Zephaniah 1 - Outline of Zephaniah (Book Notes menu page)
1. The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi,
the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah
{ie., Hezekiah},
in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
Zephaniah identifies himself as a great-great-grandson of king Hezekiah.
As such, the prophet was in the royal line of David.
"The days of Josiah," in which Zephaniah ministered were characterized by a spiritual revival in Judah,
as recorded in 2Kings ch. 22-23 and 2Chronicles ch. 34
The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah, declared imminent judgment upon the nation.
Outwardly, they had turned back from idols to their God. But inwardly, their hearts were far from Him.
     The four kings who followed Josiah were wicked, and quickly turned the nation back from the reforms which Josiah had instituted. Judgment came swiftly via the Babylonian captivity, in three waves over the course of 22 years. The first wave, during which Daniel was taken captive, occurred only 11 years after the death of Josiah.
     Zephaniah, like his contemporaries, Habakkuk and Jeremiah (Jer 1:1,2), spoke of the impending Babylonian invasion of Judah, as judgment upon the unrepentant nation (Jer 25:1-9; Hab 1:6). However, Zephaniah, who never mentions the near term invaders by name, focuses on the future Day of the LORD and the conclusion of all judgments.
Zephaniah's name means "treasured (or hidden) by Jehovah."
The prophetic message is of judgments, so severe that they cause the end of all flesh. Yet, through these judgments, the LORD moves with purpose, borne of tender love for His treasured possession, the believing Remnant. He will bring His own safely through the purifying fires of judgment, until they rejoice together with Him in His Kingdom.
2 I will utterly consume all [things] from off the land, saith the LORD.
3 I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven,
and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked;
and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.
In these verses, the word 'land' {HB='adamah, earth, inhabited earth} appears to refer to the whole world.
The usual word for the 'land' of Israel {HB='erets, territory, country} is applied to Israel, in v.18 (2x).
I will utterly consume all things...
Elsewhere, similar language is used of the judgment of Israel (Jer 4:23-29; Hos 4:1-3). Both of those passages speak specifically of judgment upon the 'land' {HB='erets} of Israel.
I will consume man... I will cut off man {HB='adam, mankind (2x)} from off the land {HB='adamah}...
The severity of the judgment described here appears to extend beyond Israel to the entire inhabited earth, affecting all mankind. Compare Rev 8:7-13; Mat 24:22
...and the stumblingblocks with the wicked...
The word 'stumblingblocks' {HB=makselah, ruin, fall, enticement} is applied to evil influences which cause God's people to fall away from Him (such as the love of money, Eze 7:19, and the worship of idols, Eze 14:3-8), and also to the ruinous result of turning to these things from God (Eze 18:30, where this word is translated 'ruin').
     The 'wicked' {HB=rasha} are those, who because of hostility toward God, promote the evil influences which turn people away from the LORD (Psa 7:9; 17:13). In Zephaniah's day, the wicked would include the priests and people who worshipped idols. In the Day of the LORD, it will include the Antichrist and all who prefer his lies to God's truth (2The 2:3-12).
4 I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah,
and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place,
[and] the name of the Chemarims with the priests;
5 And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops;
and them that worship [and] that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham;
6 And them that are turned back from the LORD;
and [those] that have not sought the LORD, nor enquired for him.
I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah... - 2Kin 21:13; Isa 14:26,27
While v.2-3 provide a brief overview of the LORD's judgment upon the whole world, the remainder of this chapter declares that He will also judge Judah and Jerusalem. Note that the LORD is the active agent in judgment, repeatedly stating "I will... I will..."
Several categories of people are identified for judgment by the LORD:
1. Apostates from true religion to idolatry...
  • ...I will cut off the remnant of Baal... the Chemarims with the priests...
    Baal worship, introduced to the northern kingdom, by Ahab and Jezebel, overflowed to the southern kingdom. Several of Judah's kings, including Hezekiah, had sought to eradicate idol worship. But the kings who followed them, like Hezekiah's son Manasseh, and Josiah's father Amon, turned the people back to idols. 2Kin 21:1-9,18-22; 2Chr 33:1-9,20-22
         When Josiah came to power, he destroyed the temple, altars and priests of Baal (2Chr 34:1-7; 2Kin 23:1-20). But in their hearts, many of the people continued to worship false gods. These were the 'remnant' of Baal.
