Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Zephaniah 1

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3374. B.C. 630.

In this chapter, after an account of the prophet, and the date of his mission, we have,

(1,) Denunciations of utter destruction to Judah and Jerusalem, particularly to such as worshipped idols, and neglected the worship of God, Zephaniah 1:2-6 .

(2,) A command to submit to the divine judgments in silence, because they had greatly sinned, Zephaniah 1:7-9 , Zephaniah 1:12 , Zephaniah 1:17 ; and to howl, because the judgments would extend to all ranks and all places, and would be most terrible and unavoidable, Zephaniah 1:10-18 .

Verse 1

Zephaniah 1:1. The word that came to Zephaniah The divine revelation that was made to him. The son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, &c. If these were not prophets, as the Jewish doctors make them, yet it is probable they were persons of some note in Judah. The son of Hizkiah Although both the letters and points of this name in the Hebrew are the same with those of King Hezekiah, and some therefore have thought that the prophet was his great-grandson; yet that could not be the case, because there was not a sufficient distance of time between King Hezekiah and Josiah, in whose time he flourished, for four descents: nor do we read of Hezekiah’s having any son but Manasseh. In the days of Josiah The Jews were wont to allege, that their kings obliged them to practise idolatry, and rendered them in other respects corrupt in their manners; but God, by raising up the pious Josiah to be their king, deprived them of that excuse. For so far was he from encouraging them in any branch of impiety or vice, that he used his utmost efforts to effect a thorough reformation among them, although, alas! to little purpose, for they continued to be exceeding corrupt, both in their principles and practices; or, if any change took place among them for the better, it seems to have been but very partial, and of very short duration.

Verses 2-3

Zephaniah 1:2-3. I will utterly consume all things, &c. That is, I will make the land of Judea quite desolate. I will consume man and beast, &c. That is, beasts of the tame and domestic kind. I will consume the fowls of the heaven and the fishes of the sea Or of the waters, as we are wont to speak, for the Jews called every large collection of waters a sea. The meaning is, I will bring a judicial and extraordinary desolation on the land, which shall extend itself even to the birds and fishes: see notes on Hosea 4:3; Jeremiah 4:23-25. Virgil speaks of pestilential disorders affecting both the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the heaven.

“Jam maris immensi prolem, et genus omne natantum Litore in extremo, ceu naufraga corpora, fluctus Proluit.” GEORG. 3. 50:541.

“Ipsis est aër avibus non æquus; et illæ Præcipites altâ vitam sub nube relinquunt.” Ib. 50:546.

“The scaly nations of the sea profound, Like shipwreck’d carcasses, are driven aground: And mighty phocæ, never seen before, In shallow streams, are stranded on the shore. To birds their native heavens contagious prove, From clouds they fall, and leave their souls above.” DRYDEN.

“It is known,” says Bishop Newcome, “that birds are affected by pestilential disorders arising from putrefied carcasses. They fall dead when they alight on bales of cloth infected by the plague.” And St. Jerome upon this place says, that there are sufficient proofs when cities are laid waste, and great slaughter is made of men, that it creates also a scarcity or solitude of beasts, birds, and fishes; and he mentions several places which, in those days, bore witness to this, where he says, there was nothing left but earth and sky, and briers and thick woods. And the stumbling-blocks with the wicked In the Hebrew it is, The offences with the wicked; that is, the idols with their worshippers. I will cut off man from the land The land shall be depopulated, either by its inhabitants being slain, or carried away captive.

Verses 4-6

Zephaniah 1:4-6. I will also stretch out my hand upon Judah I will manifest my power upon Judah, as I have done upon Israel. And I will cut off the remnant of Baal The altars, or places of worship, dedicated to Baal, which still remain in this place, namely, Jerusalem; and the name of the Chemarims Of the idolatrous priests, for so the same word is rendered 2 Kings 23:5, where see the note; with the priests That is, I will destroy these together with the priests of the tribe of Levi, who have been joined in the worship of idols, in which, as we learn from Ezekiel 8:11; Ezekiel 22:26, some of them were joined. And them that worship the host of heaven upon the house-tops They were wont to worship the moon and stars upon the roofs of their houses, which were made flat. And that swear by the Lord, and by Malcham That join the worship of idols to that of the true God. Malcham is the same with Moloch, to whom many of the people of Judah continued to offer their children, as Jeremiah upbraids them, Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5; and that, it seems, after the reformation that Josiah had made. Swearing is an act of religious worship, or a solemn invocation of God, as a witness and a judge, Deuteronomy 10:20; and therefore the Israelites were expressly forbidden to swear by idols, Joshua 23:7. And them that are turned back, &c. That are apostates to idolatry. And those that have not sought the Lord That live without any sense of religion, and, as it were, without God in the world.

Verse 7

Zephaniah 1:7. Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord Keep silence in token of an awful reverence toward God. For the day of the Lord is at hand Now he is coming to execute his judgments upon the land. Humble thyself under his mighty hand, without repining or murmuring at his corrections, which thy sins do so justly deserve. For the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice The slaughter of the wicked is called a sacrifice, because it is, in some sense, an atonement to God’s justice. He hath bid his guests This is an allusion to the custom of those who offered sacrifices, which was to invite their friends to partake of the feasts which accompanied them. So here God is said to invite his guests, that is, the Babylonians, who were to reap the spoils of the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, and of the desolation of Judea: or, as some explain it, the guests may mean ravenous birds, wild beasts, and dogs, collected to devour the carcasses of the slain.

