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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Zephaniah 2



Verses 4-7


Zephaniah 2:4 to Zephaniah 3:7

Zephaniah 2:4 For Gaza shall be forsaken,

And Ashkelon shall become a desolation;

Ashdod, they shall drive her out at noon-day,[FN1]

And Ekron shall be rooted out.

5 Woe to the inhabitants of the sea-coast![FN2]

The nation of the Cherithim![FN3]

The word of Jehovah is against you,

O Canaan, land of the Philistines!

I will destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.

6 And the sea-coast 2 shall become places for pasture,

And folds for flocks.

7 And the coast 2 shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah;

Upon them will they feed;

In the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening,

For Jehovah, their God, will visit them,

And turn their captivity.

8 I have heard the reproach of Moab,

And the revilings of the sons of Ammon,

Who [wherewith they] have reviled my people,

And acted insolently against their boundary.

9 Therefore as I live, saith Jehovah of hosts,

The God of Israel:

Surely Moab shall become like Sodom,

And the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah,

A possession of nettles and salt-pits,[FN4]

And a desolation forever.

The remnant of my people shall plunder them,

And the residue of my nation shall possess them.

10 This shall be to them for their pride,

Because they have reviled and carried themselves haughtily

Against the people of Jehovah of hosts.

11Terrible is Jehovah against them,

For He destroys all the gods of the earth;

And all the islands of the nations,

Each from his place, shall worship Him.

12Also ye Cushites,[FN5]

Slain of my sword are they.

13And He will stretch forth his hand over the north

And destroy Assyria;

And He will make Nineveh a waste,

A dry place like the desert.

14And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her;

All the wild beasts[FN6] of the nations;

Both the pelican and the hedge-hog

Shall lodge on her capitals;

The voice of the singer in the window:

Desolation upon the threshold,

For the cedar-work He has made bare.

15 This is the exulting city, which dwelt securely,

Which said in her heart, I Amos, and there is none besides me,

How has she become a desolation,

A lair for beasts!

Every one that passes by her will hiss,

He will shake his hand.


1Woe to the rebellious and polluted,[FN7]

The oppressive city!

2She listened not to the voice:

She did not accept discipline:

She did not trust in Jehovah:

She did not draw near to her God.

3Her princes in the midst of her

Are roaring lions:

Her judges are evening wolves;

They reserve[FN8] nothing for the morning.

4Her prophets are vain-glorious,

Men of treacheries:

Her priests profane what is holy;

They do violence to the law.

5 The righteous Jehovah is in the midst of her;

He will not do wickedness;

Every morning He will bring his judgment to light;

It does not fail;

But the unrighteous man does not know shame.

6 I have cut off nations:

Their battlements are laid waste;

I have made their streets desolate,

So that no one passes over [them];

Their cities are destroyed,

So that there is no man [there],

So that there is no inhabitant.

7 I said: Only do thou fear me,

Do thou receive correction,

And her dwelling shall not be cut off,

According to all that I have appointed concerning her;

But they rose up early;

They corrupted all their doings.


The reason for the announcement of the judgment made in chap1 (comp. Introd3):—

1. God brings the judgment upon all the heathen, 2:4–15.

2. And yet Jerusalem remains incorrigible, 3:1–7.

Chap2 Zephaniah 2:4-15. The Judgment upon the Heathen. Representative nations from the four cardinal points, West, East, North, and South, are mentioned, so that by the completeness of the quaternary number of the four quarters of heaven arises the idea of the universal judgment upon the heathen nations (comp. Zephaniah 2:11 and the judgment of the four winds, Jeremiah 49:36; Zechariah 2:6; Zechariah 6:5).

The description is divided into three parallel strophes of four verses each:—

(a) Judgment upon Philistia, Zephaniah 2:4-7.

(b) Judgment upon Moab and Ammon, Zephaniah 2:8-11.

(c) Judgment upon Ethiopia and Assyria, Zephaniah 2:12-15.

Zephaniah 2:4-7. The judgment upon Philistia, the land of the West. For—thus the prophet immediately joins argument to the exhortation, which, in its final clause, directs [us] to the certainty of the judgment—Gaza shall be forsaken. עַזָּה and עֲזוּבָה form a paronomasia, like Ekron and תעקר, at the close of the verse (comp. Micah 1:10 ff). And Ashkelon shall become a desolation. Ashdod (the seat or the worship of Dagon ( 1 Samuel 5)) they, (undefined enemies) will drive out at noon-day: so defenseless will it be against the sudden and powerful attack, that there is not even need of a surprise by night. Compare Jeremiah 15:8, where also a word of similar sound, שׁוֹדֵד, occurs, which forms also an unexpressed paronomasia of though to אַשְדּוֹד; and Ekron is ploughed up. Even the enumeration of cities is governed by the symbolical number four, so that of the five cities of the Philistines ( Joshua 13:3), one, Gath, is omitted, according to the example of Amos 1:7 f.

Zephaniah 2:5. The prophet directly addresses those who are threatened: Woe to you who inhabit the sea-coast, חבל הים, a name of the country of the philistines (see Deuteronomy 3:4), ye Cretans. The connection of the Philistines with the island of Crete was known from very ancient times ( 1 Samuel 30:14 ff.; comp. Tac, Hist., v2), although the arguments adduced by Bertheau (Gesch. der Israeliten, p188 ff. [History of the Israelites, etc.]) to identify Caphtor, the native country of the Philistines, who were not originally settled in Canaan, but immigrated into it at a later period, ( Amos 9:7), with Crete, are not sufficient. [Philistine means emigrant: in the LXX. they are called Ἀλλόφυλοι. For an account of their origin see Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, s.v. “Philistines.” Compare Rawlinson’s Herodotus, vol. iv. p64, note4, and Lenormant and Chevallier, vol. i. p124.—C. E.] Caphtor seems rather to be designated, Genesis 10:13 f, as an Egyptian district. Compare Starck, Gaza, p66 ff.; 99 ff.; Duncker, Gesch. des A. I., p339 A. Hence also the name Cretim is to be derived from Crete. To derive it from כּרת, to destroy, and to designate the Philistines by it, as those who are to be destroyed, as Keil, following the Targum and the Vulgate, does, is unnatural. The play upon words, which the prophet possibly had in mind (comp3:6; also the expression כְּרֹת immediately following this verse, and the plays upon words, Zephaniah 2:4) is far from etymology. The word of Jehovah is against thee, Canaan, properly “low country,” originally the name of the whole tract of land on the Mediterranean, inhabited on the North by the Phœnicians and on the South by the Philistines ( Numbers 13:30 (29?)); Thou land of the Philistines. And I will destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant. מִן. Isaiah, as is frequently the case, equivalent to ὥστε μὴ εἶναι.

Zephaniah 2:6. And there shall be [it will not do to construe, with the interpreters, the verb היתה with חבל, for this is masculine: it can only he construed with נוֹת (comp. Micah 1:9; Ges146, 3), so that חבל הים is to be understood as acc. loci] in the district upon the sea-coast extensive places for pastures and sheep-folds. Some take כְּרֹת as the plural of כֵּרָה, which (from the root כרה, to dig) would signify, according to Kimchi, the ditch made round a fold; according to Cölln, a cistern; both of which interpretations are untenable. Others (Strauss, Keil), following Bochart, take it for the infinitive of כרת; and understand by נוֹת כרֹת pastures of shepherds’ caves, i.e., where shepherds dig caves for a protection against the sun. Yet the expression, aside from the superfluity of the required complement, is little adapted to characterize the activity of the shepherds only. It is best to consider, with Hitzig, the word as a plural from כֵּר, pasture. The apparent tautology with נות, is no argument against it, since נות, [plural of נוה; see Ges, s. v.—C. E.], dwelling, pasture [for flocks and herds—C. E.] is a more comprehensive idea than כּר, a pasture for lambs [such is the strict meaning of the Heb. word כּר: Kleinert renders it Viehweide—C. E.]; and since moreover נְּרֹת רֹעִים and גִדְרוֹת צאן form two pairs of words closely belonging together, both of which are subordinate to נות. The abnormal form [the regular form is כָרֵי] [the plural of כַר, wherever it occurs, is כָרִים.—C. E.] is occasioned by the preceding נְוֹת, and likewise perhaps by playing upon the word כְּרֵתִים. It cannot be by accident that shepherds and their flocks are mentioned here instead of destroyers, whilst in threatening prophecies in other places, destruction is announced by this form of threatening, viz, that the city or territory is delivered up to beasts of the wilderness, monsters, ponds of water, or to desert vegetation. The resemblance of the turn of thought to Jeremiah 6:3 (comp. Introd4) is remarkable, and it is natural to suppose that as Jeremiah has there, so Zephaniah has here his eyes fixed upon the distress caused by the hordes of Scythians, whose march through the land of the Philistines, appeared also to Herodotus to be sufficiently noteworthy to obtain mention in his history (i104). They set out, the men and frequently also the women, on horseback: they took with them wagons yoked with oxen, which, furnished with a felt covering, served, at the same time, for tent and house; also their property, which consisted of droves of horses, cattle, and sheep, from whose wool they prepared those coverings. (Herod, 4:2, 61, 75, 114, 122.) At a later period, when there shall be only a remnant of Judah left, another event will follow the first punishment of Philistia:—

Zephaniah 2:7. Then the sea-coast shall fall to the lot of the remnant of Israel [Judah is the reading in the Hebrew text—C. E.], they will feed upon them (עליהם is construed with כְּרֹת Zephaniah 2:6, as if it were written there כָּרֵי) and in the houses—which have become empty—of Ashkelon will they lie down in the evening. A reproduction [of the idea] of Obadiah 1:19. The connection of thought ( Zephaniah 2:6-7) would accordingly present itself thus: first Philistia is laid waste by a pastoral nation. Then Judah is judged, compare 7 c; and then the remnant of Judah inherits Philistia as pasture-ground. Hitzig also [interprets it] in a similar way. However the reference to the Scythians is not at all necessary. Quite as good and perhaps a still simpler understanding of the passage results, if we, as indicated in the translation, render prominent in נוֹת the idea of an open, empty place, so that in Zephaniah 2:6 the destroyers, the shepherds that obtain possession, do not form the prominent idea so much as the emptiness, which resulted from a catastrophe left undefined. The district on the sea-coast, hitherto covered with cities rich in commerce, becomes open grounds for pastures, etc. And these open grounds, after Israel is purified, become the possession of the remnant. Thus יִרְעוּ ( Zephaniah 2:7) naturally connects with רֹעִים ( Zephaniah 2:6).

The following reason: for Jehovah, their God, will certainly visit them, Israel, and, whilst the wound of the heathen is incurable ( Nahum 3:19), he will turn their captivity, is consistent with both constructions: it shows how the restoration of the place is effected. פּקד is to be understood in this passage of the gracious visitation of those already chastised (Strauss and others), on account of its close parallelism with שׁוּב שבוּת: it Isaiah, however, contrary to the prevailing usage of the book. Concerning the turning of the captivity, the restoration of the captives, comp. Deuteronomy 30:3; on Nahum 2:3, and below3:20.

