The Book of Zephaniah

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The Book of Zephaniah

  • Author: Zephaniah
  • Place Written: Judah
  • When Written: c. 640-620 B.C.E.

The word of Jehovah that came to Zephaniah[1] 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 completely remove all things
    from the face of the earth,” declares Jehovah.
“I will remove man and beast;
    I will remove the birds of the heavens
    and the fish of the sea,
and the stumbling blocks[2] along with the wicked.
    I will cut off mankind
    from the face of the earth,” declares Jehovah.
“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,[3]
those who bow down on the rooftops
    to the army of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to Jehovah
    and yet swear by Malcam,[4]
those who have turned back from following Jehovah,
    who do not seek Jehovah or inquire of him.”

The Day of Jehovah Is Near

Be silent before Jehovah God!
    For the day of Jehovah is near;
Jehovah has prepared a sacrifice
    and sanctified his guests.
And on the day of Jehovah ‘s sacrifice,
“I will punish the officials and the king’s sons
    and all who array themselves in foreign garments.
On that day I will punish
    all who leaps over the threshold,
and those who fill their master’s house
    with violence and deception.

10 “On that day,” declares Jehovah,
    “a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate,
a wail from the Second Quarter,
    a loud crash from the hills.
11 Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar![5]
    For all the traders[6] are silenced;
    all who weigh out silver are cut off.
12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
    and I will punish the men
who are congealing on their dregs,[7]
    those who say in their hearts,
‘Jehovah will not do good,
    nor will he do ill.’
13 Their goods shall be plundered,
    and their houses a desolate waste.
Though they build houses,
    they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
    they shall not drink wine from them.”

14 The great day of Jehovah is near,
    near and approaching very quickly;
the sound of the day of Jehovah is bitter;
    the mighty man cries aloud there.
15 That day will be a day of wrath,
    a day of trouble and distress,
a day of ruin and desolation,
    a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
    and against the high corner towers.

17 I will bring distress on mankind,
    so that they shall walk like the blind,
    because they have sinned against Jehovah;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
    and their flesh[8] like dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold
    shall be able to deliver them
    on the day of the wrath of Jehovah.
In the fire of his jealousy,
    the whole earth shall be consumed;
he will make a complete destruction, indeed a terrible one
    of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Seek Jehovah Before His Day of Anger

Gather together, yes, gather,
    O shameless nation,
before the decree gives birth
   before the day passes away like chaff,
before there comes upon you
    the burning anger of Jehovah,
before there comes upon you
    the day of the anger of Jehovah.
Seek Jehovah, all you humble of the land,
    who carry out his judgment;
seek righteousness; seek humility;
    perhaps you may be concealed
    on the day of the anger of Jehovah.

Judgment on the Surrounding Nations

For Gaza shall be abandoned,
    and Ashkelon shall become a desolation;
Ashdod’s people shall be driven out at noon,
    and Ekron shall be uprooted.

Woe to you inhabitants of the seacoast,
    you nation of the Cherethites![9]
The word of Jehovah is against you,
    O Canaan, land of the Philistines;
    and I will destroy you until no inhabitant is left.
And you, O seacoast, shall be pastures,
    with wells for shepherds
    and sheep pens for flocks.
The seacoast shall become the possession
    of the remnant of the house of Judah,
    on which they shall graze,
and in the houses of Ashkelon
    they shall lie down in the evening.
For Jehovah their God will turn his attention to them
    and restore their captives.[10]

“I have heard the taunts of Moab
    and the abusive words of the sons of Ammon,
how they have taunted my people
    and made boasts against their territory.
Therefore, as I live,” declares Jehovah of armies,[11]
    the God of Israel,
“Moab shall become like Sodom,
    and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah,
a land possessed by nettles and salt pits,
    and a wasteland forever.
The remnant of my people shall plunder them,
    and the remainder of my nation shall possess them.”
10 This shall be their lot in return for their pride,
    because they taunted and boasted
    against the people of Jehovah of armies.[12]
11 Jehovah will be terrifying against them;
    for he will famish all the gods of the earth,
and to him shall bow down,
    each in its place,
    all the lands of the nations.

12 You also, Ethiopians,[13]
    shall be slain by my sword.[14]

13 And he will stretch out his hand against the north
    and destroy Assyria,
and he will make Nineveh a desolation,
    a dry waste like the desert.
14 Herds shall lie down in her midst,
    all kinds of beasts;
even the owl and the hedgehog
    shall lodge in her capitals;
a voice shall hoot in the window;
    devastation[15] will be on the threshold;
    for her cedar work will be laid bare.
15 This is the exultant city
    that lived securely,
that said in her heart,
    “I am, and there is no one else.”
What a desolation she has become,
    a lair for wild beasts!
Everyone who passes by her
    hisses and shakes his fist.

Judgment on Jerusalem a Rebellious and Corrupt City

Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled,
    the oppressing city!
She obeyed no voice;
    she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in Jehovah;
    she does not draw near to her God.

