by Ken Cayce

Ken Cayce All rights reserved.


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Zephaniah Explained

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Book of Zephaniah Explained

Title: As with each of the 12 Minor Prophets, the prophecy bears the name of its author, which is generally thought to mean "the Lord hides" (compare 2:3).

Author - Date: Three other Old Testament individuals share his name. He traces his genealogy back 4 generations to King Hezekiah (ca. 715 - 686 B.C.), standing alone among the prophets descended from royal blood (1:1). Royal genealogy would have given him the ear of Judah's king, Josiah, during whose reign he preached.

The prophet himself dates his message during the reign of Josiah (640 - 609 B.C.). The moral and spiritual conditions detailed in the book (compare 1:4-6; 3:1-7), seem to place the prophecy prior to Josiah's reforms, when Judah was still languishing in idolatry and wickedness. It was (in 628 B.C.), that Josiah tore down all the altars to Baal, burned the bones of false prophets, and broke the carved idols (2 Chron. 34:3-7).

While other prophets gave their pedigrees (Isa. 1:1; Jer. 1:1; Joel 1:1; Zech. 1:1), none goes into such great detail as Zephaniah, whose lineage shows that he was the great-great-grandson of good King Hezekiah. Zechariah traces his lineage back to his grandfather (Zech. 1:1). Thus the prophet is a descendant of the royal line, which makes his rebuke of princes and nobles all the more significant (1:8, 13, 18). By giving his lineage and citing King Josiah, during whose reign he ministered, Zephaniah linked himself with the godly kings and the godly remnant of Israel's history. Zephaniah ministered several decades after Nahum and was an early contemporary of Jeremiah. Zephaniah has been called "the orator" because of the oratorical style evident throughout the prophecy. Zephaniah has some literary affinities with Isaiah, but more with Jeremiah and Joel. Both he and Joel paint very dark pictures of the Day of the Lord, but in both books beautiful rays of light penetrate the darkness. Two recurring expressions are important:

(1) "Remnant" (1:4; 2:7, 9; 3:13); and

(2) The "Day of the Lord" (1:7-10, 14-16, 18; 2:2-3; 3:8, 11, 16).

The purpose of Zephaniah's prophecy is to set forth what the Day of the Lord will mean to ungodly Judah, to the world powers (1:2 - 3:7), and to the godly remnant (3:8-20). His theme is the Day of the Lord, which destroys the false remnant of Baal (chapter 1), destroys the God-rejecting nations (Chapter 2), and purifies the true remnant (3:8-20).

Historical Setting: Zephaniah does not make great use of historical events in the course of his prophecy. Against the dark backdrop describing the judgment of God upon Judah and the nation, Zephaniah goes farther than any other of the minor prophets in emphasizing the future conversion of the Gentiles to the worship of the true God. Zephaniah dates his writing "in the days of Josiah" (1:1).

Josiah was the God-fearing son of Amon, who with his father, Manasseh, was two of the most wicked kings of Israel's history (2 Kings 22 and 23). During Josiah's reign a spiritual reformation, which touched only the small remnant in Judah, took place (in 621 B.C.; 2 Chron. 34:3-7).

Zephaniah mentions nothing of this reformation; thus, it is logical to conclude that his ministry preceded it, and his preaching probably prepared the way for, greatly advanced, and furthered the power of the spiritual reformation under King Josiah. If these observations are true, the prophecy must have been given before the reforms under Josiah (about 630 to 625 B.C.).

The place from which the prophet ministered is not known with certainty. The fact that the 10 northern tribes had been in captivity nearly a hundred years, together with his royal lineage (which would give him access to the king's court), making it most likely that he ministered in Jerusalem. He may even have resided in the palace complex.

Background - Setting: Politically, the imminent transfer of Assyrian world power to the Babylonians weakened Nineveh's hold on Judah, bringing an element of independence to Judah for the first time in 50 years. King Josiah's desire to retain this newfound freedom from taxation and subservience undoubtedly led him to interfere later with Egypt's attempt to interdict the fleeing king of Nineveh (in 609 B.C.; compare 2 Chron. 35:20-27).

While repairing the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the High-Priest found the Book of the Law (2 Kings 22:8). Upon reading it, Josiah initiated extensive reforms (2 Kings chapter 23). It was during the early years of Josiah's reign, prior to the great revival, that this 11th hour prophet, Zephaniah, prophesied and no doubt had an influence on the sweeping reforms Josiah brought to the nation. But the evil kings before Josiah (55 years), had had such an effect on Judah that it never recovered. Josiah's reforms were too late and didn't outlast his life.

