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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Zephaniah 3



Verses 8-20


Zephaniah 3:8-20

Zephaniah 3:8 Therefore wait for me is the saying of Jehovah,

For the day when I rise up to the prey;[FN1]

For it is my right to gather nations together,

To assemble kingdoms;

To pour upon them my fury,

All the heat of my anger;

For by the fire of my zeal

The whole earth shall be consumed.

9 For then I will turn to the nations a pure lip,

That they may all call upon the name of Jehovah;

That they may serve Him with one shoulder.[FN2]

10 From beyond the rivers of Cush

My worshippers,[FN3] the daughter of my dispersed ones

Will present my offering.

11In that day thou wilt not be ashamed

On account of all thy doings,

By which thou hast transgressed against me,

For then will I remove from the midst of thee

Thy proud exulting ones, [or, those that exult in thy pride],

And thou shalt no more carry thyself proudly in my holy mountain.

12And I will leave in the midst of thee

A people poor and bowed down,

And they shall trust in the name of Jehovah.

13The remnant of Israel will not commit wickedness;

They will not speak lies;

And in their mouth will not be found a tongue of deceit;

But they will feed and lie down

And none will make them afraid.

14Exult, thou Daughter Zion;

Shout[FN4] O Israel;

Rejoice, and exult with all the heart,

O Daughter, Jerusalem.

15 Jehovah has removed thy judgments;

He has cleared[FN5] away thine enemy;

The King of Israel, Jehovah, is in the midst of thee;

Thou wilt see evil no more.

16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:

Fear not Zion, let not thy hands be feeble.

17 Jehovah, thy God, is in the midst of thee,

A Mighty One, who saves;

He rejoices over thee with gladness;

He is silent in his love;

He exults over thee with rejoicing.

18 I gather together those that mourn for the festivals;[FN6]

They are of thee;

Reproach presses upon them.

19 Behold, at that time, I will deal with all thy oppressors,

And I will save the limping,

And gather the outcasts,

And make them a praise and a name

In every land of their shame.

20 At that time I will bring you,

Yea, at the time I will gather you;

For I will make you a name and a praise

Among all the nations of the earth,

When I turn your captivity before your eyes, saith Jehovah.


The Way to the Accomplishment of the Salvation opened by the Judgment.

Zephaniah 3:8-10. The Salvation of the Heathen following the Judgment. Directly at the close of the first threatening proclamation begins the address ( Zephaniah 3:8), directed to the meek of the earth ( Zephaniah 2:3), the second cheerful address stretching over the intermediate statement of the causes.

What we should expect according to the course of thought at the close of Zephaniah 3:7,—therefore I will rise to the judgment upon Jerusalem,—was already said, chap1; now comes the consolation by which that threatening of judgment is tolerable.

Zephaniah 3:8. (According to the remark of the Masorah the only verse of the O. T, in which all the letters of the alphabet, inclusive of the five finals, occur.) Therefore—לָרֵן is employed, as it often Isaiah, in prophetical language, to indicate not exactly the immediate consequence of what precedes, but the link of the connection, i.e., of the transition from threatening to promise (comp. Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 27:9; and other passages in Ges, Thes., s. v.): but therefore still wait upon me, ye humble, thou remnant of the promise ( Zephaniah 2:3; Zephaniah 2:7; Zephaniah 2:9; comp. Isaiah 8:17; Habakkuk 2:3), saith Jehovah until the day that I rise up to the prey (so Drusius, Cölln, Strauss, Keil, following the Masoretic text, translate it. On the contrary, LXX, Syr, Hitz, following the reading לְעֵד, render it “for a witness.” The sequel favors the former translation) for it is my right, my fixed sentence uttered against the earth, not to be retracted, to gather the nations together. There is no intimation here that the language refers to a gathering together of the heathen, in the sense that those among the heathen desirous of salvation fall to Jehovah as a prey (Strauss, Keil); the intervention of a judgment, which is a necessary condition of the salvation, previously fixes the connection. The last act of the judgment, as it is a fixed element of the prophetic eschatology, the final gathering of the heathen nations before Jerusalem, in order to be destroyed in the decisive struggle (comp. above, Introd. p9), is here represented under the point of view, that God, after He has subdued the separate powers that resisted Him, each in its own land ( Zephaniah 2:4 ff.), now causes the collective mass of nations to flock together, in order to shatter in one last decisive struggle everything opposed to God, in one day (comp. Micah 4:12). That is an object of hope for the meek of the land, and therefore the prophet proceeds: wait for me until I (the ל and the suffix in לק-עי require, what interpreters have overlooked, that this infinitive, like קוּמי ליוֹם, must be construed with הַכּוּ), bring the kingdoms in crowds, and pour out upon them my fury, all my burning wrath. Theodorus Mopsu. makes the language to be addressed to the exiles: “Καὶ διατελεῖτε δὲ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἀφορῶντες καὶ τὴν παῤ ἐμοῦ βοήθειαν ἀναμένοντες, ἣν κατὰ καιρὸν ὑμῖν παρέξω, ὡς ἐκ νεκρῶν ὑμᾶς ἀνίστων καὶ ἀπαλλάττων μὲν τμ͂ς αἰχμαλωσίας ἐπανάγων δὲ πάνταω ὑμᾶς ἐπὶ τὰ οἰκεῖα” This view has, at the first glance, something in its favor: the consolatory moment intended for Israel in the prophecy of the judgment, Zephaniah 3:8, comes out very plainly in it. Notwithstanding it is hardly correct, though Strauss assents to it; since Zephaniah does not predict the exile, but everywhere addresses the people in Jerusalem, and the thought introduced by Theodorus into this verse from the restoration of the captives first occurs Zephaniah 3:18 ff, but even there in such a way, that the flower of the congregation are supposed to be remaining in Jerusalem, and the captives are supposed to come as scattered apart from these (also in a similar way the שבוה שבות seems to be employed in the oldest prophets), comp. the לְעֵינֵיכֶם, Zephaniah 3:20. For by the fire of my zeal the whole earth shall be devoured: everything, which is not from God; the day of judgment, which comes after the separate acts of judgment, which turned to the advantage of Israel, is entirely general; as He judges the incorrigible Israel, chap1, so He also judges the degenerate nations: only the Anavim [meek], who are enjoined to wait for Him, are excepted. But it lies in the nature of the case that that for which they are to wait, is properly not the day of judgment itself ( Amos 5:18), but the result, of which it is the conditio sine qua non.

