Zephaniah 2:11
The LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
2:4-15 Those are really in a woful condition who have the word of the Lord against them, for no word of his shall fall to the ground. God will restore his people to their rights, though long kept from them. It has been the common lot of God's people, in all ages, to be reproached and reviled. God shall be worshipped, not only by all Israel, and the strangers who join them, but by the heathen. Remote nations must be reckoned with for the wrongs done to God's people. The sufferings of the insolent and haughty in prosperity, are unpitied and unlamented. But all the desolations of flourishing nations will make way for the overturning Satan's kingdom. Let us improve our advantages, and expect the performance of every promise, praying that our Father's name may be hallowed every where, over all the earth.The Lord will be terrible unto - (upon) them that is, upon Moab and Ammon, and yet not in themselves only, but as instances of His just judgment. Whence it follows, "For He will famish all the gods of the earth" (Rup.). Miserable indeed, to whom the Lord is terrible! Whence is this? Is not God by Nature sweet and pleasurable and serene, and an Object of longing? For the Angels ever desire to look into Him, and, in a wonderful and unspeakable way, ever look and ever long to look. For miserable they, whose conscience makes them shrink from the face of Love. Even in this life they feel this shrinking, and, as if it were some lessening of their grief, they deny it, as though this could destroy the truth, which they 'hold down in unrighteousness.'" Romans 1:18.

For He will famish all the gods of the earth - Taking away "the fat of their sacrifices, and the wine of their drink-offerings" Deuteronomy 32:38. Within 80 years from the death of our Lord , the governor of Pontus and Bithynia wrote officially to the Roman Emperor, that "the temples had been almost left desolate, the sacred rites had been for a long time intermitted, and that the victims had very seldom found a purchaser," before the persecution of the Christians, and consulted him as to the amount of its continuance. Toward the close of the century, it was one of the Pagan complaints, which the Christian Apologist had to answer "they are daily melting away the revenues of our temples." The prophet began to speak of the subdual of Moab and Ammon; he is borne on to the triumphs of Christ over all the gods of the Pagan, when the worship of God should not be at Jerusalem only, but "they shall worship Him, every one from his place."

Even all the isles of the pagan - For this is the very note of the Gospel, that, Cyril: "each who through faith in Christ was brought to the knowledge of the truth, by Him, and with Him, "worshipeth from his place" God the Father; and God is no longer known in Judaea only, but the countries and cities of the Pagan, though they be separated by the intervening sea from Judaea, no less draw near to Christ, pray, glorify, thank Him unceasingly. For formerly "His name" was "great in Israel" Psalm 76:1, but now He is well known to all everywhere; earth and sea are full of His glory, and so every one 'worshipeth Him from his place;' and this is what is said, 'As I live, saith the Lord, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord' Numbers 14:21." "The isles" are any distant lands on the seashore (Jeremiah 25:22, following; Ezekiel 26:15, following; Psalm 72:10), especially the very distant Isaiah 66:19; but also Asia Minor Daniel 11:1, Daniel 11:8 and the whole coast of Europe, and even the Indian Archipelago , since the ivory and ebony came from its "many isles."

Zephaniah revives the term, by which Moses had spoken of the dispersion of the sons of Japhet: "By these were the 'isles of the Gentiles' divided in their lands, every one after his tongue" Genesis 10:5. He adds the word, "all;" all, wherever they had been dispersed, every one from his place, shall worship God. One universal worship shall ascend to God from all everywhere. So Malachi prophesied afterward; "From the rising up of the sun even to the going down of the same My Name shall be great among the Gentiles, and "in every place" incense shall be offered unto God and a pure offering, for My Name shall be great among the pagan, saith the Lord of hosts" Malachi 1:11. Even a Jew says here: "This, without doubt, refers to the time to come, when all the inhabitants of the world shall know that the Lord is God, and that His is the greatness and power and glory, and He shall be called the God of the whole earth." The "isles" or "coasts of the sea" are the more the emblem of the Church, in that, Cyril: "lying, as it were, in the sea of this world and encompassed by the evil events in it, as with bitter waters, and lashed by the most vehement waves of persecutions, the Churches are yet founded, so that they cannot fall, and rear themselves aloft, and are not overwhelmed by afflictions. For, for Christ's sake, the Churches cannot be shaken, and 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against them' Matthew 16:18."

11. famish—bring low by taking from the idols their former fame; as beasts are famished by their food being withheld. Also by destroying the kingdoms under the tutelage of idols (Ps 96:4; Isa 46:1).

gods of the earth—who have their existence only on earth, not in heaven as the true God.

every one from his place—each in his own Gentile home, taught by the Jews in the true religion: not in Jerusalem alone shall men worship God, but everywhere (Ps 68:29, 30; Mal 1:11; Joh 4:21; 1Co 1:2; 1Ti 2:8). It does not mean, as in Isa 2:2; Mic 4:1, 2; Zec 8:22; 14:16 that they shall come from their several places to Jerusalem to worship [Maurer].

all … isles of … heathen—that is, all the maritime regions, especially the west, now being fulfilled in the gathering in of the Gentiles to Messiah.

