: Chapter 2 Chapter
Zephaniah 1: Judgment
on the earth in the day of the Lord
Comments: The three chapters of Zephaniah's prophecies
very much need to be seen in their historical setting – see below
– but there is a remarkable transition from strong words of prophetic
judgment in the first two and a half chapters which give way to
amazing words or reconciliation and restoration in the second
half of chapter 3. What brings the change? The Lord declares He
will purify the nation. Seen in the context of the Exile that
comes in a matter of decades, the people were sent out of their
land to have their hearts changed so that when the Lord brought
them back they were a changed people. This is what the rejoicing
in the end is all about.]
Time & Person identified
word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah son
of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of
Hezekiah, during the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah:
was probably written about
640 BC just before the time of Josiah's reforms after the nation
had descended into spiritual apostasy yet again under Amon, Josiah's
father [see 2 Kings 21:24-26], hence some of the strong words
spoken against Judah and Jerusalem below. The historical context
and timing is important to understand the warnings here.]
A Comprehensive Judgment of the whole earth
will sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,'
declares the Lord.
will sweep away both man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea –
and the idols that cause the wicked to
I destroy all mankind
on the face of the earth,'
declares the Lord,
devastating judgment must, one might think, refer to the very
end when the Lord brings the earth to an end to create a new heaven
and a new earth, but later in the chapter it seems to be applied
to the present [see below]. The warning, we must assume, comes
here as a backdrop to current history to remind the king and the
people that the Lord is sovereign and will not tolerate sin on
the earth [specifically this land] which has only a limited lifetime.]
That Judgment to include Judah & Jerusalem
will stretch out my hand against Judah
and against all who live in Jerusalem
I will destroy every remnant of Baal worship in this place,
the very names of the idolatrous priests –
who bow down on the roofs
to worship the starry host,
those who bow down and swear by the Lord
and who also swear by Molek,
who turn back from following the Lord
and neither seek the Lord nor enquire
the ‘big picture' of ‘the whole earth', the prophecy rapidly refocuses
on Judah and Jerusalem which [probably because of Amon – see above]
have many signs of idol worship remaining and the Lord proclaims
a destruction of those idols.]
A specific day for the judgment
silent before the Sovereign Lord,
for the day of the Lord
The Lord has prepared a sacrifice;
he has consecrated those he has invited.
On the day of the Lord's sacrifice
I will punish the officials
and the king's sons
and all those clad
in foreign clothes.
On that day I will punish
all who avoid stepping on the threshold,
who fill the temple of their gods
with violence and deceit.
On that day,'
declares the Lord,
‘a cry will go up from the Fish Gate,
wailing from the New Quarter,
and a loud crash from the hills.
part of the prophecy reveals that there is coming a specific time
in heaven's calendar when the Lord's judgment will come to punish
all those idol worshippers.]
It will be judgment on the rich and complacent
you who live in the market district;
all your merchants will be wiped out,
all who trade with silver will be destroyed.
that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps
and punish those who are complacent,
who are like wine left on its dregs,
who think, “The Lord will do nothing,
either good or bad.”
wealth will be plundered,
their houses demolished.
Though they build houses,
they will not live in them;
though they plant vineyards,
they will not drink the wine.'
it is not merely the king or religious leaders who have this indifference
to the Lord for it has spread throughout all the upper part of
society to the rich merchants who carry out their business with
not a thought for the Lord.]
It will be a day of great wrath
great day of the Lord is near –
near and coming quickly.
The cry on the day of the Lord is bitter;
the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry.
will be a day of wrath –
a day of distress and
of trouble and ruin,
a day of darkness and
y of clouds and blackness –
a day of trumpet and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the corner towers.
day of judgment is coming soon, a day of distress and destruction.]
It will be a day of great distress from nothing can save them
will bring such distress on all people
that they will grope about like those
who are blind,
because they have sinned against the Lord.
Their blood will be poured out like dust
and their entrails like dung.
their silver nor their gold
will be able to save them
on the day of the Lord's wrath.'
the fire of his jealousy
the whole earth will be consumed,
for he will make a sudden end
of all who live on the earth.
day will include all peoples of the land for their apostasy, a
complete destruction and reference to “all who live on the earth”,
in this present context, must mean the land of Judah and the surrounding
nations. Josiah's reforms perhaps initially stayed this judgment
but it came, according to the descriptions above, with a series
of invasions by Nebuchadnezzar and eventually the destruction
of Jerusalem in 587BC.]
Zephaniah 2: Judgements
on the nations
Judah and Jerusalem [implied from what has gone before]
together, gather yourselves together,
you shameful nation,
the decree takes effect
and that day passes like windblown chaff,
before the Lord's fierce anger
comes upon you,
before the day of the Lord's wrath
comes upon you.
the Lord, all you humble of the land,
you who do what he commands.
Seek righteousness, seek humility;
perhaps you will be sheltered
on the day of the Lord's anger.
is actually a call to repentance, a call that comes giving them
time before the judgment actually comes.]
