Zephaniah focuses on the need to live in righteousness before God. Zephaniah hammers home the message repeatedly that the day of the Lord, judgment day, is coming. Zephaniah traces his lineage back four generations to Hezekiah. If Zephaniah was the great-great-grandson of the godly King Hezekiah, then he was the only prophet with royal descent.
Zephaniah tells the doom of Nineveh, which happened in 625 B.C. His prophecy can be dated between 640 and 612 B.C.
Verse 1 – The word of the Lord which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, the king of Judah.
Josiah followed God during his reign of Judah. The Book of the Law was discovered in the temple and after reading it, Josiah began a great religious revival in Judah (2 Kings 22:1-23;25). Although the revival turned the nation back to God, it did not fully eliminate idolatry and lasted only a short time. Twelve years after Josiah’s death, Judah was invaded by Babylon.
Verse 2 – “I will utterly consume all things from the face of the land,” says the Lord;
Verse 3 – “I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, and the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land,” says the Lord.
Verse 4 – “I will stretch out My hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place, the names of the idolatrous priests with the pagan priests –
When Israel had entered the promise land, they had never fully wiped out the idols of Canaan. Before long they began to worship their pagan idols as if they were their own god. Their chief god was Baal.
Verse 5 – Those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops; those who worship and swear oaths by the LORD, but who also swear by Milcom;
Verse 6 – Those who have turned back from following the Lord, and have not sought the LORD, nor inquired of Him.”
Milcom was more likely the Ammonite god, interchangeable with Molech.
Re-read these verses again. Understand what the people were doing. They were mixing worshiping Yahweh with these pagan gods. They use to follow God, but had learned some new thing and mixed it in their worship.
What do we call someone who “use to follow God but doesn’t anymore?” A backslider. What do you think happens to a backslider when they refuse to turn back to God? They do not go unpunished.
Verse 7 – Be silent in the presence of the Lord God; for the day of the LORD is at hand, for the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests.
A day of judgment and a great slaughter occurred during the invasion of the Babylonians.
Verse 8 – “And it shall be, in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with foreign apparel.
Verse 9 – In the same day I will punish all those who leap over the threshold, who fill their master’s houses with violence and deceit.
This foreign apparel was forbidden by law. For instance, men’s garments worn by women, and vice versa, and heathen usage in the worship of Mars and Venus (Deuteronomy 22:5). By dong this, they showed a desire to please these foreign gods. God hated it!
Verse 10 – “And there shall be on that day,” says the LORD, “The sound of a mournful cry form the Fish Gate, a wailing from the Second Quarter, and a loud crashing from the hills.
Let me insert a bit of trivia here: I’ve noticed that Zephaniah uses all capitals when he says “LORD” which reflects the original term “Yhwh (Yahweh).” “LORD” is the English rendition of the Hebrew “Adonai.” The Jews considered “Yhwh” so sacred, they did not pronounce it.
Verse 11 – Wail, you inhabitants of Maktesh! For all the merchant people are cut down; all those who handle money are cut off.
Verse 12 – “And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, ‘The LORD will not do good, nor will He do evil.’
Verse 13 – Therefore their goods shall become booty, and their houses a desolation; they shall build houses, but not inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards, but not drink their wine.”
Verse 14 – The great day of the LORD is near; it is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out.
Some people think of God as an indulgent heavenly grandfather, existing to only grant wishes. The don’t believe He is All Powerful and that there is a coming judgment. However, a day will come for judgment for those who are content to live in their sin, indifferent to Him, or unconcerned about justice. When people are indifferent to God, they seem to think He is indifferent to them, not so.
Verse 15 – That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,
Verse 16 – a day of trumpet and alarm against fortified cities and against the high towers.
Just as sure as the Babylonians invaded Judah, a day of the LORD is coming again (Revelation 20:12-15). God’s final day of judgment is sure, but so is His ability to save. To be spared from this terrible judgment, recognize that you have sinned, if not saved already, that sin will bring His judgment, that you cannot save yourself, and that God alone can save you.
Verse 17 – “I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall pour out like dust, and their flesh like refuse.”
Verse 18 – Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy, for He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land.
The righteous eagerly await “The Day of the LORD,” but the unrighteous don’t even think about it. They never consider the things of God. Every prophecy, every prediction that has been written in God’s word, either has come to pass or will in the future. The Day of the LORD will be a terrible day and only those in Christ will be saved!