The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)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.
Zephaniah, ninth in order of the minor prophets, prophesied "in the days of Josiah" (Zep 1:1), that is, between 642 and 611 B.C. The name means "Jehovah hath guarded," literally, "hidden" (Ps 27:5; 83:3). The specification in the introductory heading, of not only his father, but also his grandfather, and great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, implies that the latter were persons of note, or else the design was to distinguish him from another Zephaniah of note at the time of the captivity. The Jews' supposition, that persons recorded as a prophet's ancestors were themselves endowed with the prophetic spirit, seems groundless. There is no impossibility of the Hezekiah, who was Zephaniah's great-great-grandfather, being King Hezekiah as to the number of generations; for Hezekiah's reign of twenty-nine years, and his successor's reign of fifty-five years, admit of four generations interposing between. Yet the omission of the designation, "king of Judah," is fatal to the theory (compare Pr 25:1; Isa 38:9).
He must have flourished in the earlier part of Josiah's reign. In Zep 2:13-15 he foretells the doom of Nineveh, which happened in 625 B.C.; and in Zep 1:4 he denounces various forms of idolatry, and specially that of Baal. Now Josiah's reformation began in the twelfth and was completed in the eighteenth year of his reign. Zephaniah, therefore, in denouncing Baal worship, co-operated with that good king in his efforts, and so must have prophesied somewhere between the twelfth and eighteenth years of his reign. The silence of the historical books is no argument against this, as it would equally apply against Jeremiah's prophetical existence at the same time. Jewish tradition says that Zephaniah had for his colleagues Jeremiah, whose sphere of labor was the thoroughfares and market places, and Huldah the prophetess, who exercised her vocation in the college in Jerusalem.
The prophecy begins with the nation's sin and the fearful retribution coming at the hands of the Chaldeans. These are not mentioned by name, as in Jeremiah; for the prophecies of the latter, being nearer the fulfilment, become more explicit than those of an earlier date. The second chapter dooms the persecuting states in the neighborhood as well as Judea itself. The third chapter denounces Jerusalem, but concludes with the promise of her joyful re-establishment in the theocracy.
The style, though not generally sublime, is graphic and vivid in details (compare Zep 1:4-12). The language is pure, and free from Aramaisms. There are occasional coincidences with former prophets (compare Zep 2:14, with Isa 34:11; Zep 2:15, with Isa 47:8; Zep 3:10, with Isa 18:1; Zep 2:8, with Isa 16:6; also Zep 1:5, with Jer 8:2; Zep 1:12, with Jer 48:11). Such coincidences in part arise from the phraseology of Hebrew prophetic poetry being the common language of the inspired brotherhood. The New Testament, at Ro 15:6, seems to refer to Zep 3:9.
Zep 1:1-18. God's Severe Judgment on Judah for Its Idolatry and Neglect of Him: The Rapid Approach of the Judgment, and the Impossibility of Escape.
1. days of Josiah—Had their idolatries been under former kings, they might have said, Our kings have forced us to this and that. But under Josiah, who did all in his power to reform them, they have no such excuse.
son of Amon—the idolater, whose bad practices the Jews clung to, rather than the good example of Josiah, his son; so incorrigible were they in sin.
Judah—Israel's ten tribes had gone into captivity before this. The word; the declaration of the purpose of God, either spoken audibly, or clearly manifested by signs.
