Zephaniah 1:1
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.
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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.

1:1-6 Ruin is coming, utter ruin; destruction from the Almighty. The servants of God all proclaim, There is no peace for the wicked. The expressions are figurative, speaking every where desolation; the land shall be left without inhabitants. The sinners to be consumed are, the professed idolaters, and those that worship Jehovah and idols, or swear to the Lord, and to Malcham. Those that think to divide their affections and worship between God and idols, will come short of acceptance with God; for what communion can there be between light and darkness? If Satan have half, he will have all; if the Lord have but half, he will have none. Neglect of God shows impiety and contempt. May none of us be among those who draw back unto perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.The word of the Lord which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah - It seems likely that more forefathers of the prophet are named than is the wont of Holy Scripture, because the last so named was some one remarkable. Nor is it impossible that Zephaniah should have been the great grandson of the King Hezekiah, for although Holy Scripture commonly names the one son only who is in the sacred line, and although there is one generation more than to Josiah, yet if each had a son early, Zephaniah might have been contemporary with Josiah. The names seem also mentioned for the sake of their meaning; at least it is remarkable how the name of God appears in most. Zephaniah, "whom the Lord hid;" Gedaliah, "whom the Lord made great;" Amariah, "whom the Lord promised;" Hezekiah, "whom the Lord strengthened." THE BOOK OF ZEPHANIAH Commentary by A. R. Faussett


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.

Of the Lord, God of Israel; here is the Divine authority of this prophecy with which the prophet's word is seconded.

Which came: the precise manner how it came we need not inquire into;

Zephaniah did not hammer out of his own brain any such news, he received from God what he communicated to them. Zephaniah; by derivation of the name. it is one hidden of the Lord, whom God doth hide, or God's secretary; or else one that is God's Watchman, whom God hath set over the house of Judah, as Ezekiel is said to be, Eze 3:17.

The son of Cushi, & c. his pedigree here gives us no certainty what his progenitors were, whether prophets, or only eminent known men; or whether he were, as some think him, the great-grandson of Hezekiah, the name being the same.

In the days of Josiah; before the captivity; he was then contemporary with Jeremiah and Ezekiel. prophesied before the captivity, and foretells much like what Jeremiah or Ezekiel did.

Amon; whose reign was very full of impiety and idolatry, and hastened the captivity upon Judah. This Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which Manasseh had made, 2Ch 33:22.

The word of the Lord which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi,.... This is the title of the book, which expresses the subject matter of it, the word of the Lord; the word of prophecy from the Lord, as the Targum; and shows the divine authority of it; that it was not of himself, nor from any man, but was of God; as well as describes the penman of it by his descent: who or what this his father was; whether a prophet, according to the rule the Jews give, that, when the name of a prophet and his father's name are mentioned, he is a prophet, the son of a prophet; or, whether a prince, a person of some great family, and even of the blood royal, as some have thought, is not certain; or who those after mentioned:

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.

(f) Works, vol. 1. p. 117. (g) Chronological Tables, cent. 9. (h) Scripture Chronology, p. 674.

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.

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

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.). Zephaniah 1:1Zephaniah 1:1 contains the heading, which has been explained in the introduction. Zephaniah 1:2 and Zephaniah 1:3 form the preface. - Zephaniah 1:2. "I will sweep, sweep away everything from the face of the earth, is the saying of Jehovah. Zephaniah 1:3. I will sweep away man and cattle, sweep away the fowls of heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the offences with the sinners, and I cut off men from the face of the earth, is the saying of Jehovah." The announcement of the judgment upon the whole earth not only serves to sharpen the following threat of judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem in this sense, "Because Jehovah judges the whole world, He will punish the apostasy of Judah all the more;" but the judgment upon the whole world forms an integral part of his prophecy, which treats more fully of the execution of the judgment in and upon Judah, simply because Judah forms the kingdom of God, which is to be purified from its dross by judgment, and led on towards the end of its divine calling. As Zephaniah here opens the judgment awaiting Judah with an announcement of a judgment upon the whole world, so does he assign the reason for his exhortation to repentance in Zephaniah 2:1-15, by showing that all nations will succumb to the judgment; and then announces in Zephaniah 3:9., as the fruit of the judgment, the conversion of the nations to Jehovah, and the glorification of the kingdom of God. The way to salvation leads through judgment, not only for the world with its enmity against God, but for the degenerate theocracy also. It is only through judgment that the sinful world can be renewed and glorified. The verb אסף, the hiphil of sūph, is strengthened by the inf. abs. אסף, which is formed from the verb אסף, a verb of kindred meaning. Sūph and 'âsaph signify to take away, to sweep away, hiph. to put an end, to destroy. Kōl, everything, is specified in Zephaniah 1:3 : men and cattle, the birds of heaven, and the fishes of the sea; the verb 'âsēph being repeated before the two principal members. This specification stands in unmistakeable relation to the threatening of God: to destroy all creatures for the wickedness of men, from man to cattle, and to creeping things, and even to the fowls of the heaven (Genesis 6:7). By playing upon this threat, Zephaniah intimates that the approaching judgment will be as general over the earth, and as terrible, as the judgment of the flood. Through this judgment God will remove or destroy the offences (stumbling-blocks) together with the sinners. את before הרשׁעים cannot be the sign of the accusative, but can only be a preposition, with, together with, since the objects to אסף are all introduced without the sign of the accusative; and, moreover, if את־הרשׁ were intended for an accusative, the copula Vv would not be omitted. Hammakhshēlôth does not mean houses about to fall (Hitzig), which neither suits the context nor can be grammatically sustained, since even in Isaiah 3:6 hammakhshēlâh is not the fallen house, but the state brought to ruin by the sin of the people; and makhshēlâh is that against which or through which a person meets with a fall. Makhshēlōth are all the objects of coarser and more refined idolatry, not merely the idolatrous images, but all the works of wickedness, like τὰ σκάνδαλα in Matthew 13:41. The judgment, however, applies chiefly to men, i.e., to sinners, and hence in the last clause the destruction of men from off the earth is especially mentioned. The irrational creation is only subject to φθορά, on account of and through the sin of men (Romans 8:20.).
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