer and praise, and other acts of worship.

Verses 3-4

Zephaniah 3:3-4. Her princes are roaring lions Are like devouring lions, who roar in the act of seizing their prey. Her judges are evening wolves Like so many beasts of prey. The princes and judges devour the people by injustice and oppression. They gnaw not the bones till the morrow That is, they greedily devour every thing immediately, as soon as they lay hold on it. This expresses very forcibly the violence and oppression of which the great men in Jerusalem were guilty toward the poor, and their greediness after gain. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons This is to be understood of the false prophets, who seduced the people by lying pretences to inspiration. Her priests have polluted the sanctuary, &c. They have presumed to attend upon my service in the temple, after they had polluted themselves with idolatry, and thereby have profaned my holy place, (see chap. Zephaniah 1:4,) and have broken the ordinances of my law in many things.

Verse 5

Zephaniah 3:5 . The just Lord is in the midst thereof Namely, of Jerusalem, and sees all these things. He will not do iniquity He is just and holy, and will do nothing but what is right; nor will he suffer wickedness to pass unpunished. Every morning doth he bring his judgment to light “The sense is, not a day passes but we see instances of his goodness to righteous men, and of his vengeance on the wicked.” Newcome. The expression, every morning, alludes to the custom of the Jews and neighbouring nations, who passed judgment only in the morning. He faileth not He never omits thus to act. But the unjust knew not shame The wicked continue to be hardened in their sins, and will not be induced to forsake them by any consideration, either of the baseness and evil of their conduct, or of the judgments of God continually inflicted on transgressors.

Verses 6-7

Zephaniah 3:6-7. I have cut off the nations I have executed vengeance upon that great city Nineveh, Zephaniah 2:15, and have brought my judgments nearer to you, by giving up your brethren of the ten tribes into the hands of Shalmaneser; who hath put an end to that kingdom, and hath carried its inhabitants captive into a strange land: see 2 Kings 17:6. I said, Surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction This is addressed to the city of Jerusalem. And God is here introduced as speaking after the manner of men, and signifying what effect it was reasonable to conclude the execution of his judgments upon the ten tribes would have had upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; that it would have caused them to fear him, and to have taken example, from the destruction of their brethren, to avoid similar crimes, and obey the laws which God had given them. So their dwelling should not be cut off In order that by that means their city and country might be saved from destruction. But they rose early, and corrupted all their doings But they, as it were with diligence and assiduity, corrupted their ways, and daily proceeded to greater and greater acts of wickedness. The expression, to rise early to do a thing, signifies to do it with assiduity, and with a great inclination, or good-will toward it.

Verse 8

Zephaniah 3:8. Therefore Rather, Nevertheless, wait ye upon me, saith the Lord “Notwithstanding these provocations, saith God, I exhort the godly among you to expect the fulfilment of the promises I have made, of restoring the Jewish nation to my wonted favour in the latter ages of the world: in order to which great crisis, I will execute remarkable judgments upon the unbelievers and disobedient.” Thus Lowth. It is very common with the prophets to subjoin the most comfortable promises to the most fearful threatenings, and, after having denounced the captivity, to foretel the deliverance of his people; but the prophet here seems to look further, even to the gospel times, and perhaps to the future and final restoration of the Jews. Until the day that I rise up to the prey Until, as an enemy, I rise up to destroy first, and next to take the spoil: as if he had said, Since you, by your sins, continue to be mine enemies; so I will, by my judgments, show myself in arms against you as your enemy, namely, by the Chaldeans, who shall invade your country, and destroy and spoil you. For my determination My fixed purpose, that which I have unalterably resolved on; is to gather the nations, &c. All that are subject to the Chaldean monarchy; with all that are confederate with, or tributary to, the king of Babylon; to pour upon them Upon the obstinate, incorrigible, and impious Jews first; mine indignation Which by their sins they have kindled against themselves; for all the earth Or, all the land, namely, the whole land of Judea, and her cities; shall be devoured Consumed, as if burned up; with the fire of my jealousy That jealousy wherewith God is concerned for his own glory, for his ordinances and statutes, which the Jewish people, their princes, prophets, and priests, had notoriously violated. Lowth thinks this may perhaps be meant of the same general summons which Joel speaks of, whereby the nations of the earth shall be gathered into the valley of Jehoshaphat: see notes on Joel 3:2; Joel 3:12.

