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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Zephaniah 3

 

 

Verse 1

ZEPHANIAH CHAPTER 3

A sharp reproof of Jerusalem for divers sins, Zephaniah 3:1-7. An exhortation to wait for the restoration of Israel Zephaniah 3:8-13; and to rejoice for their salvation by God, Zephaniah 3:14-20.

The prophet showed us Nineveh in ruins for her sins; from this doleful spectacle he brings us to take a prospect of what would come upon Jerusalem, which ere long will be full of woes, because now full of sin.

Filthy; loathsome in her sins, so foul they are, and so abominably acted. A city, that, like an infamous woman, is branded for her impudence in sin. Or, Woe to the great craw! as pointing out the gluttony of Jerusalem literally, and their swallowing the poor who were a prey to the great ones.

Polluted; greatly polluted by this means.

To the oppressing city; or the city foolish and seduced, as a silly dove; so the Hebrew will bear: but our version is to be preferred; it is come to that pass, Jerusalem is a city that doth nothing but oppress, Jeremiah 6:6 Eze 22.


Verse 2

She obeyed not the voice, of the law, her prophets or her faithful priests, (which were too few, yet some there were.) nor of God, by his mercy and judgments crying loud, warning, inviting, persuading to return.

She received not correction, or instruction, did not learn, would not be instructed; there is a meiosis in the words, she hated instruction, as that wicked one, Psalms 50:17 Proverbs 5:12 13:18.

She trusted not in the Lord; put her confidence in Egypt and Asshur, in any carnal refuges, rather than in her God; in her kings, princes, counsellors, warriors, and confederates, &c.

She drew not near to her God; when revolted did not return, when in distress did not seek him, did not draw near with prayer, &c.

She obeyed not the voice, of the law, her prophets or her faithful priests, (which were too few, yet some there were.) nor of God, by his mercy and judgments crying loud, warning, inviting, persuading to return.

She received not correction, or instruction, did not learn, would not be instructed; there is a meiosis in the words, she hated instruction, as that wicked one, Psalms 50:17 Proverbs 5:12 13:18.

She trusted not in the Lord; put her confidence in Egypt and Asshur, in any carnal refuges, rather than in her God; in her kings, princes, counsellors, warriors, and confederates, &c.

She drew not near to her God; when revolted did not return, when in distress did not seek him, did not draw near with prayer, &c.


Verse 3

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.


Verse 4

Her prophets; by education, profession, and unwarranted practice called so, false prophets; such Zedekiah, and probably Chenaanah, &c., were. Are light; unstable and inconstant, ready to comply with humours which they should have reproved, 1 Kings 22:13.

Treacherous persons; men of treacheries, whatever pleasing temper they seem to be of, yet still they design treachery; the Hebrew seems to run it higher, treacheries in the abstract.

Her priests, of the house of Levi, of the stock of Aaron,

have polluted the sanctuary; bound by office to keep holy the sanctuary, have defiled it, and all that is holy.

Have done violence to the law; wresting it by perverse interpretation to what sense best serveth a corrupt mind.


Verse 5

The just Lord is in the midst thereof: though unjust princes, judges, prophets, and priests do not think so, yet the Lord who is most just is in the midst of them; possibly the sanhedrim; he observeth all, condemneth their violence and injustice, he is sovereign as Lord, and just as Judge. lie will not do iniquity; to him it appertaineth to judge all, therefore the unjust shall be punished as well as the just approved.

Every morning doth he bring his judgment to light; daily he discovereth his displeasure against the wicked, and punisheth them.

He faileth not; lets not one fit season slip to convince and awaken secure sinners, by public and visible punishments, or judgments.

But the unjust knoweth no shame; but the wicked Jews proceed impudently, without shame, and without fear or amendment: there is no hope of better where is no shame for worst of doings, Jeremiah 3:3.


Verse 6

I have cut off the nations; of old the Canaanites, lately the ten tribes, later yet the Assyrians and others, have been cut off for their sins.

Their towers; either metaphorically, magistrates and great men, as Zephaniah 1:16; or literally, strong towers built on the angles of walls or palaces.

Are desolate; razed and demolished. I made their streets waste; I overthrew their houses, that there were no streets.

None passeth by; or none walked through them. Their cities, small or great, capital or not capital, are destroyed; taken, plundered, burnt, and ruined.

There is no man; all fled, or slain, or starved, or swept away with pestilence, or carried into captivity, not an inhabitant left in the places.


Verse 7

I said; I thought, (speaking as man would,) I concluded what was likely, what I might expect.

Surely thou, O Jerusalem, O Judah, wilt fear me, for the many and great judgments executed upon others in thy sight; thou wilt fear, by sinning still, to provoke me.

Thou wilt receive instruction; wilt learn thy duty, to do it; thy danger, to prevent it; thy sins, to repent of them; thy ways, to amend them.

