Zephaniah 3:3
Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Zephaniah 3:3-4. Her princes are roaring lions — Are like devouring lions, who roar in the act of seizing their prey. Her judges are evening wolves — Like so many beasts of prey. The princes and judges devour the people by injustice and oppression. They gnaw not the bones till the morrow — That is, they greedily devour every thing immediately, as soon as they lay hold on it. This expresses very forcibly the violence and oppression of which the great men in Jerusalem were guilty toward the poor, and their greediness after gain. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons — This is to be understood of the false prophets, who seduced the people by lying pretences to inspiration. Her priests have polluted the sanctuary, &c. — They have presumed to attend upon my service in the temple, after they had polluted themselves with idolatry, and thereby have profaned my holy place, (see chap. Zephaniah 1:4,) and have broken the ordinances of my law in many things.

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 prophet having declared the wickedness of the whole city, rehearses how each in Church and state, the ministers of God in either, who should have corrected the evil, themselves aggravated it. Not enemies, without, destroy her, but

Her princes within her - In the very midst of the flock, whom they should in God's stead "feed with a true heart," destroy her as they will, having no protection against them. "Her judges are evening wolves" (see Habakkuk 1:8); these who should in the Name of God redress all grievances and wrongs, are themselves like wild beasts, when most driven by famine. "They gnaw not the bones until the morrow or on the morrow" (literally, in the morning). They reserve nothing until the morning light, but do in darkness the works of darkness, shrinking from the light, and, in extreme rapacity, devouring at once the whole substance of the poor. As Isaiah says, "Thy princes are rebellious and companions of thieves" Isaiah 1:23, and "The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of His people and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard: the spoil of the poor is in your houses" Isaiah 3:14. And Ezekiel, "Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves, ravening the prey to shed blood, to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain" Ezekiel 22:27.

3. roaring—for prey (Pr 28:15; Eze 22:27; Am 3:4; Mic 2:2).

evening wolves—which are most ravenous at evening after being foodless all day (Jer 5:6; Hab 1:8).

they gnaw not the bones till the morrow—rather, "they put not off till to-morrow to gnaw the bones"; but devour all at once, bones and flesh, so ragingly ravenous are they [Calvin].

Her princes; persons of principal place and authority about the king, chief officers in civil matters. and, which is worse, her own princes, born and bred among them, who should have been most tender and just.

Are roaring lions; which hunt for prey, are ever tearing or threatening, affrighting or devouring. Such the Assyrian princes were, Nahum 2:11,12. Such, and no better, are the princes in Judah and Jerusalem.

Her judges; elders of cities, magistrates of lower rank; or it may be the sanhedrim.

Evening wolves; most hungry, insatiable, and cruel, like wolves of the evening whetted with hunger and fasting, Habakkuk 1:8.

They gnaw not the bones till the morrow; they leave nothing to be eat or the morrow, they devour all presently.

Her princes; persons of principal place and authority about the king, chief officers in civil matters. and, which is worse, her own princes, born and bred among them, who should have been most tender and just.

Are roaring lions; which hunt for prey, are ever tearing or threatening, affrighting or devouring. Such the Assyrian princes were, Nahum 2:11,12. Such, and no better, are the princes in Judah and Jerusalem.

Her judges; elders of cities, magistrates of lower rank; or it may be the sanhedrim.

Evening wolves; most hungry, insatiable, and cruel, like wolves of the evening whetted with hunger and fasting, Habakkuk 1:8.

They gnaw not the bones till the morrow; they leave nothing to be eat or the morrow, they devour all presently.

Her princes within her are roaring lions,.... Or, "as roaring lions"; there being a defect of the note of similitude; which is supplied by the Targum, Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions. This is to be understood, not of the princes of the blood; but of civil magistrates in common; the members of the grand sanhedrim; the princes of the Jewish world, that crucified the Lord of glory; and who gaped upon him with their mouths like ravening and roaring lions, as is foretold they should, Psalm 22:12 and who breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of Christ; and by their menaces endeavoured to frighten and deter them from preaching in his name, and from a profession of him; see 1 Corinthians 2:8,

her judges are evening wolves; or, like them, cruel, voracious, never satisfied; especially are very ravenous in the evening, having had no food all day; not daring to go abroad in the daytime to seek their prey; see Jeremiah 5:6. The Septuagint and Arabic versions read "wolves of Arabia"; but wrongly; See Gill on Habakkuk 1:8 such rapacious covetous judges were there in Christ's time; who gives us an instance in one, by which we may judge of the rest, who feared not God, nor regarded men, Luke 18:2 such as these were hungry and greedy after gifts and bribes to pervert judgment, and to devour the poor, the widow, and the fatherless, on whom they had no mercy:

they gnaw not the bones till the morrow; or rather, "in the morning" (z); that is, either they leave not the bones till the morning, as Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it; they are so hungry, that they eat up bones and all at once, and reserve nothing for the next day; which expresses both the greediness of these judges, and the total consumption of the estates of men made by them: or else the sense is, that not having gnawn any bones in the morning, or eaten anything that day, hence they are so greedy in the evening; and so this last clause gives a reason why evening wolves are so voracious; for which such cruel judges are compared to them.

(z) "in mane", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius; "matutino", Cocceius.

Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they {b} gnaw not the bones till the morrow.

(b) They are so greedy, that they eat up bones and all.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. Every class does evil, each in its own way. A very full parallel is Ezekiel 22:25-28 (in Ezekiel 22:25 read princes). The “princes” may be the royal house, or the magnates in whose hands lay the judicial and governing power. Ezek. describing the princes says, they are “like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure; they have made her widows many.” The “judges” are compared to evening wolves (Habakkuk 1:8), less powerful than the lions but no less insatiable and murderous. Ezekiel 22:27, “wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.” Judicial corruption and murder are often complained of by the prophets; Isaiah 1:23; Micah 3:11; cf. Jeremiah 22:17; Ezekiel 22:12.

gnaw not the bones till the morrow] The term rendered “gnaw the bones” occurs Numbers 24:8, where, however, the word “bones” is expressed; also Ezekiel 23:34, “thou shalt gnaw the sherds thereof.” With this sense the clause might mean, evening wolves that gnawed not (the) bones in the morning; the idea being that the wolves having had no prey in the morning were keen from hunger and ferocious in the evening. Others suppose the word to be different from that in Numbers 24:8, and to be allied to an Aramaic root signifying to cut off (a part), hence to reserve, leave over; and render, evening wolves that leave nothing over till the morning,—their insatiable voracity devouring everything, hide and hair, at once. It must be acknowledged that this sense of leave over is somewhat conjectural.

Verse 3. - Roaring lions. The princes, who ought to protect the people, are ready to tear them in pieces and devour them (Proverbs 28:15). Probably the violence and arrogance of the chiefs had increased during the minority of the king. This must have been written before the great reformation. Evening wolves (see note on Habakkuk 1:8). The judges, whose duty it was to administer justice and to set an example of equity and virtue, are themselves most cruel and rapacious. They gnaw not the bones till tomorrow; they gnaw no bones in the morning; that is, they are so greedy that they eat up all their prey at once and leave nothing till the morning. The versions drop the metaphor, and render, "They leave not to the morning" (comp. Ezekiel 22:27). Zephaniah 3:3To give still greater emphasis to his exhortation to repentance, the prophet turns to Jerusalem again, that he may once more hold up before the hardened sinners the abominations of this city, in which Jehovah daily proclaims His right, and shows the necessity for the judgment, as the only way that is left by which to secure salvation for Israel and for the whole world. Zephaniah 3:1. "Woe to the refractory and polluted one, the oppressive city! Zephaniah 3:2. She has not hearkened to the voice; not accepted discipline; not trusted in Jehovah; not drawn near to her God. Zephaniah 3:3. Her princes are roaring lions in the midst of her; her judges evening wolves, who spare not for the morning. Zephaniah 3:4. Her prophets boasters, men of treacheries: her priests desecrate that which is holy, to violence to the law." The woe applies to the city of Jerusalem. That this is intended in Zephaniah 3:1 is indisputably evident from the explanation which follows in Zephaniah 3:2-4 of the predicates applied to the city addressed in Zephaniah 3:1. By the position of the indeterminate predicates מוראה and נגאלה before the subject to which the hōi refers, the threat acquires greater emphasis. מוראה is not formed from the hophal of ראה (ἐπιφανής, lxx, Cyr., Cocc.), but is the participle kal of מרא equals מרה or מרר, to straighten one's self, and hold one's self against a person, hence to be rebellious (see Delitzsch on Job, on Job 33:2, note). נגאלה, stained with sins and abominations (cf. Isaiah 59:3). Yōnâh does not mean columba, but oppressive (as in Jeremiah 46:16; Jeremiah 50:16, and Jeremiah 25:38)), as a participle of yânâh to oppress (cf. Jeremiah 22:3). These predicates are explained and vindicated in Zephaniah 3:2-4, viz., first of all מוראה in Zephaniah 3:2. She gives no heed to the voice, sc. of God in the law and in the words of the prophets (compare Jeremiah 7:28, where קול יהוה occurs in the repetition of the first hemistich). The same thing is affirmed in the second clause, "she accepts no chastisement." These two clauses describe the attitude assumed towards the legal contents of the word of God, the next two the attitude assumed towards its evangelical contents, i.e., the divine promises. Jerusalem has no faith in these, and does not allow them to draw her to her God. The whole city is the same, i.e., the whole of the population of the city. Her civil and spiritual rulers are no better. Their conduct shows that the city is oppressive and polluted (Zephaniah 3:3 and Zephaniah 3:4). Compare with this the description of the leaders in Micah 3:1-12. The princes are lions, which rush with roaring upon the poor and lowly, to tear them in pieces and destroy them (Proverbs 28:15; Ezekiel 19:2; Nahum 2:12). The judges resemble evening wolves (see at Habakkuk 1:8), as insatiable as wolves, which leave not a single bone till the following morning, of the prey they have caught in the evening. The verb gâram is a denom. from gerem, to gnaw a bone, piel to crush them (Numbers 24:8); to gnaw a bone for the morning, is the same as to leave it to be gnawed in the morning. Gâram has not in itself the meaning to reserve or lay up (Ges. Lex.). The prophets, i.e., those who carry on their prophesying without a call from God (see Micah 2:11; Micah 3:5, Micah 3:11), are pōchăzı̄m, vainglorious, boasting, from pâchaz, to boil up or boil over, and when applied to speaking, to overflow with frivolous words. Men of treacheries, bōgedōth, a subst. verb, from bâgad, the classical word for faithless adultery or apostasy from God. The prophets proved themselves to be so by speaking the thoughts of their own hearts to the people as revelations from God, and thereby strengthening it in its apostasy from the Lord. The priests profane that which is holy (qoodesh, every holy thing or act), and do violence to the law, namely, by treating what is holy as profane, and perverting the precepts of the law concerning holy and unholy (cf. Ezekiel 22:26).
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