Verse 9

Zephaniah 3:9. For then Or, afterward, as the particle אז seems to signify here, will I turn, or restore, to the people a pure language I will turn them from their idolatries, and other wickedness, (see Zephaniah 3:13,) to glorify me with one mind and one mouth. The same thing is expressed by speaking the language of Canaan, Isaiah 19:18. This promise seems primarily to respect the Jewish captives in Babylon, and to imply that God would, by the captivity, and other methods of his providence, so reform them and wean them from their idolatries and other sins, that they should, upon their return to their own land, all join together to glorify him with one mind and one mouth, and serve him alone in sincerity and truth. And this was accordingly, in a great measure, accomplished. For they never after their restoration worshipped different gods, as they had done before; but all joined, as well those of the ten tribes that returned, as those of Judah and Benjamin, in the worship of Jehovah alone; nor did the nation in general ever afterward fall into gross idolatry. And it is not to be doubted that their morals in general were much more pure when they returned from Babylon, than at the time they were carried thither. It is, however, generally supposed by commentators, that the full accomplishment of this promise is reserved for the latter days, after the conversion of the Jews, and the coming in of the fulness of the Gentiles, when there shall be one Lord, and his name one, Zechariah 14:9. Accordingly the word rendered people in the first clause is in the plural, עמים , peoples, I will restore to the peoples a pure language: an expression which could hardly be intended of the Jews only, but seems evidently to include the Gentiles also. To serve him with one consent Hebrew, with one shoulder; that is, unanimously, and with joint endeavours. The metaphor is taken from beasts drawing together in one yoke, or men setting their shoulders together to one burden.

Verse 10

Zephaniah 3:10. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia The expression, מעבר , rendered from beyond, may be translated, from the borders of, as it signifies indifferently the hither or further side of a river. In the war with Pharaoh-necho, king of Egypt, many of the Jews were made captive and carried into Egypt, and from thence were sold into Ethiopia, properly so called. This prophecy, therefore, in its primary sense, seems to signify, that the posterity of these, termed here by God the daughter of his dispersed, should bring him an offering, namely, into his temple. And accordingly Cyrus, entering into an alliance with the Ethiopians, obtained that the Jews, who were captives among them, should have their liberty restored to them, that so they might return with others to their own country. In like manner Ptolemy Philadelphus, as Josephus relates, purchased the liberty of a vast number of the Jews, who were captives, or slaves, in very distant countries. Thus were the prophecies of bringing them from the east and the west, and from the north and the south, and from beyond the sea, very remarkably fulfilled. There can be no doubt, however, that this promise ultimately relates to the time when all Israel shall be saved, Romans 11:26; when “the Jews, who are dispersed in the most distant countries, such as was Ethiopia, which lay beyond Egypt, shall come into the Christian Church, and make their religious acknowledgments there.” Lowth.

Verse 11

Zephaniah 3:11. In that day Or, after that time; shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings Thy guilt and thy punishment shall cease: thou shalt be pardoned and reformed. For then will I take away them that rejoice in thy pride Or, greatness: or, as some render it, that exult in their pride. And thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain That is, because of mount Zion, my temple, the sacrifices offered there, and the ordinances of my worship. I will purge out from thee those hypocrites who continue in their sins, unconcerned and unreformed, and yet rely on outward privileges, ordinances, and forms of worship. Thus Jeremiah represents them as exclaiming, The temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord! while they little regarded the Lord of the temple. Thus the Popish clergy cry out, The church, the church, the Catholic Church! while in the mean time they neither enter into the true church themselves, nor permit those to enter that are so inclined.

Verses 12-13

Zephaniah 3:12-13. I will also leave in the midst of thee Of Judea and Jerusalem; an afflicted and poor people Hebrew, עם עני ודל , a people humble, or meek, and poor. When the Chaldeans carried away the Jews into captivity, they left of the poor of the land for vine-dressers and husbandmen; and such as returned from the Babylonish captivity were generally both poor and lowly, and dead to all confidence in external privileges. These were a type and figure of God’s spiritual remnant, who, at the coming of the Messiah, should believe on him, and embrace his gospel; who were both poor in spirit, and generally poor as to this world, and were meek and lowly in heart, and very different in their dispositions from the proud, self-righteous Pharisees, who rejected Christ on account of his appearing among them in a state of poverty, reproach, and humiliation. And they shall trust in the name of the Lord Not in their descent from Abraham, their rite of circumcision, their city or temple, or any of their civil or religious advantages, but only in the Lord, in his mercy, power, and faithfulness. The remnant of Israel Preserved in the captivity and dispersion, purified in the furnace of affliction, and now restored to their own land; shall not do iniquity Shall not commit the sins they formerly committed, nor provoke God with their idolatries and other abominations as before; they shall be reformed and righteous. Nor speak lies Nor shall they deceive each other, as they had been wont to do: they shall be honest and upright, men of veracity and fidelity. Neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth Their spirit being without guile, their speech shall be without deceit. For they shall feed Or, They shall also feed, and lie down That is, they shall abound in necessary things, and live securely; a blessing which shall be added as a crown of their piety and truth. And none shall make them afraid So as to induce them to commit iniquity, or speak lies: or, they shall be in no fear of any of the neighbouring nations, but shall have perfect peace on all sides. But this promise undoubtedly was to receive its full accomplishment only in the holy and happy state of the Christian Church, fed and protected by the good Shepherd, and safe under his watchful care; especially in the latter days, and during his millennial reign. Compare the places referred to in the margin.

