Prophet Of Royal Blood? – Zephaniah

Stamped bulla sealed by a servant of King Heze...

Stamped bulla sealed by a servant of King Hezekiah, formerly pressed against a cord; unprovenanced Redondo Beach collection of antiquities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Michelangelo's Hezekiah-Manasseh-Amon. Traditi...

Michelangelo’s Hezekiah-Manasseh-Amon. Traditionally Manasseh is the man on the right and Amon is the child on the left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
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.  

The Vision of Obadiah (Minor Prophets Part 4)

Mountains of Edom rise abruptly out of the desert landscarpe forming a natural barrier against attack

Mountains of Edom rise abruptly out of the desert landscarpe forming a natural barrier against attack

Consisting of one chapter with 21 verses, Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. The superscription calls it the “Vision of Obadiah.” The subject of the book, made very clear from the start, is Edom. The nation of Edom was fathered by Jacob’s brother, Esau, as detailed in Genesis 36, so they were actually relatives of the Israelites. Deuteronomy 2 tells us that God had given the Edomites Mount Seir and the mountain land around it for them to live in, which goes to explain a bit about  verse 3’s description of them and their false sense of security:

The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
“Who will bring me down to the ground?”

Dating this book is not difficult. Verse 11 speaks of the fall of Jerusalem as a past event, and the fall of Edom itself as a future event. The former event was in 586 B.C., and Babylon took Edom down in 553 B.C. – a span of about 33 years. So the book was probably written during the first half of the Babylonian exile.   In 586, when Israel was being attacked, the Edomites who were the brother nation of Israel, joined in (instead of assisting them), as they were hoping to gain favor with Babylon. They brutalized them, plundered Jerusalem, and even thwarted the escape of those who would flee the destruction. This book foretells God’s vengeance on them for their part in the persecution of God’s people. It certainly answers the plea of Psalm 137:7.

Though the message is that those who oppose God and His people will get their just judgment (verse 15), the book ends with the promise of restoration for His covenant people and the promise of the kingdom (verses 19-21).

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

 

Minor Prophets Part 1 – Hosea

As the Book of Hosea tells us in the opening verses, Hosea was called by God as a prophet during the time of Jeroboam II (whose last year of reign was ~753 BC) and Hezekiah (who reigned from about 729-687 BC, the first 14 years of which were as a co-regent with his father, Ahaz). Hosea was a prophet from the northern kingdom, prophesying to the people of the northern kingdom. It was a time of rampant and wanton idolatry that was beyond control, leading to Hezekiah’s reforms (2 Chronicles 29-32).

Temple of Baal at Palmyra, Syria. (III)

Temple of Baal at Palmyra, Syria. (III) (Photo credit: isawnyu)

The message in this book is about the betrayal and grief that God feels because of the unfaithfulness to him (idolatry) by the people of Israel. Hosea lived the message, as the Lord commanded him to marry a temple prostitute. Verse 2 of chapter 1 summarizes God’s feeling on that very well: “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.'” And again in Hosea 3:1: “And the Lord said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.'” Raisin cakes were used in fertility rites during idol worship, The cakes were sometimes molded into the shape of a female goddess.

To make Israel’s betrayal of the Lord worse, their idolatry had become so much a part of the culture that they mixed their worship of the “god” Baal with their worship of God, referring to the Lord Himself as Baal, and crediting Baal with all of the things that God had done for them (see, for example, Hosea 2:16-20).   Both Paul and Peter cite Hosea 2:23 to illustrate the inclusion of Gentiles in Christianity (Romans 9:25-26 and 1 Peter 2:9-10). Even their sacrifices to the lord had become so ceremonially polluted that they were offensive, rather than pleasing God. Hosea 6:6 sums up the Lord’s attitude toward their sacrifice: “for I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Hosea ministered during the latter half of the eighth century. This was a very volatile time in Israel’s history, and saw the rise of the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III, followed by several other kings that would bring Assyrian dominance. Israel had a succession of kings until Hoshea (732-722 BC), whose rebellion against the Assyrians led to the end of the northern kingdom (2 Kings 17). Hosea’s message centered on the worship of Baal which he obviously believed to be the reason for Israel’s doom. Baal was the weather god that idolaters believed to have control over agriculture, fertility, and rainfall. Israel being a largely agricultural society, they were always ripe for Baal worship.

Hosea and Gomer, from the Bible Historiale. De...

Hosea and Gomer, from the Bible Historiale. Den Haag, MMW, 10 B 23 426r (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Baal was worshiped at various shrines where he was called by names such as Baal-peor (Hosea 9:10) and Baal-gad (Joshua 11:17). Sometimes the scripture refers to “them” as “the Baals” (Judges 2:11, 3:7, and 8:33). Beyond the supposed fertility and weather aspects, such worship had a tremendous appeal to sexuality (hence the ritual prostitution), and also such things as drunkenness, incest, bestiality, and even human sacrifice. Sexual acts were believed to make Baal respond favorably to the subject.

The Book of Hosea helps us view idolatry from God’s perspective, so we can apply it to our lives. Today, our “gods” do not seem much like the gods and goddesses of those days. But Idolatry is the act or lifestyle that places someone or something in the central and prominent place in our lives that rightly belongs to God. Our betrayals hurt the Lord just as much. The prophet in this book, makes it clear that God will punish such idolatry, and illustrates Israel’s unfaithfulness in many different ways. Hosea portrays Israel as an adulterous wife, an ungrateful son, a stubborn heifer, and more. But the book shows us as well that even Israel’s unfaithfulness and stubbornness are no match for God’s capacity for redeeming love.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
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.