The Lord will be terrible; or, the Lord, who is to be feared, is against or above them, and will make it appear that he is terrible in his doings.

Unto them; Moabites and Ammonites, and their gods, of whom they gloried.

He will famish; starve; though now their altars are filled with sacrifices, and their bowls run over, as if they designed to make their gods fat; but they shall want their sacrifices and drink offerings, these shall be few or quite cease, and their priests grow lean. There shall be a consumption among them all.

All the gods, idols, heathen gods,

of the earth; of those lands, Dagon, Chemosh, Molech, &c., that are gods no where else but on earth, and among the deceived; or gods of the earth., as sons of the earth, vile, spurious gods.

Men shall worship him; men of that country whose gods are undone, or all men, shall know, own, and worship the God of Israel.

Every one from his place, where he dwelleth, not only at Jerusalem, or in this mount, but every where.

All the isles; either literally, as we now see it fulfilled, or as the Jews interpret isles to be transmarine places. So they wait for his law, as foretold Isaiah 42:4.

Of the heathen; of all nations in all parts of the world. This is eminently fulfilled by the prevailing of the gospel.

The Lord will be terrible unto them,.... To the Moabites and Ammonites in the execution of his judgments upon them, and make their proud hearts tremble; for with him is terrible majesty; he is terrible to the kings of the earth, and cuts off the spirit of princes, Job 37:22 or, as Kimchi observes, this may be understood of the people of God reproached by the Moabites and Ammonites, by whom the Lord is to be feared and reverenced with a godly and filial fear: so it may be rendered, "the Lord is to be feared by them" (e); and to this inclines the Targum,

"the fear of the Lord is to redeem them;''

for he will famish all the gods of the earth; particularly of those countries mentioned in the context, the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Ethiopians, and Assyrians; as Dagon, Chemosh, Molech, Bel, and others; called "gods of the earth", in distinction from the God of heaven, to whom they are opposed; and because made of earthly matter, and worshipped by earthly and carnal men; these the Lord, who is above them, and can destroy them at pleasure, threatens to "famish"; or to bring "leanness" (f) upon them, as the word signifies; to bring them into a consumption, and cause them to pine away gradually, by little and little, till they are no more; and that by reducing the number of their worshippers, so that they shall not have the worship and honour paid them, nor the sacrifices offered to them, supposed by the heathens to be the food of their gods; and, this being the case, their priests would be starved and become lean, who used to be fat and plump. The Septuagint version renders it, "he will destroy all the gods of the nations of the earth"; which is approved of by Noldius, and preferred by him to other versions. This had its accomplishment in part, when these nations were subdued by Nebuchadnezzar; for idols were usually demolished when a kingdom was taken; and more fully when the Gospel was spread in the Gentile world by the apostles of Christ, and first ministers of the word; whereby the oracles of the heathens were struck dumb, and men were turned everywhere from the worship of idols; the idols themselves were destroyed, and their temples demolished, or converted to better uses; and will have a still greater accomplishment in the latter day, at the conversion of the Jews, and the bringing in the fulness of the Gentiles, when the worship of idols will cease everywhere. The Syriac version renders it, "all the kings of the earth"; very wrongly:

and men shall worship him, everyone from his place; or, "in his place" (g); that is, every man shall worship the true God in the place where he is; he shall not go up to Jerusalem to worship, but in every place lift up holy bands to God, pray unto him, praise and serve him; the worship of God will be universal; he will be King over all the earth, and his name and service one, and shall not be limited and confined to any particular place, Malachi 1:11,

even all the isles of the heathen; or "Gentiles"; not only those places which are properly isles, as ours of Great Britain and Ireland; though there may be a particular respect had to such, and especially to ours, who have been very early and long favoured with the Gospel, and yet will be; but all places beyond the seas, or which the Jews went to by sea, they called isles.

(e) "timendus Jehovah super ipsis", Cocceius, Burkius. (f) "emaciabit", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "quasi macie consumit", Vatablus; "quum emaciaverit", Cocceius; "quia emaciavit", Burkius. (g)

The LORD will be terrible unto them: {g} for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.