Zephaniah 3:9. For then, after the destruction of the power antagonistic to God upon earth, first of all of the power antagonistic to Him in the heathen world, whose judgment, according to what follows, is not considered as a destruction of the substance of life, but as a destruction of the δυνάμεις under heaven alienating the life from God (comp. Zephaniah 2:11), will I turn to the nations, which have hitherto with unclean lip called upon their idols ( Hosea 2:19; Psalm 16:4), a pure lip; I will give it to them, I will create it in them. This act of grace, which, in Isaiah 6, is represented under the view of the expiating act of God, is here exhibited under that of the new creative act.

The two views [Momente] complete one another. [Many interpreters understand the “pure lips” of the lip of God Himself, which He will employ in friendly language to the nations (Luth, Cocc, Marck, Hofmann). But that God’s lip is pure is self-evident; it will not be pure then for the first time, but it is always pure. Our translation (comp. Theodoret: “Καθαρὸν δὲ χεῖλος τὸ μὴ θεοὺ̀ς ἀλλὰ θεὸν ὀνόμαζον”) is required by the connection, and is also given by the oldest versions (Chald, Syr, Aq, Symm, Vulg.). For the expression [i.e., turn, etc.], comp. 1 Samuel 10:9; Malachi 3:23, in A. V. Malachi 4:6.—C. E.]

The purity of the lips proves itself by the fact that they all call upon the name of Jehovah—the unity of the children of God existing before the flood, at the beginning of the history of Revelation, is restored, Genesis 4:26That they serve Him with one shoulder; compare the expression “with one mouth,” 1 Kings 22:13. “The unity is restored by means of all of them bearing the same yoke, i.e., the yoke of Jehovah, Jeremiah 2:20.” Hitzig. Compare also Isaiah 9:3. Those who escape from the great slaughter of the judgment ( Zephaniah 3:8), are dispersed into their own lands, and there Jehovah’s new work of grace reaches them: compare the fuller expansion of the same thought, Isaiah 66:19 f.

Zephaniah 3:10. Even from beyond the rivers of Cush—from the southern extremity of the known world, which also appeared to be ( Zephaniah 2:12) the southern terminus of the judgments will my worshippers (the signification of fragrance, which Ges, Ew, Maur, give to the word עהרי, is untenable), my dispersed people (on בה, comp at Micah 4:14), bring my meat-offering; the saved heathen become like a wide diaspora, after they have received pure lips, join themselves to the organism of the people of God [Heilsgemeinde, the congregation of salvation], as Isaiah had prophesied, chap18, to which Zephaniah refers by repeating the words (comp. Isaiah 18:7). [The Vulg, Luth, in his Comm, Marck, Hitzig, consider the words עֲתָרַי and בת־פּוּעַי as two coördinate nominatives. Not only the parallel, Isaiah 28:7, decides in favor of this construction, but also the context, which, in ver, 11, applies only to Israel. Compare also Malachi 1:11. De Wette, Hengstenberg, Strauss, Keil, with Luther’s translation, take the words as accusatives: from beyond the rivers of Cush will they bring my worshippers, my dispersed ones, as my meat-offering. But this thought is introduced into this passage only from the reference to Isaiah 66:20. The devotional-allegorical turn, which is combined with this view, that the heathen will convert again to God the Israelites dispersed among them (Hengstenb, Keil), is entirely foreign to the passage, since the dispersed, according to the entire connection, even though Israelites were to be understood by them, could not after all be considered as unconverted; and the act of bringing them, according to the usage of prophetic language (comp. Isaiah 49:22, and above), is an act of homage, and not of conversion. There are other interpretations, namely, the old versions, which seem to rest, in part, on different readings, comp. in Cölln, p56]. My meat-offering, is that which is due to me, comp. thy vows ( Psalm 56:13, 12]).

Zephaniah 3:11-13. The Restoration of the Righteous Remnant in Israel. In that day, thou, the congregation of Israel, wilt not be ashamed of all thy doings, by which thou hast transgressed against me, and on account of which it is impossible for thee to enter, as thou art, into the perfected salvation ( Zephaniah 3:7): for then will I remove, this prediction is proved by the whole connection to be fut. exactum; then will I have removed from thee those that rejoice in thy pride (comp. Isaiah 13:3), so that only the meek are left, and thou wilt no more pride thyself (גָבְהָה, fern. inf,Ges, 45, 1, b) upon my holy mountain. Pride would certainly bring shame after it ( Isaiah 3), but it will be destroyed.

