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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Zephaniah 1

 

 

Verse 1

The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

The word of the Lord which came unto Zephaniah ... in the days of Josiah. Had their idolatries been under former kings, they might have said, our kings have forced us to this or that; but under Josiah, who did all in his power to reform them, they have no such excuse.

The son of Amon - the idolater, whose bad practices the Jews clung to, rather than the good example of Josiah, his son, so incorrigible were they in sin. They were desperately ready to go back to idolatry, but sadly slow in going back to the worship of Yahweh, which was the worship of Israel under their best king, David, ages before.

King of Judah. Israel's ten tribes had ere this gone into captivity.


Verse 2

I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.

I will utterly consume - from a root [ cuwp (Hebrew #5486)] to sweep away or scrape off utterly. See the margin, Jeremiah 8:13 ("I will surely consume them"), in gathering I will consume, and here.

From off the land - of Judah.


Verse 3

I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling-blocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.

I will consume man and beast. Enumeration in detail of the "all things" (Zephaniah 1:2 : cf. Jeremiah 9:10; Hosea 4:3).

And the stumblingblocks - the idols which cause Judah to offend or stumble (Ezekiel 14:3-4; Ezekiel 14:7).

With the wicked - the idols and their worshippers, inasmuch as the latter are like the former (Psalms 115:8; Deuteronomy 7:26), shall be involved in a common destruction.


Verse 4

I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests;

I will also stretch out mine hand - indicating some remarkable and unusual work of vengeance (Isaiah 5:25, "For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still;" Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21).

Upon Judah - including Benjamin. These two tribes are to suffer, which thought themselves perpetually secure, because they escaped the captivity in which the ten tribes were involved.

And upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem - the fountainhead of the evil. God "begins at his sanctuary" (Ezekiel 9:6); and those who are nigh Him (Leviticus 10:3, "I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me"). "Judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17).

I will cut off the remnant of Baal - the remains of Baal-worship, which as yet Josiah was unable utterly to eradicate in remoter places. Baal was the Phoenician tutelary god. His name means lord; and the feminine deity corresponding, and generally associated with him, was Ashtoreth. As he was represented by the sun, so she was the goddess answering to the moon and the rest of the heavenly hosts. In fact, it was the worship of nature: a worship to which correspond the pantheism and scientific exaltation of nature and her laws in our own days, as if God were the slave of His own world and its laws, instead of its Lord, Creator, and Sustainer, who can at will modify, alter, and suspend the order of the present system of things, according to His own sovereign pleasure, and in furtherance of the higher moral laws, in subserviency to which the laws of nature exist. From the time of the Judge (Judges 2:13) Israel had fallen into this idolatry; and Manasseh lately had set up this idol within Yahweh's temple itself (2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 21:5; 2 Kings 21:7, "He reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove ... and worshipped all the host of heaven (Ashtoreth or Astarte) ... and he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord." "And he set a graven image of the grove (the symbol of the heavenly host) that he had made in the house, of which the Lord said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name forever"). Josiah began his reformation in the twelfth year of his reign (2 Chronicles 34:3-4; 2 Chronicles 34:8), and in the eighteenth had as far as possible completed it.

Chemarims - idol priests, who had not reached the age of puberty; meaning 'ministers of the gods' (Servius on 'AEneid' 11:) the same name as the Tyrian Camilli, r and l being interchangeable (cf. margin Hosea 10:5, 'the priests thereof'-namely, of the calves of Beth-aven: "Chemarim"). Josiah is expressly said (margin, 2 Kings 23:5 [k


Verse 5

And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham;

And them that worship the host of heaven - Saba: whence, in contrast to Sabeanism, Yahweh is called Lord of Sabaoth.

Upon the house-tops - which were flat (2 Kings 23:5-6; 2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13, "All the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the hosts of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods." So also "unto Baal." The flat roofs, open to the sun and heavenly hosts, were chosen as the natural scene of worshipping those luminaries; so that, in fact, every house became an idolatrous sanctuary; (Jeremiah 32:29).

And them ... that swear by the Lord - rather, 'swear to Yahweh' (2 Chronicles 15:14, "And they sware UNTO the Lord with a loud voice"). The particle is a different one l


Verse 6

And them that are turned back from the LORD and those that have not sought the LORD, nor inquired And them that are turned back from the LORD and those that have not sought the LORD, nor inquired for him.

And them that are turned back from the Lord; and those that have not sought the Lord - positive and negative apostasy. Positive, in forsaking the Lord for idols; negative, in ceasing to "seek" after Him in real prayer. The latter is the forerunner of the former: many who do not go so far as open apostasy are virtually guilty of it, inasmuch as they do not "inquire for" the Lord. This verse describes more comprehensively those guilty of defection from Yahweh in any way (Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 2:17, "My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken ME, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water").