         The Chemarim {HB=kamar, black priests} were 'idolatrous priests' (as the word is translated in 2Kin 23:5). The priests {HB=cohen, priest} of the LORD, who cooperated with the false religionists, would suffer the same fate.
2. Worshippers of the creation, rather than the Creator (Rom 1:18-25)
  • them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops...
    Josiah destroyed the altars which previous kings had made, in the Temple, and on the palace roof, for the worship of sun, moon and stars (2Kin 23:12). But the common people had allowed this error to enter their own homes and rooftops, much as many today, allow evil influences into their homes via TV and the internet (Jer 19:13).
3. Ecumenists, who attempt to unite all religions...
  • them that swear by the LORD and... by Malcham {ie., Molech}...
    Molech was a hideous idol to which children were burned alive (caused to 'pass through the fire'). The people would offer a child sacrifice, and then enter into the Temple, as though the LORD should be pleased with them. Eze 23:38,39
         The worship of Baal, Molech and other idols involved other grossly immoral practices, including sexual perversions. However, being willfully ignorant of God's Word, the people engaged in fleshly false religion, practicing things forbidden by God, and, yet, they expected the LORD to bless them. But He says, 'I will cut them off...' (v.4; 2Pet 2:18-22)
         Man's religion and God's religion are completely incompatible. They cannot be united. One must serve the true and living God alone, or not at all. 1Kin 18:21; Mat 6:24
4. Backsliders...
  • them that turn back from the LORD...
    for though they have heard His Word, they reject its personal application, in order to go their own way. Prov 1:29-33; Jer 2:13; 15:6; Heb 10:38,39
5. Godless persons, satisfied with their self-sufficiency and self-righteousness...
  • those that have not sought the LORD, nor enquired of Him...
    for having no sense of guilt, they see no need for His mercy. Psa 10:4; 14:2,3; Rom 3:11; Heb 2:3
7. Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD:
for the day of the LORD [is] at hand:
for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.
8 And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD'S sacrifice,
that I will punish the princes, and the king's children,
and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.
9 In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold,
which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit.
Hold thy peace...
God has stated His determination to judge the earth and all mankind. He will not be dissuaded from His purpose, by the arguments of any man. Zech 2:13; Rom 3:19; 9:20
...the Day of the LORD is at hand...
As the prophet wrote, the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem was drawing very near. Yet, the devastation of that event is set forth as an illustration of the terrors of the future day of worldwide judgment, at the end of the times of the Gentiles. That Day, is also at hand {near}, according to the LORD's reckoning of time (Psa 90:4; 2Pet 3:8).
...the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice...
The sacrifice is of men of war... the guests are carnivorous birds and beasts... The ultimate fulfillment will be at Armageddon. Eze 39:17-20; Rev 19:17,18
...I will punish the princes... the king's children... such as are clothed in strange {ie., foreign} apparel...
'Punish' {HB=paqad} refers to a reckoning of accounts. The LORD will attend to giving men that which they deserve.
     Zedekiah (the last king of Jerusalem) was punished at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, who slew his sons before him, and then put out his eyes (2Kin 25:1-7).
     Yet, Babylon, whose clothing and uniforms were foreign to Israel, would also be punished in due time. It is also possible that 'strange clothing' may refer to the robes of idolatrous priests (2Kin 10:22), or to moral confusion within Judah (Deu 22:5).
...I will punish them that leap upon the thresholds...
This refers to the zeal with which the servants, of the rich and powerful, plundered the resources of the common people, to enrich their masters (eg., Mic 2:1,2).
Verses 4-9 reveal the true heart condition of the nation, during Josiah's revival.
10 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD,
[that there shall be] the noise of a cry from the fish gate,
and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills.
11 Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh,
for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.
...the noise... a cry {of distress}... a howling {wailing}... a great crashing {breaking}...
These are the terrifying sounds of the fall of Jerusalem, as the enemy broke through the defenses. They would enter through a gate on the northern wall, and then open one gate after another, until they controlled the city center. Maktesh {meaning 'a mortar' or 'deep hollow'} was a low area, adjacent to the western wall of the Temple mount, where the city's primary marketplace was located. The location corresponds approximately (and appropriately) to the plaza of the 'Wailing Wall,' today.
