Zephaniah 3:18
I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Zephaniah 3:18-20. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly — I will collect together those Israelites who are dispersed in their several captivities, both that of Babylon, and those of following times; who mourn for the loss of the public ordinances, and are grieved at the reproaches wherewith their enemies upbraid them, as if they were utterly forsaken of God. Behold — Mark well; at that time I will undo all that afflict thee — I will break the power, and dissolve the kingdom of thy enemies and oppressors, particularly of the Babylonians. And I will save her that halteth — Who is in trouble, and ready to fall; and gather her that was driven out — Into remote countries. And I will get them praise, &c., where they have been put to shame — I will cause them to have fame, even in those places where they have been scoffed at and held in contempt. I will make you a name, &c., when I turn back your captivity — When I cause you to return out of captivity, I will make your name great, and ye shall be the subject of men’s praise among all the nations around. So the Christian Church was, when it was made to flourish in the world, for there is that truth and grace, that piety and virtue in it, which may justly recommend it to the value and esteem of all the people of the earth; and so the universal church of the firstborn will be in the great day, when the saints shall be brought together to Christ, that he may be admired and glorified in them, and they admired and glorified in and through him, before angels and men. Then will God’s Israel be a name and a praise to all eternity.

3:14-20 After the promises of taking away sin, follow promises of taking away trouble. When the cause is removed, the effect will cease. What makes a people holy, will make them happy. The precious promises made to the purified people, were to have full accomplishment in the gospel. These verses appear chiefly to relate to the future conversion and restoration of Israel, and the glorious times which are to follow. They show the abundant peace, comfort, and prosperity of the church, in the happy times yet to come. He will save; he will be Jesus; he will answer the name, for he will save his people from their sins. Before the glorious times foretold, believers would be sorrowful, and objects of reproach. But the Lord will save the weakest believer, and cause true Christians to be greatly honoured where they had been treated with contempt. One act of mercy and grace shall serve, both to gather Israel out of their dispersions and to lead them to their own land. Then will God's Israel be made a name and a praise to eternity. The events alone can fully answer the language of this prophecy. Many are the troubles of the righteous, but they may rejoice in God's love. Surely our hearts should honour the Lord, and rejoice in him, when we hear such words of condescension and grace. If now kept from his ordinances, it is our trial and grief; but in due time we shall be gathered into his temple above. The glory and happiness of the believer will be perfect, unchangeable, and eternal, when he is freed from earthly sorrows, and brought to heavenly bliss.I will gather them that are sorrowful - for the solemn assembly, in which they were to "rejoice" Leviticus 23:40; Deuteronomy 12:12, Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 27:7 before God and which in their captivity God made to cease. "They were of thee" Lamentations 1:4; Lamentations 2:6, the true Israel who were "grieved for the affliction of Joseph; to whom the reproach of it was a burden" Amos 6:6 (rather , 'on whom reproach was laid'): for this "reproach of Christ is greater riches than the treasures of Egypt," and such shall inherit the blessing, "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you and east out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake; rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy, for, behold your reward is great in heaven" Luke 6:22-23. 18. sorrowful for the solemn assembly—pining after the solemn assembly which they cannot celebrate in exile (La 1:4; 2:6).

who are of thee—that is, of thy true citizens; and whom therefore I will restore.

to whom the reproach of it was a burden—that is, to whom thy reproach ("the reproach of My people," Mic 6:16; their ignominious captivity) was a burden. "Of it" is put of thee, as the person is often changed. Those who shared in the burden of reproach which fell on My people. Compare Isa 25:8, "the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth."

This promise removes an objection which might be made by dispersed ones: How can we return? I will gather you, saith God.

That are sorrowful for the solemn assembly; mourn in their distance from the solemn worship of God, as David, Psalm 42; that are troubled more for want of God’s ordinances than for any thing; which three times every year in great solemnity they celebrated, but now for seventy years had wanted them.

Are of thee; these longing mourners are thy children indeed, Israelites in whom is no guile.

The reproach; the taunts of enemies and triumphs over God and religion, such as Psalm 42:3,10.

A burden; heaviest burden, or a sword in their bowels.

I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly,.... Who are grieved and troubled, because they cannot meet at the time and place of religious worship, or attend the word and ordinances of the Lord; either through distance of place, or infirmity of body; or through the menaces and persecutions of men: and to be prevented the use of the means of grace, upon any account, is a great concern of mind to truly gracious souls: or who are filled with grief and sorrow "for the appointed time" (u); for the time of the Jews' deliverance from their present exile, and return to their own land, which seems to be delayed, and thought long; and so it may seem to some of them in distant parts, after they are converted; and for whose encouragement this is said, that the Lord will in his own due time and way gather such out of all places where they are, into his church, and among his people, to join with them in religious worship, and partake of all the ordinances and privileges of his house; and also gather them into their own land, and comfortably settle them there:

who are of thee; belong to the church of Christ; or however have a right to, and meetness for, a place in it; are her true and genuine children, being born again; and which appears by the taste they have for, and their desire after, the word and ordinances:

to whom the reproach of it was a burden; it being grievous and burdensome to them to hear the enemy reproach them with their exile and dispersion; with their distance from the place of worship, and their want of opportunity of attending to it: this was intolerable, a burden too heavy for them; it was like a sword in their bones, when they were asked, where is your God? and where are the ordinances of divine worship? and when will it ever be that you will attend them? see Psalm 42:1.