Verse 7

Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.

Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God - (Habakkuk 2:20, "The Lord is in his holy temple let all the earth keep silence before him"). Let the earth be silent at his approach (Maurer). Or, 'Thou, whosoever hast been wont to speak against God, as if He had no care about earthly affairs, cease thy murmurs and self-justifications: submit thyself to God, and repent in time,' (Calvin, etc.)

For the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice - namely, a slaughter of the guilty Jews, the victims due to His justice (Isaiah 34:6, "The Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea;" Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 39:17).

Bid his guests , [ hiqdiysh (Hebrew #6942) q


Verse 8

And it shall come to pass 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 strange apparel.

I will punish the princes - who ought to have been an example of good to others, but were ringleaders in all evil.

And the king's children. Fulfilled (Jeremiah 39:6) on Zedekiah's children, "The king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes;" and previously on Jehoahaz (deposed and put in bonds by Pharaoh-necho at Riblah, and carded to Egypt) and Eliakim (called Jehoiakim by Pharaoh-necho, who raised him to the throne; subsequently bound in fetters by Nebuchadnezzar, in order to be carried to Babylon, but put to death on the way, and his carcass thrown outside of Jerusalem, the Babylonian king having changed his first intention; Jeremiah 22:19, note), the sons of Josiah (2 Kings 23:31; 2 Kings 23:36; 2 Chronicles 36:6 : cf. also 2 Kings 20:18). The king's children probably took a prominent part in the idolatries perpetrated at Jerusalem. Therefore they are specified for punishment. Huldah the prophetess (2 Kings 22:20) intimated that which Zephaniah now more expressly foretells, "Thine (Josiah's) eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place:" cf. 2 Kings 21:10; 2 Kings 21:13-15, "The Lord spake by his servants the prophets (in Manasseh's reign, previous to Zephaniah's prophecies in Josiah's reign), saying, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down."

And all such as are clothed with strange apparel - the princes or courtiers who attired themselves in costly garments imported from abroad; partly for the sake of luxury, and partly to ingratiate themselves with foreign great nations whose costume they imitated, as well as their idolatries (Calvin); whereas in costume, as in other respects, God would have them to be separate from the nations. Grotius refers the "strange apparel" to garments forbidden by the law-e.g., men's garments worn by women, and vice versa-a pagan usage in the worship of Mars and Venus (Deuteronomy 22:5, "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God." I think the reference is to the outlandish "vestments" (imported, like the idolatry itself, from the pagan abroad) in which the idolatrous Jews worshipped the idols. So the idolatrous Chemarim (Zephaniah 1:4) wore a black garment. Also, when the worshippers of Baal were summoned together by Jehu, and filled the house of Baal "from one end to another," Jehu "said unto him that was over the vestry, Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. And he brought them forth vestments." What a blessed contrast is presented by the "fine linen, clean and white," granted unto the Church, even "the righteousness of saints" (Revelation 19:8 ), which is the righteousness of Christ.


Verse 9

In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit.

Those that leap on the threshold - the servants of the princes who, after having gotten prey, like hounds for their masters, leap exultingly on their masters' thresholds; or on the thresholds of the houses which they break into (Calvin). Jerome explains it of those who walk up the steps into the sanctuary with haughtiness. Rosenmuller translates, 'leap over the threshold;' namely, in imitation of the Philistine custom of not treading on the threshold, which arose from the head and hands of Dagon being cut off on the threshold before the ark (1 Samuel 5:5). Compare Isaiah 2:6, "Thy people ... are soothsayers like the Philistines." Calvin's view agrees best with the latter clause of the verse. But I incline to think, from the context, that an idolatrous rite is here stigmatized, such as either "leaping over" or on [ `al (Hebrew #5921)] "the threshold" of the idol-temple, as the priests of Baal "leaped upon [margin, up and down at. But the Hebrew is the same as here, `al (Hebrew #5921)] the altar which was made."

Which fill their masters' houses with violence ... - i:e., with goods obtained with violence.


Verse 10

And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills.

There shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate - (2 Chronicles 33:14; Nehemiah 3:3. At the restoration of the city after the return from Babylon "the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof;" Nehemiah 12:31; Nehemiah 12:39, where the order of the gates is, "the gate of Ephraim ... the old gate ... the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate, and ... the prison gate;" the opposite quarter to "the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate"). Situated on the east of the lower city, north of the sheep gate (Maurer); near the stronghold of David in Millo, between Zion and the lower city toward the west (Jerome). This verse describes the state of the city while besieged by Nebuchadnezzar. It was through the fish gate that he entered the city. It received its name from the fish market, which was near it. Through it passed those who used to bring fish from the lake of Tiberias and Jordan. It answers to what is now called the Damascus gate (Henderson).