Her officials within her
    are roaring lions;
her judges are evening wolves
    that leave nothing till the morning.
Her prophets are insolent, treacherous men;
her priests defile what is holy;
    they do violence to the law.
Jehovah is righteous in her midst;
    he does no wrong;
every morning he makes known his judgments;
    each dawn he does not fail;
    but the unrighteous one knows no shame.

“I have cut off nations;
    their battlements are in ruins;
I have laid waste their streets
    so that no one was passing through;
their cities have been made desolate,
    without a man, without an inhabitant.
I said, ‘Surely you will fear me;
    you will accept correction.
Then your dwelling would not be cut off
    according to all that I have appointed against you.’
But all the more they were eager
    to make all their deeds corrupt.

Judgment and Restoration

“Therefore wait for me,” declares Jehovah,
    “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey.
For my decision is to gather nations,
    to assemble kingdoms,
to pour out upon them my indignation,
    all my burning anger;
for in the fire of my jealousy
    all the earth shall be consumed.

“For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples
    to a pure language,
that all of them may call upon the name of Jehovah
    and serve him with one shoulder.[16]
10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
    my worshipers, the daughter of my scattered ones,
    shall bring my offering.

11 “On that day you shall not be put to shame
    because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;
for then I will remove from your midst
    your proudly arrogant ones,
and you shall no longer be haughty
    in my holy mountain.
12 But I will allow a humble and lowly people
    to remain in your midst.
They shall seek refuge in the name of Jehovah.
13 The remnant of Israel;
they shall not do wickedness
    and speak no lies,
nor shall there be found in their mouth
    a deceitful tongue.
For they shall graze and lie down,
    and none shall make them afraid.”

Israel’s Joy and Restoration

14 Shout joyfully, O daughter of Zion;
    shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
    O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 Jehovah has removed the judgments against you;
    he has turned away your enemies.
The King of Israel, Jehovah, is in your midst;
    you shall fear calamity no more.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
    let not your hands drop down.
17 Jehovah your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will exult over you with great joy;
    he will quiet you in his love;[17]
he will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
    they were of you and a reproach on her.
19 Look, at that time I will deal
    with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
    and gather the outcast,
and I will make them a praise and a name
    whose shame has been in all the earth.
20 At that time I will bring you in,
    at the time when I gather you together;
for I will make you a name and a praise
    among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
    before your eyes,” says Jehovah.

[1] Meaning Jehovah Has Concealed

[2] That is, any objects or activities that related to idolatry.

[3] LXX lacks “with the priests”

[4] Malcam (מַלְכָּם) means their king. He is the chief idol god of the Ammonites. (2 Sam. 12:30; 1Ch 20:1, 2; Jer. 49:1, 3) Likely the same as Milcom (מִלְכֹּם Milkom), Molech (מֹלֶךְ Molek), and Moloch (Μολόχ Moloch). (1Ki 11:5, 7; Ac 7:43) The name Malcam is different than Milcom in the MT in the vowel points. (1Ki 11:5) The Jews ignored the counsel at Joshua 23:7 and started making sworn oaths by Malcam (Zep 1:5) It is the context that will help the translator to render מַלְכָּם as the name of the god or as “their king.” – Am 1:15. LXX “by their king”

[5] Heb. (מַכְתֵּשׁ Maktesh) A district of Jerusalem, a section of Jerusalem in the upper area of the Central Valley near the Fish Gate and the Second Quarter.

[6] Heb. people of (כְּנַעַן Canaan)

[7] That is, those who are complacent, self-satisfied, and overly confident. The men who are congealing on their dregs (“settled on their lees” ASV) are ones who have relished in unending wealth for far too long and have thus become complacent.

[8] Lit intestines

[9] LXX “Cretans”

[10] The Hebrew (שְׁבִית shebith) means (1) captivity, that is, the state of being captured, and here, the hope to the Judeans of returning from Babylonian captivity. (2) fortunes, a way of life, good fortune. The context here has nothing to do with the hope of the Judeans returning from Babylonian exile. Rather, Jehovah will restore the fortunes of the people of Judah by stripping Philistia of their land and giving the people of Judah the land of the Philistines.

[11] Jehovah of armies: (Heb. jhvh tsaba) literally means an army of soldiers, or military forces (Gen. 21:22; Deut. 20:9). It can also be used figuratively, “the sun and the moon and the stars, all the armies of heaven.” (Deut. 4:19) In the plural form, it is also used of the Israelites forces as well. (Ex. 6:26; 7:4; Num. 33:1; Psa. 44:9) However, the “armies” in the expression “Jehovah of armies” is a reference to the angelic forces primarily, if not exclusively.

[12] See 2:9 fn.

[13] LXX VG “Ethiopians” MT (כּוּשִׁים Kushim) AT SYR “Cushites”

[14] MT AT LXX VG “My sword”

[15] LXX VG “ravens”

[16] That is, shoulder to shoulder, a single purpose, in unity

[17] LXX SYR “he renews you in his love”

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