Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.Analysis and Annotations
CHAPTER 1 The Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment
The Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment
1. The judgment of all the world (Zephaniah 1:1-3)
2. The judgment will destroy the evildoers in Judah (Zephaniah 1:4-13)
3. The day of the Lord (Zephaniah 1:14-18)
Zephaniah 1:1-3. The first verse is the superscription, and tells us, as pointed out in the introduction, of the connection of Zephaniah and the date of his prophecy.
Then comes the announcement of the judgment. It is to consume all things from off the face of the land, man and beast, the fowls of heaven, the fishes of the sea, and end the stumbling blocks of the wicked, that is, their idols and idol worship. The land is not to be understood as being Israel’s land exclusively; it means the earth. That the judgment vision of Zephaniah has a wider scope than the land and the people is fully confirmed by other passages. The great day comes upon men everywhere (Zephaniah 1:17); it is universal (Zephaniah 2:4-15); all the isles of the nations are mentioned (Zephaniah 2:11).
Zephaniah 1:4-13. It will fall especially upon the house of Judah and Jerusalem. In the verses which follow we have a description of the moral conditions of the Jews when Josiah started his reformation, which prophetically gives us a picture of the conditions among the Jews when this age closes, and a portion of them is back in the land of their fathers, as they are attempting to get it back now through political Zionism.
The hand of the Lord will be stretched out upon Judah and Jerusalem. The remnant of Baal will be cut off and the Chemarim, with the priests. Idolatry, whatever remains of it, should then be completely abolished. “Baal” was the idol of god of the Phoenicians and Canaanites; the word means “lord” or “possessor.” With the worship of this god licentious practices were connected. Chemarim is the name of the idolatrous priests which conducted the high places, appointed for this service by the kings of Judah 2Kings 23:5. In Zephaniah 1:5 and Zephaniah 1:6 other forms of idolatry are mentioned. They worshipped the hosts of the heavens from housetops. They worshipped the stars, and studied their movements as if they could give them help and a revelation. Astrology, so widely practiced among civilized nations today, is an old cult 2Kings 21:3; 2Kings 21:5; Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 19:13. Others used the Holy Name of Jehovah, and at the same time they used the name of Malcham. All was a turning back from Jehovah and dishonoring His Name.
As to the future curse of idolatry among the Jews, the passage in Matthew 12:43; Matthew 12:45, the words of our Lord, gives us the full information. The unclean spirit there is the spirit of idolatry, from which the Jews in their dispersion are free; the unclean spirit has left the house, but it is to return, and the last state is worse than the first: “Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.” They will worship the man of sin, the masterpiece of Satan, who in the end of the age will take his place in the temple of God 2Thessalonians 2:1-17.
The day of the Lord is at hand; a statement which verifies our interpretation that this prophecy refers to the future day. The Lord has prepared His sacrifice and bidden his guests. It is the supper of the great God, to which He invites His guests. Read in connection with this Revelation 19:17-18. What that day will bring is described in Zephaniah 1:8-13. All the evil doers will be dealt with by the Lord.
Zephaniah 1:14-18. The great day of the Lord is now more fully described. It is the day when the announced judgment will take place. Higher criticism sees nothing but some invasion of the land by hostile forces. But it is the same great day, the culmination of the past ages, when Jehovah is revealed, so vividly described in Joel 2:11. On that day the voice of the Lord will be heard Psalm 29:1-11; Isaiah 66:6. When that day comes the mighty man will cry out in bitterness, for he is unable to save himself from the judgment tempest. In two verses the prophet describes vividly the greatness of that day.
A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of ruin and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and cloudy darkness; A day of the trumpet and the war cry Against the fortified cities, And against the lofty battlements.
Thomas of Celano used in 1250 the Vulgate translation of the first sentence “Dies irae, dies illa” in writing his famous judgment hymn. It is well to compare Scripture with Scripture about that day. (For instance Zephaniah 1:15 with Joel 3:1-21; Amos 5:18; Amos 5:20; Amos 8:9; Isaiah 13:10, and many other passages.) When that day comes the wicked will perish; distress will be upon all. They will walk like blind men, that is, trying to find a way to escape, but not able to find one. Nothing will be able to deliver from the fury of that day, neither silver nor gold will avail anything.