(u) "propter tempus, sub. diuturnum exsilii", Vatablus; "ex tempore statuto judiciorum poenarumque", Burkius.

I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of {o} it was a burden.

(o) That is, those that were held in hatred and reviled for the Church, and because of their religion.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. The language is very obscure. Perhaps: I will gather (lit. have gathered) those sorrowing far away from the solemn assembly, who are of thee (belong to thee), thou on whom reproach lay heavy. The term “sorrowing” is found Lamentations 1:4. The sense, those removed away from the solemn assembly, might be supported by 2 Samuel 20:13. The reference in any case is to the dispersed among the nations, far from the sanctuary and the feasts. The “reproach” is just that arising from the national calamities and humiliation. Isaiah 54:4, “the reproach of thy widowhood (the time of exile) shalt thou remember no more.”

Verse 18. - The love which God feels he shows in action. He cares for the exiled and dispersed, and will gather them again and comfort them for all their sorrows. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly; or, far removed from the solemn, assembly. Those who grieve because by their exile from the Holy Land they are debarred from duly attending the periodical festivals, these God will restore, and enable them again to participate in the sacred feasts. The above version and explanation are undoubtedly right, as the Latin Version is certainly wrong, Nugas, qui a lege recesserant, congregabo; that is, the light and fickle persons, who have estranged themselves from the Law, God will reclaim, and join them to the congregation of the true Israel; and this, quia ex te erant, for their origin's sake, because they are descendants of the chosen people. Who are of thee; they are of thee, O Zion. These are the true Israelites; this is why they mourn for the cessation of the festivals, and why they shall be restored to the Holy Land. To whom the reproach of it was a burden; i.e. who felt the desolation of Zion and the reproaches uttered against her by enemies (Psalm 137.) as a burden grievous to be borne. The Vulgate has, Ut non ultra habeas super eis opprobrium; i.e. "That they may be no more a disgrace to thee;" the LXX. reads somewhat differently, Οὐαὶ τίς ἔλαβεν ἐπ αὐτὴν ὀνειδισμόν; "Alas! who took up a reproach against her?" Zephaniah 3:18"I gather together those that mourn for the festive meeting; they are of thee; reproach presses upon them. Zephaniah 3:19. Behold, at that time I will treat with all thine oppressors, and will save the limping, and gather together that which is dispersed, and make them a praise and a name in every land of their shame. Zephaniah 3:20. At that time will I bring you and gather you in time; for I will make you a name and a praise among all the nations of the earth, when I turn your captivity before your eyes, saith Jehovah." The salvation held up in prospect before the remnant of Israel, which has been refined by the judgments and delivered, was at a very remote distance in Zephaniah's time. The first thing that awaited the nation was the judgment, through which it was to be dispersed among the heathen, according to the testimony of Moses and all the prophets, and to be refined in the furnace of affliction. The ten tribes were already carried away into exile, and Judah was to share the same fate immediately afterwards. In order, therefore, to offer to the pious a firm consolation of hope in the period of suffering that awaited them, and one on which their faith could rest in the midst of tribulation, Zephaniah mentions in conclusion the gathering together of all who pine in misery at a distance from Zion, and who are scattered far and wide, to assure even these of their future participation in the promised salvation. Every clause of Zephaniah 3:18 is difficult. נוּגי is a niphal participle of יגה, with וּ instead of ו, as in Lamentations 1:4, in the sense of to mourn, or be troubled. Mō‛ēd, the time of the feast, when all Israel gathered together to rejoice before Jehovah, as in Hosea 12:10, except that the word is not to be restricted to the feast of tabernacles, but may be understood as relating to all the feasts to which pilgrimages were made. The preposition min is taken by many in the sense of far from; in support of which Hitzig appeals to Lamentations 1:4. But that passage is rather opposed to the application of the meaning referred to, inasmuch as we have מבּלי there, in which min denotes the cause. And this causal signification is to be retained here also, if only because of the close connection between נוּגי and ממּועד, according to which the dependent word can only denote the object or occasion of the nōgâh. Those who are troubled for the festal meeting are they who mourn because they cannot participate in the joy of assembling before the face of the Lord, namely, on account of their banishment into foreign lands. Mimmēkh hâyū, from thee were they, i.e., they have been thine (min expressing descent or origin, as in Isaiah 58:12; Ezra 2:59; Psalm 68:27; and the whole clause containing the reason for their meeting). The explanation given by Anton and Strauss is unsuitable and forced: "They will be away from thee, namely, separated from thee as mourners." In the last clause it is a matter of dispute to what the suffix in עליה refers. The explanation of Strauss, that it refers to Zion, is precluded by the fact that Zion is itself addressed, both in what precedes and what follows, and the thought does not require so rapid a change of persons. It is more natural to refer it to נוּגי, in which case the singular suffix is used collectively as a neuter, like the feminines הצּלעה and הנּדּחה; and the meaning takes this form: a burden upon them, viz., those who mourned for the feasts, was the reproach, sc. of slavery among the heathen (compare Zephaniah 3:19, at the close). Consequently the clause assigns a still further reason for the promise, that they are to be gathered together.

In Zephaniah 3:19, עשׂה with את signifies neither to handle in an evil sense, nor comprimere, conculcare, but to treat or negotiate with a person, as in Ezekiel 23:25 and Ezekiel 17:17, where אות, according to a later usage of the language, is a preposition, and not a sign of the accusative. The more precise definition of the procedure, or of the kind of negotiation, is evident from the context. The reference is to a punitive procedure, or treating in wrath. מענּיך as in Psalm 60:14, the heathen nations who had subjugated Israel. What follows is taken almost verbatim from Micah 4:6; and the last clause points back to Deuteronomy 26:19, to tell the people that the Lord will assuredly realize the glorification promised to the people of His possession, and make Israel an object of praise to the whole earth. בּכל־הארץ בּשׁתּם, in all lands, where they have suffered shame. Boshtâm is epexegetical of hâ'ârets, which governs it; this explains the use of the article with the nomen regens (cf. Ewald, 290, d). In order to paint the glory of the future salvation in still more vivid colours before the eyes of the people, the Lord ends by repeating this promise once more, with a slight change in the words. At that time will I lead you. The indefinite אביא might be expounded from the context, by supplying the place to which God will lead them, after such passages as Isaiah 14:2; Isaiah 43:5. But it is more natural to think of the phrase, to lead out and in, according to Numbers 27:17, and to take אביא as an abbreviation of הוציא והביא, picturing the pastoral fidelity with which the Lord will guide the redeemed. The following words קבּצי אתכם point to this: compare Isaiah 40:11, where the gathering of the lambs is added to the feeding of the flock, to give prominence to the faithful care of the shepherds for the weak and helpless. קבּצי is the infinitive: my gathering you, sc. will take place. The choice of this form is to be traced, as Hitzig supposes, to the endeavour to secure uniformity in the clauses. A fresh reason is then assigned for the promise, by a further allusion to the glorification appointed for the people of God above all the nations of the earth, coupled with the statement that this will take place at the turning of their captivity, i.e., when God shall abolish the misery of His people, and turn it into salvation ("turn the captivity," as in Zephaniah 2:7), and that "before your eyes;" i.e., not that "ye yourselves shall see the salvation, and not merely your children, when they have closed your eyes" (Hitzig) - for such an antithesis would be foreign to the context - but as equivalent to "quite obviously, so that the turn in events stands out before the eye," analogous to "ye will see eye to eye" (Isaiah 52:8; cf. Luke 2:30). This will assuredly take place, for Jehovah has spoken it.

On the fulfilment of this promise, Theodoret observes that "these things were bestowed upon those who came from Babylon, and have been offered to all men since then." This no doubt indicates certain points of the fulfilment, but the principal fulfilment is generalized too much. For although the promise retains its perfect validity in the case of the Christian church, which is gathered out of both Jews and Gentiles, and will receive its final accomplishment in the completion of the kingdom of heaven founded by Christ on the earth, the allusion to the Gentile Christians falls quite into the background in the picture of salvation in Zephaniah 3:11-20, and the prophet's eye is simply directed towards Israel, and the salvation reserved for the rescued ἐκλογὴ τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. But inasmuch as Zephaniah not only announces the judgment upon the whole earth, but also predicts the conversion of the heathen nations to Jehovah the living God (Zephaniah 3:9-10), we must not restrict the description of salvation in Zephaniah 3:11-20 to the people of Israel who were lineally descended from Abraham, and to the remnant of them; but must also regard the Gentiles converted to the living God through Christ as included among them, and must consequently say that the salvation which the Lord will procure through the judgment for the daughter Zion or the remnant of Israel, commenced with the founding of the Christian church by the apostles for Judah and the whole world, and has been gradually unfolded more and more through the spread of the name of the Lord and His worship among all nations, and will be eventually and fully realized at the second coming of Christ, to the last judgment, and to perfect His kingdom in the establishment of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21 and 22). It is true that both the judgment and the salvation of the remnant of Israel seeking Jehovah and His righteousness commenced even before Christ, with the giving up of Judah, together with all the tribes and kingdoms falling within the horizon of Old Testament prophecy, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar and the imperial rulers who followed him; but so far as the question of the fulfilment of our prophecy is concerned, these events come into consideration merely as preliminary stages of and preparations for the times of decision, which commenced with Christ not only for the Jews, but for all nations.

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