Zephaniah 1:5
And them that worship the host of heaven on the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.And them that worship the best of heaven upon the - (flat) housetops This was fulfilled by Josiah who destroyed "the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz" 2 Kings 23:12. Jeremiah speaks as if this worship was almost universal, as though well-near every roof had been profaned by this idolatry. "The houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink-offerings unto other gods" Jeremiah 19:13. "The Chaldaeans that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink-offerings to other gods, to provoke Me to anger" Jeremiah 32:29. They worshiped on the house-tops, probably to have a clearer view of that magnificent expanse of sky, "the moon and stars which" God had "ordained" Psalm 8:3; the "queen of heaven," which they worshiped instead of Himself. There is something so mysterious in that calm face of the moon, as it "walketh in beauty" Job 31:26; God seems to have invested it with such delegated influence over the seasons and the produce of the earth, that they stopped short in it, and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator. Much as men now talk of "Nature," admire "Nature," speak of its "laws," not as laws imposed upon it, but inherent in it, laws affecting us and our well-being; only not in their ever-varying vicissitudes, "doing whatsoever God commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth, whether for correction, or for His land or for mercy!" Job 37:12-13. The idolaters "worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, Who is blessed forever" Romans 1:25; moderns equally make this world their object, only they idolize themselves and their discoveries, and worship their own intellect.

This worship on the house-tops individualized the public idolatry; it was a rebellion against God, family by family; a sort of family-prayer of idolatry. "Did we," say the mingled multitude to Jeremiah, "make our cakes to worship her, and pour out our drink-offerings unto her, without our men?" Jeremiah 44:19. Its family character is described in Jeremiah. "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods" Jeremiah 7:18. The idolatry spread to other cities. "We will certainly do," they say, "as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem" Jeremiah 44:17. The incense went up continually "as a memorial to God" from the altar of incense in the temple: the "roofs of the houses" were so many altars, from which, street by street and house by house the incense went up to her, for whom they dethroned God, "the queen of heaven." It was an idolatry, with which Judah was especially besotted, believing that they received all goods of this world from them and not from God. When punished for their sin, they repented of their partial repentance and maintained to Jeremiah that they were punished for "leaving off to burn incense to the queen of heaven" Jeremiah 44:2, Jeremiah 44:15, Jeremiah 44:18.

And them that worship ... the Lord - but with a divided heart and service; "that swear by (rather to) the Lord," swear fealty and loyal allegiance to Him, while they do acts which deny it, in that "they swear by Malcham," better (it is no appellative although allied to one) "their king" , most probably, I think, "Moloch."

This idolatry had been their enduring idolatry in the wilderness, after the calves had been annihilated; it is "the" worship, against which Israel is warned by name in the law Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-4; then, throughout the history of the Judges, we hear of the kindred idolatry of Baal , "the" Lord (who was called also "eternal king" and from whom individuals named themselves "son of (the) king," "servant of (the) king" ), or the manifold Baals and Ashtaroth or Astarte. But after these had been removed on the preaching of Samuel 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 12:10, this idolatry does not reappear in Judah until the intermarriage of Jehoram with the house of Ahab 2 Kings 8:16-18, 2 Kings 8:26-27; 2 Chronicles 21:6, 2 Chronicles 21:12-13; 2 Chronicles 22:2-4.

The kindred and equally horrible worship of "Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon" 1 Kings 11:7, was brought in by Solomon in his decay, and endured until his high place was defiled by Josiah 2 Kings 23:13-14. It is probable then that this was "their king" , of whom Zephaniah speaks, whom Amos and after him Jeremiah, called "their king;" but speaking of Ammon. Him, the king of Ammon, Judah adopted as "their king." They owned God as their king in words; Molech they owned by their deeds; "they worshiped and sware fealty to the Lord" and they "sware by their king;" his name was familiarly in their mouths; to him they appealed as the Judge and witness of the truth of their words, his displeasure they invoked on themselves, if they swore falsely. Cyril: "Those in error were wont to swear by heaven, and, as matter of reverence to call out, 'By the king and lord Sun.' Those who do so must of set purpose and willfully depart from the love of God, since the law expressly says, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and serve Him alone, and swear by His Name" Deuteronomy 6:13.