(g) When he will deliver his people and destroy their enemies and idols, his glory will shine throughout all the world.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. will be terrible unto them] lit. over them. Malachi 1:14, “I am a treat king, and my name terrible among the nations.” For “terrible” Sept. reads, will appear.

he will famish all the gods] lit., as marg., make lean (Isaiah 17:4). Hitzig, followed by Keil, thinks the meaning to be, that by destroying all the nations the Lord will make lean or enfeeble all their gods, for the vigour of the god is proportionate to the robustness and power of the nation. This kind of reflection is not likely to have passed through the mind of the prophet. His idea appears to be that by terrible deeds Jehovah will make Himself known to the nations, who will fear Him alone, perceiving the impotency of their former gods; comp. Isaiah 2:20; Isaiah 30:22, and Ezekiel 25 ff. The use of the term make lean in regard to gods is certainly strange.

every one from his place] i.e. each individual person, not each nation. The phrase “from his place” seems to mean, everyone where he dwells, the idea being that, without making pilgrimages to Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3; Zechariah 8:22; Zechariah 14:16), the peoples shall worship Jehovah, every man in his own land (Malachi 1:11). The prep, from might have a pregnant sense, each coming from his place, but this meaning is decidedly less natural.

the isles of the heathen] The term “isles” appears to have been applied to the island-like coasts of the Mediterranean, and then to have been used of distant countries in general, Isaiah 41:1; Isaiah 59:18, Ezekiel 39:6.

Verse 11. - § 4. Before passing to the judgment on the nations of the south and north, the prophet shows the object of all these chastisements: God destroys idolatry in order that pure religion may reign over all the earth. The Lord will be terrible unto them. The Lord shows himself as a terrible God over the Moabites and Ammonites, but only as parts of the heathen world, and with a view to a universal result This is the purpose of the revelation of himself as Judge. Septuagint, Ἐπιφανήσεται Κύριος ἐπ αὐτούς, "The Lord will appear against them." For he will famish all the gods of the earth. The verb means literally, "to make lean," and then "to destroy;" hence the LXX., ἐξολοθρεύσει. The word may be chosen in order to express the idea that worshippers will no more be found to offer sacrifices and drink offerings to the gods (see Bel and the Dragon 6, 12). The nations being destroyed, the gods reverenced by them would vanish and be heard of no more. Men shall worship him. Idolatry abolished, men shall learn to worship Jehovah. Every one from his place. Every one shall worship God in his own place and country; the Lord shall be universally recognized, and his worship shall no longer be confined to one temple or one land, but wherever men dwell there shall they offer their homage and adoration (comp. Isaiah 19:18, 19; Malachi 1:11, where the same truth is signified). Such passages as Micah 4:1 and Zechariah 14:16, which seem to imply that all nations are to come up to the material Jerusalem to pay their devotions, require evidently a spiritual interpretation, and denote that the heathen converted to Christ shall be received into the Church, and join in the worship of the true Israel. The isles of the heathen; or, coasts of the nations; the most distant countries that lie across the seas (Genesis 10:5; Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 11:11, etc.). Zephaniah 2:11"Fearful is Jehovah over them, for He destroyeth all the gods of the earth; that all the islands of the nations, every one from its place, may worship Him." Whilst עליהם refers to what precedes, the next clause in the reason assigned points to the announcement of judgment upon the remaining nations of the earth in Zephaniah 2:12.; so that Zephaniah 2:11 cannot be taken either as the conclusion of the previous threat, or as the commencement of the following one, but leads from the one to the other. Jehovah is terrible when He reveals Himself in the majesty of Judge of the world. The suffix appended to עליהם does not refer to עם יהוה, but to the להם in Zephaniah 2:10, answering to the Moabites and Ammonites. Jehovah proves Himself terrible to these, because He has resolved to destroy all the gods of the earth. Râzâh, to make lean; hence to cause to vanish, to destroy. He causes the gods to vanish, by destroying the nations and kingdoms who relied upon these gods. He thereby reveals the nothingness of the gods, and brings the nations to acknowledge His sole deity (Micah 5:12). The fall of the false gods impels to the worship of the one true God. וישׁתּחווּ לו is the consequence, the fruit, and the effect of Jehovah's proving Himself terrible to the nations and their gods. איּי הגּוים, islands of the Gentiles, is an epithet taken from the islands and coastlands of Europe, to denote the whole of the heathen world (see at Isaiah 41:1). The distributive עישׁ ממּקומו refers to haggōyı̄m as the principal idea, though not in the sense of "every nation," but in that of every individual belonging to the nations. Mimmeqōmō, coming from his place: the meaning is not that the nations will worship Jehovah at their own place, in their own lands, in contradistinction to Micah 4:1; Zechariah 14:16, and other passages, where the nations go on pilgrimage to Mount Zion (Hitzig); but their going to Jerusalem is implied in the min (from), though it is not brought prominently out, as being unessential to the thought. With regard to the fulfilment, Bucer has correctly observed, that "the worship of Jehovah on the part of the heathen is not secured without sanguinary wars, that the type may not be taken for the fact itself, and the shadow for the body .... But the true completion of the whole in the kingdom of Christ takes place here in spirit and in faith, whilst in the future age it will be consummated in all its reality and in full fruition." Theodoret, on the other hand, is too one-sided in his view, and thinks only of the conversion of the heathen through the preaching of the gospel. "This prophecy," he says, "has received its true fulfilment through the holy apostles, and the saints who have followed them; ... and this takes place, not by the law, but by the teaching of the gospel."
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