[In themselves the words עָנִי and עָנָו, which, besides this, occurs only once in the singular, do not point out the antithesis of the external pressure and of the internal humility, but they meet in the same fundamental meaning; compare, in opposition to Hengstenberg and the interpreters that follow him, the proof given by Hupfeld at Psalm 9:13; but in both the passages of our prophet ( Zephaniah 2:3; Zephaniah 3:12) that antithesis is required by the connection and parallelism]. They will trust in the name of Jehovah: antithesis to Zephaniah 3:2.

Zephaniah 3:13. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong, like God Himself, Zephaniah 3:5; Leviticus 19:2, and one shall not find in their mouth the tongue of deceit, which is now found even in the mouth of their prophets ( Zephaniah 3:4). But they will feed, in the undisturbed enjoyment of the fulfilled promise they live and rejoice in the good shepherd ( Micah 7:14), and lie down, comp. Zephaniah 2:7, and no one terrifies them, as it is promised, Leviticus 26:6.

Zephaniah 3:14-20. The New Jerusalem. As in Micah 7:14 ff, the prophecy here takes a turn. It has from the beginning, and especially in this concluding promise, the tenor of the discourse in Micah 6:7, a tenor removed from the empirical present and raised to a jubilation over the accomplishment; with dithyrambic Psalm -tones to the end, in such a manner, however, that by means of the expression, “in that day,” Zephaniah 3:16; Zephaniah 3:19 f, the prophetic character is maintained: “Confirmat superiorem doctrinam exhortans fidcles ad gaudium, quasi jam præ oculis exstaret, quod antea pollicitus est.” Calvin. Exult thou daughter Zion (comp. Zech. 2:14; Zechariah 9:9).

Zephaniah 3:15. Jehovah has removed the judgments: “everything that He appoints concerning them,” the judgments, which were held out in prospect for the great day, Zephaniah 3:7; Zephaniah 3:5; swept away thine enemy, as in Micah 7:8, a common designation of the world-power (Babylon, Nimrod, comp. Com. on Micah, p51) in all its relations. The King of Israel is Jehovah in the midst of thee, as Obadiah had promised for this time of salvation, Zephaniah 3:20, comp. Zechariah 2:14 f. (Strauss, Keil: the King of Israel, Jehovah, is in the midst of thee; but this method of placing the [noun in] apposition before is not Old Testament, but modern usage.) Thou wilt see evil no more, neither evil, but Him alone, in whom is all good, Hosea 3:5, nor sin, Zephaniah 3:11, for the Holy One does not suffer it in his presence, Deuteronomy 23:15 (14). Therefore thou canst be fearless, Zephaniah 3:16 f.: On that day will men say to Jerusalem, fear not, Zion!—Zion is in the vocative—let not thy hands sink down, in slackness and despondency. The understanding of the address as a designation of the new name (they shall call Jerusalem: “Fear not Zion; let not thy hands sink down!” Ewald), is certainly entirely in accordance with the prophetic spirit, but it is introduced into this passage from Isaiah 62:11 ff, and is not indicated by anything. According to this view Zion should be construed, like Jerusalem, with לְ. The hands have become slack at the approach of the day of Jehovah, Isaiah 13:7 : “Omnis vigor ita concidit metu, ut nullum membrum suo fungatur officio.” Calvin. The requirement that the slackness shall cease, shows that the judgment is past.

Zephaniah 3:17. Jehovah, thy God, is in the midst of thee, a mighty one, who is a Saviour; comp. Jeremiah 14:9. The אֵל גִּבּוֹר, Isaiah 19:5 (6), promised by the prophets, is Jehovah Himself, comp. Isaiah 10:21. He rejoices over thee in delight, since. He sees no more anything impure, and the old marriage covenant is gloriously restored anew, Isaiah 62:5, comp. Hosea 2:19. He is silent (Anton, Hitzig, following the LXX. read יַחֲדִישׁ instead of יהרישׁ: He does a new thing) in his love: a silence arising no longer from forbearance, in order to punish at last ( Psalm 1:2); but because He has nothing more to reprehend, comp. Zephaniah 3:5; Zephaniah 3:11. His love Isaiah, then, a blessed enjoyment and nurturing. A beautiful anthropopathy. Calvin: “Deus ergo tuus quietus erit in amore suo, i.e, erunt hœ summœ deliciœ; hœc erit prœcipua Dei tui voluptas, ubi te fovebit; quemadmodum si quis uxorem dilectissimam foveat: ita etiam Deus tuus quiescet in amore tuo.He will rejoice over thee with rejoicing. Isaiah 65:19. Bucer: “Cum amor Dei ergasuos verbis humanis explicari nequeat, quicquid omnino in amore vehemens est et flagrans, illi se dominus comparat. Hinc modo patris, nunc matris tunc et mariti affectum sibi sumit.” Both silence and rejoicing belong to love, as salvation is called an eternal rest and an eternal praising of God. And in this rejoicing the whole Church is to have a part.

