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). "The wrath of Jehovah shall I bear, for I have sinned against Him, till He shall fight my fight, and secure my right. He will bring me forth to the light; I shall behold His righteousness. Micah 7:10. And may my enemy see it, and shame cover her, who hath said to me, Where is Jehovah thy God? Mine eyes will see it; now will she be for a treading down, like mire of the streets." Confidence in the help of the Lord flows from the consciousness, that the wretchedness and sufferings are a merited punishment for the sins. This consciousness and feeling generate patience and hope: patience to bear the wrath of God manifesting itself in the sufferings; hope that the sufferings, as inflicted by the righteous God, will cease as soon as the divine justice has been satisfied. Za‛aph: lit., the foaming up of wrath (Isaiah 30:30); hence strong wrath. This the church will bear, till the Lord conducts its conflict and secures its rights. ריבי is the judicial conflict between Israel and the heathen power of the world. Although, for example, God had given up His nation to the power of its enemies, the nations of the world, on account of its sins, so that they accomplished the will of God, by destroying the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and carrying away the people into exile; yet they grew proud of their own might in so doing, and did not recognise themselves as instruments of punishment in the hand of the Lord, but attributed their victories to the power of their own arm, and even aimed at the destruction of Israel, with scornful defiance of the living God (cf. Isaiah 10:5-15; Habakkuk 1:11). Thus they violated the rights of Israel, so that the Lord was obliged to conduct the contest of His people with the heathen, and secure the rights of Israel by the overthrow of the heathen power of the world. For ריב ריבי, see Psalm 43:1; for עשׂה משׁפּט, Psalm 9:4-5; and for the fact itself, Isaiah 49:25; Isaiah 51:22. Mishpât is Israel's right, in opposition to the powers of the world, who would destroy it. The following word יוציאני is not governed by עד אשׁר, as the absence of the copula Vav shows. With these words the hope takes the form of the certain assurance that the Lord will remove the distress, and let Israel see His righteousness. Tsedâqâh is the righteousness of God revealing itself in the forgiveness and restoration of Israel to favour; like tsedâqōth in Micah 6:5 : in actual fact, the salvation of Israel about to be secured, regarded as an emanation of the righteousness of the covenant God; hence parallel to אור. ראה with ב, to look at, so that one penetrates, as it were, into an object, seeing with feasting of the eyes (so also in Micah 7:10). This exaltation of Israel to new salvation it is hoped that the enemy will see (ותרא, opt.), and be covered with shame; for the power of the world is overthrown, in order that Israel may be redeemed out of its power. This desire is a just one, because the enemy has despised the Lord God. For the expression, "Where is Jehovah thy God?" compare Joel 2:17. And Israel will see its fulfilment (תּראינּה with Nun doubled after a sharpened ; see Ewald, 198, a). ‛Attâh, now (seeing the future in spirit, as having already come), the enemy will be trodden down like mire of the streets (for this figure, see Isaiah 10:6).
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