The prophet Zephaniah is introduced this way in verse one of chapter one of his book: “The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.” Many believe that the Hezekiah mentioned here was King Hezekiah, who reined between 715 and 686 B.C. If so, that would make Zephaniah his great-great-grandson. This would fit the timeline generally accepted for Zephaniah’s prophecy as during the reign of Josiah (640 – 609 B.C.)
There is some reason to believe that Zephaniah may have encouraged Josiah’s reforms. If so, since those reforms started in the 18th year of his reign (2 Kings 22-23), Zephaniah’s prophecies likely occurred before 622 -621 B.C. Judah was at the height of its rampant immorality and idolatry pattern, with good king Josiah replacing two previous kings that were extremely wicked (Amon and Manasseh). His message, prevalent throughout the book, was “the day of the Lord is coming” – which always means that a time of decisive action by God is at hand.
The first mention of the phrase in this book comes in Zephaniah 1:7, which also says “…the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests.” That sacrifice is Judah, and verses 3-4 warn that God is bringing massive destruction on His people and Jerusalem. Verses 14-18 expound in darkly poetic terms on just what “the day of the Lord” will mean to them, and the picture cannot be ambiguous to anyone. Chapter 2 tells them what they should do – which of course is to repent. Zephaniah 3:1-4 present the reasons for God’s judgment on Jerusalem, placing blame on corrupt and evil leadership as well:
Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled,
the oppressing city!
She listens to no voice;
she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the Lord;
she does not draw near to her God.
Her officials within her
are roaring lions;
her judges are evening wolves
that leave nothing till the morning.
Chapter 3:14-20 conclude with a promise of a glorious time of restoration and a Messianic future. It promises the survival of a remnant. The best advice for the faithful comes in Chapter 2:3:
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,
who do his just commands;
seek righteousness; seek humility;
perhaps you may be hidden
on the day of the anger of the Lord
The Book of Zephaniah seems to come very close to the time of the impending destruction by the Chaldeans. But the book does promise judgment on the other nations, particularly their wicked neighbors, for their complicity. Chapter 2:4-10 promises that the remnant of God’s people will have their day where those nations are concerned – promises that history itself has told us that God has kept:
For Gaza shall be deserted,
and Ashkelon shall become a desolation;
Ashdod’s people shall be driven out at noon,
and Ekron shall be uprooted.
Woe to you inhabitants of the seacoast,
you nation of the Cherethites!
The word of the Lord is against you,
O Canaan, land of the Philistines;
and I will destroy you until no inhabitant is left.
And you, O seacoast, shall be pastures,
with meadows for shepherds
and folds for flocks.
The seacoast shall become the possession
of the remnant of the house of Judah,
on which they shall graze,
and in the houses of Ashkelon
they shall lie down at evening.
For the Lord their God will be mindful of them
and restore their fortunes.
“I have heard the taunts of Moab
and the revilings of the Ammonites,
how they have taunted my people
and made boasts against their territory.
Therefore, as I live,” declares the Lord of hosts,
the God of Israel,
“Moab shall become like Sodom,
and the Ammonites like Gomorrah,
a land possessed by nettles and salt pits,
and a waste forever.
The remnant of my people shall plunder them,
and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.”
This shall be their lot in return for their pride,
because they taunted and boasted
against the people of the Lord of hosts.
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.