Verses 8-9

Zephaniah 1:8-9. In that day I will punish the princes and the king’s children In 2 Kings 25:7; 2 Kings 25:21, we read of the fulfilling of both these particulars; the sons of King Zedekiah, and the principal officers of the state, being slain by the order of the king of Babylon. And all such as are clothed with strange apparel Used for idolatrous purposes: see Deuteronomy 22:11. There were peculiar vestments belonging to the worship of each idol; hence the command of Jehu, 2 Kings 10:22, Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. The text may likewise be explained of such men as wore women’s apparel, and such women as wore that of men, which was contrary to an express law, Deuteronomy 22:5, and was a rite observed in the worship of some idols. In the same day will I punish all those that leap on the threshold Or rather, over the threshold. The expression is thought to denote some idolatrous rite, like that which was practised in the temple of Dagon, where the priests did not tread upon the threshold, 1 Samuel 5:5. Thus the Chaldee paraphrast interprets it of those who walked after the laws or rites of the Philistines. Capellus, however, understands it of those who invaded the house of their neighbours, joyfully bounding on the threshold. “This sense is favoured by what follows.” Newcome. Which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit Who enter into other men’s houses, and take away their goods by fraud or violence, and carry them to the houses of their masters. The iniquitous officers of the kings and princes seem to be here intended, who employed all the arts of deceit and oppression, as well as of open violence, to fill their master’s coffers.

Verses 10-11

Zephaniah 1:10-11. In that day there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish- gate Mentioned Nehemiah 3:3. It was opposite to Joppa, according to Jerome, and at the entering of the city from that quarter. The sundry expressions of this verse are intended to describe the cries and shrieks that should arise from all parts of the city, upon the taking of it by the Babylonians. The great crashing from the hills might be intended to signify the noise that should be heard from the palace and temple, which were situated on the mountains, Zion and Moriah. Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh The inhabitants of some particular part in or near Jerusalem. The Chaldee interprets it of the inhabitants near the brook Cedron. Bishop Newcome renders the clause, Howl ye inhabitants of the lower city, understanding it of the valley in Jerusalem, which divided the upper from the lower city, “This,” says he, “is agreeable to the etymology of the word, which signifies a hollow place, a mortar.” In this sense the word is understood by Buxtorf. For all the merchant people are cut down All they who used to traffic with you shall be destroyed. All they that bear silver are cut off All the money-changers: the rich merchants in general, or the money-changers in particular, may be meant.

Verses 12-13

Zephaniah 1:12-13. At that time, I will search Jerusalem with candles I will deliver up Jerusalem into the hands of the Chaldeans, who shall let no corner of it escape them, but shall diligently search the houses, even with lights or torches, that they may plunder them of every thing. And punish the men that are settled on their lees Who live securely in ease and plenty: see notes on Jeremiah 48:11, and Amos 6:1. That say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, &c. Who have not God in all their thoughts, or imagine that he doth not concern himself with the affairs of the world, and that neither good nor evil is brought to pass by his providence. The prophet especially describes those men, who, trusting in their riches, paid very little regard to the threats of the prophets, and seemed entirely safe in their own eyes, while they kept their beloved treasures. Therefore their goods shall become a booty, &c. The enemy shall plunder their goods, and turn them out of their houses and possessions, so that they shall not inherit the houses they have built, nor drink the wine of the vineyards which they have planted.

Verses 14-16

Zephaniah 1:14-16. The great day of the Lord is near The time of God’s executing his terrible judgments is nigh at hand. Even the voice, &c.

The word even is not in the Hebrew. This latter part of the sentence may, it seems, be better rendered thus: The voice of the day of the Lord is bitter, and it vehemently resoundeth there. Or, Then the mighty man crieth out. The general sense is, that great noise, or distraction, should attend the taking of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. That day is a day of wrath, &c. That time will be a time of executing wrath. A day of wasteness and desolation Hebrew, שׁאה ומשׁואה , of tumult and devastation. A day of darkness and gloominess, &c. Of perplexity, terror, and dismay. A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities A day of attacking and taking fortified cities and strong holds, the attacks on which were used to be made by the sound of trumpets; and probably trumpets sounded all the time of the attack, as also when an entrance was gained into them.

Verses 17-18

Zephaniah 1:17-18. I will bring distress, &c., that they shall walk as blind men I will bring them into such straits that they shall no more know whither to turn themselves, or which way to go for safety, than if they were blind: compare Deuteronomy 28:29, and Isaiah 59:10; in both which places the image is heightened by the circumstance of groping, or stumbling, like the blind, even at noon-day. And their blood shall be poured out as dust That is, as if it were of no value at all; and their flesh as dung The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be slain in the streets of the city, and their carcasses left there to rot and putrefy. Neither their silver nor gold shall deliver them This is spoken of the merchants, and other rich citizens. The whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy God’s vengeance is frequently compared to fire: see Nahum 1:6. This, it is here threatened, should consume the land and its inhabitants for their heinous offences, and chiefly for their idolatry; because that sin gives that honour which is only due to the one living and true God, to images, or fictitious gods, and therefore, in a peculiar manner, intrenches on God’s glory; is so contrary in its nature to the truth and fitness of things, and to all that is reasonable, just, and proper; has so great a tendency to corrupt and debase men’s minds, and the practice of it is so unfit in every point of view, that the Scriptures, to give men some idea how odious it is, and what a great provocation to the Most High, represent him as jealous of having that honour which is only due to him, given to another.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Zephaniah 1". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/zephaniah-1.html. 1857.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile