Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Zephaniah 3

Verses 1-7


Verses 1-7:

Moral State Of Jerusalem In Zephaniah’s Time

Verse 1 announces a "woe" upon a filthy, polluting, and oppressing city, which seems to be the city of Jerusalem, as further described verses 2-7. Some, however see this as a restatement of doom on Ninevah. She was as an harlot or prostitute, an immodest, an immoral woman, Matthew 1:19.

Verse 2 explains that the woe came, or was to come, because she neither obeyed the voice nor received correction that had been committed to her in the Law and the Prophets. The instructions of the Lord had been given both by the Law and by many chastening warnings from true prophets; Yet this city’s people did not believe in or trust the Lord. Nor did she draw near to Him in the times of her chastening, Psalms 2:12; Jeremiah 5:3; Deuteronomy 4:7.

Verse 3 charges that Jerusalem’s princes or royal nobles were like flesh-tearing lions against the poor, even of her own people, Micah ch. 3; Proverbs 28:15; Ezekiel 19:2; Nahum 2:12. And her judges, who should have shown mercy in judgment, are described as voracious and insatiable flesh tearing night beasts who desire to go for the kill undercover, in the shadows or dark hours of the night, because their judgments were evil, Habakkuk 1:6-8; John 3:19-21; Jeremiah 5:6; Habakkuk 1:8.

Verse 4 further charges that her prophets are light or fickle and treacherous, unstable and untrustworthy apostates, Jeremiah 23:32. And her priests have polluted the sanctuary, doing violence toward the very law of the Lord they were anointed to uphold. They desecrated the temple and her worship, making everything common and profane, as popularity seekers, rather than Divine servants, Ezekiel 22:26; Jeremiah 23:32; 2 Timothy 4:3-5.

Verse 5 reminds that the Lord of hosts is in their midst, in the city of Jerusalem. He will execute no judgment lawlessly, nor without mercy. He is described as executing judgment righteously, early in the morning, not under the hidden canopy of darkness, in the night; He fails not in all his judgment to do right. Deuteronomy 32:4. But the unjust prophets, priests, princes, and judges in His city of peace, knew no shame, recognized no shame in their carnal, covetous deeds. or showed no penitence or conversion from their ways, John 3:19-21: Proverbs 1:22-30.

Verse 6 reminds these Jerusalem leaders that the Lord had cut off (judged the nations), so that their towers or fortifications were laid waste, and none traveled the once busy streets. They were now without inhabitants. Should this not be an object lesson to His own people of Jerusalem and Judea, to turn them back to obedience and respect for His laws? 1 Corinthians 10:11-12.

Verse 7 recounts God’s saying to Himself, (reflecting the purpose for which He had sent judgments upon the lawless heathen nations nearby), "surely thou (Jerusalem) wilt hear, or give heed to me, and receive my instructions, so that your dwellings will not be cut off or totally destroyed," Leviticus 26:31-32; Psalms 69:25; Micah 3:12. But instead of repenting and heeding His voice His own chosen people had risen up early to have time to do more wickedness in one day, Luke 19:42; Luke 13:35.

Verses 8-13

Verses 8-13:

Judgment Of The Nations

Verse 8 recounts God’s call to Judah to wait upon Him until the day that He shall rise up to prey (to judge the nations) for He announces a fixed determination to gather or assemble all nations (races) and all kingdoms (organized civil governments) before Him, to pour out all His fiery indignation and fierce anger, Isaiah 30:18-33; Habakkuk 2:3. For their impenitent, obstinate rebellion against His word and ways, He announces that all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of His jealousy. He shall sift and convert all people who are penitent from all nations and destroy the impenitent wicked at the hour as described Joel 3:2; Zechariah 12:1-9; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:11-21; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

Verse 9 pledges that God will then, at that time, give to the converted Gentiles a pure language of devotion, springing from a new heart. In order that they might all, redeemed Jew and Gentile, be in one accord, harmony, or unanimity, Jeremiah 32:39; This is prefigured by two bearers of the grapes of Eschol, Numbers 23:23; Matthew 11:30; Acts 15:28; Ephesians 4:1-5.

Verse 10 declares that in that day His dispersed, chosen people of Israel, shall come to, and be presented to, God by the redeemed from among the Gentiles, those of His church, whom He called from among the Gentiles for His name’s sake, called the church, custodian of His message of redemption and acceptable worship and praise in this and all succeeding ages, Isaiah 66:20; John 15:27; Acts 10:37; Acts 15:13-17; Ephesians 3:21. In this Golden millennial era, the twelve apostles of the church, called from among the Gentiles, shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Luke 22:28-30.