So their dwelling, houses, villages, Jerusalem,

should not be out off, sacked and burned,

howsoever I punished them; whatever I had done against them, however I had chastised them, had they been bettered, humbled, and amended, I would have spared, not destroyed utterly.

But they rose early; but they grew worse, more eager in the pursuit of their vile courses; as if the day would be too short for their sins, they rise early, and begin betimes.

Corrupted all their doings; designedly and out of set purpose did worse and worse, when smitten they revolted more and more, Isaiah 1:5.


Verse 8

Therefore, since you will not be amended by all, sines you grow worse and worse, wait ye upon me; ye refractory and incorrigible Jews, rulers, and people, attend my resolution, for I am resolved what I will do, and have set a day for it.

Until the day that I rise up to the prey; until I, as an enemy, rise up to destroy first, and next to take the spoil: you by your sins continue to be mine enemies, and I will by my judgments, by the Chaldeans, who shall rise up against you, and destroy and spoil you, show myself in arms against you, as all enemy to you.

My determination my fixed purpose, that which I have unalterably resolved upon.

The nations; all that are subjects to the Chaldean monarchy.

The kingdoms, which are confederate with or tributary to the Chaldeans: these thus gathered, listed, and marshalled in a mighty army,

to pour upon them mine indignation; upon the obstinate, incorrigible, and impious Jews first; (afterwards I will punish Babylon;)

even all my fierce anger, which by their sins they have kindled against themselves.

All the earth, the whole land of Judea and her cities, shall be devoured, consumed as if burnt up,

with the fire of my jealousy; that jealousy wherewith God is jealous for his own glory, for his ordinances and statutes, which Jewish people, princes, and their prophets and their priests had notoriously violated.


Verse 9

For then, or, then,

afterwards, i.e. when my judgments have been executed, and have cut off the wicked,

will I turn to the people a pure language; I will give them a pure way of worshipping me, in prayer, praises, and the issue of a purified heart, Ezekiel 11:17-20 36:26.

Call upon the name of the Lord; perform all religions service, all religion being expressed thus by calling on the name of the Lord.

To serve him, the Lord their God, not idols, with one consent; with one heart, and according to his own law and will; with one

shoulder shall they bear the yoke of the law, alluding to porters that join shoulder to shoulder in carrying great burdens.


Verse 10

From beyond the rivers; the coasts which lie beyond the rivers of India, saith the Chaldee paraphrast, but I doubt whether the captive Jews were carried so far.

Of Ethiopia, in Arabia, bordering on Egypt, whither it is easy to conceive many Jews might betake themselves, who are here called

dispersed, or dispersion, somewhat distinguished from captives.

My suppliants; praying to me, saith one version.

The daughter of my dispersed: this explains who the suppliant is; the praying remnant of the scattered Jews, who had gotten into those parts of Arabia that were coasting along the rivers which divided Ethiopia Cusaea from the rest of Arabia.

Shall bring mine offering; shall return to their land and bring themselves an offering unto the Lord, which was done when Cyrus, in league with these Ethiopians, procured their favour for the dispersed Jews, that they might return to Jerusalem, meet their captive brethren, and offer a gift to God.


Verse 11

In that day; when pardoned captives and dispersed ones shall return and serve the Lord with one consent, mourning for their sins, and seeking the Lord.

Not be ashamed, with a shame of reproach and confusion: when sin is pardoned, and sinful hearts are purified, reproachful shame may well cease, Isaiah 54:4,5.

Thy doings; which are expounded in the following words: the prophet speaks of the sins they formerly committed against the Lord.

Them that rejoice in thy pride; hypocrites, proud formalists, that placed all religion in the gaudy outside; these removed, and those that worship the Lord doing it in sincerity gathered together, the Lord will accept and beautify them.

Thou shalt no more be haughty; thou, O nation of the Jews, formerly full of haughty thoughts of yourselves, your sacrifices, and your privileges; but you shall no more boast, or glory, or vaunt yourselves herein.

Because of my holy mount; either the city, or rather the temple, on which proud hypocrites did bear themselves high formerly, when they lived in notorious sins, and yet cried,

The temple of the Lord, & c., Jeremiah 7:4, with Jeremiah 7:9,10.


Verse 12

I will also leave: the Chaldeans had spared none if the Lord had not preserved a remnant; it is he, rather than they, which did leave a remnant.

In the midst of thee; to return and dwell in Judea and Jerusalem.

An afflicted people; or a people of a broken spirit, a meek, humble, spirited people, instead of that proud heart which was once among them. Poor; not so much in outward respects as poor in spirit, such a people as the Lord can delight in.

They shall trust in the name of the Lord; not in city or temple, but in the Lord, and in his mercy, faithfulness, and power.