And an howling from the second - namely, the gate which was second in dignity (Calvin). Or, the second, or lower part of the city. Appropriately, the fish gate, or extreme end of the lower part of the city, first resounds with the cries of the citizens as the foe approaches; then, as he advances further, that part of the city itself-namely, its inner part; lastly, when the foe is actually come, and has burst in, the hills, the higher ones especially, Zion and Moriah, on which the upper city and temple were founded (Maurer). The second, or lower city, answers to Akra, north of Zion, and separated from it by the valley of Tyropoeon, running down to the pool of Siloam (Henderson). The Hebrew [ hamishneh (Hebrew #4932)] also, 2 Chronicles 34:22, "in the college," margin, in the school or second part, is translated "college" (2 Kings 22:14, "Huldah the prophetess ... dwelt in Jerusalem in the college," margin, in the second part); so Vatablus would translate here. The root [ shaanah (Hebrew #8138)] means to repeat or double. The Rabbis use the word for doctrine or learning, whether from the repeating of the lessons over and over again, or from [ shaanan (Hebrew #8150)], 'to make sharp' or 'acute.' At all events, the second or interior part of the city, near the king's palace, was where the college of the sons of the prophets probably was: at least, Huldah lived there. Not even the quarter where the Jews' prophets were was to escape from the violence of the enemy.

And a great crashing from the hills - not here those outside, but those within the walls, Zion, Moriah, and Ophel.


Verse 11

Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.

Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh - rather, 'the mortar,' a name applied to the valley of Siloam from its hollow shape (Jerome). The article prefixed proves it not to be a proper name [ hamakteesh (Hebrew #4389), from kaatash (Hebrew #3806), to pound]. The valley between Zion and Mount Olivet, at the eastern extremity of Mount Moriah, where the merchants dwelt (Zechariah 14:21, "There shall be no more the Canaanite" - namely, the merchant-Chaldaic version). The Tyropoeon (i:e., cheese makers) Valley below mount Akra (Rosenmuller). Better, Jerusalem itself, so called as lying in the midst of hills (Isaiah 22:1, "the valley of vision;" Jeremiah 21:13, "O inhabitant (inhabitress) of the valley, and rock of the plain"), and as doomed to be the scene of its people being destroyed as grain or drugs are pounded in a mortar (Proverbs 27:22). (Maurer.) Compare the similar image of a "pot" (Ezekiel 24:3; Ezekiel 24:6, "Set on a pot ... Woe to the bloody city, to the pot whose scum is therein, and whose scum is not gone out of it ... For her blood is in the midst of her"). The reason for the destruction is subjoined-namely, its merchant people's greediness of gain.

For all the merchant people are cut down - literally, the Canaanite people: irony: all the merchant people of Jerusalem are very Canaanites in greed for gain and in idolatries (note, Hosea 12:7, "He is a merchant (margin, Canaan: see Ezekiel 16:3, "Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite); the balances of deceit are in his hand").

All they that bear silver are cut off - loading themselves with that which will prove but a burden (Habakkuk 2:6, "Woe ... to him that ladeth himself with thick clay").


Verse 12

And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.

At that time ... I will search Jerusalem with candles - or lamps; so as to leave no dark corner in it wherein sin can escape the punishment, of which the Chaldeans are my instruments (cf. Zephaniah 1:13). As God searcheth out the sin of the wicked for punishment, so His Spirit searcheth out His own elect, to take them out of the darkness of this world for salvation, like the woman (Luke 15:8) who, having lost one piece of silver, literally a candle, and swept the house, and sought diligently until she found it. Compare Psalms 44:21, "Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart;" and Amos 9:3, "Though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence."

And punish the men that are settled on their lees - hardened or crusted. Image from the crust formed at the bottom of wines long left undisturbed (Jeremiah 48:11). The effect of wealthy undisturbed ease ("lees") on the ungodly is hardening; they become stupidly secure (cf. Psalms 55:19; Amos 6:1).

That say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil. They deny that God regards human affairs, or renders good to the good, or evil to the evil, but that all things go hap-hazard (Psalms 10:4, "God is not in all his (the wicked man's) thoughts ... thy judgments are far above out of his sight;" Malachi 2:17).


Verse 13

Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.

They shall ... build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof - fulfilling the prophecy, Deuteronomy 28:30, "Thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein; thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof" (cf. Amos 5:11).


Verse 14

The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.

The voice of the day of the Lord - i:e., Yahweh ushering in that day with a roar of vengeance against the guilty (Jeremiah 25:30; Amos 1:2, "The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem"). They who will not now heed (Zephaniah 1:12) His voice by His prophets, must heed it when uttered by the avenging foe.

The mighty man shall cry there bitterly - in hopeless despair; the might on which Jerusalem now prides itself shall then fail utterly.


