1 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.
The Coming Judgment on Judah
“I will utterly sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.
“I will sweep away man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds of the heavens
and the fish of the sea,
and the rubble with the wicked.
I will cut off mankind
from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.
“I will stretch out my hand against Judah
and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
those who bow down on the roofs
to the host of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to the LORD
and yet swear by Milcom,
those who have turned back from following the LORD,
who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him.”
The Day of the Lord Is Near
Be silent before the Lord GOD!
For the day of the LORD is near;
the LORD has prepared a sacrifice
and consecrated his guests.
And on the day of the LORD’s sacrifice—
“I will punish the officials and the king’s sons
and all who array themselves in foreign attire.
On that day I will punish
everyone who leaps over the threshold,
and those who fill their master’s house
with violence and fraud.
“On that day,” declares the LORD,
“a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate,
a wail from the Second Quarter,
a loud crash from the hills.
Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar!
For all the traders are no more;
all who weigh out silver are cut off.
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
and I will punish the men
who are complacent,
those who say in their hearts,
‘The LORD will not do good,
nor will he do ill.’
Their goods shall be plundered,
and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
they shall not drink wine from them.”
The great day of the LORD is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements.
I will bring distress on mankind,
so that they shall walk like the blind,
because they have sinned against the LORD;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
and their flesh like dung.
Neither their silver nor their gold
shall be able to deliver them
on the day of the wrath of the LORD.
In the fire of his jealousy,
all the earth shall be consumed;
for a full and sudden end
he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.
Zephaniah 1 Commentary
by Hank Workman
The prophet Zephaniah was most unusual as he was from the lineage of royalty, specifically King Hezekiah. His name means “Yahweh Hides.” Born during the wicked King of Manasseh, his name was lived as he more than likely was physically hidden for his own protection. When a new King rose up he brought tremendous revival.
God thundered specific judgments against the people through this prophet. He spoke of God sweeping away both men and animals. No living thing would escape. He proclaimed the great day of the Lord was near and coming quickly. The hearers of these words were doomed.
Yet in the middle of all these words, there was hope. Although the first portion of this short book is filled with terror, the rest speaks toward promises of seeking God, His hearing and protecting the remnant of His followers. God was looking and calling for the faithful to stand through all that was about to come. He challenged the people to remain steadfast despite the times.
Oh, the standing strong and being steadfast despite the times – indeed. We live in such precarious times, no? At times we look and wonder what or how this will all end? It seems headline after headline hits us hard with realities of difficulties and hardships. For some of us, we personally live the abrasiveness of the times.
Our faith is not to be found in political leaders, mindsets or purposes of peace brought by man but in the God of our salvation, our Rock. As the storm clouds have gathered, the thundering lightening of circumstances rattle nations and people groups, our eyes and hope must be on Jesus. His call is to awaken from the slumber of our complacency and stand within the true hope despite what history will bring.
Zephaniah 1 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
The twelve minor prophets are divided into two categories based on the time period of their ministry. Either they came before the Babylonian exile (pre-exilic) or after it (post-exilic).
“Zephaniah is the last of the pre-exilic prophets, and can be said to “sum up” the messages of the previous 8. This is why Zephaniah seems unoriginal to some scholars, because he quotes the words and ideas of many previous prophets.”David Guzik
Zephaniah doesn’t beat around the bush. He gets right to the heart of the matter. The Lord speaks through Zephaniah as the scope of His judgment goes from broad to specific. It is interesting to study and dig into these pagan practices that had caused such spiritual apostasy.
In verses 2 and 3, the Lord gives a general but severe prophecy of judgment to all people and Creation. This does not mean He was violating His promise to Noah because the context seems to be a reversal of the Creation account. This leads me to believe these verses are speaking to the End Times when God will indeed wipe away both man and beast from the Earth. The KJV translates the judgment as targeting those who were “stumbling blocks.”
“Quite remarkable is the appearance of this striking combination of stumbling blocks with the wicked in the NT (Mat 13:41). Jesus interprets to his disciples a parable of universal judgment, which suits precisely the context of Zephaniah’s prophecy. At the end of time God shall send his angels, who will “gather together” everything that makes stumble and the doers of lawlessness.”New International Commentary – Old Testament
This is how upset the Lord was with the idolatry that had overtaken all people. He then drills down to the specific issues with Jerusalem and Judah.
I will stretch out My hand against Judah and against all the residents of Jerusalem. I will cut off every vestige of Baal from this place, the names of the pagan priests along with the priests; 5 those who bow in worship on the rooftops to the heavenly host; those who bow and pledge loyalty to the LORD but also pledge loyalty to Milcom; 6 and those who turn back from following the LORD, who do not seek the LORD or inquire of Him.Zephaniah 1:4-6 HCSB
Over the history of Judah and Israel, the false god Baal had repeatedly infiltrated religious practices. The priests of the Lord were established to protect the people from idol worship and lead them to worship the One True God. They had compromised by mixing astrology into their practices and setting up altars on their rooftops for a better view of the sky. This type of compromise is still happening today with Christians seeking advice and counsel from New Age practices and then slapping the “Christian” label on them.
God’s people also practiced swearing their loyalty to both the Lord and to Milcom (Molech) whose requirements included child sacrifice, astrology, and temple prostitution.
“What could be more satanic than a religion that took to itself the name of the true God while at the same time professing devotion to his chief rival? By this method, a person could practice the proud imaginations of his own heart undisturbed. –New International Commentary – Old Testament
This simple application still applies today. People who rebel against “organized church” and “organized worship” often want to follow the proud imaginations of their own heart without any accountability. It is “their view” of worship which is superior to any other. It is “their view” of God which is superior to any other. It is “their interpretation” of Scripture that is the pinnacle of wisdom. When someone tells me they don’t go to church because “no one is doing it the right way,” it immediately raises a red flag for me.
In my experience, many with this view have been wounded by a church with poor leadership and as a defense mechanism, they have turned inwardly to their own view of what church should be. The irony is that those leaders who wounded them were probably operating without any spiritual accountability and the victims of their leadership end up becoming just like them. It was not meant to be this way. Where was the breakdown?
It all comes back to leadership. Those who were the centerpiece of Israel’s worship to God had compromised. The priests who were supposed to be ushering the people closer to God were taking their children and sacrificing them before foreign gods. This chapter comes full circle back to the stumbling blocks of verse 3. This is precisely what these priests were, and when Jesus came to Earth the first time, the Pharisees filled that same role.
When Jesus returns a second time for the final judgment, He will remove every stumbling block with absolute authority!
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!Matthew 13:41-43 HCSB