The former class who "worshipped on the roofs" were mere idolaters. These "worshiped," as they thought, "the Lord," bound themselves solemnly by oath to Him, but with a reserve, joining a hateful idol to Him, in that they, by a religious act, owned it too as god. The act which they did was in direct words, or by implication, forbidden by God. The command to "swear by the Lord" implied that they were to swear by none else. It was followed by the prohibition to go after other gods. (Deuteronomy 6:13-14; Deuteronomy 10:30, compare Isaiah 65:16; Jeremiah 4:2). Contrariwise, to swear by other gods was forbidden as a part of their service. "Be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the Law of Moses, neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, but cleave unto the Lord your God" (Joshua 23:6-8; compare Amos 8:14). "How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy children have forsaken Me, and have sworn by those who are no gods" Jeremiah 5:7. "They taught My people to swear by Baal" Jeremiah 12:16. They thought perhaps that in that they professed to serve God, did the greater homage to Him, professed and bound themselves to be His, (such is the meaning of "swear to the Lord") they might, without renouncing His service, do certain things, "swear by their king," although in effect they thereby owned hint also as god. To such Elijah said, "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him" 1 Kings 18:21; and God by Jeremiah rejects with abhorrence such divided service. "Ye trust in lying words, which will not profit. Will ye steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods, and come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, saying, We are delivered to do all these abominations" Jeremiah 7:8-10. And Hosea, "Neither go ye to Beth-aven, and swear there, The Lord liveth" Hosea 4:15.

Such are Christians, Jerome: "who think that they can serve together the world and the Lord, and please two masters, God and Mammom; who, "being soldiers of Jesus Christ" and having sworn fealty to Him, "entangle themselves with the affairs of this life and offer the same image to God and to Caesar" 2 Timothy 2:3-4. To such, God, whom with their lips they own, is not their God; their idol is, as the very name says, "their king," whom alone they please, displeasing and dishonoring God. We must not only fear, love, honor God, but love, fear, honor all beside for Him Alone.

5. worship the host of heaven—Saba: whence, in contrast to Sabeanism, Jehovah is called Lord of Sabaoth.

upon the housetops—which were flat (2Ki 23:5, 6, 12; Jer 19:13; 32:29).

swear by the Lord—rather, "swear to Jehovah" (2Ch 15:14); solemnly dedicating themselves to Him (compare Isa 48:1; Ho 4:15).

and—"and yet (with strange inconsistency, 1Ki 18:21; Eze 20:39; Mt 6:24) swear by Malcham," that is, "their king" [Maurer]: the same as Molech (see on [1167]Am 5:25), and "Milcom the god of … Ammon" (1Ki 11:33). If Satan have half the heart, he will have all; if the Lord have but half offered to Him, He will have none.

And them that worship; those among the people that adhered to this idolatry.

The host of heaven; the sun, moon, and stars, frequently in the Scripture called the host of heaven.

Upon the house-tops; openly, as the manner of those idolaters was, either because they thought those deities they imagined to dwell in the body of those stars better saw them, or were better pleased thus, or because these places were nearer heaven. On the flat roofs of their houses they were used to have their altars and worship.

That swear by the Lord, or, to the Lord, (as the Hebrew bears,)

and by Malcham; persons that mix idol worship and the worship of the true God; that devote themselves to God and Baal, or Malcham; called Milcom, and Molech, and Moloch, Amos 5:26; probably it was their chief idol, fancied to be king of gods and men. And upon them that worship the host of heaven upon the house tops,.... The sun, moon, and stars, which some worshipped upon their house tops; the roofs of their houses being flat, as the roofs of the houses of the Jews generally were; from hence they had a full view of the host of heaven, and worshipped them openly; and fancied, the nearer they were to them, the more acceptable was their service; see Jeremiah 19:13,