Zephaniah 3:18. Those that mourn, נוּגֵי instead of נוֹגֵי part. Niph. from וָגַי=יָגָה, Olsh, 192 a. Rem266 a; so also נוּגוֹת, Lamentations 1:4; Vulg.: nugæ!] far from the festive assembly, the great festival of the accomplishment of salvation in the New Jerusalem, which, in accordance with Hosea 12:10 (9), is also represented, in Zechariah 14:16 ff, under the figure of the Feast of Tabernacles as being the most joyful, I will gather together, I will gather [them] from the dispersion, comp. Zephaniah 3:20 (for the constr. comp. Ges, 116, 1): they are of thee (מִן, as in Ezra 2:59) [see also Isaiah 58:12; Psalm 68:27, מִן expressing descent or origin—C. E.], reproach presses upon them, literally, as a burden does. The suffix in עָלֶיהָ refers to the collective idea גּוֹלָה or שׁבוּת existing in נוּגֵי (Hitzig). In order that they may be disburdened and set free, the destruction of the enemies, in whose fetters the mourners are held, is necessary.

Zephaniah 3:19. Behold at that time I will deal with (עֹשֶׂה intransitive with emphatic meaning as in Ezekiel 23:25; Ezekiel 27:17; Jeremiah 18:23) all thine oppressors, and that in such a way that I will heal the limping and gather together the dispersed, (designations of the Church tried with suffering, from Micah 4:6, comp. at the passage) and make them a praise and a name (as it was promised in Deuteronomy 26:19) in every land of their shame. “Praise and name,” hendiadys for a celebrated name, which is praised, so that the original promise, Genesis 12, is fulfilled, and all nations long to be invested with the citizenship of the new community. Psalm 87. Comp. also Zechariah 8:23 and Isaiah 4:1.

Zephaniah 3:20. At that time will I bring you,—the sentence, like all the statements of the verse, has something compendious, “abbreviatory.” הֵבִיא, in itself, signifies neither to bring to a possession, to rank and condition (Ewald), nor to lead out and in (Keil). Rather the whole sentence becomes clear only from the reference to Deuteronomy 30:3 ff, which passage the prophet quotes as one known to the hearers. To this, נדח, Zephaniah 3:19, comp. Deuteronomy 30:4, which accords nearly quite with Micah, has already pointed; likewise קבּע and שׁוּב שׁבוּת, which soon follow, point to it. And thence the elliptical אביא receives also ( Deuteronomy 30:5) the signification “to lead home.” It certainly does not have the same meaning in the passage Isaiah 14:2, from which Hitzig and Strauss derive this meaning,—there the object of the action is directly added [to the verb],—but it appears in closer correlation to this verse 20] in Jeremiah 31:8. And at that time I will gather you. Instead pf the verb fin. אֲקבֵּע the infin. with the suffix is chosen as in Daniel 11:1, probably to produce a conformity of sound with אביא(Hitzig). For I will make you a name … before your eyes, saith Jehovah. The conclusion of Zephaniah’s prediction of judgment reaches back to the beginning of that of Obadiah.

[Keil: “A fresh reason is assigned for the promise, by a further allusion to the glorification appointed for the people of God above all the nations of the earth, coupled with the statement that this will take place at the turning of their captivity, i.e., when God shall abolish the misery of his people, and turn it into salvation (“turn the captivity,” as in chap2. Zephaniah 3:7), and that “before your eyes ”; i.e., not that “ye yourselves shall see the salvation, and not merely your children, when they have closed your eyes” (Hitzig)—for such an antithesis would be foreign to the context—but as equivalent to “quite obviously, so that the turn in events stands out before the eye,” analogous to “ye will see eye to eye” ( Isaiah 52:8; cf. Luke 2:30). This will assuredly take place, for Jehovah has spoken it.—C. E.]


The ways of God lead not to death, but to life; for He is a faithful God. But just because He is faithful, He adheres not only to the promises, which He has made, but also to the conditions of salvation, which exist in his holiness, and whose substance is embodied in the law. Accordingly the revealed agency of God and its progress to accomplishment have a twofold fundamental character. In the first place there is a work of judgment, so that the whole history of the kingdom is exhibited as a process of judgment, as a purifying, cleansing, struggling, and demolishing to the last. In the second place there is a work of salvation, a new-creating work, so that the same history is presented as a progressive communication of the divine life-germ, advancing to the complete recreation of that which has become corrupt by sin. To represent only one of these views as the central one is wrong; yea they do not in reality allow themselves to be so much as wholly separated; each receives its internal form by (the irradiating lines of the other. As by the process of judgment salvation shines throughout as expiation, forgiveness, amnesty to the elect, so by the process of salvation the judgment appears as sifting, removing, and pronouncing death upon that which is unholy. Both views form a perfect complex, so that one cannot be conceived without the other. As they form in this complexity the foundation of all prophetic preaching, so do they also that of prophetic eschatology. Hence their separate elements are clear in their internal organic connection.