Verses 14-15

Zephaniah 3:14-15. Sing, O daughter of Zion At that time, O daughter of Zion, thou shalt break forth into loud and joyful praises to Jehovah, for his goodness toward thee; and thou mayest even now do it, for thou shalt certainly enjoy this prosperous state. The injunction here to Zion, to be thankful and joyful, is trebled, sing, shout, and rejoice, as it is elsewhere in both Testaments; and it is a sin for the people of God not to rejoice, as well as not to repent. Thus, after the promises to take away sin, here follow promises of the taking away of trouble; for when the cause is removed, the effect will cease. What makes a people holy, will make them happy of course. But the precious promises here made to God’s purified people, although in some measure fulfilled to the Jews at their return from captivity, yet, in their full propriety of meaning, belong to the times of the gospel, and have their full accomplishment only in the comforts and joyful hopes of future felicity, which are the portion of the true disciples of the Lord Jesus. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments That is, thy punishments. The prophet speaks of what was future, as though it were already past; of what God certainly would do, as if it were done already. He hath cast out thine enemy Hath taken away the power of hurting thee from those who were before injurious to thee; or, hath removed thine enemies, who were the instruments of his vengeance. The King of Israel, &c ., is in the midst of thee He is returned to redeem and save thee, and gives manifest tokens of his presence in thee, and protection over thee. Thou shalt not see evil any more While thy conduct is as becomes my presence with thee, thou shalt neither feel, nor have cause to fear, such evils as thou hast formerly suffered.

Verses 16-17

Zephaniah 3:16-17. In that day Or, time of restitution, when the captives shall return and be settled in their own land; it shall be said to Jerusalem By prophets, or by friends congratulating and encouraging them; Fear thou not Disquiet not yourselves with unnecessary fears, though you may apprehend some danger from Sanballat, Tobiah, and the Samaritans: see Nehemiah 4:1-2; and though you shall have troublesome times, Daniel 9:25. Let not thy hands be slack In the work of the Lord, in rebuilding the city and temple, and restoring the worship of God. The Lord Hebrew, Jehovah; thy God Thine in a covenant never to be repealed or forgotten; in the midst of thee is mighty He can and will restrain and destroy thine enemies, and support and defend his own people. He will save, &c. Will deliver thee from thy fears, and thine enemies’ rage. Will rejoice over thee with joy Will greatly rejoice in thee, and take pleasure in blessing and doing thee good. He will rest in his love Will continue peculiarly to love thee, and will take satisfaction in so doing. These promises also, in their full sense, belong only to the Christian Church, composed of converted Jews and Gentiles, and shall be completely fulfilled during the millennium, when believers will have, as it were, a heaven on earth.

Verses 18-20

Zephaniah 3:18-20. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly I will collect together those Israelites who are dispersed in their several captivities, both that of Babylon, and those of following times; who mourn for the loss of the public ordinances, and are grieved at the reproaches wherewith their enemies upbraid them, as if they were utterly forsaken of God. Behold Mark well; at that time I will undo all that afflict thee I will break the power, and dissolve the kingdom of thy enemies and oppressors, particularly of the Babylonians. And I will save her that halteth Who is in trouble, and ready to fall; and gather her that was driven out Into remote countries. And I will get them praise, &c., where they have been put to shame I will cause them to have fame, even in those places where they have been scoffed at and held in contempt. I will make you a name, &c., when I turn back your captivity When I cause you to return out of captivity, I will make your name great, and ye shall be the subject of men’s praise among all the nations around. So the Christian Church was, when it was made to flourish in the world, for there is that truth and grace, that piety and virtue in it, which may justly recommend it to the value and esteem of all the people of the earth; and so the universal church of the firstborn will be in the great day, when the saints shall be brought together to Christ, that he may be admired and glorified in them, and they admired and glorified in and through him, before angels and men. Then will God’s Israel be a name and a praise to all eternity.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Zephaniah 3". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/zephaniah-3.html. 1857.
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