and them that worship, and that swear the Lord, and that swear by Malcham; that is, that worship the true God, or at least pretend to do so, and swear by him when they take an oath: or, "that swear to the Lord"; as the words (n) may be rendered; that swear allegiance to him, to be true and faithful to him, to serve and obey him, and to keep his statutes and ordinances; and yet they swear by Malcham also, or Milchom, or Melchom, the same with Molech, or Mo, the god of the Ammonites. These were such as partly worshipped God, and partly idols; they divided their religion and devotion between them, sometimes served the one, and sometimes the other; they halted between two opinions, and were a sort of occasional conformists; and such were as detestable to God as those that worshipped idols; as the Papists are, who pretend to worship God and their images, or God in them, and with them; and so all such persons that seek for justification and salvation, partly by their own works, and partly by Christ, are displeasing to the Lord, and miss of the thing; stumbling at the stumbling stone, and so fall and perish.

(n) "qui jurant Domino", Drusius; "qui jurant Jehovae", Cocceius; "jurantes Domino Jehovae", Burkius.

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 {c} Malcham;

(c) He alludes to their idol Molech, which was forbidden; read Le 20:2, yet they called him their king, and made him as a god: therefore he here notes those that will both say they worship God, and yet will swear by idols and serve them: which faltering is here condemned, as in Eze 20:39, 1Ki 18:21, 2Ki 17:33.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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).Verse 5. - I will also stretch out mine hand. This expression is used when God is about to do great things or inflict notable punishment (see Exodus 3:20; Exodus 15:12; Deuteronomy 4:34; Isaiah 5:25; Jeremiah 51:25, etc.). Judah. In so far as Judah was rebellious and wicked, it should incur the judicial punishment. Judgment was to begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17), the sin of the chosen people being more heinous than that of heathens. Hence it is added, upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, because, having in their very midst the temple of God, with its services and priests, they ought especially to have abhorred idolatry and maintained the true faith. The remnant of Baal; i.e. the last vestige. One cannot argue from this expression that the reform was already carried so far that Baal worship had almost disappeared. The next verse shows that idolatry still flourished; but the term implies merely that God would exterminate it so entirely that no trace of it should remain. The LXX. has, "the names of Baal," τὰ ὀνόματα τῆς Βάαλ (Hosea 2:17). (For Josiah's reform of these iniquities, see 2 Kings 23:4, etc.) The name of the Chemarims (Chemarim). The word means "black-robed," and is applied to the idolatrous priests whom the kings had appointed to conduct worship in high places (2 Kings 23:5; Hosea 10:5). "The name," says Dr. Pussy, "is probably the Syriac name of 'priest,' used in Holy Scripture of idolatrous priests, because the Syrians were idolaters" Not only shall the persons of these priests be cut off, but their very name and memory shall vanish (Zechariah 13:2). With the priests (kohanim). Together with the legitimate priests who had corrupted the worship of Jehovah (Zephaniah 3:4; Jeremiah 2:8; Ezekiel 8:11). Verse 5. - That worship the host of heaven upon the house tops. In this verse two classes of fame worshippers are mentioned, viz. star worshippers, and waverers. The worship of the sun, moon, and stars was a very ancient form of error, the heavenly bodies being regarded as the representatives of the powers of nature and the originators of events on earth (see Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3; Job 31:26, 27; 2 Kings 17:16). It was especially prevalent in the time of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:3), On the flat roofs of the houses, which were used as places of meditation, recreation, or conference (comp. Joshua 2:6; 1 Samuel 9:25; 2 Samuel 11:2; Acts 10:9), they erected altars for family worship of the heavenly bodies. Here they both burned incense (Jeremiah 19:13) and offered animal sacrifices (2 Kings 23:12). "In Syrian cities," says Dr. Thomson, "the roofs are a great comfort. The ordinary houses have no other place where the inmates, can either see the sun, smell the air, dry their clothes, set out their flower pots, or do numberless other things essential to their health and comfort. During a large part of the year the roof is the most agreeable place about the establishment, especially in the morning and evening. There multitudes sleep during the