[Keil: “Paqad, to visit in a good sense, i. e., to take them under his care, as is almost always the meaning when it is construed with an accusative of the person. It is only in Psalm 59:6, that it is used with an acc. pers. instead of with על, in the sense of to chastise or punish. שׁוּב שְׁבוּת as in Hosea 6:11 and Amos 9:14. The Keri, שְׁבִית, has arisen from a misinterpretation”—C. E.]

Zephaniah 2:8-10. The Judgment upon the East: Moab and Ammon, the sons of Lot. Comp. Isaiah 16:6; Isaiah 25:11; Jeremiah 48:29 ff. If the subject here were historical, and not rather the universal and ideal character of the judgment of the world, then the interjacent, hereditary enemy, Edom, would certainly not have been omitted. I have heard the abuse (הרפה sensu activo, as in Lamentations 3:61) of Moab, who from of old armed evil tongues against me and my people ( Numbers 4:22 ff.), and the revilings of the sons of Ammon, whose old hatred continued even to the latest times ( Nehemiah 4:3; Nehemiah 4:7); wherewith they have reviled my people and haughtily violated, literally, acted insolently against their boundary. Comp. Amos 1:13; 2 Kings 13:20; Jeremiah 40. The suffix in גבוּלָם is to be referred to עַמּי (comp. Zephaniah 2:10, Zephaniah 2:9).

Zephaniah 2:9. Therefore as I live—̓Επεὶ κατ̓ οὐδενὸς εἶχε μείζονος ὀμόσαι ὤμοσε καθ̓ ἑαυτοῦ ( Hebrews 6:13; for the construction compare Ew, 329 a)—saith Jehovah of hosts (comp. on Nahum 2:14, 13]) the God of Israel: Moab shall become as Sodom and Ammon as Gomorrah,—they will incur a destruction like that of the cities, in whose fate their ancestor, Lot, was involved—an inheritance of nettles and salt-pits (see note on Zephaniah 2:9—C. E.], like the Dead Sea, on which they dwell, and desert forever. The remnant of my people shall plunder them and the residue of my nation (גּוֹי instead of גוֹיִי, comp. Olsh, 39 d; 164 d) shall inherit them. If the details of a special historical prophecy were treated of, then Hitzig would be right in objecting, that the plundering and seizure by the returned remnant of Israel must take place before the final destinies of these countries, that the desolated land is not suitable for a נַחֲלָה, etc. But the prophet does not think of individual chronologically arranged dates, but of the grouping together of everything that involves the execution of Jehovah’s judgment upon the heathen nations; and this certainly has for its chief moment the destruction of the sinners and the redemption of his people.

Zephaniah 2:10. This shall be to them for their pride, because they have despised and boasted against the people of Jehovah of hosts. The judgment is talio. The universality of it stands out with still greater precision, according to its two-fold fundamental characteristic.

Zephaniah 2:11. Jehovah will be terrible against them (comp. Deuteronomy 7:21), for He will destroy all the gods of the earth, so that, after they have brought their peoples to ruin and judgment, they must themselves now pass away and die like men ( Psalm 82:7). Compare below, the Doctrinal and Ethical part.

And they will worship Him, after that the hostile powers over them have passed away, every one from his place, all the islands of the nations. It is the common teaching of prophecy, that all islands, all nations the most remote, shall turn to Jehovah. But it generally takes the form, that they [the nations] shall flow to Jerusalem ( Isaiah 2; Micah 4). Now it is certainly undeniable that in the idea of this Jerusalem [of the time] of the consummation, the spiritual element predominates (comp. on Micah 4:1 ff.). But that in this preexile prophet the local covering should already be so removed, as e.g. in Malachi 1:11, that he should consider a worship of Jehovah in all places the fulfillment of the times, Isaiah, although it commends itself at the first view of this passage, nevertheless very doubtful, the more so as Zephaniah himself (3:10) adheres to the older form of representation, namely, the offering of the heathen at the Holy City [Jerusalem—C. E.]. Hence I believe that the words: they will worship each from his place, are used in a pregnant sense: they will pour to Him worshipping; compare the trembling (hither) Micah 7:17; Hosea 3:5.

[Keil: “Mimnekomo, coming from his place: the meaning is not that the nations will worship Jehovah at their own place, in their own lands, in contradistinction to Micah 4:1; Zechariah 14:16, and other passages, where the nations go on pilgrimages to Mount Zion (Hitzig); but their going to Jerusalem is implied in the min (from), though it is not brought prominently out, as being unessential to the thought.”—C. E.]

Zephaniah 2:12-15. The Judgment upon Ethiopia and Assyria, South and North. It is in keeping with the great perspective, which is opened in Zephaniah 2:11, that distant nations should be introduced for illustration. The retrospect to Nahum 3:8 ff. is apparent. Ye Cushites also, Ethiopians, slain of my sword are ye; literally “are they.” The transition from the second to the third person has in itself nothing unusual (comp3:7 and the whole of Nahum).

Calvin connects with it the ingenious remark: “In secunda persona initio versus propheta compellit ad tribunal Dei, postea in tertia adjungit: erunt,” etc, in a certain manner the sentence of the judge.

Yet the predicative position of the הֵמָּה is so remarkable, that Ewald and Hitzig (against Rückert, Strauss, Keil) are certainly right in considering it as a substitute for the copula. Comp. Isaiah 37:16.

[Keil says: “הֵמָּה does not take the place of the copula between the subject and predicate any more than הוּא in Isaiah 37:16 and Ezra 5:11 (to which Hitzig appeals in support of this usage: see Delitzsch, on the other hand, in his Comm. on Isaiah, l. c.), but is a predicate.”—C. E.].