In his judicial proceeding it is not enough that God should overthrow the hostility against his kingdom just at the point where it becomes directly actual by a temporal juncture of circumstances; that He should punish the heathen powers only so far as they come successively and singly into historical contact with the Church; there must be a complete breaking up of heathenism, so far as it is a system of positive opposition to Him: in this the judgment culminates. This final conflict of the judgment, briefly announced by Zephaniah, Zephaniah 3:8, more fully exhibited by Ezekiel 38 f, and Zechariah 12 f, supposes a concentrated gathering together against the kingdom of God of all the powers, which have not yet been added to it. If this march is elsewhere indicated by the announcement that the nations of the remotest distance will be incited to rush against Jerusalem, Zephaniah indicates it by the simple emphasis of the words, “gather together.”

It is not incomprehensible that this gathering together, so far as its occurrence is a necessity required by the history of the kingdom, does not lie in the sphere of free-will, and that on this account its ultimate cause is referred to God. (Acts of the Apostles Acts 4:28). It was potentially fulfilled by the struggle of Christ with the combined powers of heathenism, and of Judaism dissevered from the kingdom of God, of fanaticism, epicureanism and skepticism (Pharisees, and priests, Sadducees, Herod, and Pilate), avarice and inconstancy (Judas, Peter, and the multitude), death, and the Evil One. These are the idols of the world, and its centralized power is destroyed by the work of redemption ( 1 John 3:8). But the realization of this ideal in history which the prophecy requires possibly not only in accordance with its form, but also in accordance with its substance, and which cannot be conceived without the actual taming of all these powers in the kingdom of God, is still unaccomplished. “The prophetic representation of the victory over the antitheocratic central powers reaches into the most distant time, and we must carefully guard against any weakening by rash interpretation.” Beck. To the form of the prophecy, on the other hand, belongs the expression, “to gather,” so far as it seems to contain a local reference. That it treats of a gathering on the field of spiritual conflict is evident from the fact, that after this decisive battle, the separate central heathen powers, which have been subdued, experience and become partakers of God’s work of grace in their lands.

This work of grace is the restoration of the people [der Völker, the peoples] of God to the kingdom of God by the most ancient and most peculiar mark of God’s children, calling upon the name of Jehovah ( Genesis 4:26). The Word is the central idea of all revelation: the Word on the part of God is revelation itself in the widest extent: the Word on the part of man is the concentrated symbol of the life of the human soul. (Comp. Oehler, art, “Name” in Herzog, Real-Encyc., 10:193 ff.). The purity of the lips manifested and effected by the calling upon the name of God, is at the same time purity of the inner man ( Matthew 15:18). The other constitutive elements of divine worship—bowing and sacrifice—fall in with the expression. And indeed the bloody sacrifice is abolished after the offering of the great sacrifice Zephaniah 1:6, with which the reconciliation is connected (comp. Zephaniah 3:9 with Isaiah 6:7; also Zechariah 13:1). The offerings of the heathen world joining themselves to God are represented by the mention of the meat-offering. (Comp. Malachi 1:11.) There is at least tacitly promised thereby an essential change of the Mosaic worship for the time of salvation—as it is connected solidarily with the demolition of the barrier of the law between Israel and the nations, between Canaan and the distant lands. It can be nothing else than an entirely new order of things, in which the worshippers of Jehovah, “the congregation of his dispersed ones,” even beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, are found among the sons of Ham. The beginning of the fulfillment is related by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles Acts 8:26 ff, and the entire prophecy of this book chimes in with his narrative throughout. (Comp. Zephaniah 2:5 with Acts of the Apostles Acts 8:26; Acts 3:10 with Acts 8:27; Acts 3:9 with Acts 8:37; Acts 3:17 with Acts 8:39).

If an entirely new creation is necessary in the heathen world to effect the salvation, then the matter of moment in Israel is to restore by purification the pure heart of the poor in spirit, of the humble life of faith, which procures righteousness before God. The new Israel will be essentially different from the present in so far as they will be no more liable to punishment. As in the case of the heathen so also here the fact of reconciliation, of purification, and of forgiveness is tacitly presupposed (comp. however, Zephaniah 3:14 :) although they have sinned as Israel, as a nation, yet in the time of salvation there will be a remnant (comp. Com. on Micah, p32; Com. on Nahum, p36; ante, Introd. p9), which is not swept off together with the others in the judgment, which has also obtained forgiveness and accepted it in humility, and which now places its confidence and hope only in the name of Jehovah. But the proud, who place their confidence in themselves, who little consider that the mountain, on which they celebrate their self-sufficiency, is the abode of the Holy God, will be swept away in the purification. It also belongs to the complete humility of Israel, that they should abandon the narrowness of their particularistic pride. In this way this fact is connected with the former, by which it is worthy of consideration, that the conversion of the heathen is placed before the restoration of Israel.

Both are works of grace: in the case of the heathen the grace lies in the entirely new beginning; in the case of Israel, in the fact, that after they have become, according to human view, a wretched miserable remnant, as such they obtain favor. Such has been God’s way from the beginning: the younger sons are his chosen in the history of the patriarchs and kings; when Israel had pined away in the bondage of Egypt, Moses arose; when toward the end of the time of the judges they had almost ceased to be a nation ( 1 Samuel 13:19), Samuel came. So will it be also at the time of the consummation.

