Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Chap. 1 The Title
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).
I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.Ch. Zephaniah 1:2-7. The Universal Judgment of the Day of the Lord
2. from off the land] from off the face of the ground, i.e. the earth, cf. Zephaniah 1:3. The judgment is indiscriminate, all that lives shall be swept away. Though it is men against whom God’s anger burns, the anger once kindled devours round about and consumes all created things. The sphere of man’s life, the realm of his rule (Psalm 8:6-8), is involved with himself in a common destruction.
I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.3. Zephaniah 1:3 particularises the “all things” of Zephaniah 1:2, cattle and fowl and fishes of the sea, and man. Hosea 4:3, “Therefore shall the land mourn, and everyone that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven; yea the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.” Similarly Ezekiel 38:19, “Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; so that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence”; cf. Isaiah 2:19-21.
the stumblingblocks … wicked] The words are rather obscure, and seem to disturb the connexion. The term rendered “stumblingblock” occurs again Isaiah 3:6, “let this ruin (the country in anarchy) be under thy hand,” and Hitzig would understand it here in a somewhat similar sense, the houses, &c. “destined to become heaps” (Job 15:28). The somewhat similar word usually rendered “stumblingblock” is used in the sense of idol, or any object or practice of false worship (Ezekiel 14:3-4; Ezekiel 14:7), and this sense is more probable here. But the clause introduces an idea not in harmony with the rest of the verse.
I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests;4. The prophet turns to Judah and Jerusalem. Though the Day of the Lord was the revelation of Jehovah to the world, and therefore a thing universal, the centre of the judgment in the view of the pre-exile prophets was Israel (Amos 1, 2; Isaiah 2, 3), for judgment began at the house of God (Amos 3:2). With the exile the judgment on Israel seemed to have been fulfilled, and during the exile and later the judgment of the Day of the Lord is represented as falling on the heathen world (Isaiah 13; Zechariah 1-6), and its issue is Israel’s redemption. But after the Restoration, when Israel was again a people and far from answering to its ideal, prophets have to threaten it anew with the refiner’s fire of the Day of the Lord (Malachi 3:2 ff.).
I will also stretch] And I will stretch out my hand, i.e. in order to smite, Isaiah 5:25; Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 14:26-27. As in Amos 1, 2 the cloud laden with judgment trails round the horizon, discharging itself on one nation after another, and finally settles over Israel, so here Jehovah’s wrath against all created things concentrates itself on Judah and Jerusalem.
the remnant of Baal from this place] The words “from this place” imply that Zephaniah lived in Jerusalem. The term Baal appears to he used, particularly in later writers, not only of Baal proper, but also of the images of Jehovah, and even in a wider way of Jehovah under any false conception of His being. Worship rendered nominally to Jehovah, but unworthy of Him, and implying an inadequate conception of His nature, was stigmatised as Baal-worship. The expression the remnant, besides its natural sense of “that which is left,” may mean “the whole,” so that “remnant of Baal” may have the sense of “false worship wholly” (Isaiah 14:22), and this is probably the meaning here. For “remnant” Sept. gives names of Baal, a rendering which may be due to the influence of Hosea 2:17, “I will take away the names of the Baalim out of her mouth.” Cf. Zechariah 13:2.
the name of the Chemarims] The A.V. plur. Chemarims is of the same sort as Cherubims (Genesis 3:24) and Seraphims (Isaiah 6:2); in Heb. the word Chemarim (pronounced Kemârim) is itself a plural. The term is derived from an Aramaic root, meaning “to be black,” but whether the priests were so named as “black-robed” or for some other reason is not certain. In addition to the present passage the word is used in Hosea 10:5 of the priests of the calves in the northern kingdom, and in 2 Kings 23:5 of the priests of the high places in the cities of Judah and outside Jerusalem (A.V. idolatrous priests). In the latter passage the construction leaves it somewhat uncertain whether the strictly idolatrous priests who offered sacrifice to Baal, the sun and the moon, be also included among the Chemarim. In Hosea 10:5 the Sept. does not read the word, and in 2 Kings 23:5 it merely transcribes the name in Greek letters.
with the priests] The clause is wanting in Sept., and may be a later addition. The view of Keil that “the priests” are the strictly idolatrous priests who sacrificed to Baal and other deities, while the Chemarim are the priests of the high places, has little probability; in such a case the term “priests” would have been more fully defined. Whether the clause be a gloss or not, the “priests” are probably the degenerate regular priests of Jehovah, such as are described in ch. Zephaniah 3:4.
