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Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Zephaniah 1

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-18


Shall we turn now in our Bibles to the book of Zephaniah. The opening verse tells us that,

This is the word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, who was the son of Gedaliah, who was the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah ( Zephaniah 1:1 ).

Now, of the minor prophets we really have very little of their background. For some reason we have more of Zephaniah's background than any of them, as he gives his lineage. He takes his lineage actually back to Hezekiah, who was, of course, one of the great kings of Judah. So Zephaniah was actually of the royal family. He prophesied during the reign of Josiah. Josiah had a fairly successful reign in Judah, especially from a spiritual standpoint. Under Josiah there was at least a surface reformation.

Now, the fact that he prophesied during the time of Josiah makes him a contemporary to Jeremiah. So during the time that the southern tribe of Judah was in the final decline, moving down towards the end of the southern kingdom, towards the Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah and Zephaniah were exercising their office as a prophet to Judah at that time. And the Lord declares in His prophecy through Zephaniah that He

will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD ( Zephaniah 1:2 ).

Now in Zephaniah's prophecy there definitely is the double aspect of fulfillment. There was that fulfillment that was to take place under the destruction that came from Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar, but that also looked out to the end. Zephaniah looks out to the Great Tribulation and does prophesy much about the Great Tribulation, the judgment of God, the indignation of God that is going to come upon this godless age in which we live. So the Lord is declaring, "I will utterly consume all things from off the land."

I will consume the man and the beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, the fish of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD ( Zephaniah 1:3 ).

This, no doubt, is a reference to the Great Tribulation period in which the cataclysmic judgments of God are gonna fall upon this planet Earth, and this planet Earth is going to see a turmoil such as it has never seen before or will ever see again. Jesus speaking of this time said, "And there shall be a time of Great Tribulation such as has never been before or will ever be again." As the whole kingdom of the animals, fish, and man will be affected by the cataclysmic judgments of God. God is now speaking,

He is now gonna stretch out his hand against Jerusalem, and Judah; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests ( Zephaniah 1:4 );

The Chemarims were actually the priests that exercised their offices at that time of apostasy. They were the priests in the high places, as referred to in the II Kings. So because of the idolatry there in Jerusalem and in Judah, God was going to turn them over into the hands of their enemies.

I have mentioned it before, and I think that it is quite significant, that in some of the latest archeological diggings, Professor Shiloh is seeking to uncover the old city of David. They call it the Hill of Ophel. It is right above the springs of Gihon. That hill that comes down to Gihon and goes up from there, and the pool of Siloam under which Hezekiah dug his tunnel, above the hill and up the slopes is the old city of Jerusalem that dates back to the time of this prophecy. The city of, or the hill of Ophel, and really was known as the City of David. As they have been excavating on up in recent excavations, these are the ones that created the riots last year. The riots were perpetrated by some of the rabbis, the orthodox rabbis, who felt that Professor Shiloh was not giving proper regard to the bones that he was uncovering. The orthodox rabbis have quite a thing on the dead. Whenever an archeologist finds a bone, they want to be there and examine it to see if it is a human bone, and if so, then the rabbis give it a blessing before they bury it.

Professor Shiloh is a very pragmatic kind of a person. I've had dinner with him, and I enjoyed his company very much. He is the kind of a guy that says, "Hey, I don't want anybody trying to govern my dig. I feel that the archeology is scientific, and I don't think that there should be a mixture of this religious aspect with the scientific projects of archeology." So he deliberately ignored the desires of the rabbis, and this is why they had the big strike, and the big to-do over there. It was really a matter of principle as Professor Shiloh was trying to guard the scientific aspects of archeology, so that it doesn't become a religious kind of a ceremony. So when he would uncover the bones, rather than calling for a rabbi, he'd say, "Oh, it's a dog bone. Just bury it." So the rabbis discovered what he was doing, and hence, the big to-do over there last summer in his excavations.