So also the marks of the work of grace in Israel and among the heathen agree. The signature of the new Israel is given with the word of truth, as the signature of the dispersed congregation, gathered from the heathen, is given with the word of confession. What precedes the times of the consummation are on the one hand the times of ignorance; and on the other the times of falsehood. Falsehood is the mortal enemy, which resists the development of the kingdom of God from within; and so long as it is not removed, so long the consummation is delayed. John 8:44. And as among the heathen, so also in Israel the form of the new kingdom of God is a perfect worship of God: the consummation bears the character of a festival. So had Isaiah, chap4, already described, after the type of the Feast of Tabernacles, the achievement of salvation, which is allotted to the remnant of Israel after the judgment and reconciliation.

But this is the preëminence of Israel over the heathen, that they are the centre of the new kingdom, and that Jehovah dwells in the midst of them as a Mighty One and a Saviour. The heathen come into, but “salvation comes from the Jews,” and the new congregation, although the heathen (under the supposition, that they acknowledge this privileged position of Israel with praise) are added to it, is essentially the continuation and completion of the O. T. Church. It is indeed nothing else than the fulfillment of the promises which were made to the fathers, and which are chartered and sealed in the Torah Only that this continuation and completion pass through the deep rupture, which discloses itself in the name of “the lame and the outcasts;” and that the covenant of a holy and blessed love between God and the Israel, whom He has abandoned in all lands to deserved shame, must be a new covenant. And indeed the complete and most peculiar nature of this new covenant was not exhibited in the time of the prophet: it will itself be a revelation and that a visible one: before the eyes of his own, God will carry it into effect. The Word of God, which was communicated to Moses and the prophets, and which his Church has heard with the ear, will appear to the eye in the fullness of times. Hebrews 1:1 ff.; John 1:5; John 1:9 f.

Concerning the double relation, in which this prophecy places the heathen to salvation ( John 8:19; John 9, 10) compare at Nahum 1.


What is the mission of the church, which God has made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light? ( Zephaniah 3:15).

1. We should in the immovable unity of the Spirit, who is mighty in us, stand fast against the assembled powers of darkness, until they are overcome ( Zephaniah 3:8).

2. We should carry on the contest in the name of God and with pure lips. The purity of the lip is acquired and preserved by the constant calling upon God ( Zephaniah 3:9, a, b).

3. Those who believe should not press shoulder against shoulder, nor should they wish to be one higher than another, but to become one in humble adoration ( Zephaniah 3:9 c.).

4. We should not fix our hearts on the possessions of the world, but remember that, in this world, we are a scattered church of God, and prepare the offering of the soul for the eternal home ( Zephaniah 3:10).

5. We should, in everything hold fast to the one thing needful. Namely, that we have no right to glory through ourselves, but through grace against judgment ( Zephaniah 3:11-12).

6. We should keep silent at the purifications, by which grace qualifies individuals for the inheritance purchased once for all ( Zephaniah 3:11-19 a, b).

7. We should wage the contest of the light with the weapons of the light and of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, Zephaniah 3:13 a, and with perfect fearlessness, as the flock of the good shepherd, whom all enemies are too few to resist ( Zephaniah 3:13 b, 16, 17 a).

8. We should always be joyful in the Lord ( Zephaniah 3:14-18). For after the acts of reconciliation He takes delight in man ( Zephaniah 3:17 b).

9. We should walk for the honor of God, as those who know that it is God’s will, that his name should not be reviled in us, but praised by the nations ( Zephaniah 3:19 c).

10. We should keep our eyes open to the past and present proofs of the powerful manifestation of God, and to the signs of his coming ( Zephaniah 3:20. Luke 12:35).

God’s purpose is a missionary purpose.

Zephaniah 3:1. A purpose of external missions ( Zephaniah 3:8-10).

Zephaniah 3:2. A purpose of internal missions ( Zephaniah 3:11-20).

All prophecies are fulfilled in Christ.

In the holiness and veracity, in the struggles and sufferings, in the humiliation and, exaltation of the historical Christ everything meets, which the prophets recorded of the deeds, experiences, and successes of Israel, as the mediator of salvation, and of the coming of God for the accomplishment of salvation. He has struggled with the united powers of darkness and vanquished them: He was the poor and humble remnant, who did no wrong and in whom God was present, and whom the Father loved with perfect satisfaction.

Zephaniah 3:2. In the advancing acts of salvation, by which the exalted Christ brings his eternal acts in his body, the Church, to their temporal realization and form, is fulfilled continuously what the prophets predicted concerning them, that not merely an individual, but a congregation of the dispersed people of God should be the heir of the promise.—At Zephaniah 3:8 f. It is God’s right to gather together the heathen for wrath. But because He is God grace is the end of his righteous way. Only those who are near to Him thus know Him, and hence wait confidently upon Him, however He may walk abroad in his power spreading terror. A pure lip is the mark of the work of God’s grace. If those who belong to Him would think of this, how much less, not merely of filthy speech and buffoonery, which are not becoming, but also of contention, quarreling, anger, and unrighteousness would there be in the world. From the impurity of the lips it comes, that Christendom, instead of serving Him with one consent [mit einer Schulter, with one shoulder] becomes more unsettled and rent from day to day.

Zephaniah 3:10. There were and are Christians, Song of Solomon -called worshippers of God, who go up the Nile to sell the heathen as slaves to Christians. A meat-offering of abomination ( Isaiah 1:11 ff.). Missions should make amends for this.

Zephaniah 3:11. The most dangerous desecration of the holy place and of the holy congregation takes place through pride.

Zephaniah 3:12. It is painful to the human heart, that it must first become completely poor and humble, before it learns to trust entirely in the name of the living God. This is the reason that the hearts rich in the opinion of the world are richest in dead idols.

Zephaniah 3:13. Behold there the marks of the true Church, congregationes Sanctorum, Aug. vii. Truly the holiness of the saints comes from the grace of God, and so long as they carry in themselves the flesh of sin their perfection is piece-work. But whoever he be that knowingly and willingly offends and lies and deceives from the bottom of his heart, him the word of God excommunicates, though his lips may be full of hypocritical profession. The pure lip is the lip of the heart. Such sanctification follows, when a soul feeds tranquilly in the pasture, which God has given to it in his Word. Such souls no one alarms. In proportion to the internal separation from the Word, in that proportion are there much anxious looking around and despondency.

Zephaniah 3:14 f. The enemy of the Church is in the last instance only one: Hebrews, whose works God, who was in Christ and reconciled the world to Himself, has destroyed. The legal practice [Praxis] produces in souls fear of the devil as a conqueror; the prophetic and evangelic inspires in them courage against him as a vanquished [enemy].

Zephaniah 3:16 f. Zion, let not thy hands become slack. How much is there everywhere to do! and how must it invigorate our alacrity for work, when we know that God, the Mighty One and Saviour, is with us, and that He looks upon our work with heartfelt delight.

Zephaniah 3:18. Such work is not a trouble, but a feast. It is a disgrace to him, who does not engage in it. Pray everywhere that God may turn the disgrace of the afflicted, who perish far from work in his kingdom, and gather them.

Zephaniah 3:19. We cannot certainly avoid the necessity of bearing for a short time the derision and abuse of the world for the Lord’s sake. But it is a paltry view to set this as the final object and result of living Christianity upon earth. By doing so we close our eyes. The final object which we must always keep present to ourselves, is that men should learn to glorify God in his own. But for that active Christianity is necessary. He who strives after the object in another self-chosen way, whether, whilst abandoning the Gospel, he seeks to gain the praise of the crowd, whether whilst turning his back upon his brethren, only hinders the work of God and impedes it.

Zephaniah 3:20. How many who belong to the Israel of God by baptism are prisoners in the world. Cease not to pray for your brethren that He may restore them before your eyes. For this the word of promise is given, that the faith of those who labor in this work may be strengthened by it; and that we who are so ready to say, their destruction is at hand, may learn to take shame to ourselves in view of the faithfulness and long-suffering following of God, who speaks there.

Luther: Zephaniah 3:8. The gathering together of the kingdoms and nations is effected through the word of the Gospel, which has been proclaimed to every one throughout the world.

Zephaniah 3:12. He describes .the Christian Church with few, but yet with most beautiful words; namely, that it is a poor, needy, and oppressed little people, that calls upon the Lord and trusts in Him, which is the highest righteousness and the most exalted worship. This is the true glory of the kingdom of Christ, that we are joyfully and in peace reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Not that there is no longer any cross reserved for us; not that the world and Satan will not lie in wait for us; but, provided that against all this our conscience is preserved secure, we need not care for it. This is the work of the power of God in us.

Zephaniah 3:20. Also the apostles and martyrs came at last to honor before God and the world, who before were considered by the world a despised people; now their memory sounds with thanksgiving, like that of John Huss, and of all who have suffered persecution and death for the glory of God. But the memory of the ungodly perishes.

Starke: The fulfillment of this text is generally placed in the times of the Apostles. Though indeed this interpretation in part is not to be denied, yet it cannot be granted that these prophecies attained their full measure of fulfillment at that time.

Zephaniah 3:8. If we are a long time chastised for our sins, we should remember, that we also were a long time disobedient to God, when He warned us against sin; and also that it is no wonder, if He does not soon answer us, because we would not listen soon to Him.

Zephaniah 3:10. Believers present themselves as a gift, when they put themselves entirely under obedience to God and mortify the old man. Although the unbelieving Jews still continue in such pride of their relation to God, yet those objects of pride will be put away from them at the time of their conversion, and they will perish with Antichrist, to whom they belong. Though pride is displeasing to God everywhere, yet it is particularly repugnant to Him, when we are proud in the service of God.

Zephaniah 3:12. The Christian Church is not to be estimated according to its external appearance.

Zephaniah 3:13. Although the pious have their infirmity in them, nevertheless they have, according to the inward Prayer of Manasseh, pleasure in God’s law. Where true faith exists, good works also must infallibly follow. Those who have been justified by faith have peace with God and with his creatures.

Zephaniah 3:14. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, etc, Romans 14:17.

Zephaniah 3:17. There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, much more over the fact that entire Christendom is reconciled to God. He will be silent in his love, i.e., He will be no crier; He will not deal harshly with and utterly cast down the terrified consciences of those who make a false step; He will not magnify trifling faults; in a pharisaic manner make camels out of gnats, and for that reason make the erring to be ill spoken of, that every one may fear to associate with them; but his care will be exercised to raise them up again and to win their heart to him. As He dealt with Peter, the thief, etc, would that all teachers would also deal with poor erring sinners.

Rieger: Zephaniah 3:8 ff. When causes of judgment greatly multiply on one side, then God grants largely on the other side much that is conducive to a clear understanding of his word. In the most doubtful times we must also not just consider ourselves and our own as merely a purifying offering of the judgments that befall us, for God can also thence prepare for himself fit instruments for his purposes.

