Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Zephaniah-Chapter 1

The book of Zephaniah is one of the lesser taught books but it is a very important one. Zephaniah means “Yehovah hides” and eschatologically it will relate to the last half of the Birth-pains, or “tribulation.” The book is dated to the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC) and probably before Josiah’s reforms when Judah was heavily involved in idolatry. Some prophets give their lineage, but few give the detail that Zephaniah does, which shows he is the great, great-grandson of King Hezekiah. That makes him a descendant of David, in the royal line. By giving this lineage he links himself with the godly kings of the past, so his rebukes are noticed. He prophesied twenty years or so after Nahum and was a contemporary with a young Jeremiah.

There is a shift of power going on in the middle east from Assyria to Babylon, so Ninevah’s hold on Judah was weakened. As a result, Judah has some freedom. This book will be used by God to prepare Judah for Josiah’s reforms and Torah revival. Judah is faced with its sin and knows about the coming judgment and ultimate glory. Zephaniah warns that the “day of the Lord” is near at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. But it also looks beyond to the birth-pains of the Messiah and the fulfillment of Daniel’s seventieth week. Even though the day of the Lord is one of trouble, wrath, distress, devastation, and darkness, Zephaniah also offers a hiding place for those who seek Yehovah. The eventual salvation of the believing remnant is also prophesied.

v 1…The word of the Lord (Yehovah) which came to Zephaniah (Yehovah hides), son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amaziah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah, son of Amon king of Judah:

v 2…”I will completely remove all from the face of the land (Judah),” declares the Lord.

v 3…”I will remove man and beast; I will remove the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea (so that man cannot use them for food in a famine that was coming), and the ruins (idols) along with the wicked (rashim); and I will cut off man from the face of the land (Judah),” declares the Lord.

v 3…”So I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and I will cut off the remnant of Baal (left over after the ten tribes departed) from this place, the names of the consecrated servants (those appointed by the kings of Judah for the worship of the high places and the idolatrous worship of Yehovah), along with the priests (the idolatrous priests in the strictest sense).

v 5…And those who bow down on the housetops to the hosts of heaven, and those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by their king (Baal-along with two classes of priests were shown, two classes of worshipers set for destruction.

v 6…And those who have turned back from following the Lord, and those who have not sought the Lord or inquired of him (a third class of the religious indifferent).”

v 7…Be silent (don’t even dispute the point, judgment is coming) before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord (this term is often used although it is referenced to as “that day” in other places. The day of the Lord is when Yehovah reveals his power to overthrow his enemies and defends the kingdom; it is also a term meaning “when Messiah comes” and a term for Rosh Ha Shannah and the last one thousand years in Jewish eschatology) is near (Hebrew “karav” meaning here now). For the Lord has prepared a sacrifice (Hebrew “zevach” meaning a festive meal, and Judah is to be consumed by the nations), he has consecrated his guests (set apart the nations).

v 8…Then it will come about on the day (day of the Lord) of the Lord’s sacrifice (when Judah is offered), that I will punish the princes, the king’s sons (the royal family and superior servants), and all who clothe themselves with foreign dress (to imitate the customs of the foreigners-Matt 22.1-14).

v 9…And I will punish on that day all who leap on the threshold (a violent rushing into the houses to steal property), who fill the house of their master with violence and deceit (they thought that was the best way to serve their master).

v 10…And on that day,” declares the Lord, “there will be the sound of a cry from the Fish Gate (western portion of the wall on the north side-2 Kings 22.14), and a loud crash from the hills (the breaking to pieces of what exists-the city is being conquered, utter destruction).

v 11…Wail (howl), O inhabitants of Maktesh (a locality in Jerusalem with a depression), for the people of Canaan are destroyed (these are Judean merchants, not Canaanites because they were acting like Canaanites); all who weighed out silver will be cut off (they grew rich through trade and interest).

v 12…And it will come about at that time that I will search Jerusalem with candles (to bring out the wicked from their hiding places) and I will punish them who are stagnant (settled, apathetic) on their lees (like old wine which is not drawn off, a picture of moral and religious complacency; neither hot nor cold) who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good or evil (meaning things will go on as usual)!’

v 13…Moreover, their wealth will become plunder, and their houses desolate (robbed during the fall of the city). Yes, they will build houses but not inhabit them (destruction taking place before they can move into them), and plant vineyards but not drink their wine (destruction taking place before they can even harvest the grapes).”

v 14…Near (karav or “here now, close) is the great day of the Lord (judgment on Judah, also alluding to the birth-pains), near (karav) and coming quickly; listen, the day of the Lord! In it the warrior bitterly cries (because he can’t save himself and must give up).

v 15…A day of wrath is that day (now the effect of that day on men is brought out), a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

v 16…a day of trumpet (of war) and battle cry (shouting) against the fortified cities and the high corner towers (battlements, fortifications).

v 17…And I will bring distress on men, so that they will walk like the blind (seek a way out but can’t find one), because they sinned against the Lord (by falling away from the Torah into idolatry, etc); and their blood will be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung (worthless, no regard them).

v 18…Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; all the land (Judah) will be devoured in the fire of his jealousy, for he will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the land (this fire will burn up all the briars and thorns of sinful Judah. Eschatologically these verses will not be limited to the land of Israel, but the whole world)

Posted in All Teachings, Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Feasts of the Lord, The Tanach, Tying into the New Testament

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