the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah; which last name, consisting of the same letters with Hezekiah, king of Judah, some have thought, as Aben Ezra, that he is intended; and that Zephaniah was a great-grandson of his; and which some think is confirmed by his style and diction, and by the freedom he used with the king's family, Zephaniah 1:8 but it is objected, that, if so it was, Hizkiah, or Hezekiah, would have been called king of Judah; that it does not appear that Hezekiah had any other son besides Manasseh; and that there was not a sufficient distance of time from Hezekiah for four descents; and that, in fact, there were but three generations from him to Josiah, in whose days Zephaniah prophesied, as follows; though it is very probable that these progenitors of the prophet were men of note and character, and therefore mentioned, as well as to distinguish him from others of the same name, who lived
in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah: not Amos, as the Arabic version: Amon and Manasseh, who reigned between Hezekiah and Josiah, were both wicked princes, and introduced idolatrous worship among the Jews; which Josiah in the twelfth year of his reign began to purge the people from, and endeavoured a reformation; but whether it was before or after that Zephaniah delivered out this prophecy is not certain; it may seem to be before, by the corruption of the times described in it; and so it may be thought to have some influence upon the after reformation; though it is thought by many it was after; since, had he been in this office before the finding of the book of the law, he, and not Huldah the prophetess, would have been consulted, 2 Kings 22:14 nor could the people so well have been taxed with a perversion of the law, had it not been as yet found, Zephaniah 3:4 and, besides, the reformation seems to be hinted at in this prophecy, since mention is made of the remnant of Baal, which supposes a removal of many of his images; and also notice is taken of some that apostatized after the renewal of the covenant, Zephaniah 1:4 moreover, the time of the Jews' destruction and captivity is represented as very near, Zephaniah 1:7 which began a little after the death of Josiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; to which Dr. Lightfoot (f) adds, that the prophet prophesies against the king's children, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah, for their new fashions, and newfangled apparel, Zephaniah 1:8 and therefore it must be in the latter part of his reign; and, if so, it shows how a people may relapse into sin after the greatest endeavours for their good, and the best of examples set them. Mr. Whiston (g) and Mr. Bedford (h) place him in the latter part of his reign, about 611 or 612 B.C.: there were three that prophesied about this time, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Huldah the prophetess; of whom the Jewish Rabbins say, as Kimchi quotes them, Jeremiah prophesied in the streets, Zephaniah in the synagogues, and Huldah among the women.The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
The Argument - Seeing the great rebellion of the people, and that there was now no hope of amendment, he gives notice of the great judgment of God, which was at hand, showing that their country would be utterly destroyed, and they would be carried away captives by the Babylonians. Yet for the comfort of the faithful he prophesied of God's vengeance against their enemies, such as the Philistines, Moabites, Assyrians, and others, to assure them that God had a continual care over them. And as the wicked would be punished for their sins and transgressions, so he exhorts the godly to patience, and to trust to find mercy by reason of the free promise of God made to Abraham: and therefore quietly to wait until God shows them the effect of that grace, by which in the end they should be gathered to him, and counted as his people and children.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. The word … unto Zephaniah] The name Zephaniah means, He whom Jehovah has hid, that is, treasures, or protects. The name is not uncommon, Jeremiah 21:1; Jeremiah 52:24; Zechariah 6:10.
the son of Hizkiah] Hizkiah or Hezekiah may be the king of that name. It is unusual to carry the genealogy of a prophet further up than his father, and the exception in the present case suggests that Hezekiah, the last link in the chain, was a person of distinction. See Introduction, § 1.
in the days of Josiah … king of Judah] The words “king of Judah” refer to Josiah, not to his father Amon. Josiah reigned b.c. 639–608.
The Book has two great divisions: First, ch. Zephaniah 1:2 to Zephaniah 3:8, a threat of judgment on the world: on Judah and the nations; and secondly, a promise of salvation equally universal, ch. Zephaniah 3:9-20. The judgment is that of the great day of the Lord. The prophet represents it as universal, but concentrating itself on Judah, ch. Zephaniah 1:2 to Zephaniah 2:3; then as involving the nations, ch. Zephaniah 2:4-15; and finally he speaks of Judah and the nations together, ch. Zephaniah 3:1-8.