Zephaniah 2:13. And He will stretch out his hand (comp1:4) over the North and destroy Asshur, and make Nineveh a barren waste, dry like the desert, whilst at this very time [that the prophet was speaking—C. E.] the streams of water and the abundant irrigation are the pride and joy of the powerful city (comp. pp101, 104).

[Keil: “The prophet dwells longer upon the heathen power of the north, the Assyrian kingdom with its capital Nineveh, because Assyria was then the imperial power, which was seeking to destroy the kingdom of God in Judah. This explains the fact that the prophet expresses the announcement of the destruction of this power in the form of a wish, as the use of the contracted forms yet and yâsçm clearly shows. For it is evident that Ewald is wrong in supposing that וְיֵט stands for וַיֵּט, or should be so pointed, inasmuch as the historical tense, “there He stretched out his hand,” would be perfectly out of place. יָד. נָטִהָ(to stretch out a hand), as in Zephaniah 1:4 : ’Al tâsphôn, over (or against) the North. The reference is to Assyria with the capital Nineveh. It is true that this kingdom was not to the north, but to the northeast, of Judah; but inasmuch as the Assyrian armies invaded Palestine from the north, it is regarded by the prophets as situated in the north. On Nineveh itself, see at Jonah 1:2 (vol1, p390); and on the destruction of this city and the fall of the Assyrian empire, at Nahum 3:19 (p42).”—C. E.]

Zephaniah 2:14. And herds shall lie down in the midst of it [viz, of the city, which has become a desert—C. E.], but certainly not herds of cattle, which have no nourishment in the desert, but every kind of heathen beasts. חַיְהוֹ is not חַיָּה with the suffix of the third person, and is accordingly not to be translated, and all his beasts, the heathen: this form is חַיָּתוֹ ( Job 33:20); but it is the known archaic form of the status constr. from חַיָּה ( Genesis 1:24; Ges, 90, 3, 6). גוֹי is accordingly the stat. abs. By the beasts of the heathen it is most natural to understand either (according to 2 Samuel 23:13; Psalm 68:31 [comp. the Heb. text—C. E.], the conquering world-powers, which take possession of Nineveh as the remnant of Israel take possession of the ruined kingdoms of the Philistines and Ammonites ( Zephaniah 2:7; Zephaniah 2:9); or the roving hordes of Scythians. However the interpretation of Cölln, Rosenm, De W, Strauss, and Keil is not to be characterized positively as erroneous: [they interpret it] every (real) beast, that is accustomed to range in herds (גוֹי); compare the goi of the locusts, Joel 1:6.

[Keil: “The meaning can only be, ‘all kinds of animals in crowds or in a mass.’ גּוֹי is used here for the mass of animals, just as it is in Joel 1:6 for the multitude of locusts, and as עַם is in Proverbs 30:35, 36, for the ant-people; and the genitive is to be taken as in apposition. Every other explanation is exposed to much greater objections and difficulties. For the form חַיְתוֹ, see at Genesis 1:24.”—C. E.].

Pelicans also [see Thomson’s The Land and the Book, vol1. p403—C. E.] and hedge-hogs—the inhabitants of deserted countries and ruined places—will lodge on their capitals. The association of ideas leads the prophet to reminiscences from Isaiah 34:11; Isaiah 14:23; compare the first clause [of the verse] with Isaiah 13:21. “The capitals of the pillars do not lie on the ground, but now stand unattached, after the palaces, roofs, and floors, which rested upon them, are thrown down.” Hitzig. Hark, how it sings,—the nesting bird,—in the window.

קוֹל, as in1:14, Nahum 3:2, literally vox (ejus qui) canit, or auditur (is qui) canit. Desolation on the threshold! None passes over it any more. For the cedar-panelling, the beautiful ornament of the walls (comp. on Habakkuk 2:17) He, Jehovah, has torn down [Heb. has made bare—C. E.]. אַרְזָה is related to אֶרֶז, as דִּגִה is to דָּג, it conveys a collective idea (Ew, sec179 c).

[Keil: “The sketching of the picture of the destruction passes from the general appearance of the city to the separate ruins, coming down from the lofty knobs of the pillars to the windows, and from these to the thresholds of the ruins of the houses.”—C. E.]

Zephaniah 2:15. This is the city, the exulting one ( Isaiah 23:7), which dwelt so securely, sheltered behind her defenses of water; the expression is taken from Judges 18:7. “Vox ut exsultantis super illam.” Remigius. Which said in her heart: I am and besides me none; literally, and besides me (none) further. “Before ‘besides,’ the negation, if the supposition is intimated by the proposition, or in it, can be omitted, and the words for ‘besides’ can hence signify also ‘only,’ comp. Micah 6:8.” Hitzig. [?— Micah 6:8, however, is a different case; compare on the passage. And I would prefer, though against the consensus interpretum, to explain it: I, and if I am no more, still I; I and always I. The sense is the same in both views.] The same expression, with the same signification, is applied to Babylon, Isaiah 47:8; Isaiah 47:10.

[Keil: The Yod in ’aphsi is not paragogical, but a pronoun in the first person; at the same time, ’ephes is not a preposition, “beside me,” since in that case the negation “not one” could not be omitted, but the “non-existence,” so that אַפְסִי=אֵינִי, “I am absolutely no further (see at [See Rawlinson’s Ancient Monarchies, vol. i. p245.—C. E.]


Zephaniah 3:1-7. The Obduracy of Jerusalem. Woe to the refractory (מוֹרְאָה, part. from the root מָרָא, the hiphil of which occurs Job 39:18, and in the Cod. Sam. Leviticus 13:51-52; Leviticus 14:44; equivalent to מרֵאה; compare יֹצָא, Ecclesiastes 10:5, contracted from יֹצְאָה equivalent to יְוֹצֵאה), and polluted, the oppressive city! יגֹנָה is the part of יָנֽה, press it, Jeremiah 50:16 and above. The prophet gives four reasons for this sharp address.

Zephaniah 3:2. She hearkens not to the voice, with which the faithful God speaks to her, Zephaniah 3:7, in all these acts (2:4 ff.). The בּ denotes a hearing with pleasure and effect: she hearkens not, although she hears. She does not accept discipline. מוּסַר, the lesson which is derived from the experience of one’s own or another’s suffering [Schadens, damage, harm—C. E.], and generally from attention to the ways of God; compare Proverbs 1:2. She trusts not in Jehovah, but in her wealth (1:12): to her God she does not draw near, but to the Baals (1:6): the acts of God and the voice of the prophets die away unheard; no change is effected.

Zephaniah 3:3. Her princes, in the midst of her, (comp. on1:8) are roaring lions (for the idea comp. Micah 3:3; for the expression, Proverbs 28:15; Sirach 13:19). Her judges are evening wolves, which go out in the evening for prey and are very ravenous (“non quod reiiquo tempore quiescerent,” Calv. on Psalm 59:7), which leave nothing for the morning, but so eager are they that they instantly devour the victim that falls into their clutches. “Ubi latrocinium in ipso foro exercetur, quid jam de tota urbe dicendum erit?” Calv.

Zephaniah 3:4. Her prophets are knaves, פּוֹחֲזים, people, who utter פַחֲזוּת, i.e., vain, empty talk, brag (comp. Jeremiah 23:32), men of treachery, who defraud God ( Hosea 6:7) and men, since they pretend that their own word is the word of God ( Ezekiel 22:28; comp. Micah 2:11 ff.). Her priests desecrate that which is holy, the temple, with their sacrilege, comp. Jeremiah 23:11 (Hieron.), the sacrifices (comp. קדֶשׁ, Jeremiah 2:3) by the neglect of the prescribed ritual, Ezekiel 22:26, comp. Malachi 1:11 (Cölln): in short, they make everything sacred common (Hitzig), instead of strictly discriminating, according to Leviticus 10:10 ff, between the holy and profane. Thus they do violence to the law, of which they ought to be the guardians. There is a corruption of all classes, of the organism of the kingdom in its substance, almost still worse than Micah had pictured it, chap3. And the cause of this disorder does not lie with God ( Zephaniah 3:5-7). He has left nothing untried.

Jehovah is righteous, as a righteous one (comp. for the constr. [In the passage cited אֵין is used.—C. E.] Their cities are laid waste, literally, fallen by ambuscade (צדח, Exodus 21:13; comp. Joshua 8), without people, without inhabitant. And why all this? For. a warning example, that his people may consider his severity and his goodness.

Zephaniah 3:7. I said,—thought in me and spoke to them by these deeds,—only wouldst thou fear me, the imperf. instead of the imperative, in order to show the kindness and tenderness of the warning; only wouldst thou receive correction, suffer thyself to be taught. Then their (change from the second to the third person, as in Micah 3:2 ff.: a mental speaking and meditating on the part of God in a certain manner, is indicated) house, i.e., not merely the temple (Strauss), but their possession and dwelling-place, the place Zion (comp. Matthew 23:38) would not have been destroyed. To the substantive idea of destruction in this clause the following forms an apposition: destruction should not fall upon them, according to all that I have appointed concerning them; the whole sum of the evils included in he destruction, the daily announced פקד .משׁפּט cannot have the common meaning, to charge, to command (so still Strauss, for in this sense the subjoined עַל designates, according to the usage if the language, not the object, concerning which a command is given, but him upon whom the charge is enjoined. But as it can signify the divine care for any one, so it signifies also the laying up of a debt against any one, so that it hangs, in a certain manner, over his head, in order to fall at last upon him or his descendants and to destroy them: like נטר, Nahum 1:2. So also Exodus 20:5; Hosea 1:4. Thus God would have his deeds considered by Israel, but what avail is it? But now—אכן after אָמַרְתִּי points out the contrast of the empirical reality to the fruitless or mistaken thoughts of the speaker; just as in Psalm 31:23 (22); Isaiah 49:4,—they only speed the more all their infamous deeds, literally, they are in haste to pervert all their doings. The verb חשחיהוּ ( Psalm 14:2), takes the auxiliary verb הִשְׁבִּימוּ (for the construction, comp. Ew, 285 b), which brings into the sentence the emphasis of the contrast required by אָכֵן: not only that they do not refrain from acting infamously, they even hasten to do so.

So it is evident that the judgment denounced, chap1, is just, since all the judgments which befell the heathen in favor of Israel ( Nahum 2:1) produced no effect upon the people. So firmly convinced is the prophet of the incorrigibility of the people, that Hebrews, without farther ado, as if it were a question of the present, presupposes and declares it: even after the judgments described, Zephaniah 2:4 ff, which in his day were yet future (תִּהְיֶה, 2:4,etc.), Jerusalem shall wear just such an appearance, and, before that time, a worse than at present.

[Keil: “In Zephaniah 3:7-8 the prophet sums up all that he has said in Zephaniah 3:1-6, to close his admonition to repentance with the announcement of judgment.”—C. E.]


The contest of Jehovah of hosts (2:9, comp. Com. on Nahum, p36) against the heathen, has a fourfold design. First, it involves—which is the final point of view on this side—the restoration of the kingdom of David (comp. Psalm 60), whose extension, according to prophetic vision, is measured by the promise to Abraham. But in this respect only the countries which took possession of portions of this kingdom, viz, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, representative of the neighboring nations, come into consideration. Of Cush and Nineveh it is not said that the remnant of Israel will take their lands into possession. The second, and much higher point of view, is that of a contest between God and the [false] gods, which represent the antagonism to the true God among the heathen (comp. Zephaniah 2:11 a), The fundamental view of the O. T. concerning idols [Götter, false gods], is that they are nothing [nichtse, nothings], אֱלִילִים ( Leviticus 19:4), and that the God of Israel, as He alone made the world ( Exodus 20:11; Exodus 31:17), is the only true God, not merely among his own people and in his own land, but also in the land of the heathen ( Exodus 9:22 f); another proof of which is furnished in the bestowal of Canaan [upon Israel] notwithstanding the prevailing idolatry. Deuteronomy formally repeats this doctrine of the oneness of the God of Israel (6:4; 32:39), and the idols are expressly designated as not-gods ( Deuteronomy 32:21; comp8:19). Besides this another representation is presented to view in the further development of the Old Testament Revelation, which seems to ascribe to the idols an actual existence. In the Pentateuch the passages directly bearing upon this point have no weight. Either they seem to be spoken from a heathen standpoint, consequently they are without the sphere of revelation (comp. Exodus 18:11; Genesis 14:20; Numbers 24:16; comp. also Isaiah 36:18ff; Isaiah 14:14); or idolatry appears as the worship of the objects of nature, temporarily permitted by God, which objects of nature are themselves subect to the power of God ( Deuteronomy 4:19). There Isaiah, however, here, no doubt, a germinant intimation of the opposition existing between God and idols in the contest of Jehovah with the Egyptian magicians, who by virtue of their gods imitated his miracles. And undeniably the idea of a certain reality on the part of the gods seems to be expressed in the eighty-second Psalm. There God judges among the gods (comp. Exodus 7:12). Because they executed their office unjustly and suffered their worshippers to sink into iniquity, they were to perish like men ( Zephaniah 2:7), and Jehovah would enter upon his inheritance, which they had governed for a time ( Zephaniah 2:8). Psalm 97:9 teaches the same thing; and the passage, 2:11, receives hence a clear illustration. A twofold explanation of this phenomenon is possible. Either that the gods have a (subjective) subsistence by virtue of their worshippers, as a spiritual power, which unites and moves these worshippers in their appointed worship; which power consequently stands or falls with the existence of the people. So old Tarnov seems to understand the matter, when he explains the destruction of the gods at the place mentioned: “Paulatim ac sensim perdit idola, adimendo ipsis cultores omniaque sacrificia abolendo.” Compare below also, Bucer in the Homiletical suggestions. Or, that we trace back idolatry to satanic influences. “This satanic influence, after it has obtained a place within the soil of humanity, so insinuates itself into all the forms of development of the divine revelation and education as to produce a perverted counterpart of them, in which the substance of truth is destroyed and falsehood makes its abode; for in the common revelation the false god confronts the pure idea of God, in which [false god] not only, as in an idol the substance of divine truth is destroyed, but also, as in a positive phantom, the spiritual power of the evil one presents and communicates itself.” Beck. “Among the heathen, active, objective, devilish powers acquire divine honor by a darkening of the human conscience.” Kling. This latter view of the matter is prominent in Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:20. It is evident, too, that the Old Testament passages, and especially the one in question [ Zephaniah 2:11 a—C. E.] coincide more nearly with this view than with the first [i. e, with Kling’s rather than with Beck’s—C. E.]; only that the solidaric connection of the [false] gods with the kingdom of Satan and of the demons is not expressly accomplished in conformity with the Old Testament standpoint. The doctrine is this: that, while, according to the general view of prophecy, the idols are to be despised as dead and dumb nonentities, yet the [false] gods, in a certain sense, rule over the nations, as objective powers, and that by their overthrow, which forms the inner intellectual side to the external judgments of the people, the nations, in a certain sense, are restored to an unprejudiced condition, since it is again possible to them to decide for God.

The third object of the judgments upon the heathen is this. They must, so far as they are heathen nations, and as such resist God, be overthrown, in order that having been delivered from the fetters of idolatry, they may seek Jehovah and learn to worship Him2:11 b.

Finally, the fourth object of these judgments upon the nations Isaiah, that Israel may come thereby to the knowledge of the glory and power of his God, and learn to stand in fear of his severity, and bow to his goodness. This is effected by God, in that, beside the judgments without, He causes the import of them—his justice and sentence—to be explained to the people by the prophets. His design is this: That thou mightest only fear me, in order that thou mayest remain safe from the manifestation of my wrath.

But this, plan of salvation is defeated by the people’s hardness of heart, which blunts the instruments of the divine proclamation and of regulating the [seiner, His] kingdom; and the judgment must come also upon Israel: there will only be a remnant, that will enter upon the deserted fields of Philistia, Ammon, and Moab.

The final and total aim of the judgment Isaiah, therefore, certainly Israel, but not so much the present Israel, who, rather, Isaiah, like the heathen, under the training of God, and is within this training certainly nearest to Him, yet not to such a degree that the heathen should come into consideration merely as objects of the judgment, for also for them the goal of worshipping Jehovah is presented in prospect; and Israel, if he does not receive correction, likewise incurs their judgments. The final object is rather the future Israel, the remnant, to whom, from the nature of the case, the heathen worshippers will also belong.


Of the exhortations which God, by his guidance of the world’s destiny, directs to those who are called to his salvation.

(1.) He exhorts us to repentance by the severe punishments which He brings upon the evil-doers (3:6); by the majestic power with which He desolates populous cities (2:4–6); He humbles the proud and leaves nothing unpunished (2:8–10); He reminds us also that the most powerful nations are not too powerful for Him (2:12), that the most distant are not too distant, the most populous not too numerous (2:13 f) for Him to bring down their secure arrogance and to deliver up to scorn and contempt those who trample others under foot (2:15). He who considers this rightly must surely perceive that God intends it for the destruction of every being antagonistic to him upon earth (3:11), and that He is a righteous God (3:5).