However, Professor Shiloh was telling me that as they uncovered the houses that existed, and of course, he said it always gives you sort of a sense of awe as you're digging and you're uncovering the rubble and the ruins of the houses, and you find the interiors just as they were when they were destroyed by the Babylonians. He said that the artifacts that they find within the houses that were destroyed by this Babylonian army, they just came in and just broke the houses down. You see, when they came back from the Babylonian captivity, the place was all overgrown. The houses were all leveled, and the place was overgrown. So rather than at that time uncovering them and rebuilding the houses, they just put more dirt over them and built on top of them. But he said as they were digging in the ruins of these houses, finding them just as the Babylonians had destroyed them, he said they were amazed at the number of little gods that they discovered, the little idols that were in every home. He speaks of the multitudes of idols, and he showed me pictures just table after table, full of these little idols that were in these homes of the people in Judah prior to the destruction by the Babylonian army. Surely that is confirmation of what we read in Jeremiah, and what we read in Isaiah, as these prophets were warning of the judgment of God that was to come because of the idolatry that existed.

Now here again, as Zephaniah is telling of the destruction and the judgment of God that is going to come, there is the mention of the worship of Baal. So many little idols to Baal, which means lord, were discovered. The priests, the Chemarims, the priests of the high places.

And them that worship the hosts of heaven upon the housetops ( Zephaniah 1:5 );

Which was the practice of astrology, which is an ancient cult going back to the Babylonian period where people imagined that the stars had certain influences over their lives. So the time that you were born and all, feeling that the stars determined your destiny. Isn't it amazing that this modern, scientifically enlightened age there are those who still look at their horoscopes to determine whether or not they should go to work today. "They worship the hosts of heaven upon the housetops,"

and them that swear by the LORD, and swear by Malcham ( Zephaniah 1:5 );

Which, of course, is the idol of the Ammonites, which had its equivalent of Molech.

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

Here they were worshiping all of their idols, but they had forsaken Jehovah, and had not inquired of Jehovah.

Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the LORD is at hand ( Zephaniah 1:7 ):

The day of the Lord is, of course, again, a reference to the great day of God's judgment that is coming.

for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests ( Zephaniah 1:7 ).

You remember in the book of Revelation, chapter 19, as it speaks of this great day of the Lord's wrath that is coming, that He invites the birds to come and feast on the carcasses of kings and so forth. The great day of the Lord's wrath. So He has prepared a sacrifice, a feast. He has bid His guests, which are the birds, the vultures to come and to eat the carcasses of men.

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. In the same day also will I punish all of those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit. It shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that there shall be a noise of a cry from the fish gate, and a howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills. Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh ( Zephaniah 1:8-11 ),

That is actually the little area where the shopping, the bazaar. If you go to Jerusalem today the sukes, the commercial place within the city, these long narrow little streets where all of these little shops are on all sides, that's the Hebrew Maktesh. It's the place where they did all of their selling. "Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh,"

for all of the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off. 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 1:11-12 ).

In other words, God is withdrawn; it doesn't matter to God. "We can live as we please. What difference does it make to God? He won't do good; He won't do evil." People who live as though God did not exist.

Now, I think that we look at some people and we are appalled at the brazen declarations that they make of atheism. They are so bold in their speaking out against the things of God. Many times we are shocked at their blasphemies. But you know, I think that even worse than some of these blasphemous persons are people who say they believe in God, and yet, they live as though God did not exist. Who never take God into account in any of the decisions of their lives. Now to me this is a greater blasphemy than a man who utters oaths with his mouth. They say, "Oh, I believe in God. Yes, I believe in God," but he never takes God into account in any of the decision-making processes, never seeks the Lord. He has the attitude, "Well, the Lord's not gonna do good or do evil." It's that careless attitude concerning God and the things of God. The Lord said He's gonna punish those that have settled on their lees.

Therefore, their goods shall become a booty, their houses a desolation ( Zephaniah 1:13 ):

Boy, as you go, and you go through the archeological digs that Professor Shiloh has made, you see what desolation has become of their houses.

they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof. The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and it hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, it is 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, a day of the trumpet [the battle trumpet that calls the troops to assemble] and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. 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. 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 1:13-18 ).

Of course, the prophecy here does definitely spread out in the double fulfillment going to the great day of God's judgment that is coming yet upon the earth. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Zephaniah 1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/zephaniah-1.html. 2014.
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