Verse 11 pledges to Judah and Israel that in that day of His judgment of the nations they shall not be ashamed, or be caused to be humiliated any more before Him, because of their past transgressions. All cause for shame shall be removed when they are sanctified and restored to His favor, Isaiah 66:2; Isaiah 66:10. Haughty, proud, princes and priests will no more be among them to exult in false pride, as they once did, Jeremiah 7:4; Micah 3:11; Matthew 3:9; Because of His Holy name and government.

Verse 12 announces that the Lord will also leave in the midst of regathered penitent Israel a lowly, humble, afflicted and poor people. And they will trust in the name of the Lord, or be subject to do His will, humbly, Psalms 2:12; Proverbs 3:3-5. Trust exists only when selfish boasting is abandoned, Zechariah 11:11.

Verse 13 describes this remnant of restored Israel as a people who will do no iniquity (lawless deed) or speak lies to deceive, Haggai 1:14; Isaiah 1:9; Romans 11:5. Nor shall a deceitful tongue or testimony longer be found in the mouth of any. For they shall be (exist as) an holy nation, sanctified, to the Lord, Exodus 19:6; They shall then feed in peace, undisturbed, with no unjust rulers or foreign foes to disturb them, Revelation 14:4-5.

Verses 14-20

Verses 14-20:

Israel’s Kingdom Blessing

Verse 14 is a direct call upon Jerusalem, and the nation of Israel, to be glad and rejoice with all the heart, because of this sure news of lasting peace, restoration, and Divine favor with God. A ground for full joy is emphasized, by repetition of the appeal, as when Paul wrote, "rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice," Philippians 4:4.

Verse 15 reaffirms to Israel that the Lord has taken away, removed beyond possible return, forever, His judgment and enemies against Israel. Evil has been removed and her enemies destroyed; So why should she not rejoice? Zechariah further prophesies, from the Lord, at that time "the king of Israel, even the Lord," is (exists) in your midst, for fellowship and protection. They are assured that they shall no more see evil or judgment, a thing that will occur at the second coming of Jesus, that surely did not occur at His first coming, Jeremiah 5:1-2; Jeremiah 44:17; Zechariah 6:12-13; Genesis 1:26; Zechariah 12:8.

Verse 16 states that at that time, there shall exist no cause for any fear, but full reason for diligence in devotion to the Lord in Jerusalem. And Zion, hill of His center of Davidic-Heir reign, is called upon to let there be no slackness, or occasion to faint, in her labors for and with the king of Glory, in His earthly reign, Hebrews 12:12; Isaiah 13:7.

Verse 17 declares that the Lord, as King and Bridegroom, in the midst of Israel, with His apostles and the church, will rejoice over Israel, with joy and rest in His love for His rescued people Israel, and His Bride, the church, Isaiah 62:5; Isaiah 65:19. As a bridegroom embraces, loves, cherishes his bride, so the Lord is described as caressing His people Israel, regathered, as King over them, Luke 1:32-33, and His bride, the church, whom he has taken to Himself, for glory forever, Revelation 19:5-9; Ephesians 3:21.

Verse 18 expresses God’s pledge to gather those who are (exist as) sorrowful, for the solemn assembly, those who had pined at a distance, at the marriage festivities of the Lamb, those redeemed, but neither of Israel’s worship nor that of His true church, to whom the reproach of it had been a burden, Hebrews 13:10; Revelation 19:9; See also Isaiah 58:12; Ezra 2:59; Psalms 68:27; 1 Corinthians 10:32.

Verse 19 pledges that at the beginning of that great day (era) of the reign of Christ over Israel and all the earth, He will first, in priority, put down or subject all who afflicted or oppressed His people, Israel. He will cause Israel, who had been dispersed, halted, limped, to be saved, delivered from dispersion, or returned to her own land and city of peace, Jerusalem. He will then cause them to receive praise, where they were once shamed by foes in their own land, Isaiah 2:1-3; Isaiah 25:8.

Verse 20 pledges that God will Himself bring Judah and Israel back to Jerusalem and their own land in the integrity of the covenants He had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This will be realized when He turns back or reverses their captivity, their dispersion, for the last time, Luke 21:24. God will finish the work He began with and in them and cause them to see or realize their own glory, as a nation, Ezekiel 34:29; Even as He causes the church to see her glory, with and in Him, at the marriage reception of the Lamb, Revelation 19:5-9; Luke 24:4; See also Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 27:12; Isaiah 56:8; Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 38:13; Ezekiel 37:21; Amos 9:14.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Zephaniah 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.