Historical - Theological Themes: Zephaniah is a book of contrasts; for no other prophet paints a darker picture of God's judgment, and no prophet paints a brighter picture of Israel's future glory. Historically, the Book of Zephaniah was used in the providence of God to prepare Judah for the reforms and revival under King Josiah. Through the prophecy the nation of the prophet's day was faced with its sin, reminded of coming judgment, and instructed concerning the ultimate glory that will come to Israel.

Zephaniah's message on the Day of the Lord warned Judah that the final days were near, through divine judgment at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (ca. 605-586 B.C.; 1:4-13). Yet, it also looks beyond to the far fulfillment in the judgments of Daniel's 70th week (1:18; 3:8). The expression "Day of the Lord" is described as a day that is near (1:7), and as a day of wrath, trouble, distress, devastation, desolation, darkness, gloominess, clouds, thick darkness, trumpet, and alarm (1:15-16, 18). Yet even within these oracles of divine wrath, the prophet exhorted the people to seek the Lord, offering a shelter in the midst of judgment (2:3), and proclaiming the promise of eventual salvation for His believing remnant (2:7; 3:9-20).


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Zephaniah 1
Zephaniah 2
Zephaniah 3

Zephaniah 1

Zephaniah Chapter 1

Zephaniah 1:1 "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, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah."

Zephaniah 1:2 "I will utterly consume all [things] from off the land, saith the LORD."

Zephaniah 1:3 "I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD."

Zephaniah 1:4 "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;"

Zephaniah 1:5 "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;"

Zephaniah 1:6 "And them that are turned back from the LORD; and [those] that have not sought the LORD, nor inquired for him."

Zephaniah 1:7 "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."

Zephaniah 1:8 "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."

Zephaniah 1:9 "In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit."

Zephaniah 1:10 "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 a howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills."

Zephaniah 1:11 "Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off."

Zephaniah 1:12 "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."

Zephaniah 1:13 "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."

Zephaniah 1:14 "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."

Zephaniah 1:15 "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,"

Zephaniah 1:16 "A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers."

Zephaniah 1:17 "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."

Zephaniah 1:18 "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."

Zephaniah 2

Zephaniah Chapter 2

Zephaniah 2:1 "Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;"

Zephaniah 2:2 "Before the decree bring forth, [before] the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger come upon you."

Zephaniah 2:3 "Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger."

Zephaniah 2:4 "For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up."

Zephaniah 2:5 "Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD [is] against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant."

Zephaniah 2:6 "And the sea coast shall be dwellings [and] cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks."

Zephaniah 2:7 "And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity."

Zephaniah 2:8 "I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified [themselves] against their border."

Zephaniah 2:9 "Therefore [as] I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, [even] the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them."

Zephaniah 2:10 "This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified [themselves] against the people of the LORD of hosts."

Zephaniah 2:11 "The LORD [will be] terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and [men] shall worship him, every one from his place, [even] all the isles of the heathen."

Zephaniah 2:12 "Ye Ethiopians also, ye [shall be] slain by my sword."

Zephaniah 2:13 "And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, [and] dry like a wilderness."

Zephaniah 2:14 "And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; [their] voice shall sing in the windows; desolation [shall be] in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work."

Zephaniah 2:15 "This [is] the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I [am], and [there is] none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, [and] wag his hand."

Zephaniah 3

Zephaniah Chapter 3

Zephaniah 3:1 "Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!"

Zephaniah 3:2 "She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God."

Zephaniah 3:3 "Her princes within her [are] roaring lions; her judges [are] evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow."

Zephaniah 3:4 "Her prophets [are] light [and] treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law."

Zephaniah 3:5 "The just LORD [is] in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame."

Zephaniah 3:6 "I have cut off the nations: their towers are desolate; I made their streets waste, that none passeth by: their cities are destroyed, so that there is no man, that there is none inhabitant."

Zephaniah 3:7 "I said, Surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction; so their dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them: but they rose early, [and] corrupted all their doings."

Zephaniah 3:8 "Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination [is] to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, [even] all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy."

Zephaniah 3:9 "For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent."

Zephaniah 3:10 "From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, [even] the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering."

Zephaniah 3:11 "In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain."

Zephaniah 3:12 "I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD."

Zephaniah 3:13 "The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make [them] afraid."

Zephaniah 3:14 "Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem."

Zephaniah 3:15 "The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, [even] the LORD, [is] in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more."

Zephaniah 3:16 "In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: [and to] Zion, Let not thine hands be slack."

Zephaniah 3:17 "The LORD thy God in the midst of thee [is] mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."

Zephaniah 3:18 "I will gather [them that are] sorrowful for the solemn assembly, [who] are of thee, [to whom] the reproach of it [was] a burden."

Zephaniah 3:19 "Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame."

Zephaniah 3:20 "At that time will I bring you [again], even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD."