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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

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-18



This book was written by Zephaniah, the last of the nine pre-exile prophets, as Hosea was the first. The name Zephaniah means "Jehovah hides." He prophesied to Judah about 630-610 B.C., shortly before they were carried into Babylonian captivity. Zephaniah is believed to have been a prince, as well as a prophet, who like his grandfather, Hezekiah, King of Judah, four generations betore him, was considered to be one of the good kings of Judah, v. 1. Beyond this nothing is known of his personal life. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah, the major prophet.


Zephaniah directed his message from the Lord to Judah, the southern two tribes of Israel, as Hosea the first of the pre-exile prophets, addressed his message to Israel, the northern ten tribes, Zephaniah 1:1; Zephaniah 1:4; Hosea 1:1; Hosea 1:4.


The theme of Zephaniah is "Judgments of the day of the Lord;" This latter phrase is used more by him than by any other Bible writer. He contrasts "the day of man," when God is longsuffering, with the "day of the Lord," a day of irrevocable judgment­ vengeance upon Judah, and all nations, for their cleansing from disobedience to God.


Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of king Josiah in Judah. His father and grandfather had been godless men, but Josiah "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord." See 2 Chronicles ch. 33-35. His reign was 641-610 B.C. It was in the latter part of his reign that Zephaniah prophesied and wrote, 630-610 B.C.


The prophecy was occasioned by the moral, ethical, and spiritual decay of the people of Judah. They had turned to idolatry, worshipping Baal and Molech, idol and false gods, ignored the law of their God, Exodus 20:1-5. The immediate judgment of God is therefore announced, Zephaniah 1:13; And the final day of "The Day of the Lord," is foretold, with redemption rest, and final glory restored by Jehovah, to all Israel.



Verses 1-18:

Judah’s Judgments--Figure Of Future "Day Of The Lord"

Verse 1 claims inspiration for the prophet as "the word of the Lord," to Zephaniah, in the days of Josiah, King of Judah. Let it be recalled that the word of the Lord is true (trustworthy) from the beginning, Psalms 119:160; 2 Peter 1:21. His lineal identity is then certified for the past four generations, indication that he was of the royal lineage of Hezekiah. See 2 Kings 22:1-20; 2 Chronicles 34:1-33; Jeremiah 1:2; Jeremiah 22:11. The father of Zephaniah was Cushi; and his three grandfathers of the previous three generations are given as Gedaliah, Amariah, and Hizkiah (the same as Hezekiah) 2 Kings 18 th ch. And 2 Kings 20:1-21.

Verse 2 warns that the Lord will utterly consume (from the roots) "all things" from off the ground, from the root up. The people had been formerly warned, but had not heeded. They were now to be swept away from Judah, like a deluge, Jeremiah 8:12-13.

Verse 3 enumerates the character of judgment was: a) upon man and beast, b) upon fowls of the heaven, and c) upon the fishes of the sea. Idols that had been erected to men, beasts, fowls, and fishes, with Baal and Molech as chief among the heathen, idol gods had caused them to stumble like blind or drunk men, in matters of morals, ethics, and the Law of the Lord, Exodus 14:3-4; Exodus 14:7. These judgments were to fall because they had willfully offended God, See also Jeremiah 9:10; Hosea 4:3; Deuteronomy 7:26.

Verse 4 asserts that God was about to stretch out His hand in judgment over Judah and Jerusalem in a special way. Those most exalted in Israel must also suffer for their sins of omission and commission. The remnant of Baal worshippers were to be cut off, carried away from the land, or slain; And the name of the chemarims, Phoenecians with her idolatrous priests, illegally ordained by the kings of Judah, 2 Kings 23:5; Hosea 10:5; Isaiah 5:25; Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21. Judgment begins at the house of God, 1 Peter 4:7; Leviticus 10:2; Ezekiel 9:6.

Verse 5 continues God’s warning that He will stretch out His judgment hand against those who worship the "host of heaven upon the housetops" These were the star-worshippers and incense-burners upon the roofs of residences. They are also denounced, Jeremiah 19:13; 2 Kings 23:12. For they sought to mix the worship of God with idolatry, Jeremiah 32:20. They swear by both the Lord and Malcham, which means Molech, at the same time, putting the living God on a level with the blind, deaf, dumb, and lifeless gods of the heathen, against their own law, Exodus 20:1-5; 2 Chronicles 15:14; Hosea 4:15; 1 Kings 18:21; Ezekiel 20:39; Matthew 6:24.

Verse 6 includes the third and fourth classes of those against whom the Lord would stretch out His hand of judgment vengeance, in addition to the two mentioned above, v. 4, 5. They are: 1) Those who "turn back from the Lord," become apostate, apostatized, and 2) Those who have not even sought or inquired of the Lord, to know His ways. They have simply been indifferent, Isaiah 1:1-7; Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 2:17.

Verse 7 calls upon Judah and Jerusalem to hold their peace, to be silent, at the presence of the Lord, who is about to speak in all His majesty. It is a summon to be silent and in submission as judgment comes speedily, Habakkuk 2:20. It is announced that the Lord has prepared His sacrifice of victims of justice, Isaiah 34:6; Jeremiah 46:10. Nations have been consecrated to war that they may consume Jacob or Israel, Jeremiah 10:25. These heathen nations are guests of the Lord, to chasten His erring, though chosen people of Israel, in their disobedience to Him, Isaiah 13:3; 1 Samuel 9:13; 1 Samuel 9:22; 1 Samuel 16:5.

