6 In the year that King Uzziahdied,I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I.Send me!”
9 He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.[a] Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”
And he answered:
“Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, 12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. 13 And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
Isaiah 6:10 Hebrew; Septuagint ‘You will be ever hearing, but never understanding; / you will be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ / 10 This people’s heart has become calloused; / they hardly hear with their ears, / and they have closed their eyes
Some passages of Scripture speak so plainly to us that we are left on our knees in prayer. Mankind has not changed much since the days of Jeremiah the Prophet, and because we live in a time when teaching the wrath of GOD is not considered “politically correct”, we miss one of the most basic teachings of scripture. Every child gets warning after warning to change their ways–and we as parents discipline when those changes do not occur. Since we are made in the image of Christ, wouldn’t we as children of GOD expect discipline also?
New Living Translation (NLT)
Jerusalem’s Last Warning
6 “Run for your lives, you people of Benjamin! Get out of Jerusalem! Sound the alarm in Tekoa! Send up a signal at Beth-hakkerem! A powerful army is coming from the north, coming with disaster and destruction. 2 O Jerusalem,[a] you are my beautiful and delicate daughter— but I will destroy you! 3 Enemies will surround you, like shepherds camped around the city. Each chooses a place for his troops to devour. 4 They shout, ‘Prepare for battle! Attack at noon!’ ‘No, it’s too late; the day is fading, and the evening shadows are falling.’ 5 ‘Well then, let’s attack at night and destroy her palaces!’”
6 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: “Cut down the trees for battering rams. Build siege ramps against the walls of Jerusalem. This is the city to be punished, for she is wicked through and through. 7 She spouts evil like a fountain. Her streets echo with the sounds of violence and destruction. I always see her sickness and sores. 8 Listen to this warning, Jerusalem, or I will turn from you in disgust. Listen, or I will turn you into a heap of ruins, a land where no one lives.”
9 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: “Even the few who remain in Israel will be picked over again, as when a harvester checks each vine a second time to pick the grapes that were missed.”
Judah’s Constant Rebellion
10 To whom can I give warning? Who will listen when I speak? Their ears are closed, and they cannot hear. They scorn the word of the Lord. They don’t want to listen at all. 11 So now I am filled with the Lord’s fury. Yes, I am tired of holding it in!
“I will pour out my fury on children playing in the streets and on gatherings of young men, on husbands and wives and on those who are old and gray. 12 Their homes will be turned over to their enemies, as will their fields and their wives. For I will raise my powerful fist against the people of this land,” says the Lord. 13 “From the least to the greatest, their lives are ruled by greed. From prophets to priests, they are all frauds. 14 They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. 15 Are they ashamed of their disgusting actions? Not at all—they don’t even know how to blush! Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered. They will be brought down when I punish them,” says the Lord.
Judah Rejects the Lord’s Way
16 This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ 17 I posted watchmen over you who said, ‘Listen for the sound of the alarm.’ But you replied, ‘No! We won’t pay attention!’
18 “Therefore, listen to this, all you nations. Take note of my people’s situation. 19 Listen, all the earth! I will bring disaster on my people. It is the fruit of their own schemes, because they refuse to listen to me. They have rejected my word. 20 There’s no use offering me sweet frankincense from Sheba. Keep your fragrant calamus imported from distant lands! I will not accept your burnt offerings. Your sacrifices have no pleasing aroma for me.”
21 Therefore, this is what the Lord says: “I will put obstacles in my people’s path. Fathers and sons will both fall over them. Neighbors and friends will die together.”
An Invasion from the North
22 This is what the Lord says: “Look! A great army coming from the north! A great nation is rising against you from far-off lands. 23 They are armed with bows and spears. They are cruel and show no mercy. They sound like a roaring sea as they ride forward on horses. They are coming in battle formation, planning to destroy you, beautiful Jerusalem.[b]”
24 We have heard reports about the enemy, and we wring our hands in fright. Pangs of anguish have gripped us, like those of a woman in labor. 25 Don’t go out to the fields! Don’t travel on the roads! The enemy’s sword is everywhere and terrorizes us at every turn! 26 Oh, my people, dress yourselves in burlap and sit among the ashes. Mourn and weep bitterly, as for the loss of an only son. For suddenly the destroying armies will be upon you!
27 “Jeremiah, I have made you a tester of metals,[c] that you may determine the quality of my people. 28 They are the worst kind of rebel, full of slander. They are as hard as bronze and iron, and they lead others into corruption. 29 The bellows fiercely fan the flames to burn out the corruption. But it does not purify them, for the wickedness remains. 30 I will label them ‘Rejected Silver,’ for I, the Lord, am discarding them.”
The Book of Zephaniah is a truly prophetic book that speaks of God’s jealousy and anger against the nation of Judah and over Jerusalem. He speaks of His wrath against those who would destroy His people and steal their inheritance. We will be studying this prophetic book together to explore its truths and apply them to our own day and time. Charlene
1 The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, during the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah: Judgment on the Whole Earth in the Day of the LORD
2 “I will sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,”
declares the LORD. 3 “I will sweep away both man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea—
and the idols that cause the wicked to stumble.”[a]
“When I destroy all mankind
on the face of the earth,”
declares the LORD, 4 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah
and against all who live in Jerusalem.
I will destroy every remnant of Baal worship in this place,
the very names of the idolatrous priests— 5 those who bow down on the roofs
to worship the starry host,
those who bow down and swear by the LORD
and who also swear by Molek,[b] 6 those who turn back from following the LORD
and neither seek the LORD nor inquire of him.”
7 Be silent before the Sovereign LORD,
for the day of the LORD is near.
The LORD has prepared a sacrifice;
he has consecrated those he has invited.
8 “On the day of the LORD’s sacrifice
I will punish the officials
and the king’s sons
and all those clad
in foreign clothes. 9 On that day I will punish
all who avoid stepping on the threshold,[c]
who fill the temple of their gods
with violence and deceit.
10 “On that day,”
declares the LORD,
“a cry will go up from the Fish Gate,
wailing from the New Quarter,
and a loud crash from the hills. 11 Wail, you who live in the market district[d];
all your merchants will be wiped out,
all who trade with[e] silver will be destroyed. 12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps
and punish those who are complacent,
who are like wine left on its dregs,
who think, ‘The LORD will do nothing,
either good or bad.’ 13 Their wealth will be plundered,
their houses demolished.
Though they build houses,
they will not live in them;
though they plant vineyards,
they will not drink the wine.”
14 The great day of the LORD is near—
near and coming quickly.
The cry on the day of the LORD is bitter;
the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry. 15 That day will be a day of wrath—
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of trouble and ruin,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness— 16 a day of trumpet and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the corner towers.
17 “I will bring such distress on all people
that they will grope about like those who are blind,
because they have sinned against the LORD.
Their blood will be poured out like dust
and their entrails like dung. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold
will be able to save them
on the day of the LORD’s wrath.”
In the fire of his jealousy
the whole earth will be consumed,
for he will make a sudden end
of all who live on the earth.
Zephaniah 1:3 The meaning of the Hebrew for this line is uncertain.
A. Hebrew: In Hebrew the book is titled hynpx meaning “Yahweh hides” perhaps reflecting the terror of the days of Manasseh when Zephaniah was born, or meaning “Watchman for the Lord,” or even “Zaphon [a Canaanite deity] is Yahweh”1
This was a common name in the Hebrew Scriptures (cf. a Levite, 1 Chron 6:36-38; a second priest under the high priest 2 Ki 25:18-21; cf. Jer 52:24–27; the father of Josiah–a returning exile, Zech 6:10, 14)
