Zephaniah 1:3
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.
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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 stumbling-blocks with the wicked - Not only shall the wicked be utterly brought to an end, or, in the other meaning of the word, "gathered into bundles to be taken away," but all causes of stumbling too; everything, through which others can fall, which will not be until the end of all things. Then, he repeats, yet more emphatically, "I will cut off the whole race of man from the face of the earth," and then he closes the verse, like the foregoing, with the solemn words, "saith the Lord." All this shall be fulfilled in the Day of Judgment, and all other fulfillments are earnests of the final Judgment. They are witnesses of the ever-living presence of the Judge of all, that God does take account of man's deeds. They speak to men's conscience, they attest the existence of a divine law, and therewith of the future complete manifestation of that law, of which they are individual sentences. Not until the prophet has brought this circle of judgments to their close, does he pass on to the particular judgments on Judah and Jerusalem. 3. Enumeration in detail of the "all things" (Zep 1:2; compare Jer 9:10; Ho 4:3).

the stumbling-blocks—idols which cause Judah to offend or stumble (Eze 14:3, 4, 7).

with the wicked—The idols and their worshippers shall be involved in a common destruction.

The former verse denounced the future desolation in general terms. This verse specifieth what desolation in particular God would bring upon the land.

I will consume man and beast; man shall be consumed for his own sin, and the beasts consumed for man’s sake; men by the pestilence and famine, the beasts by murrain, and devoured by multitudes of hungry soldiers, that shall make greater havoc than any murrain ordinarily doth.

The fowls of the heaven; either by some unknown disease among them, or else by a distaste at the stench of putrefying carcasses, they fled away, so that none, or very few, appeared, insomuch that it looked as if all were consumed.

The fishes of the sea: by sea, some understand ponds, lakes, or smaller seas, such as that of Gennesareth and Tiberias, the waters whereof might be made noisome to the fish by the streams of blood and carcasses which might possibly be east into them; or God might destroy the fishes by some consuming disease too. He hath ways to do it, who hath once said he will do it.

The stumbling-blocks; the idols.

The wicked; the idolatrous priests, and others who worshipped them.

I will cut off man, all shall disappear,

from off the land of Judah.

I will consume man and beast,.... Wicked men for their sins, and beasts for the sins of men; and, as a punishment for them, the creatures whom they have abused to the gratifying of their lusts:

I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea; so that there shall be none for the use of man, which are both delicate food; the latter were not consumed at the general deluge. Kimchi thinks this is said by way of hyperbole; but it is possible for these to be consumed, as men by famine, pestilence, and captivity, and beasts by murrain; so the fowls of the air by the noisomeness of it; and the fishes of the sea, that is, such as were in the sea of Tiberias, and other lakes in Judea, by the stagnation of the waters, or by some disease sent among them; unless wicked men, comparable to them, are intended; though they are expressly mentioned, both before and after:

and the stumblingblocks with the wicked: that is, idols, which are stumblingblocks to men, and cause them to offend and fall; these, together with those that made them, and the priests that sacrificed unto them, and the people that worshipped them, should be consumed from off the land: or, "the stumblingblocks of the wicked"; for is sometimes used as a sign of the genitive case, as Noldius (i) observes; and so the Vulgate Latin version and the Targum render it:

and I will cut off men from off the land, saith the Lord: this is repeated for the certainty of it; or else this designs another sort of men from the former; and that, as before wicked men are designed, here such as are not perfectly wicked, as Kimchi observes; yea, the righteous should be carried captive, so that the land should be left desolate, without men, good or bad; for even good men may fall in a general calamity, and be cut off from the land, though not from the Lord. The Septuagint indeed here render it wicked men. The phrase, "saith the Lord", is twice expressed, for the certain confirmation of it; for it may be concluded it will be, since God has said it again and again that it shall be.

(i) Ebr. Concord. Part. p. 122.

I will consume man and beast; I will consume the {a} 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.

(a) Not that God was angry with these dumb creatures, but because man was so wicked for whose cause they were created, God makes them to take part of the punishments with him.

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.

Verse 3. - Man and beast, etc This is not mere hyperbole to express the utter wasting and destruction that were impending, but points to the mysterious connection between man and the lower creation, how in agreement with the primal curse even material nature suffers for man's sin (Genesis 3:17; Romans 8:22). If we expect a new heaven and a new earth, we know that God will show his wrath against the old creation defiled with sin (2 Peter 3:10; camp. Jeremiah 4:25; Jeremiah 9:9, etc.; Hosea 4:3). And the stumbling blocks with the wicked. Not the sinners only shall be swept away by this judgment, but also all offences, all causes of stumbling, whether idols or other incentives to departure from truth and right. Septuagint, καὶ ἀσθενήσουσιν οἱ ἀσεβεῖς. "and the ungodly shall be weak;" Vulgate, et ruinae impiorum erunt. These versions seem to have missed the point. I will cut off man. It is on man's account that this judgment is sent - a truth which the prophet enforces by reiteration. Zephaniah 1:3Zephaniah 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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