And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham;5. Besides the priests who lead the false worship, the various classes of worshippers shall be swept away: (1) those that worship the host of heaven on the house-tops; (2) those who unite Jehovah and other gods in their worship; and (3) those who have renounced the service of Jehovah, or who do not concern themselves about Him (Zephaniah 1:6)—those wholly indifferent, “settled on their lees” (Zephaniah 1:12).
the host of heaven] The “host of heaven” appears to be an expression including the heavenly bodies in general, sun, moon and stars. Of course only particular stars, such as the more brilliant fixed stars and the planets, with the constellations of the zodiac (2 Kings 23:5), would be worshipped, not the starry heavens in a mass. The sun and moon are frequently specified separately from the “host of heaven,” because more conspicuous, though they are no doubt to be included in the general expression, “host of heaven.” The fact that the worship of the heavenly bodies was performed on the housetops indicates that the service was rendered directly to them when visible and not indirectly to representations of them. Job 31:26 describes one way of performing the worship: “If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, and my mouth hath kissed my hand”; cf. Ezekiel 8:16, “Behold, about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.” Worship of the host of heaven is not alluded to by the prophets of northern Israel, unless it be in the obscure passage Amos 5:26. Its prevalence in Judah in later times was due to the influence of Assyria. It was natural that the vassal state should imitate the manners and religion of its superior. The practice appears to have been introduced by Ahaz (2 Kings 23:12), and is frequently alluded to by Jeremiah and writers after his time (Jeremiah 19:13).
that swear by the Lord] lit. that swear to the Lord. To swear to the Lord is to acknowledge and do homage to Jehovah as God; to swear by the Lord is to bind oneself by His name in taking an oath. Cf. Isaiah 45:23, “unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”
And that swear by Malcham] The word Malcham as pointed means their King, that is, probably Molech. Others would point Milcom, the name of the god of the children of Ammon (1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:33; 2 Kings 23:13), who however is called Molech in 1 Kings 11:7. Though Solomon to gratify his strange wives built highplaces to Milcom and other gods, worship of the Ammonitish Milcom in Israel is nowhere else alluded to and has little probability. The spelling Malcham, “their King,” is therefore preferable, though it is possible that Malcham is merely another pronunciation of Milcom, meaning Molech. The vowels in the word Mólech are altogether anomalous, and are possibly those of the word shame (bósheth), i.e. Baal; the word should in all likelihood be spelled Mélech (or Malich), the ordinary word for “King,” as in Isaiah 57:9. Molech is thus not a proper name, but one applicable to any chief god, whether Baal or another.
The construction of the clause is difficult. Two classes of persons cannot be meant: viz., such as worship and swear to Jehovah and such as swear by their King. One class of persons is described, those who worship Jehovah and also swear by their King, doing homage both to Jehovah and Molech. Ezekiel refers to such persons, ch. Ezekiel 23:37 ff., “For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it” (Ezekiel 23:39).
And them that are turned back from the LORD; and those that have not sought the LORD, nor inquired for him.6. In this verse also one class of persons is described in two ways: those who have turned away from Jehovah and who do not seek Him. Comp. the prophet’s exhortation ch. Zephaniah 2:2, “seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth.”
Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.7. Hold thy peace … Lord God] lit. the Lord Jehovah. The divine name Jehovah was not pronounced in the synagogue reading, the word Lord (A.V. in that case Lord) being substituted for it; but when the actual word Lord (Adonai) stood beside Jehovah then the reader substituted God (A.V. God) for Jehovah. The prophet vividly realises the presence of Jehovah. He is present in the Day of the Lord which is at hand. And before His presence the prophet exclaims to men, Hush! Habakkuk 2:20, Zechariah 2:13. The “day of the Lord” is not merely some great calamity or judgment which the prophet feels to be impending, it is always Jehovah’s manifestation of Himself in fulness, and the judgment is the final and universal one. The coming of “the day of the Lord” was an ancient idea of the prophets (Hosea 4:3; Isaiah 2:12 ff.) and even of the people (Amos 5:18); it was a belief older than any written prophecy, as the passage in Amos shews, and later prophets (Isaiah 13:6 ff.; Zephaniah 1:7 ff.; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1) only amplify the details of the idea. The presentiment of its nearness, however, was often awakened in the prophet’s mind by severe visitations of providence (Joel), or by great convulsions among the nations (Isaiah 13; Zephaniah 1). Jehovah was so visibly present in these events that the presentiment could not be repressed that they were the tokens and heralds of His final manifestation of Himself, when His glory would be revealed and all flesh should see it together. Of course the prophet’s presentiment was not realised, the impending judgment passed over, and the day of the Lord was delayed. But this fact should not lead us to suppose that the prophets call any great visitation of God by the name of “the day of the Lord.”
prepared a sacrifice] The sacrifice, which is Israel, is slain, and the guests who are to eat of the sacrificial meal are invited. The destruction of Israel is so certain that it is conceived as already accomplished.
He hath bid his guests] lit. he hath consecrated (sanctified) them that are bidden (1 Samuel 9:13). Those bidden are the foes who shall devour Israel. In ancient times slaughter of animals even for food was a kind of sacrificial act, as the blood and part of the flesh were offered to God, and only those who were clean could partake of the sacrificial meal (1 Samuel 20:26); hence some consecration or preparation on the part of the guests was necessary, such as washing the clothes, in order to “sanctify” themselves. The Lord has sanctified His guests who are to eat His sacrifice (Isaiah 13:3). Comp. the same idea Isaiah 34:6; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 39:17, though in Ezek. the guests bidden to the Lord’s sacrifice are the birds of every sort and the beasts of the field. There is a certain inconsistency in the figure: of course the foes are those who slay Israel, the sacrifice, but the figure represents Jehovah as slaying and preparing the sacrifice, which the guests consume. The metaphor shews that some particular assailant of Israel is in the prophet’s view, just as in Isaiah 13:3. See Introduction, § 1.
And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD'S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.8. I will punish the princes] lit. visit upon the princes. The princes are the nobles, particularly those entrusted with judicial and similar offices.
the king’s children] The children of the king are the royal house in general, hardly Josiah’s own sons, who in the eighteenth year of his reign were aged ten and twelve (2 Kings 23:31; 2 Kings 23:36). For “children” Sept. reads house of the king, a reading which at least suggests the right meaning. The words “children” and “house” are occasionally confused. Sept. reads “house” where Heb. has “children” in Jeremiah 16:15; Ezekiel 2:3; 1 Chronicles 2:10, and on the other hand it reads “children” where Heb. has “house” in Genesis 45:11; Exodus 16:31; Joshua 17:17; Joshua 18:5; Hosea 1:7.
clothed with strange apparel] i.e. foreign apparel. It would be the royal family, “behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses” (Matthew 11:8), and the nobility who were given to this practice.
8–13. The classes in Jerusalem on which the judgment will fall
The errors and sins assailed by Zephaniah are the same as those attacked by earlier prophets, e.g. (1) the false worship, Zephaniah 1:4-6, cf. Amos 4:4 ff.; Isaiah 1:11 ff.; (2) the civil wrong and injustice, Zephaniah 1:9, cf. Amos 5:7; Amos 5:10-13; Isaiah 3:12-15; Isaiah 5:8; Isaiah 5:23; (3) dissatisfaction with the idea of the theocratic state and its place among the nations, and consequent assumption of foreign manners, Zephaniah 1:8, cf. Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 8:6 (they reject the waters of Shiloah that go softly), though possibly the luxury of foreign apparel may also be stigmatised (Amos 6:3-7); and (4) religious indifference and insensibility to the operations of Jehovah, Zephaniah 1:12, cf. Amos 6:1; Amos 6:13-14; Isaiah 5:11-12; Isaiah 6:9-10; Isaiah 29:9-12, the result of which was an absorbing devotion to secular business, Zephaniah 1:11, cf. Amos 8:5.