Verse 8 announces that in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice He will punish the princes or nobles of Judah, the ringleaders, who should have set an example in public life rather than imitate the greedy and oppressive behavior of heathen nations. He adds a warning that He will also punish the king’s children, and all who are clothed with strange apparel, those wearing vestments or robes to denote the worship of each different god in all the land. 2 Kings 10:22; Jeremiah 39:6. For such was a violation of the Divine Law Judah had vowed to keep. They were also forbidden to wear women’s garments, a thing they had come to practice, as may transvestites and homosexuals do even today, Deuteronomy 22:5. It is in stark contrast with the clean and white garments of wedding .saints, at the marriage of the Lamb, Revelation 19:8.

Verse 9 continues to affirm that God will punish, in this pending judgment, "all those that leap on the threshold," an idol practice or ritual attached to adoration of Dagon, in violence, to take spoils of others, to enrich their own houses and that of their superiors. They were marked for a severe Divine judgment; Such is also condemned; Man is warned against this course of life, 1 Timothy 6:17-19; James 5:1-6. See also Proverbs 11:28; Luke 6:24: Jeremiah 17:11.

Verse 10 further predicts that there shall be "come to be", to exist in Jerusalem, at the time of her siege by the Chaldeans, a terrorizing cry at the fish gate, which stood near the fish-market entrance to the city, 2 Chronicles 23:14; Nehemiah 3:3. This shall be followed by a similar cry of terror from the second. or inner part of the city, Nehemiah 12:31-39. And from the hills of Zion and Moriah, just southward from the fish gate, this howl of fear shall resound again and again, as the cruel crashing of the Chaldean army tears down, crashes, and plunders the city. from house to house, 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 24:22; Isaiah 15:5.

Verse 11 calls upon the market place (bazaar) inhabitants also to howl. Those of the Maktesh (the mortar), a rock depression area of the city where fine grains were hulled, were to run screaming from their humble places of trade and livelihood, as the mighty armies of Chaldea swept through the city gates and over the walls into Jerusalem to rape, ravage, burn, and destroy it, carrying away the silver, gold, and best furniture from the temple and homes of the wealthy, Nahum 2:9; Daniel 5:1-4. See also Zechariah 14:21; Hosea 12:7; Habakkuk 2:6.

Verse 12 warns that God will punish Judah and Jerusalem for their obstinate course of rebellion and idolatry through the idolatrous Chaldean army and nation. So severe will the punishment be that none can hide from the judgment. Even a candle light will detect those settled on their lees, careless, indifferent, doing nothing, to amend the wickedness of their people, Jeremiah 48:11; Amos 6:1; Amos 9:3. For to "him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin," James 4:17. These of Jerusalem and Judea had grown to be cynics, agnostics, and skeptics, alleging that God would neither do good nor evil, placing Him on a level with idols, which they had tolerated and come to worship too, Isaiah 41:23; Jeremiah 10:5; Psalms 55:19.

Verse 13 asserts that such conduct is the reason their houses shall be desolated, destroyed, and their goods seized as booty by the enemy invaders. Such as are left behind, not carried into captivity, as well as those taken captive, were to be slaves for a 70 year period, because of their sins, Deuteronomy 28:30; Amos 5:11; Jeremiah 25:11; Daniel 9:1-2.

Verse 14 foretells the great day of the Lord that was at hand, then imminent, for the destruction and captivity of Jerusalem, by Nebuchadnezzar, a pre-figure of the day of the Lord, when He comes to the Earth in The Tribulation The Great, at the end, at the battle of Armageddon, to subdue all things, and to judge, Jeremiah 25:30; Joel 2:1; Joel 2:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Amos 1:2.

Verse 15 further describes that armed invasion day of Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem to blast her hope and glory, make her utterly desolate, bring her to pain and humiliation, a state of stress and distress (emptiness) within and without. As a literal historical judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem, this is certified to be a picture of the terrible judgment of God that shall come to all, at the end of this age, who have forgotten God, Psalms 9:17; Isaiah 19:8; Job 2:2; Job 2:11; Amos 5:18.

Verse 17 continues to describe this day of the Lord’s judgment visitation as a day of the trumpet, to sound alarm of approaching enemies who were bent on destroying their fenced cities and high towers or fortified places, Amos 2:2, Yet the blasting trumpets, city fences, and high fortifications could not, would not, save them from the vengeance of the Babylonians. Nor will any invention, purpose, or plan of any man keep him from one day facing the judgment of God and His own sins, 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:26-27.

Verse 17 asserts that God Himself will bring distress upon the disobedient, the lawless, those who have rejected Him and His ways, so that they walk, groping as blind men, uncertain, fearful, stumbling, until their blood should be shed as dust, and their flesh become as dung, putrid, putrefied, or rotten, food for worms. God gave them up, without further counsel or help, because of their own chosen paths of sin, Deuteronomy 28:29; Nahum 2:5; 2 Kings 13:7; Genesis 13:16.

Verse 18 asserts that neither their silver nor their gold would be able to bribe them off from judgment in the day of the Lord’s wrath. For the Lord, by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar’s army, was resolved to devour the land, by the fire of His jealousy, to rid the land of all the inhabitants speedily, in a very short time, Proverbs 11:4; Ezekiel 7:19; Ezekiel 38:19; See also Isaiah 13:17; Jeremiah 4:30; Jeremiah 46:28.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Zephaniah 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/zephaniah-1.html. 1985.
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