Zephaniah 3:1
Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!
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Zephaniah 3:1-2. Wo to her that is filthy — (Bishop Newcome reads, rebellious, and the Vulgate, provoking,) and polluted — That is, defiled with various crimes; to the oppressing city — It is well deserving of our notice, that the oppression of the poor is always ranked by God among those things which are most offensive to him. She obeyed not the voice — Namely, of God’s messengers, the prophets. She received not correction — Or instruction, as מוסר may be rendered: she did not attend to it; was not amended by it. She trusted not in the Lord — Did not place her confidence and hopes in the power and goodness of God, but in other things. She drew not near to God — In prayer and praise, and other acts of worship.3:1-7 The holy God hates sin most in those nearest to him. A sinful state is, and will be, a woful state. Yet they had the tokens of God's presence, and all the advantages of knowing his will, with the strongest reasons to do it; still they persisted in disobedience. Alas, that men often are more active in doing wickedness than believers are in doing good.The "woe," having gone round the pagan nations, again circles round where it began, the "Jerusalem that killed the prophets and stoned those that were sent unto her" Matthew 23:37. Woe upon her, and joy to the holy Jerusalem, the "new Jerusalem Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:10, the Jerusalem which is from above, the mother of us all," close this prophecy; both in figure; destruction of her and the whole earth, in time, the emblem of the eternal death; and the love of God, the foretaste of endless joy in Him.

Woe - "Rebellious and polluted;" "thou oppressive city!" . The address is the more abrupt, and bursts more upon her, since the prophet does not name her. He uses as her proper name, not her own name, city of peace," but "rebellious," "polluted;" then he sums up in one, thou "oppressive city."

Jerusalem's sin is threefold, actively rebelling against God; then, inwardly defiled by sin; then cruel to man. So then, toward God, in herself, toward man, she is wholly turned to evil, not in passing acts, but in her abiding state:

(1) rebellious

(2) defiled

(3) oppressive

She is known only by what she has become, and what has been done for her in vain. She is rebellious, and so had had the law; defiled, and so had been cleansed; and therefore her state is the more hopeless.


Zep 3:1-20. Resumption of the Denunciation of Jerusalem, as Being Unreformed by the Punishment of Other Nations: After Her Chastisement Jehovah Will Interpose for Her against Her Foes; His Worship Shall Flourish in All Lands, Beginning at Jerusalem, Where He Shall Be in the Midst of His People, and Shall Make Them a Praise in All the Earth.

1. filthy—Maurer translates from a different root, "rebellious," "contumacious." But the following term, "polluted," refers rather to her inward moral filth, in spite of her outward ceremonial purity [Calvin]. Grotius says, the Hebrew is used of women who have prostituted their virtue. There is in the Hebrew Moreah; a play on the name Moriah, the hill on which the temple was built; implying the glaring contrast between their filthiness and the holiness of the worship on Moriah in which they professed to have a share.

oppressing—namely, the poor, weak, widows, orphans and strangers (Jer 22:3).A sharp reproof of Jerusalem for divers sins, Zephaniah 3:1-7. An exhortation to wait for the restoration of Israel Zephaniah 3:8-13; and to rejoice for their salvation by God, Zephaniah 3:14-20.

The prophet showed us Nineveh in ruins for her sins; from this doleful spectacle he brings us to take a prospect of what would come upon Jerusalem, which ere long will be full of woes, because now full of sin.

Filthy; loathsome in her sins, so foul they are, and so abominably acted. A city, that, like an infamous woman, is branded for her impudence in sin. Or, Woe to the great craw! as pointing out the gluttony of Jerusalem literally, and their swallowing the poor who were a prey to the great ones.

Polluted; greatly polluted by this means.

To the oppressing city; or the city foolish and seduced, as a silly dove; so the Hebrew will bear: but our version is to be preferred; it is come to that pass, Jerusalem is a city that doth nothing but oppress, Jeremiah 6:6 Eze 22.

Woe to her that is filthy, and polluted,.... Meaning the city of Jerusalem, and its inhabitants; not as before the Babylonish captivity, but after their return from it, under the second temple, as Abarbinel owns; and even as in the times before and at the coming of Christ, and the preaching of his apostles among them; as the whole series of the prophecy, and the connection of the several parts of it, show; and there are such plain intimations of the conversion of the Gentiles, and of such a happy state of the Jews, in which they shall see evil no more, as can agree with no other times than the times of the Gospel, both the beginning and latter part of them. The character of this city, and its inhabitants, is, that it was "filthy", and polluted with murders, adulteries, oppression, rapine, and other sins: our Lord often calls them a wicked and an adulterous generation; and yet they pretended to great purity of life and manners; and they were pure in their own eyes, though not washed from their filthiness; they took much pains to make clean the outside of the cup, but within were full of impurity, Matthew 23:25. In the margin it is, "woe to her that is gluttonous". The word is used for the craw or crop of a fowl, Leviticus 1:16 hence some render it (t) "woe to the craw"; to the city that is all craw, to which Jerusalem is compared for its devouring the wealth and substance of others. The Scribes and Pharisees in Christ's time are said to devour widows' houses, Matthew 23:14 and this seems to be the sin with which they were defiled, and here charged with. Some think the word signifies one that is publicly, infamous; either made a public example of, or openly exposed, as sometimes filthy harlots are; or rather one "that has made herself infamous" (u); by her sins and vices:

to the oppressing city! that oppressed the poor, the widow, and the fatherless. This may have respect to the inhabitants of Jerusalem stoning the prophets of the Lord sent unto them; to the discouragements they laid the followers of Christ under, by not suffering such to come to hear him that were inclined; threatening to cast them out of their synagogues if they professed him, which passed into a law; and to their killing the Lord of life and glory; and the persecution of his apostles, ministers, and people: see Matthew 23:13. Some render it, "to the city a dove" (w); being like a silly dove without heart, as in Hosea 7:11. R. Azariah (x) thinks Jerusalem is so called because in its works it was like Babylon, which had for its military sign on its standard a dove; See Gill on Jeremiah 25:38, Jeremiah 46:16, Hosea 11:11 but the former sense is best.

(t) "vae ingluviei", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (u) "vae huic quae infamatur", L'Empereur Not. in Mosis Kimchii "ad scientiam", p. 174. so Drusius and Tarnovius. (w) , Sept.; "civitas columba", V. L.; so Syr. Ar. Jarchi, and other Jewish interpreters. (x) Meor Enayin, c. 21. fol. 90. 1.

Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing {a} city!

(a) That is, Jerusalem.

1. filthy and polluted] As R.V., rebellious and polluted. Her “pollution” comes from bloodshed (Isaiah 1:15, “your hands are full of blood;” Ezekiel 24:9, “Woe to the bloody city”), but possibly also partly from other sins, cf. Isaiah 4:4, “the filth of the daughters of Zion.” The term “polluted” is specially connected with blood, Isaiah 59:3; Lamentations 4:14.

the oppressing city] The word is used by Jeremiah of the sword, Jeremiah 46:16. Cf. Isaiah 1:21, “How is the city that was faithful become an harlot! Full of justice, righteousness lodging in her—but now murderers!”

Ch. Zephaniah 3:1-8. Renewed threat against Jerusalem in particular

Ch. 3 returns to Jerusalem. The city is reproached as rebellious, polluted, and full of oppression (Zephaniah 3:1); disobedient to God and neglectful of His word and of the lessons of His operations in the world of the nations (Zephaniah 3:2). All classes within her are corrupt: her princes violent, her judges venal and greedy (Zephaniah 3:3), her prophets unstable and false, and her priests profaners of what is holy and perverters of the Torah (Zephaniah 3:4 ff.).Verses 1-5. - § 6. The prophet turns to Jerusalem, and warns her that, if God punishes the heathen, he will not spare the hardened sinners in Judah. Verse 1. - Woe to her! This is addressed to Jerusalem, as is seen by vers. 2-4. Filthy; rather, rebellious, i.e. against God. The LXX., mistaking the word, renders ἐπιφανής, "notable." So the Syriac. Jerome has provocatrix. The true sense is seen by the expansion of the term in ver. 2. polluted by her many sins. Jerome, following the Septuagint ἀπολευτρωμένη, "ransomed," has, redempta, which he explains, "Captivitatibus traditia, et rursum redempta." The oppressing city, that acts unjustly and cruelly to the weak and poor. So the three sins for which she is here denounced are that she is rebellious against God, defiled with sin in herself, and cruel to others. The Septuagiut and Vulgate translate jonah ("oppressing") "dove," which seems singularly inappropriate here, though some try to explain it as applied to Jerusalem in the sense of "silly" or "stupid" (Hosea 7:11) "This confession of sin is followed by a confession of faith on the part of the humiliated people of God" (Shlier.) Micah 7:7. "But I, for Jehovah will I look out; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Micah 7:8. Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy! for am I fallen, I rise again; for do I sit in darkness, Jehovah is light to me." By ואני what follows is attached adversatively to the preceding words. Even though all love and faithfulness should have vanished from among men, and the day of visitation should have come, the church of the faithful would not be driven from her confidence in the Lord, but would look to Him and His help, and console itself with the assurance that its God would hear it, i.e., rescue it from destruction. As the looking out (tsâphâh) for the Lord, whether He would not come, i.e., interpose to judge and aid, involves in itself a prayer for help, though it is not exhausted by it, but also embraces patient waiting, or the manifestation of faith in the life; so the hearing of God is a practical hearing, in other words, a coming to help and to save. The God of my salvation, i.e., from whom all my salvation comes (cf. Psalm 27:9; Isaiah 17:10). Her enemy, i.e., the heathen power of the world, represented in Micah's time by Asshur, and personified in thought as daughter Asshur, is not to rejoice over Zion. כּי, for, not "if:" the verb nâphaltı̄ is rather to be taken conditionally, "for have I fallen;" nâphal being used, as in Amos 5:2, to denote the destruction of the power and of the kingdom. The church is here supposed to be praying out of the midst of the period when the judgment has fallen upon it for its sins, and the power of the world is triumphing over it. The prophet could let her speak thus, because he had already predicted the destruction of the kingdom and the carrying away of the people into exile as a judgment that was inevitable (Micah 3:12; Micah 6:16). Sitting in darkness, i.e., being in distress and poverty (cf. Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 42:7; Psalm 107:10). In this darkness the Lord is light to the faithful, i.e., He is their salvation, as He who does indeed chasten His own people, but who even in wrath does not violate His grace, or break the promises which He has given to His people.
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