The passage ch. Zephaniah 1:2 to Zephaniah 2:3 has these divisions: (1) Judgment on all created things, and especially on Judah and Jerusalem (Zephaniah 1:2-7); (2) the classes in Jerusalem whom God will search out and punish (Zephaniah 1:8-13); (3) the terrors of the day of the Lord (Zephaniah 1:14-18); (4) exhortation to men to seek righteousness that they may be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger (ch. Zephaniah 2:1-3).Verse 1. - § 1. Title and inscription. The word of the Lord (see note on Micah 1:1). Zephaniah, "Whom the Lord shelters" (see Introduction, § II.). The son of, etc. The genealogy thus introduced shows that the prophet was of illustrious descent; or it may be inserted to distinguish him from others who bore the same name. Hizkiah. The same name which is elsewhere written in our version Hezekiah. Whether the great King of Judah is here meant may well be questioned (see Introduction). Other prophets have prefixed their genealogies to their books (see Zechariah 1:1; and in the Apocrypha, Baruch 1:1). In the days of Josiah. Zephaniah here gathers into one volume the denunciations and predictions which he had uttered daring the reign of Josiah, both before and after the great reformation effected by that good king (2 Kings 23.). Micah 5:5. "And He will be peace. When Asshur shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces, we set up against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men. Micah 5:6. And they feed the land of Asshur with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in his gates; and He rescues from Asshur when he comes into our land and enters into our border." זה (this man), viz., He who feeds His people in the majesty of God, will be peace, i.e., not merely pacis auctor, but He who carries peace within Himself, and gives it to His people. Compare Ephesians 2:14, "He is our peace," which points back to this passage. In this relation the Messiah is called the Prince of peace in Isaiah 9:5, as securing peace for Israel in a higher and more perfect sense than Solomon. But in what manner? This is explained more fully in what follows: viz., (1) by defending Israel against the attacks of the imperial power (Isaiah 9:5, Isaiah 9:6); (2) by exalting it into a power able to overcome the nations (Isaiah 9:7-9); and (3) by exterminating all the materials of war, and everything of an idolatrous nature, and so preventing the possibility of war (Isaiah 9:10-15). Asshur is a type of the nations of the world by which the people of the Lord are attacked, because in the time of the prophet this power was the imperial power by which Israel was endangered. Against this enemy Israel will set up seven, yea eight princes, who, under the chief command of the Messiah, i.e., as His subordinates, will drive it back, and press victoriously into its land. (On the combination of the numbers seven and eight, see the discussions at Amos 1:3.) Seven is mentioned as the number of the works proceeding from God, so that seven shepherds, i.e., princes, would be quite sufficient; and this number is surpassed by the eight, to express the thought that there might be even more than were required. נסיכי אדם, not anointed of men, but installed and invested, from nâsakh, to pour out, to form, to appoint; hence Joshua 13:21, vassals, here the under-shepherds appointed by the Messiah as the upper-shepherd. The meaning "anointed," which is derived from sūkh, neither suits Joshua 13:21 nor Proverbs 8:23 (see Delitzsch on Psalm 2:6). On the figurative expression "feed with the sword," for rule, see Psalm 2:9 and Revelation 2:27; רעוּ from רעה, not from רעע. The land of Asshur is called the land of Nimrod, after the founder of the first empire (Genesis 10:9.), to indicate the character of the imperial power with its hostility to the kingdom of God. בּפתחיה, in his gates, i.e., cities and fortresses; gates for cities, as in Isaiah 3:26; Isaiah 13:2, etc.: not at his gates equals on his borders, where the Assyrians stream together for defence (Hitzig, Caspari, etc.). The borders of a land are never called gates; nor could a land be devastated or governed from the border, to say nothing of the fact that ב[תחיה corresponds to "in thy palaces" in Micah 5:4, and leads to the thought that Asshur is to be fully repaid for what it has done to the kingdom of God. The thought is rounded off with והצּיל מאשּׁוּר וגו, and so He saves from Asshur, etc., not merely by the fact that Asshur is driven back to his own border, and watched there, but by the fact that he is fed in his own territory with the sword. This victorious conflict with the imperial power must not be restricted to the spiritual victory of the kingdom of God over the kingdoms of the world, as Hengstenberg supposes, appealing to Micah 5:10., according to which the Lord will make His people outwardly defenceless before it becomes fully victorious in Christ (Hengstenberg). For the extermination of the instruments of war announced in Micah 5:10 refers not to the period of the exaltation of the people of God into the world-conquering power, but to the time of consummation, when the hostile powers shall be overcome. Before the people of God reach this goal, they have not only to carry on spiritual conflicts, but to fight for existence and recognition even with the force of arms. The prediction of this conflict and victory is not at variance with the announcement in Micah 4:2-3, that in the Messianic times all nations will go on pilgrimage to Zion, and seek for adoption into the kingdom of God. Both of these will proceed side by side. Many nations, i.e., great crowds out of all nations, will seek the Lord and His gospel, and enter into His kingdom; but a great multitude out of all nations will also persist in their enmity to the Lord and His kingdom and people, and summon all their power to attack and crush it. The more the gospel spreads among the nations, the more will the enmity of unbelief and ungodliness grow, and a conflict be kindled, which will increase till the Lord shall come to the last judgment, and scatter all His foes.
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