Gaza will be abandoned
and Ashkelon left in
At midday Ashdod will be emptied
and Ekron uprooted.
to you who live by the sea,
you Kerethite people;
the word of the Lord is against you,
Canaan, land of the Philistines.
He says, ‘ I will destroy you,
and none will be left.'
various cities of the Philistines are also named for destruction.]
Their land will be given to the survivors of Judah
land by the sea will become pastures
having wells for shepherds
and sheepfolds for flocks.
land will belong
to the remnant of the people of Judah;
there they will find pasture.
In the evening they will lie down
in the houses of Ashkelon.
The Lord their God will care for them;
he will restore their fortunes.
land will be taken and given to the remnant of Israel.]
Moab and Ammon Condemned
have heard the insults of Moab
and the taunts of the Ammonites,
who insulted my people
and made threats against their land.
as surely as I live,'
declares the Lord Almighty,
the God of Israel,
‘surely Moab will become like Sodom,
the Ammonites like Gomorrah –
a place of weeds and salt pits,
a wasteland for ever.
The remnant of my people will plunder them;
the survivors of my nation will inherit
is what they will get in return for their pride,
for insulting and mocking
the people of the Lord Almighty.
Lord will be awesome to them
when he destroys all the gods of the earth.
Distant nations will bow down to him,
all of them in their own lands.
two other peoples to the south and east who have always been against
Israel will also be destroyed.]
will be slain by my sword.'
people of the south are also included in the warnings of coming
will stretch out his hand against the north
and destroy Assyria,
leaving Nineveh utterly desolate
and dry as the desert.
and herds will lie down there,
creatures of every kind.
The desert owl and the screech owl
will roost on her columns.
Their hooting will echo through the windows,
rubble will fill the doorways,
the beams of cedar will be exposed.
is the city of revelry
that lived in safety.
She said to herself,
‘I am the one! And there is none besides
What a ruin she has become,
a lair for wild beasts!
All who pass by her scoff
and shake their fists.
the lands of the north, of the mighty Assyria, are included in
this roundup of nations that are going to be destroyed, probably
in the days to come by the might of Babylon.]
Jerusalem Again Condemned
to the city of oppressors,
rebellious and defiled!
obeys no one,
she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the Lord,
she does not draw near to her
officials within her
are roaring lions;
her rulers are evening wolves,
who leave nothing for the morning.
Her prophets are unprincipled;
they are treacherous people.
Her priests profane the sanctuary
and do violence to the law.
Lord within her is righteous;
he does no wrong.
Morning by morning he dispenses his justice,
and every new day he does not fail,
yet the unrighteous know no shame.
prophecies return to Jerusalem and Judah, a land of priests and
priests [v.4] where the Lord dwells [v.5] where the condemnation
and reasons for judgment are clarified as above.]
Jerusalem remains unrepentant
have destroyed nations;
their strongholds are demolished.
I have left their streets deserted,
with no one passing through.
Their cities are laid waste;
they are deserted and empty.
Jerusalem I thought,
“Surely you will fear me
and accept correction!”
Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed,
nor all my punishments come upon her.
But they were still eager
to act corruptly in all they did.
wait for me,'
declares the Lord,
‘for the day I will stand up to testify.
I have decided to assemble the nations,
to gather the kingdoms
and to pour out my wrath on them –
all my fierce anger.
The whole world will be consumed
by the fire of my jealous anger.
Lord has revealed His power and judgments in other places [v.6]
but Jerusalem failed to recognise this and remained unrepentant
[v.7] therefore in the court of heaven they will be condemned
[v.8]. They need to heed this warning.]
Jerusalem will be purified by the Lord
I will purify the lips of the peoples,
that all of them may call on the name
of the Lord
and serve him shoulder to shoulder.
beyond the rivers of Cush
my worshippers, my scattered people,
will bring me offerings.
that day you, Jerusalem, will not be put to shame
for all the wrongs you have done to me,
because I will remove from you
your arrogant boasters.
Never again will you be haughty
on my holy hill.
I will leave within you
the meek and humble.
The remnant of Israel
will trust in the name of the Lord.
will do no wrong;
they will tell no lies.
A deceitful tongue
will not be found in their mouths.
They will eat and lie down
and no one will make them afraid.'
verses are the key to all that follows – Lord will purify His
people. When He sent them into exile in Babylon it was to purify
and transform their hearts so when they eventually returned they
were a different people.]
They will be a praising punishment-free people
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
Having purified them through repentance the cause of any further
punishment has been removed and thus they can now rejoice.]
A People Reconciled to their God again
they will say to Jerusalem,
‘Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.'
big result is that they will be reconciled to God who will dwell
in their midst again.]
I will remove from you
all who mourn over the loss of your appointed
which is a burden and reproach for you.
that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you.
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather the exiles.
I will give them praise and honour
in every land where they have suffered
that time I will gather you;
at that time I will
bring you home.
I will give you honour and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes
before your very eyes,'
says the Lord.
eight [number of resurrection] ‘I will's shows the process: cleansing,
enemies subdued, set free from exile, gathered out of Babylon
with praise in honour, gathered and taken home where the world
will see the wonder of what has happened to them.]