(2.) He exhorts us to faith. The promises, which He has given to his own, are not destroyed by any judgments, but only confirmed anew (2:7, 9): and there is not one of the great works, which are done under the sun, upon which an illustrative light does not fall from his Word (3:5). No one has an excuse that God has not drawn near to him (3:7), and that He has not also had his highest interests in view (2:11).

(3.) But how little do men profit by warnings! Refer, e.g., to Jerusalem (3:1–3); and to ourselves (3:7).

On Zephaniah 2:4. God’s way of destruction are also ways of grace (Acts of the Apostles, 8:26).

Zephaniah 2:7. Our hope of the future rests alone upon grace; and we need not wonder, though our gracious guidance leads through chastisements, on account of sin adhering [to us]. The remnant of Baal must be driven out, in order that the remnant of God may come to the light.

Zephaniah 2:8. Murmur not at poisonous tongues. God hears better than thou that in which thou art unfairly dealt with: pray for them who injure thee, for the injury weighs upon them and not upon thee. The memory of God is one of the most fearful things of which a man can think. God notices so particularly the dishonor done to his people for the reason that only those belong to his people, who take no heed of dishonor, and are not allowed to avenge themselves. But take heed that you are not reviled on account of your own sins. Such reviling God does not punish, but it is itself punishment.

Zephaniah 2:11. Prophecy will certainly come to pass and not fail. Even the smallest and most distant island is known to God and is included in his plan of salvation. But how shall they believe if it is not preached to them? Where the fear of God has been abandoned, in a country or among men, a salutary fear of Him must intervene, in order that his worship may be restored. On 13 ff. compare the Homiletical Suggestions on Nahum.

Zephaniah 3:1. God addresses his own city the most severely ( Amos 3:2). The way of destruction begins with obstinacy against God: then comes pollution by vice, finally the destruction of conscience, which becomes manifest in open acts of violence and crime.

Zephaniah 3:2. He who listens to God’s voice, has this advantage from it, that he learns prudence. He who trusts in Him has the advantage, that he can draw near to Him at all times with assured confidence. We know obedience by prudence, faith by confidence. Disobedience is folly, and despondency unbelief.

Zephaniah 3:3. Strength and bravery do not govern a country; even the lion is a strong and brave animal. They must be restrained by the fear of God and guided to the right objects. A speedy sentence often does more harm and wrong than the detriment arising from ten tardy ones.

Zephaniah 3:4. If the salt becomes insipid, wherewith shall it be salted? He who speaks in God’s name should always speak with fear and trembling, and as if he were going to stand to-morrow before the judgment seat.

Zephaniah 3:5. No one is so liable to profane what is holy as a priest; and no one is so responsible. Thou shouldst offer no violence to the Word of God. What it does not say thou shouldst not make it say. Though priests and prophets may be wicked, it is nevertheless wrong to separate one’s self from the Church of God. The Lord of Hosts, who does no wrong, is still in the midst of her. Therefore do the sects go so speedily to ruin. We cannot think of anything more touching than the long-suffering love, with which God follows a people and a soul, and keeps always anew, daily and a hundred times, one and the same thing before its eyes, namely, whether it will allow itself to be saved. Dark and confused things are not utterances of God. They all have their light in themselves and do not require that one should bring in mysteries, which no man sees. Persistent unbelief is a shamelessness of the soul. How much has God torn from his heart, for the purpose of confirming the Word of his prophets, in order that we might learn to believe. Not merely innumerable men, whom He created, and who were judged according to this prophecy, but his own son.

Zephaniah 3:7. It is a singular thing, that even the most faithful counsels and friendly instructions and allurements strengthen in his perversity, him who is already in the wrong way. He has shame, but false; and there is no stronger enemy of the true shame than the false.

Luther: On Zephaniah 2:6. The most magnificent and powerful cities, which were subdued under no king but David, are so laid waste and razed, as Hieronymus frequently states that one sees remaining only some ruined portions.

Zephaniah 2:9. These surrounding nations have all been scattered and exterminated by the Persians, Romans, etc, so that they have not been able to retain even their name, which they bore of old; they have all been united into one nation with the name of Arabians.—Chap3 Zephaniah 2:1 ff. Although the pure unadulterated word is accomplished, yet some will always be found, who will adulterate the word and the true service of God, until Christ, at his last advent, will make an end of this evil.

Zephaniah 2:7. In these few words the prophet has briefly expressed what belongs to an honest Christian life, for the fear of God brings with it faith, humility of heart, so that we hold the majesty of the Lord in all honor. Discipline [Ger. Zucht; Heb. Musar] includes in it outwardly good morals, so that we may walk together, one with another, with propriety and honor, without the displeasure of the brethren.

Starke: On Zephaniah 2:5. Even in Christendom there are many who practice Canaan’s doctrine and life: may God free the Church from them.

Zephaniah 2:6. Compare Luke 13:5.

Zephaniah 2:7. The wealth of the godless is preserved for the pious.

Zephaniah 2:9. God confirms his promises with zeal for the consolation of the godly, his threatenings for the terror of the wicked.

Zephaniah 2:11. In the New Testament the service and the worship of God are confined to no fixed place.

Zephaniah 2:13. When God has warned a city many years by a Jonah,, Nahum,, Zephaniah, at last the punishment comes suddenly.

Zephaniah 2:14. Cities, castles, houses, which are built with much pride by the toiling sweat and blood of poor people, usually come to a mournful end.

Zephaniah 2:15. Whoever says, I am Hebrews, and there is none besides, robs God of an honor which belongs to Him alone.—Chap3 Zephaniah 2:2. It is a certain indication of approaching destruction, when the people become more obstinate by punishment.

Zephaniah 3:3. Contempt of God’s Word causes corruption among all classes.

Zephaniah 3:5. The more one despises God’s Word, the more will God continue in the teaching of it.

Zephaniah 3:7. Genuine repentance obtains not only certain forgiveness of sins, but also often averts temporal punishments. unbelievers are more assiduous in evil than believers in good.

Rieger: On Zephaniah 2:4 ff. Israel has often been stimulated to zeal by the surrounding nations. For example, they would also have a king like the heathen around them; they fretted themselves, on the ground that the other nations should so advance and become great in their idolatry, and that they themselves, possessing the true worship of God, should so decline. Therefore the judgments executed upon other nations are so frequently held up before them: partly because all these are under the government of God, who has fixed and beforetime determined their boundary how far and how long each nation should have its habitation; partly to show what kind of a distinction God makes, in all His judgments, between his people and between the heathen, and how in these He always remembers the covenant with their fathers and guides them to the fulfillment of his promise; that those shall be blessed that bless the seed of Abraham, and that those shall be cursed who curse them. For this reason also their excessive arrogance toward Israel and their pleasure in his misfortunes are charged so high to the account of these nations. O seek humility! What may one bring upon himself by his vainglorious mouth!

Gregory the Great: On Zephaniah 2:10. Other vices drive away merely the virtues, with which they stand in natural contradiction; wrath drives away patience; drunkenness, soberness; but pride is in nowise satisfied with the extirpation of a single virtue, but arms itself against everything good in the soul, and utterly corrupts it like a pest, so that under its influence every work, although it may be adorned with the appearance of virtue, nevertheless no longer serves God, but vain self-glory.

Eusebius: Zephaniah 2:11. In Zephaniah the appearance of Christ is evidently connected with the extirpation of idolatry and with the worship of God on the part of the heathen.

Bucer: Whilst God destroys all the nations around, and thereby shows that what the worshipped as divinities, are nothing but false gods, since in the time of need of their worshippers, they afford them neither support, nor shelter, He makes the gods themselves disappear.

Bucer: Zephaniah 2:12. Observe, He calls it His sword. No evil comes upon any one in which the hand of God is not.

Pfaff. Zephaniah 2:15. To the Lord there is nothing more detestable than the pride of self-arrogating men. How well He knows to punish it with terrible power; how his wrath hastens to humble the proud.

Bucer: Zephaniah 3:2. As it is the beginning and foundation of all salvation to hear the Word of God with faith, so contempt of the Word of God with faith, so contempt of the Word of God is the source of all corruption. If a man despises the Word of God, then the next thing is that he refuses all amendment, because he is well pleased with himself and imagines everything which is in him good. And this is the climax of perversion of the life from God.

Bucer: Zephaniah 3:4. There is no divine gift on which Satan does not cast his filth. So he has also polluted prophecy.

Beck: The wicked one makes an idol of the earthly spirit of the age in the polymorphean practice of error extending itself over the entire circle of the earth.


FN#1 - Zephaniah 2:4.—צָהֳרַיִם is dual, and signifies double light, i.e, strongest, brightest, Genesis 43:16; Genesis 43:25; Deuteronomy 28:29; Jeremiah 6:4.

FN#2 - Zephaniah 2:5.—חֶבֶל, a cord, rope, Joshua 2:15; Ecclesiastes 12:6; a measuring line, 2 Samuel 8:2; Amos 7:17; a portion measured out, as of land, and assigned to any one by lot, Joshua 17:14; Joshua 19:9; hence, it signifies portion, possession, inheritance, tract, district, region.

FN#3 - Zephaniah 2:5.—גּוֹי כְּרֵתִים LXX; πάροικοι Κρητῶν; Vulg.: gens perditorum. They inhabited southern Philistia, 1 Samuel 30:14; Ezekiel 25:16. See Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, articles “Cherethims,” “Cherethites,” and “Caphtor.”

FN#4 - Zephaniah 2:9.—מִכְרֶה. This word is nowhere else used in the Bible. See a copy of “the Moabite Stone,” in The Jewish Times, Friday, June10, 1870, in which the plural of the same word, 2:25, is rendered “ditches.” See also Lenormant and Chevallier, vol. ii. p211, note.

FN#5 - Zephaniah 2:12.—See Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Cush;” Kitto’s Cyclopædia of Bib. Lit, and Lenormant and Chevallier’s Ancient History of the East, vol. i. p57 ff.

FN#6 - Zephaniah 2:14.—כָּל־חַיְתוֹ־גוֹי: LXX, πάντα τὰ θηρια τῆς γῆς; Vulg, Omnes bestiæ gentium; Kleinert, alles heidnische Gethier; Keil, “all kinds of animals in crowds or in a mass.”

FN#7 - Zephaniah 3:1.—נִגְאָלָה, Niphal of גָאָל, to be defiled, polluted, unclean; used in this sense only in the later Hebrew. See Isaiah 59:3; Isaiah 63:3; Lamentations 4:14; Malachi 1:7; Ezra 2:62; Nehemiah 7:64; Daniel 1:8.

FN#8 - Zephaniah 3:3.—גָֽרְמוּ, from גָרַם, to cut off or away; Piel, to gnaw, crush, craunch bones; LXX.: οὐχ ὑπελείποντο εἰς τὸ πρωί; Vulg.: non relinquebant in mane; Luther: die nichts lassen bis auf den Morgen überbleiben.—C. E.]


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Zephaniah 2:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

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Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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