"The Twelve"

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Zephaniah means "Yahweh hides," and may incorporate a word play on his name in 2:3. If Zephaniah is the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah of Judah, then he is the only prophet of royal descent, which is why we may refer to him as the Royal Prophet of Revival. The title given to the book: The Judgment That Purifies. With Nineveh still in the future, Zephaniah presents an unmistakable prophecy that sin will be dealt with on a large scale.

The evil reigns of Manasseh and Amon have had a profound effect on Judah. Like in Jeremiah’s time, Zephaniah witnessed the outward show of religion paraded with inward corruption. Zephaniah was a contemporary of Josiah with a forceful message, which “may have been a factor in the reform which occurred during Josiah’s reign.” The cycle repeated in Israel, wherein there were episodes of “revival” with visible outward change, while before long inward corruption takes root, particularly in leadership. The essential thrust of the message communicates the foundational truth that the Lord is holy and must vindicate His righteousness by calling all the nations of the world into account. The zeal of Zephaniah's message is that no one is exempt, no one escapes accountability to their holy Creator.

When threat and mercy are conjoined, it is the display of a holy God who cannot tolerate sin and yet conveys mercy in a mystery. The fullness of this truth was then concealed and now revealed in Christ (cf. Exodus 34:6-8). Wrath and mercy, severity and kindness cannot be separated in the character of God, neither should they be confused.

Romans 11:22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. (cf. Romans 11:11-36)

Date

Zephaniah 1:1 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.

  • Nineveh still future, so we know it is prior to 612 BC

    Zephaniah 2:13 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. (cf. 2:15)

  • 628 B.C. - Josiah tore down all the altars to Baal, burned the bones of false prophets, and broke the carved idols (2 Chr. 34:3–7)
  • 622 B.C. - Hilkiah rediscovered the Book of the Law (2 Chr. 34:8–35:19)
  • Consequently, Zephaniah most likely prophesied from 630–625 B.C.

Chapter 1

Summary: The great and terrible day of the LORD is near! It will be a day of wrath, trouble, and distress

The Lord looks to the responsibility of leaders.

  • 1:4-13
  • 3:1-4

Chapter 2

Summary: Indictment and prophecy of judgment upon the enemies of Judah

The message of this chapter is a call to repentance. In short: Humble yourselves!

2:4-15 - Judgment on the nations, in all directions (alluding to a comprehensive judgment):

  • Philistia (west)
  • Moab and Ammon (east)
  • Ethiopia (south)
  • Assyria (north)

Chapter 3

Summary: Judgment against Jerusalem; Indignation against the nations; Hope in the future restoration

The prophecy opens with idolatry, wrath, and judgment and closes with true worship, rejoicing, and blessing.

Consider also: Psalm 73

ESV  Isaiah 13:5 They come from a distant land, from the end of the heavens, the LORD and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.

ESV  Isaiah 10:5 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury!

ESV  Jeremiah 50:25 The LORD has opened his armory and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Lord GOD of hosts has a work to do in the land of the Chaldeans.

ESV  Jeremiah 50:28 "A voice! They flee and escape from the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, vengeance for his temple. 29 "Summon archers against Babylon, all those who bend the bow. Encamp around her; let no one escape. Repay her according to her deeds; do to her according to all that she has done. For she has proudly defied the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.

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