summer" ('The Land and the Book,' p. 39). Them that worship and that, etc.; rather, the worshippers who, etc. These were people who endeavoured to blend the worship of God with that of Baal, or halted between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21). Swear by the Lord; rather, swear to the Lord; i.e. bind themselves by oath to him, and at the same time swear by Malcham; swear by their king, Baal, or Moloch; call upon him as god. Septuagint, κατὰ τοῦ βασιλέως αὐτῶν, "by their king." But it is, perhaps, best to retain the name untranslated, in which ease it would be the appellation of the god Moloch, who could hardly be omitted in enumerating the objects of idolatrous worship (see Jeremiah 49:1, 3; and notes on Amos 1:15; 5:26). But if Israel conquer the nations in such a way as this, then will Jehovah fulfil the peace of His people by the destruction of all the instruments of war, and the extermination of everything of an idolatrous nature, as well as by the judgment of wrath upon all resisting nations. Micah 5:10. "And it comes to pass in that day, is the saying of Jehovah, that I will destroy thy horses out of the midst of thee, and annihilate thy chariots. Micah 5:11. And I shall destroy the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy fortresses. Micah 5:12. And I shall destroy the witchcrafts out of thy hand; and cloud-interpreters shall not be left to thee. Micah 5:13. And I shall destroy thy graven images and thy statutes out of the midst of thee; and thou wilt no more worship the work of thy hands. Micah 5:14. And I shall root out thine idol-groves out of the midst of thee, and destroy thy cities. Micah 5:15. And I shall execute vengeance in wrath and fury upon the nations which have not heard." These verses do not explain Micah 5:8, or state how the extermination of the enemy is to take place, or how Israel is made into a lion destroying the nations that are hostile to it, namely, by the fact that the Lord eradicates from its heart all confidence in horses, chariots, and fortifications, in witchcraft and idolatry (Caspari). This assumption is at variance with the words themselves, and with the strophic arrangement of the chapter. There is nothing about trust in horses, etc., but simply about the extermination of the horses, and everything else in which the idolatrous nation had sought its strength. Moreover, the expression והיה ביּום ההוּא, when compared with והיה in Micah 5:4 and Micah 5:6, shows at once that these verses are intended to depict the last and greatest effect produced by the coming of the Prince of peace in Israel, and overthrows Hengstenberg's assumption, that the prophet here foretels the destructive work of the Lord in Israel, which will precede the destruction of the enemy predicted in Micah 5:10. In that case בּיּום ההוּא would mean "before that day," a meaning which it can never have. The prophet passes rather from the attitude of Israel among the nations, to the description of the internal perfection of the kingdom of God, which does indeed stand in a reciprocal relation to the former and proceed simultaneously with it, but which will not be completed till after the victorious suppression of the foe. Only when the people of God shall have gained the supremacy over all their enemies, will the time have arrived for all the instruments of war to be destroyed. When the world shall be overcome, then will all war cease. The ancient Israel did indeed put its trust in war-horses, and war-chariots, and fortifications (cf. Isaiah 2:7); but the Messianic Israel, or the true people of the Lord, will only put its trust in such things so far as it is not yet pervaded by the power of the peace brought by the Messiah. And the more it appropriates the spiritual power of the Prince of peace, the more will the trust in horses and chariots disappear; so that they will be destroyed, because all war comes to an end (compare Isaiah 9:4-6). And the extermination of everything of an idolatrous nature will go hand in hand with this. Two kinds are mentioned in Micah 5:12 and Micah 5:13, viz., witchcraft and the worship of idols of their own making. As objects of witchcraft there are mentioned keshâphı̄m, lit., witchcrafts of different kinds, but the expression מיּדך limits them to such as are performed with the hand, and me‛ōnenı̄m ( equals ‛ōnenı̄m in Isaiah 2:6), lit., cloud-interpreters, or cloud, i.e., storm makers, from ‛ânan, a kind of witchcraft which cannot be more precisely defined (see Delitzsch on Isaiah, l.c.). Of the objects of the idolatrous worship there are mentioned (after Leviticus 26:1) pesı̄lı̄m, idols made of wood or metal; and מצּבות, stone-images, or stones dedicated to idols (see at 1 Kings 14:23). For Micah 5:12, compare Isaiah 2:8.
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