In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit.9. those that leap on the threshold] Rather: leap (or, spring) over the threshold. The priests of Dagon avoided treading on the threshold of his temple because the idol had fallen upon it (1 Samuel 5:5). The connexion here, however, implies that leaping over the threshold is rather an act of violence, suggesting forcible invasion of the house, for the next clause, “that fill their master’s house with violence,” is a further description of those that leap over the threshold.
fill their masters’ houses] More probably: their master’s house, reference being to the king. Zephaniah 1:8-9 seem to have a common subject, the princes and king’s children, that is, the officers of the king and the members of the royal family. Probably persons belonging to the collateral branches of the royal house filled judicial and other offices in the government.
with violence and deceit] Or, wrong and fraud. The words do not mean that wrong and fraud are committed in the house of the king, but that his house is filled with the proceeds of such things, cf. Isaiah 3:14-15. What is alluded to is the perversion of justice practised by the princes and the royal family for purposes of gain. At a later time Ezek. makes a similar complaint against the princes and royal house (ch. Ezekiel 22:25-29. In Ezekiel 22:25 read princes).
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills.10. the fish gate] The gate may have received its name from its vicinity to the fishmarket. From Nehemiah 3:1-3 it appears that the fishgate lay to the west of the tower of Hananeel; and in Nehemiah 12:39 the procession starting from the south-west of the city and going round the walls north and east passed successively the gate of Ephraim, the old gate, the fishgate, the tower of Hananeel and the tower of Meah, halting at the sheepgate, which was near the Temple. The fishgate therefore was situated in the northern wall of the city, probably not far from the N.W. angle of the walls. In the days of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:16), and possibly in the time of Zephaniah, the fishmongers were Tyrians, and their commodity was no doubt dried fish.
a howling from the second] Better as R.V. the second quarter, i.e. of the city. The second quarter may have been so called from its having been recently added to the city. In 2 Chronicles 33:14 Manasseh is said to have built an outer wall extending as far as the fishgate. The second quarter in all likelihood lay on the north of the city; according to 2 Kings 22:14 the prophetess Huldah had her house there.
great crashing from the hills] lit. great breach. The crashing is scarcely the noise of falling buildings, the expression seems rather to be elliptical for a cry of great destruction (Isaiah 15:5), parallel to “cry” and “howling” in the two previous clauses. The “hills” referred to are those on which Jerusalem was built, though especially those of the northern quarter.
Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.11. ye inhabitants of Maktesh] The term Maktesh is rendered “hollow-place,” Jdg 15:19, and mortar, Proverbs 27:22. Some depression or valley in the city is referred to: Hitzig thinks of that between Acra and the Temple area, and others of the valley of the Tyropœon or cheese-makers, a depression, now filled up with the rubbish of many centuries, which ran from north to south, dividing the city into two parts. The probability is that the Maktesh lay in the northern part of the city. It was on this side that Jerusalem was most liable to attack, and the prophet has in view throughout an invasion by a foe from the north.
all the merchant people] lit. the people of Canaan. The Canaanites or Phenicians were the chief traders in Palestine, and the name Canaan came to be used for merchant. It is scarcely actual Canaanites that are referred to here; already in Hosea 12:7 the term Canaan is applied figuratively to Ephraim, and in Ezekiel 16:29; Ezekiel 17:4, Chaldea is called the “land of Canaan,” i.e. the merchant land. In Isaiah 23:8 the word Canaan seems to be used in the plur., and certainly in a figurative sense: “her (Tyre’s) traffickers are the honourable of the earth.” In Proverbs 31:24 the form Canaanite is used for merchant, and so perhaps Job 41:6 (Heb. 40:30).
are cut down] R.V. are undone, as Isaiah 6:5; the word is usually rendered cut off, Hosea 10:7; Hosea 10:15.
All they that bear silver] Or, money. The reference is not to the trade of silversmiths, but rather to merchants in general.
And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.12. I will search Jerusalem with candles] lit. with lamps, or, lanterns, Luke 15:8. The darkest places shall be penetrated and those lurking in them discovered. Jehovah searches, though it may be by the hand of the enemy that He performs the search. It is out of these obscurist places that the men settled on their lees will have to be dragged. These are not enthusiasts who throng public places and are always in the light of day; they are the indifferent, who withdraw from public concerns, who have no zeal because no faith. In the pictures of Zephaniah as a saint he is represented carrying a lantern.
settled on their lees] lit. thickened on their lees. The figure is taken from wine that has sat long undisturbed, and is finely expanded in Jeremiah 48:11-12, “Moab hath been at ease from his youth and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel … I will send unto him them that pour off, and they shall pour him off.” Those referred to are men who have lived at ease, without trouble or vicissitude in life, and who have therefore sunk down into unfeeling indifference or even into incredulity regarding any interference of a higher power in the affairs of mankind (next clause).
The Lord will not do good] The phrase “do good or do evil” has come to mean little more than “do aught” (Isaiah 41:23), but properly it is used in a literal way; Jeremiah 10:5, “Be not afraid of them (the idols), for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.” An Arab, poet says: “I sing a man, on whom the sun never rose a day but he did good and did evil,” i.e. to his friends and foes respectively. The persons referred to by the prophet say this “in their hearts.” The saying differs little from the other, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1), no living God who observes and interposes in the affairs of human life. Though in a different atmosphere of thought Renan expresses himself to the same effect: “it has, in fact, never been established by observation that a superior being troubles himself, for a moral or an immoral purpose, with the things of nature or the affairs of mankind” (Hist. of Israel, ii p. ii.).
Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.13. The verse implies that the “search” (Zephaniah 1:12) is made by the foe under commission of the Lord; the foe is in quest of spoil, but his acts are the Lord’s “visitation” on the unbelieving.
They shall also build houses] and they shall build houses, but not inhabit them. The phrase is a common one signifying that they shall not enjoy the fruit of their labour; meaning, and the houses which they have built they shall not inhabit. Comp. Amos 5:11; Micah 6:15; Deuteronomy 28:30; Deuteronomy 28:39; Isaiah 65:21-22.
The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.14. The great day of the Lord is near] The day is called “great and terrible,” Joel 2:31; Malachi 4:5, and is always represented as near, Isaiah 13:6; Joel 2:1; Joel 2:11 (see notes on Zephaniah 1:7).
Even the voice of the day] Rather as an exclamation: hark! the day of the Lord! or, the sound of the day of the Lord!
shall cry there bitterly] lit. crieth out there—the scene being before the prophet’s view. It is not necessary to take there in a temporal sense, then, a meaning not quite certain even in Proverbs 8:27 (cf. Jdg 5:11; Hosea 10:9; Psalm 14:5; Psalm 66:6; Psalm 133:3). As to the idea expressed comp. Isaiah 13:7-8, “all hands shall be feeble and every heart of man shall melt; and they shall be dismayed.” Jeremiah 30:5-7. With “crieth out bitterly” cf. Isaiah 33:7, “the ambassadors of peace weep bitterly.”
14–18. The terrors of the Day of the Lord
The day of the Lord is described as a day of battle and assault upon the fenced cities, but also as a day of darkness and supernatural terrors. In Arabic the term “day” often means “battle-day,” as the “day of Bedr,” and this may have been its original application in Hebrew; cf. Isaiah 9:4, “in the day of Midian.” The day of the Lord is the day of His self-revelation to judge evil and bring His work of redemption among men to completion. On the one side His revelation of Himself fills men with terror and anguish, on the other side it is the cause of universal gladness, for the oppressions under which the world groaned come to an end and the reign of God begins: “The Lord is King! let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of the isles be glad … for he cometh to rule the earth; he shall rule the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity” (Psalm 97:1; Psalm 98:9). Sometimes the terrors of the day of the Lord are represented as due to His manifestation of Himself and the convulsions of nature that accompany His appearing, “when he arises to shake terribly the earth” (Isaiah 2:10-22); at other times, besides the supernatural gloom and terrors that surround Him when He appears, He is represented as using some terrible distant nation as the instrument by which He executes His judgment (Isaiah 13, and the present passage). The judgment of the day of the Lord is a judgment on the known world, on Israel and the historical nations lying within its horizon, and the nation that executes the judgment is some fierce and wild people emerging from the dark places of the earth lying beyond the confines of the known world. There is thus a certain inconsistency in the representation: though the judgment be universal the nation that executes it does not come within its scope.
That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,15. a day of wrath] i.e. of the outpouring of the wrath of God. The effects of this wrath are then detailed: (1) trouble and distress; (2) wasteness and desolation; (3) darkness and gloominess, clouds and thick darkness. The combination “trouble and distress” is found again Job 15:24; cf. Isaiah 30:6; “wasteness” or devastation “and desolation,” Job 38:27; and the phrase “a day of darkness,” &c. Joel 2:2. Cf. Isaiah 13:10; Amos 5:18. These supernatural terrors are not to be regarded as figures, they are realities; the world is a human and moral world: nature is convulsed and dissolved in man’s judgment, and transfigured and glorified in his redemption. The first words of the Vulgate translation of this verse, Dies iræ dies illa, were adopted by Thomas of Celano as the opening words of his splendid hymn on the Last Judgment. See Trench, Sacred Latin Poetry, p. 296.
A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.16. Besides the supernatural terrors of the judgment there is the hostile assault which the supernatural terrors accompany.
A day of the trumpet and alarm] The “trumpet” was blown amidst the attack (Jdg 7:19), as now martial music accompanies the advance. Amos 2:2, “Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.” The word “alarm” here is that rendered “shouting,” Amos 1:14; Amos 2:2, in accordance with its literal sense “to arms!” (Ital. all’ arme). The “shouting” (terû‘ah), originally that of battle (Jeremiah 4:19), became in later and more peaceful times the shout of the glad worshippers on the feast days (Ezra 3:11-13).
And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.17. The distress, though at first outward, leads to inward perplexity, when men can find no outlet or way, and grope like the blind. The comparison is a frequent one to express perplexity and helplessness: Deuteronomy 28:29 “thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness;” Isaiah 59:10. Here the perplexity is secondary, due to the paralysing calamities of the judgment; but in other cases by moral laws that operate invisibly moral confusion and perplexity invade the mind through sin. On the last part of the verse comp. Psalm 79:3; Psalm 83:10; Jeremiah 9:22; Jeremiah 16:4. The word translated flesh (again only Job 20:23) has been rendered by others, inwards, bowels (Frd. Delitzsch, Prolegomena, p. 193), but this sense is less probable.
Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.18. The idea of the verse is illustrated in Proverbs 11:4, “Riches profit not in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivereth from death,” cf. Ezekiel 7:19. The instruments also whom Jehovah employs to execute His judgments are sometimes animated by a loftiness of purpose and mind that despises mere earthly treasures: “Behold, I stir up the Medes against them, which regard not silver, and as for gold they delight not in it” (Isaiah 13:17).
the whole land] Rather, the whole earth; ch. Zephaniah 3:8.
devoured by the fire of his jealousy] “Jealousy” means heat, and may refer to any violent emotion, as military ardour (Isaiah 42:13); usually it means the strong reaction or self-assertion of the mind against an injury. If the term have this special sense here it is explained by the words “they have sinned against Jehovah” (Zephaniah 1:17). The figure of jealousy here is that of a fire devouring the whole earth. The words are repeated Zephaniah 3:8.
make even a speedy riddance] lit. for an end, surely a terrible (or, sudden) destruction will he make (of) all the inhabiters of the earth. Cf. Nahum 1:8. The chapter ends with announcing anew the universal destruction threatened in Zephaniah 1:2-3.