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Bible Commentaries
Zephaniah 2

Gann's Commentary on the BibleGann on the Bible

Verse 1

Zephaniah 2:1

Zephaniah 2:1-3 In light of the horrifying spectacle he has described, Zephaniah calls on his nation to repent and humble themselves before God.

[While the prophets in speaking of the Day of the Lord are concerned about their time and day, and that it literally came to pass in Babylon’s conquest, it pictures a bigger Day of the Lord. This judgment prefigures and give assurance of the Lord’s justice and judgment in the final and ultimate Day of Judgment. It give assurance of the reality if that day, and God’s justice and His involvement.]

2:1 nation having no shame Refers to Judah.

The words O shameful nation are literally, “O nation not shamed.” (“Shamed” is niksap, from kasap “to be pale or white with shame.” A related word kasap means “silver,” the pale-colored metal mentioned in Zephaniah 1:11, Zephaniah 1:18.) Judah, because of her sin, was without shame (cf. 3:5); her face was not blushing or white or pale with embarrassment. Sin had hardened her sensitivity to sin (cf. Zephaniah 1:12)

Verse 2

Zephaniah 2:2

chaff -- . see Daniel 2:35.

Zephaniah 2:2 Farmers threshed grain on windy hilltops. When they tossed the mixed grain and chaff in the air, the wind blew the chaff away while the heavier grain fell back to the ground. The opportunity to repent was a fleeting one.

Verse 3

Zephaniah 2:3

2:3 all who are humble: True humility involves submission to and dependence on God (Psalms 18:25-27; Psalms 119:142-144; Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 18:12; Proverbs 22:4).

2:3 you afflicted of the land Refers to those who are obedient to Yahweh; they are not proud (Habakkuk 2:4).

day of the anger of Yahweh See note on Zephaniah 1:7.

be hid -- . Though many died in the Babylonian invasions, others were spared and some were exiled to Babylon (2 Kings 24:14-16). God sheltered or protected His remnant.

Verse 4

Zephaniah 2:4

Judah’s Doomed Neighbors (Zephaniah 2:4-11). Zephaniah announced God’s judgment against both JUDAH and its long-time foes all around, including PHILISTIA, MOAB, and AMMON.

2:4 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered the Philistine cities of Gaza and AshkelonAshdod and Ekron. Gaza remained deserted, but the others recovered and continued into later times. Zephaniah does not mention Gath, the fifth major Philistine city (see 1 Samuel 6:17), which had either disappeared or become unimportant by Zephaniah’s time. The order mentioned is from south to north.

Verse 5

Zephaniah 2:5

Kerethites A title related to Crete, the native land of the Philistines.

2:5 OT scholars believe the Philistines (Hebrew Kerethites) came from the island of Crete (cp. Ezekiel 25:16).

O Canaan, land of the Philistines A region stretching from the border of Egypt in the south to Lebanon in the north, bordered on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the east by the Jordan River. Canaan encompassed the whole of Philistine territory. The region is named after Canaan, the fourth son of Ham.

None of the inhabitants on Palestine’s coastal plain would be left. That destruction was initially inflicted by Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt (609–594 BC), the succesor of Psamtik I, as he attempted to consolidate the area west of the Euphrates against the Babylonians (Jeremiah 47:1 ff)

Verse 6

Zephaniah 2:6

Zephaniah 2:6-7. Zephaniah wrote that Philistia, the land by the sea, where the Kerethites dwell, would be so depopulated that it would become pastures for the herding of sheep. In fact it would be acquired by the remnant of … Judah, those whom God would rescue from the judgment (Zephaniah 2:3)

2:6 pasture … shepherd camps and enclosures for sheep: The destruction of cities and their return to a natural state represents a severe form of punishment from God. See also Isaiah 7:23-25; Isaiah 13:19-21; Isaiah 32:9-15; Ezekiel 35:9.

Verse 7

Zephaniah 2:7 The remnant is the object of the love and providential concern of the LORD their God who cares for and restores His people. (Restore their fortunes; cf. Zephaniah 3:20, renders the lit. “bring back their captives”; cf. NIV marg.) Judah’s occupancy of this territory is fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 15:18-20). Deuteronomy 34:4;

Zephaniah 2:7 The Baal worshipers (Zephaniah 1:4) and the Philistines would never be restored (Zephaniah 2:4-6; see also Amos 1:8). By contrast, God promised to return the remnant of his people to their land, care for them, and restore them to prosperity (Zephaniah 3:18-20; Isaiah 11:11-16; Jeremiah 23:1-8; Ezekiel 34:11-16, Ezekiel 20:1-31).

Verse 8

Zephaniah 2:8 The Moabites and Ammonites were Israel’s traditional foes. The Israelites fought with them frequently (see 2 Kings 3:1-27; 2 Chronicles 20:1-30) and they remained Israel’s enemies to the end (2 Kings 25:25; Jeremiah 40:11-14).

mocking … invading: The Israelites not only suffered repeated attacks by the Moabites and Ammonites (see Amos 1:13) but also endured their insults over their successes.

Verse 9

Zephaniah 2:9 The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah serves as an example of God’s severe judgment of sin, both in the OT (Deuteronomy 29:23; Isaiah 1:9; Jeremiah 23:14; Amos 4:11) and in the NT (Luke 10:12; Romans 9:29; 2 Peter 2:6).

The land would be taken from them and would become so barren that it would grow only weeds (prickly plants) and be covered with salt pits (cf. Jer. 48:9). As a sterile wasteland it would no longer be fruitful. Being near the Dead Sea, much of Moab and Ammon is a salty, barren land.

Zephaniah added that the Moabites and Ammonites will be enslaved by the Jews and that the Jewish remnant (the remnant of My people … the survivors) will possess those territories (cf. Isaiah 11:14).

• salt pits: A ruinous waste (Deuteronomy 29:23; Psalms 107:34; Jeremiah 17:6). Sowing the earth with salt was a mark of permanent judgment (see Judges 9:45) because it made the ground barren.

Verse 10

Zephaniah 2:10

Zephaniah 2:10

Zephaniah 2:10-11. Zephaniah repeated the reasons for the judgments described in verse 9. The sin of Moab and Ammon was their pride (cf. Isaiah 16:6; Jeremiah 48:29; cf Obadiah 1:2-3), evidenced by their insulting and mocking of God’s people (cf. Zephaniah 2:8; Ezekiel 25:5-6, 8). Again after the indictment God spelled out the penalty (cf. the similar pattern in Zephaniah 2:8 followed by v. 9).

Verse 11

Zephaniah 2:11

everyone in his own land. The removal of all idolatry will pave the way for the Messiah, Christ, to bring a worldwide faith, Christianity cf. Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19.

Verse 12

Zephaniah 2:12 Ethiopians: Hebrew Cushites. While the Hebrew term can refer to any nation or peoples along the southern edge of the known world of that time, here it refers specifically to the Ethiopian dynasty that ruled Egypt.

Zephaniah 2:12. The Cushites or Ethiopians are descendants of Cush, a son of Ham (Genesis 10:6; 1 Chronicles 1:8). These people, residing in the upper Nile region (today’s southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia), were the southernmost people known to Judah.

Cushite kings dominated Egypt until their defeat by the Assyrian king Esarhaddon in 670 B.C. King Asa of Judah defeated a large Cushite expedition under Zerah that threatened Judah (2 Chronicles 14:9-13).

The Lord’s judgment on Cushites is that they, like all Israel’s enemies, would be killed in battle (slain). The fulfillment of this prophecy was at least partially realized by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. (cf. Ezekiel 30:4-5, 9). Since the Babylonians were God’s instrument, God called the attackers’ swords My sword.

Verse 13

Zephaniah 2:13 Zephaniah turns from the south (2:12) to the north. Like Nahum before him, he announces the imminent demise of Assyria.

The Lord would destroy Assyria and leave Nineveh, Assyria’s capital and a city well known for its impregnability, a wasteland. This was the nation that conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. Assyria was a much-feared nation because of its merciless atrocities on its captives. An alliance of Babylonians and Medes destroyed Nineveh in 612 B.C.

A remnant of the Assyrians escaped the fall of the city under their new king, Ashur-uballi II. Though aided by an alliance with Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt, the Assyrian Empire was crushed in 609 B.C.

Zephaniah’s prediction was fulfilled. (Another prophetic description of the fall of Nineveh is given in Nahum 3:1 ff.) Zephaniah’s words that Nineveh would become dry as the desert were fitting because the city had many irrigation canals! Nahum’s words were equally appropriate (Nahum 1:8; Nahum 2:6, Nahum 2:8).

Verse 14

Zephaniah 2:14 To drive home his point about Nineveh’s fate, Zephaniah invokes powerful imagery: Rubble would fill the doorways through which the wealthy and powerful of Nineveh had once walked. The eerie sounds of owls hooting in empty windows would punctuate the city’s desolation.

Flocks and herds may refer to hordes of wild animals (cf. v. 15), not domesticated ones, that require extensive vegetation. Animals, the prophet said, would find their abode (lie down) in the city, and the noise of a busy city would be replaced by the sounds of the beasts and birds.

Zephaniah 2:14 owl A large nocturnal bird of prey. Eerily, owls would occupy the columns and call through the windows of deserted buildings.

screech owl An animal similar to a porcupine.

the threshold Refers to the threshold of a temple; see note on Zephaniah 1:9. The prophet is probably referring to the Ishtar temple.

Doorways of homes would be deserted; only rubble would lie there (cf. “rubble” in Zephaniah 1:3). The beams of cedar, lying under more elaborate wall and ceiling coverings, would be exposed because of the soldiers’ ransacking of homes. The image that emerges is one of depopulation, destruction, and ruin.

cedar is laid bare See note on Zephaniah 1:4.

Verse 15

Zephaniah 2:15 that lived securely Nineveh was believed to be impregnable because of its strategic location on the Tigris River (compare Zephaniah 3:8 and note).

2:15. The picture of Nineveh’s destruction is completed as the prophet reiterated that the city, though apparently quite secure, would be shamed. Its king was arrogant (cf. Isaiah 10:12) because of its supposed impregnability. It was known as the carefree city, as its populace felt it lived in complete safety. The city was quite large, having with its suburban areas a circumference of 60 miles and a population of at least 120,000 (cf. comments on Jonah 3:3; Jonah 4:11). In addition to an extensive outer wall there was an inner wall with an 8-mile circumference, 50 feet thick and 100 feet high. Between the two walls was enough farmland to support the huge population. Nineveh’s claim (there is none besides me) was no idle boast! For approximately 200 years she was superior in strength to any other city of her time.

I am, and there is none besides me This and similar phrases are found in various passages asserting Yahweh’s superiority over all other gods. Its use here and in Isaiah 47:8 and 10 show that the phrase describes incomparability, not that others don’t exist. Nineveh is not claiming there are no other cities on earth; rather, she is claiming that no other cities can compare to her.

2:15 utter ruin: The doom was so certain and irreversible (see Nahum 1:14; Nahum 2:13; Nahum 3:19) that Zephaniah saw no future for Assyria or its capital. So complete was Nineveh’s devastation that the Greek historian Xenophon once passed by its ruins unaware that it was there.

• laugh … shake a defiant fist: Those who suffered under Assyria’s cruel empire would be glad seeing its demise.

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Zephaniah 2". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/zephaniah-2.html. 2021.
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