12 And it shall come to pass at that time, [that] I will search Jerusalem with candles,
and punish the men that are settled on their lees:
that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.
13 Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation:
they shall also build houses, but not inhabit [them];
and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.
...I will search Jerusalem with candles...-
Of course, the LORD sees all. He needs no artificial light to search the shadows of our hearts. Nothing is hidden from Him. He will bring our secret sins to light for judgment. Psa 90:7,8; Jer 16:17; Amos 9:1-3; Jer 5:1,2
...and [I will] punish the men...
  • that are settled on their lees...- ie., 'that are at ease' (See this idiom in Jer 48:11).
    The wealthy and powerful lived without care, due to their ill gained affluence (v.9). For those, whom they oppressed, life was hard. But they were comfortable.
         The leaders rested on their economic strength and also on the military power of the nation and its allies (eg., Amos 6:1).
  • that say... the LORD will not do good... neither will he do evil.
    They did not believe God's Word, through the prophets, concerning the coming judgment. Psa 10:11-13; Isa 5:18,19; 2Pet 3:4
Therefore... - They would be overtaken by the judgment, at which they mocked.
Their possessions would be taken from them, as the spoils of war. They would no longer be at ease. They would no longer enjoy the comforts of their homes or the fruits of their vineyards, because they would be slain or carried away as captives. (eg., Amos 5:11)
14. The great day of the LORD [is] near,
[it is] near, and hasteth greatly,
[even] the voice of the day of the LORD:
the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
15 That day [is] a day of wrath,
a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation,
a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16 A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.
The great day of the LORD...- is the future Great Tribulation, the Time of Jacob's Trouble. v.7; Jer 30:7
The pictures of the near and far judgments overlap.
...it is near, and hasteth greatly...
After king Josiah (v.1), there were no good kings in Judah. The kingdom continued in a tightening downward spiral, until Jerusalem fell to Babylon.
     After the LORD removes His people, in the Rapture of the church, the whole world will rapidly descend to the judgments foretold at the end of the age. But even now, that Day is rushing very rapidly toward us. The time for repentance will pass very quickly.
     For the men of Jerusalem who ignored God's warning, the day of calamity came (eg., Eze 7:6,7). The day of judgment will just as surely dawn upon today's doubters (Rev 6:17).
...the voice {or, sound, noise} of the Day of the LORD...- see v.10-11
that day is a day of wrath...-
The weight of each descriptive term is amplified with another word of similar meaning:
  • a day of trouble and distress...- ie., trouble and more trouble.
  • a day of wasteness and desolation...- ie., desolation upon desolation.
  • a day of darkness and gloominess...- ie., darkness compounded with darkness. Joel 2:2,11; Amos 5:18
  • a day of clouds and thick darkness...- ie., storm clouds boiling with the righteousness of God's Presence. (eg., Ex 20:21)
    The picture of God's wrath is terrifying, causing even mighty men to weep. Yet, such harsh judgment issues from God's heart of love. Because sin destroys His people, He will not allow it to continue. God's wrath is full of loving mercy for His own (Psa 97:1-3).
  • a day of the trumpet and alarm...- When the LORD led His people, the trumpet was sounded as a call to war, and to announce victory, by His power (Num 10:9). But when Babylon besieged Jerusalem, the trumpet would sound alarm upon alarm, for the city would fall.
17 And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men,
because they have sinned against the LORD:
and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath;
but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy:
for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.
I will bring distress upon men... because they have sinned...
The LORD performs radical surgery to remove the cancer of sin from His people.
neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver... (v.11)
Israel, like our own country today, placed its confidence in the almighty dollar, to buy allies, and arms. Men, like us, trusted in what they had stored away, for escape or survival in hard times. Psa 49:6-9; 52:5-7; Isa 2:20,21; Eze 7:19
     There is no escaping, when God's jealousy for His people, breaks forth in judgment. Deu 29:18-29
...the whole land... devoured... a speedy riddance of them that dwell in the land...
The 'land' {HB='erets} of Israel was devastated and its people were carried away, by the Babylonians, in 586 BC.

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