Zephaniah 3:11 ff. O, that all the trouble to establish their own righteousness, O that all glorying in the flesh, were brought to an end; that we may enjoy rest without fear, when the father of lies shall be imprisoned, and his [power of] seducing shall be put down with him!

Zephaniah 3:14. It is something great when the joy in God and in his grace of those that are pardoned, and God’s joy in the fulfillment of his counsel, shall coincide. He to whom all this seems too great, let him only look at the great seal, which is appended to the whole: thus saith the Lord. He can do great things and execute them speedily, when the unbelief of men or weak faith sees yet no preparation for them. Remember, Lord, this Thy word to Thy servants, upon which thou hast caused us to hope.

Bucer: At Zephaniah 3:8. Things, whose intrinsic nature it is to go far from God, of which one properly says, when they perish, that they are gathered again to Him.

Zephaniah 3:9. Whoever acknowledges God in truth can do nothing else than love and proclaim Him.

Höcker: Heart, mouth, and works meet in the appellation, pure lips. So long as there is agreement among these three hypocrisy has no place in men. But if the heart is not purified, then the lips and works are also unclean, Matthew 6:22-23.

Burck: The concordant worship of God corresponds to the pure lip. As once a counterfeit unanimity produced multiplicity and confusion of languages, so unity and purity of speech are about to produce and maintain true unity.

Pfaff: Zephaniah 3:11. Those who glory in the true church and are still unconverted, are proud saints, who are an abomination to the Lord.

Augustine: Zephaniah 3:13. There is a difference between peccantes and peccatores, just as there is between scribentes and scriptores.

Bucer: Zephaniah 3:15. What we suffer is nothing but judgment, i.e., merited evil, and no one can turn it from us, but the Lord, who sends it. He who apprehends this by faith will learn to bear injuries and will be broken by no suffering.

Calvin: Zephaniah 3:16. On that day He says. But we must wait as long as it pleases God to disicipline his people under the cross. All men might have rest from nature and suffer nothing bad, therefore He sets right the too great precipitation, which we are accustomed to have under chastisement.

Bucer: Zephaniah 3:17. All blessings are in God. He dwells in the Church, so it has nothing further to desire.

Calvin: What seems more alien to the glory of God, than to exult like a man in the pleasure of love. But we would rest in Him, and, as He weans us from the world, strive after this one thing, that He would vouchsafe to us his favor: this is no derogation from, but a proof of his honor and glory. This is his chief glory—his unending and transcendent goodness, by which He has embraced us and conducted us to the end.

Bucer: Zephaniah 3:19. As a virtuous wife, who loves her husband sincerely, would a thousand times rather die than forsake him, or violate her fidelity to him, and yet does many things which she knows are displeasing to him, so it is with the hearts of the pious: they cannot apostatize from God, and they love Him above everything else, and yet the flesh is not entirely delivered from its weakness. There is no one, whom thou wouldst not be obliged to censure for many faults, no one, who does not constantly need the physician Christ, no one to whom we must not preach repentance. The more the truly pious apprehend that they are constantly in need of Christ, the more ardent will be their love to Him.

Schmieder: The lame and the cast out are the wretched and scattered, who limping after the flock, remain behind, or are driven into flight and scattered by the inroad of the wolf.

Zephaniah 3:20. “Thus has God spoken.”

Augustine: So great is the depth of the Holy Scriptures, that if one would apply himself to their study alone from childhood to declining age with the use of all his time and the greatest industry, he would be able to speak of daily progress. Not as though any one by diligence, however great, attained to know that which is necessary to salvation. But if one has grasped this by faith, and holds it fast, without which a pious and correct life is impossible, there always remains still for those who continue advancing farther such a great fullness of is mysterious and veiled, such an exalted wisdom in the matter and words, that precisely the longer, the more zealously, and with the more ardent desire for learning, one continues in them, the better he understands what Sirach has said ( Sirach 18:6): a man when he has even done his best, has scarcely begun; and if he thinks that he has completed his task, he is still far from it.


FN#1 - Zephaniah 3:8.—The LXX, the other Greek Versions, and the Syriac, render עַד by trstimony or witness; but when it has this meaning it is pointed עֵד. Comp. Genesis 49:27; Genesis 32:23. It is derived from עָדָה, to rush upon, to attack. See Ges. s. v.

FN#2 - Zephaniah 3:9.—שְׁכֶס אֶחָד, one shoulder, i.e, with unanimity. The figure is taken from those who carry burdens with even shoulders.

FN#3 - Zephaniah 3:10.—עֲתָרַי, from עָתַר, to burn incense, to pray as a suppliant. Some interpreters make it the subject of the verb “bring;” others, the object. See Exeget.

FN#4 - Zephaniah 3:14.—הָרִיעוּ is plural, because Israel is addressed as a plurality.

FN#5 - Zephaniah 3:15.—פִּכָּה, piel, signifies to clear from impediments, to put in order to prepare, e. g, a house. Genesis 24:31; Leviticus 14:36; a way, Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10; Malachi 3:1.

FN#6 - Zephaniah 3:18.—מוֹעֵד, the time of the feast, when all Israel gathered together to rejoice before Jehovah. It also signifies an assembly, and place of assembly.—C. E.]


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Zephaniah 3:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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