B. Greek: In Greek the book is titled SOFONIAS, a transliteration of the prophet’s name in Hebrew
A. The author, Zephaniah, traces his ancestry back four generations; this is unique among the prophets:2 1:1
1. Son of Cushi
2. Son of Gedaliah
3. Son of Amariah
4. Son of Hezekiah, (possibly the famous Judean king [c. 716-687 B.C.])
B. The author places himself during the reign of Josiah, son of Amon, king of Judah (c. 641-609 B.C.)
III. DATE: between 641 and 612 B.C. (possibly 641 and 621 B.C.)
A. The superscription places the prophet during the time of king Josiah of Judah (c. 641-609 B.C.) 1:1
B. The prophecy anticipated, but preceded the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. (Zeph 2:13-15)
C. Many would date the book prior to Josiah’s reforms (622-621 B.C.) which dealt with much of the nation’s idolatry (cf. 2 Ki 22–23) since there are implications of idolatry in Zephaniah’s Judah (cf. 1:4-6, 11-12; 3:1-4)3
D. Conclusion: The book was written some time between 641 and 612 B.C. and possibly between 641 and 622 B.C.
There may have been some overlap with Jeremiah since he began to prophecy in 627 B.C. Zephaniah would have been the first prophet to Judah in the 60 years since Isaiah (Nahum was about Assyria)
IV. AUDIENCE: To the people of Judah and the nations around her
V. HISTORICAL SETTING:4
A. Manasseh’s and Amon’s reigns were dark times in Judah’s history:
1. Manasseh rebuilt the high places that his father, Hezekiah, tore down
2. Manasseh was eclectic making altars to Ashtoreth (Canaanite), Chemosh (Moabite), Milcom (Ammonite), and Baal (Canaanite)
3. Manasseh restored child sacrifice (2 Ki 21) even sacrificing two of his own sons in the Valley of Hinnom
4. Worship of the heavens (stars, sun, moon, astral bodies) was common
5. Amon was named after an Egyptian god unlike most kings who were named after Yahweh
B. Manasseh paid tribute to Esarhaddon to keep Assyria from invading Judah
C. Josiah brought about the final spiritual revival for Judah when during the eighteenth year of his rule in 622 B.C. (2 Ki 22-23)
D. The Assyrian Empire Fell
1. The Assyrian power rose with Ashurnasirpal II (884-859 B.C.) and Shalmaneser II (859-824 B.C.)
2. Tiglath-pileser III (Pul in the Scriptures) began a group of conquerors who took Syria and Palestine including Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C. who began the deportation of Samaria), Sargon II (722-705 B.C. who completed the deportation of Samaria), Sennacherib (704-581 B.C. who attacked king of Judah, Hezekiah [Josiah’s father]), and Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C. who led campaigns against Egypt)
3. Esarhaddon’s son, Ashurbanipal (669-631) ruled much of the upper Egyptian city of Thebes, but his decline and that of Assyria’s soon followed
4. Nineveh, the capital, was destroyed in 612 B.C.
VI. MAJOR THEME–THE DAY OF THE LORD:
The Day of the Lord is a major theme in Zephaniah occurring 23 times in this short book (as well as in Obadiah, Joel, and Ezekiel). It describes a time when Yahweh will come to His people and necessarily destroy evil as a means to delivering them. While Zephaniah and Joel obviously had “local” aspects in view of this coming Day of Yahweh’s presence among them (with the judgment of Assyria and Babylon), those judgments/deliverances only mirrored, or foreshadowed, the ultimate deliverance (and thus necessary judgment) which would come in the eschaton.
A. To proclaim judgment on the entire world
B. To proclaim the Day of the Lord as a time when Yahweh will come to judge the wicked (including the wicked of Judah) and deliver His own5
C. To proclaim judgment on the nations which surrounded Judah (Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Assyria, Ethiopians/Egyptians
D. To proclaim hope for the remnant of Judah
E. To expose the unfaithfulness of Judah’s rulers
F. To encourage Judah to accept correction by hearing of the judgment on her neighbors
G. To expose Judah’s unwillingness to accept correction from Yahweh
H. To describe the ultimate changes which Yahweh will bring about as the nations become worshippers of Him and He becomes Judah’s King/Defender