Verse 15

That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

A day of wasteness and desolation. The Hebrew terms, by their similarity of sounds, Shoah, Umeshoah, express the dreary monotony of desolation (cf. note, Nahum 2:10).


Verse 16

A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.

A day of the trumpet - namely, of the besieging enemy (Amos 2:2, "Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet").

And alarm - the war shout (Maurer).

And against the high towers - literally, angles; because city walls did not used to be built in a direct line, but with sinuous curves and angles, so that besiegers advancing might he assailed, not only in front, but on both sides, caught as it were in a 'cul-de-sac;' towers were built especially at the angles. So Tacitus describes the walls of Jerusalem ('History,' 5: 11, 5).


Verse 17

And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.

They shall walk like blind men - unable to see where to turn themselves, so as to find an escape from existing evils.

And their flesh - Hebrew [l


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 shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.

Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath - (Proverbs 11:4, "Riches profit not in the day of wrath").

But the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy - (Ezekiel 38:19, "In my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken"). His wrath, jealous for His honour, consuming the guilty like fire.

He shall make even a speedy riddance of all , [ kaalaah (Hebrew #3617)] - rather, 'a consummation (complete He shall make even a speedy riddance of all , [ kaalaah (Hebrew #3617)] - rather, 'a consummation (complete destruction: 'full end,' Jeremiah 46:28; Ezekiel 11:13); altogether [ 'ak (Hebrew #389)], sudden' [ nibhaalaah (Hebrew #926), the Niphal of baahal (Hebrew #926), used of headlong terror, which bereaves of reason], etc. (Maurer). 'A consumption, and that a sudden one,' etc. (Calvin).

Remarks:

(1) When the people of God make themselves like the pagan in practice, it is but just that God should deal with them as He does with the pagan adversaries of His majesty. The instruments of sin, and the occasions of stumbling, shall finally be destroyed "with the wicked" themselves (Zephaniah 1:3).

(2) Notwithstanding all the zealous efforts of the pious King Josiah, there still was a "remnant of Baal" (Zephaniah 1:4) in Jerusalem and Judah. Many also thought to make a compromise with conscience, by combining homage to Yahweh with homage to Malcham (Zephaniah 1:5). But such a combination of opposite Lords is impossible, and they who make the attempt only deceive themselves, not God. So now, whosoever thinks to serve the King of heaven, and yet gives his heart to covetousness, which is idolatry, or to the pleasures of sin, which are the baits of the prince of this world, is offering to God the mock show of worship, while the substance of his devotion is rendered to Satan. For what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial?

(3) Not only those who have positively "turned back from the Lord" (Zephaniah 1:6), but also "those that have not sought the Lord, nor inquired after Him," shall incur His wrath in the day of judgment. To go back from God is virtually to join the adversary of God. There can be no neutrality. "He that is not with me," saith the Lord Jesus, "is against me" (Matthew 12:30). Once that any give Satan half their heart, they virtually give him it all. The Lord must have all, or else He will have none.

(4) Many now murmur against God's dealings, or unbelievingly deny His active interposition in the government of the world. But all such must "hold their peace at the presence of the Lord God," in "the day of the Lord" (Zephaniah 1:7), when He shall "bid" His ministers of vengeance to slay the wicked, as sacrificial victims to His justice (Zephaniah 1:8) Alike "princes," and their unscrupulous minions, "who fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit," shall perish (Zephaniah 1:9). Mercantile gains and loads of "silver" cannot deliver men "in the day of the Lord's wrath" (Zephaniah 1:11; Zephaniah 1:18).

(5) Men flatter themselves that their secret faults shall not come under the cognizance of the coming Judge. But He will "search" the hidden things of darkness with the "candles," (Zephaniah 1:12) of His word, His Spirit, and "the spirit of man," which is "the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly" (Proverbs 20:27). Their own conscience, and the manifestation of the Lord in glory, will then convict the men who now "say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will He do evil." Meantime, the practical disbelief of the judgment is one of the most successful devices of Satan, whereby he deceives souls so as to become "settled on their lees," secure and at ease, though still unreconciled to God. Let all, as the best preservative against such snares of the evil one, ever keep in mind that "the great day of the Lord is near, and hasteth greatly" (Zephaniah 1:14).

(6) They who will not regard "the voice of the day of the Lord's" visitation in mercy shall hear, with anguish and terror unutterable, the sound of the last trumpet. No might can save the guilty then. "The mighty man shall cry there bitterly." The transgressors, "like blind men" (Zephaniah 1:17), shall see no way of escape, "because they have sinned against the Lord," not merely against His justice, but against His love and mercy. "The fire of His jealousy" shall make a "complete end," and that an awfully "sudden" one, of all that are of this world, impenitent, unbelieving, and therefore unreconciled to God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Zephaniah 1:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/zephaniah-1.html. 1871-8.

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