Zephaniah 2:2
Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger come upon you.
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2:1-3 The prophet calls to national repentance, as the only way to prevent national ruin. A nation not desiring, that has not desires toward God, is not desirous of his favour and grace, has no mind to repent and reform. Or, not desirable, not having any thing to recommend them to God; to whom God might justly say, Depart from me; but he says, Gather together to me that you may seek my face. We know what God's decree will bring against impenitent sinners, therefore it highly concerns all to repent in the accepted time. How careful should we all be to seek peace with God, before the Holy Spirit withdraws from us, or ceases to strive with us; before the day of grace is over, or the day of life; before our everlasting state is determined! Let the poor, despised, and afflicted, seek the Lord, and seek to understand and keep his commandments better, that they may be more humbled for their sins. The chief hope of deliverance from national judgments rests upon prayer.Before the decree bring forth - God's word is full (as it were) of the event which it foretelleth; it contains its own fulfillment in itself, and "travaileth" until it come to pass, giving signs of its coming, yet delaying until the full time. Time is said to bring forth what is wrought in it. "Thou knowest not, what a day shall bring forth."

Before the day pass as the chaff - Or, parenthetically, "like chaff the day passeth by." God's counsels lie wrapt up, as it were, in the womb of time, wherein He hides them, until the moment which He has appointed, and they break forth suddenly to those who look not for them. The mean season is given for repentance, that is, the day of grace, the span of repentance still allowed, which is continually whirling more swiftly by; and woe, if it be fruitless as chaff! Those who profit not by it shall also be as chaff, carried away pitilessly by the whirlwind to destruction. Time, on which eternity hangs, is a slight, uncertain thing, as little to be counted upon, as the light dry particles which are the sport of the wind, driven uncertainly here and there. But when it is "passed," then "cometh," not "to" them, but "upon" them, from heaven, overwhelming them, "abiding upon" John 3:36 them, not to pass away, "the heat of the anger of Almighty God." This warning he twice repeats, to impress the certainty and speed of its conming Genesis 41:32. It is the warning of our Lord, "Take heed, lest that day come upon you unawares" Luke 21:34.

2. Before the decree bring forth—that is, Before God's decree against you announced by me (Zep 1:1-18) have its fulfilment. As the embryo lies hid in the womb, and then emerges to light in its own due time, so though God for a time hides His vengeance, yet He brings it forth at the proper season.

before the day pass as the chaff—that is, before the day for repentance pass, and with it you, the ungodly, pass away as the chaff (Job 21:18; Ps 1:4). Maurer puts it parenthetically, "the day (that is, time) passes as the chaff (that is, most quickly)." Calvin, "before the decree bring forth" (the predicted vengeance), (then) the chaff (the Jews) shall pass in a day, that is, in a moment, though they thought that it would be long before they could be overthrown. English Version is best; the latter clause being explanatory of the former, and so the before being understood, not expressed.

Before the decree, the Word of the prophet which declares the purpose of God against this sinful people, bring forth: the degree is pregnant, nay, hath gone a great while, but is now like a woman near her full time, ready to bring forth: be you speedy in your repentance, lest your miseries break forth of the womb of Divine vengeance and destroy you. Before the day, the day of your calamities, Babylon’s rage, and God’s just displeasure,

pass as the chaff; carry you away as the wind carrieth chaff away for the fire, while the good grain is gathered and preserved.

The fierce anger; the heat of anger. It was jealousy like fire, Zephaniah 1:18, and here it is the heat of that fire, intimating the greatness of the anger. Come upon you; as a storm from on high, with violence irresistible and destructive; and the warning is doubled to make them take it.

Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff,.... Which was like a woman big with child, ready to be delivered. The decree of God concerning the people of the Jews was pregnant with wrath and ruin for their sins, and just ripe for execution; and therefore, before it was actually executed, they are exhorted as above; not that the decree of God which was gone forth could be frustrated and made void by anything done by them; only that, when it was put into execution, such as repented of their sins might be saved from the general calamity; which they are called upon to do before the day come appointed by the Lord for the execution of this decree; which lingered not, and was not delayed, but slid on as swiftly as chaff before the driving wind. There is some difficulty in the rendering and sense of these words; some thus, "before the day, which passes as chaff, brings forth the decree" (e); that is, before the time, which moves swiftly, brings on the execution of the decree, or of the thing decreed in it, it is big with: others, "before the decree brings forth the day that passeth as chaff" (f); or in which the chaff shall be separated from the wheat, pass away, be dispersed here and there; that is, before they were scattered about by it as chaff: and to this sense the Septuagint and Arabic versions, "before ye are as a flower"; or, as the Syriac, "as chaff that passeth away"; and so the Targum more fully,

"before the decree of the house of judgment come out upon you, and ye be like chaff which the wind blows away, and like a shadow which passes from before the day.'' See Psalm 1:4.

Before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you; these phrases explain the former, and show what the decree was big with, and ready to bring forth, even the judgments of God, in wrath and fierce anger; and what the day is, said to pass as the chaff; the day of God's vengeance fixed by him, which should come upon them, and scatter them like chaff among the nations of the world: or rather the words may be rendered thus, as by Gussetius (g), "whilst as yet the decree hath not brought forth, the day passeth away like chaff"; being neglected and spent in an useless and unprofitable manner; for which they are reproved; and therefore are exhorted to be wiser for the future, and redeem precious time; and, before the Lord's anger comes upon them, do what is before exhorted to, and particularly what follows:

(e) "antequam dies, quae transit ut palea, pariat decretum", Drusius; so Ben Melech. (f) "Priusquam decretum Dei pariat deim veluti glumae transeuntis", Grotius. (g) Ebr. Comment. p. 305.

Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD's anger come upon you.
2. The verse is probably in some disorder: the first two clauses can hardly present the original text, and the last two clauses look like duplicates of one another.

Before the decree bring forth] The “decree” is God’s purpose, the determined day of the Lord, and its “bringing forth” would mean, its giving birth to its contents or effects. This is rather unnatural language; a different construction would be more probable: Before the decree be brought forth, given birth to or revealed.

before the day pass as the chaff] Or, with R.V. marg., as a parenthesis: (like chaff the day passeth by). But it is not the passing by of the day that is the point but its advance; and on the other hand the advance of chaff before the wind is not a usual or suitable figure.

Instead of chaff (mts) Sept. read flower (nts), rendering the first two clauses of the verse, Before ye become as the flower that passes away. The reading flower is no doubt an error; with the substitution of “chaff” the passage would run: Before ye become like the chaff that passes by. This is a simple reading; how far it reflects the original text must remain uncertain.

The last clause, “day of the anger of the Lord,” looks like an explanation of the more general words, “the fierceness of the anger of the Lord” in the previous clause. The Hexaplar Syriac translation indicates that the last clause was not original in the Sept.; on the other hand, a corrector in the Sinaitic MS. (Swete, א c. b) suggests omission of the preceding clause.

Verse 2. - Before the decree bring forth. Before the result follows the fiat. The Divine purpose is represented as a woman labouring with child, travailing before it comes to execution. This is thrice repeated in substance, to show the certainty and speed of its arrival. Before the day pass as the chaff. "Before" is not in the Hebrew, and the clause is parenthetical, "Like chaff the day passeth." "The day" must be still the day of the Lord, not the day of life or the day of repentance. God brings on the judgment as easily and as quickly as the wind carries the chaff before it. The Septuagint and Syriac join the two clauses together; thus the LXX., Πρὸ τοῦ γενέσθαι ὑμᾶς ὡς ἄνθος παραπορευόμενον, "Before ye become as a flower that passeth away." And Jerome gives, "Priusquam pariat jussio quasi pulverem transeuntem diem," "Before the decree beget the day which passeth by like the dust." The present Hebrew text does not confirm these versions. The figure of the chaff is common (see Job 21:18; Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 29:5). Zephaniah 2:2Call to conversion. - Zephaniah 2:1. "Gather yourselves together, and gather together, O nation that dost not grow pale. Zephaniah 2:2. Before the decree bring forth (the day passes away like chaff), before the burning wrath of Jehovah come upon you, before the day of Jehovah's wrath come upon you. Zephaniah 2:3. Seek Jehovah, all ye humble of the land, who have wrought His right; seek righteousness, seek humility, perhaps ye will be hidden in the day of Jehovah's wrath." The summons in Zephaniah 2:1 is addressed to the whole of Judah or Israel. The verb qōshēsh, possibly a denom. from qash, signifies to gather stubble (Exodus 5:7, Exodus 5:12), then generally to gather together or collect, e.g., branches of wood (Numbers 15:32-33; 1 Kings 17:10); in the hithpoel, to gather one's self together, applied to that spiritual gathering which leads to self-examination, and is the first condition of conversion. The attempts of Ewald and Hitzig to prove, by means of doubtful etymological combinations from the Arabic, that the word possesses the meanings, to grow pale, or to purify one's self, cannot be sustained. The kal is combined with the hiphil for the purpose of strengthening it, as in Habakkuk 1:5 and Isaiah 29:9. Nikhsâph is the perf. nipahl in pause, and not a participle, partly because of the לא which stands before it (see however Ewald, 286, g), and partly on account of the omission of the article; and nikhsâph is to be taken as a relative, "which does not turn pale." Kâsaph has the meaning "to long," both in the niphal (vid., Genesis 31:30; Psalm 84:3) and kal (cf. Psalm 17:12; Job 14:15). This meaning is retained by many here. Thus Jerome renders it, "gens non amabilis, i.e., non desiderata a Deo;" but this is decidedly unsuitable. Others render it "not possessing strong desire," and appeal to the paraphrase of the Chaldee, "a people not wishing to be converted to the law." This is apparently the view upon which the Alex. version rests: ἔθνος ἀπαίδευτον. But although nikhsâph is used to denote the longing of the soul for fellowship with God in Psalm 84:3, this idea is not to be found in the word itself, but simply in the object connected with it. We therefore prefer to follow Grotius, Gesenius, Ewald, and others, and take the word in its primary sense of turning pale at anything, becoming white with shame (cf. Isaiah 29:22), which is favoured by Zephaniah 3:15. The reason for the appeal is given in Zephaniah 2:2, viz., the near approach of the judgment. The resolution brings forth, when that which is resolved upon is realized (for yâlad in this figurative sense, see Proverbs 27:1). The figure is explained in the second hemistich. The next clause כּמוץ וגו does not depend upon בּטרם, for in that case the verb would stand at the head with Vav cop., but it is a parenthesis inserted to strengthen the admonition: the day comes like chaff, i.e., approaches with the greatest rapidity, like chaff driven by the wind: not "the time passes by like chaff" (Hitzig); for it cannot be shown that yōm was ever used for time in this sense. Yōm is the day of judgment mentioned in Zephaniah 1:7, Zephaniah 1:14-15; and עבר here is not to pass by, but to approach, to come near, as in Nahum 3:19. For the figure of the chaff, see Isaiah 29:5. In the second בּטרם is strengthened by לא; and חרון אף, the burning of wrath in the last clause, is explained by יום אף יי, the day of the revelation of the wrath of God.
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