Verse 13

The remnant of Israel, preserved in captivity and dispersion, purified in the furnace of affliction, and now returned to their own land, shall not do iniquity; shall not commit the sins they formerly committed, not provoke God with their abominations as before; it is not a prediction of a sinless, but of a reformed state; they shall be righteous, and taught of God, no more idolaters.

Nor speak lies; they shall love truth, and speak truth, or, in a larger sense, shall be honest and upright amongst men.

A deceitful tongue; a false accuser or witness, like Doeg, or Jezebel’s evidences against Naboth; according to that, Psalms 15:2 24:4.

For they shall feed; or, they shall feed also, &c.; so it will be a blessing added as a crown of their piety and truth. Or if you read it,

for they shall feed, & c., it gives you a reason why they shall not by frauds and lies, as formerly, sin against one another; they shall have a sufficiency by honest ways, and from God’s blessing, and shall not be under any great temptation to dishonesty and lying.

None shall make them afraid: frights made David, Abraham, and others to forget truth; here none should fright them, and they should not fear to speak the truth: their lips pure, Zephaniah 3:9; they trust in the Lord, Zephaniah 3:12; therefore shall not lie. Here is a cluster of spiritual promises with the temporal.

The remnant of Israel, preserved in captivity and dispersion, purified in the furnace of affliction, and now returned to their own land, shall not do iniquity; shall not commit the sins they formerly committed, not provoke God with their abominations as before; it is not a prediction of a sinless, but of a reformed state; they shall be righteous, and taught of God, no more idolaters.

Nor speak lies; they shall love truth, and speak truth, or, in a larger sense, shall be honest and upright amongst men.

A deceitful tongue; a false accuser or witness, like Doeg, or Jezebel’s evidences against Naboth; according to that, Psalms 15:2 24:4.

For they shall feed; or, they shall feed also, &c.; so it will be a blessing added as a crown of their piety and truth. Or if you read it,

for they shall feed, & c., it gives you a reason why they shall not by frauds and lies, as formerly, sin against one another; they shall have a sufficiency by honest ways, and from God’s blessing, and shall not be under any great temptation to dishonesty and lying.

None shall make them afraid: frights made David, Abraham, and others to forget truth; here none should fright them, and they should not fear to speak the truth: their lips pure, Zephaniah 3:9; they trust in the Lord, Zephaniah 3:12; therefore shall not lie. Here is a cluster of spiritual promises with the temporal.

The remnant of Israel, preserved in captivity and dispersion, purified in the furnace of affliction, and now returned to their own land, shall not do iniquity; shall not commit the sins they formerly committed, not provoke God with their abominations as before; it is not a prediction of a sinless, but of a reformed state; they shall be righteous, and taught of God, no more idolaters.

Nor speak lies; they shall love truth, and speak truth, or, in a larger sense, shall be honest and upright amongst men.

A deceitful tongue; a false accuser or witness, like Doeg, or Jezebel’s evidences against Naboth; according to that, Psalms 15:2 24:4.

For they shall feed; or, they shall feed also, &c.; so it will be a blessing added as a crown of their piety and truth. Or if you read it,

for they shall feed, & c., it gives you a reason why they shall not by frauds and lies, as formerly, sin against one another; they shall have a sufficiency by honest ways, and from God’s blessing, and shall not be under any great temptation to dishonesty and lying.

None shall make them afraid: frights made David, Abraham, and others to forget truth; here none should fright them, and they should not fear to speak the truth: their lips pure, Zephaniah 3:9; they trust in the Lord, Zephaniah 3:12; therefore shall not lie. Here is a cluster of spiritual promises with the temporal.


Verse 14

For all these mercies the church is enjoined to be thankful, and to rejoice, and it is trebled,

Sing, shout, and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, Israel, and daughter of Jerusalem: the same persons, the same duty, but differently expressed, but the whole heart required in all.


Verse 15

The Lord; who kills and makes alive, acquits or condemns, and none can reverse the judgment.

Hath taken away thy judgments; abolished and put an end to thy sufferings, the judgments thy sins brought upon thee; he hath pardoned thy sins and ended thy sorrows.

He hath cast out; cast the Babylonian out of the throne, and placed the Persian in it.

Thine enemy; the Babylonian who held thee captive; and placed in his room Cyrus mine anointed, and thy friend, who shall let thee go free, Ezra 1:1.

The King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thus it is evident that the Lord, who is thy King, O Israel, is with thee; that he taketh thy part, is returned to redeem and govern thee.

Thou shalt not see evil any more; no more such great evil as thou hast seen; whilst thy carriage is as becometh thy mercy received, and my presence with thee, thou shalt neither fear nor feel like evils.


Verse 16

In that day; the day or time of restitution, when the captivity returned shall be settled in their land.

It shall be said; by prophets, or by friends, congratulating them, or by each to other.

To Jerusalem; inhabitants of Jerusalem, the place being put for the people.

Fear thou not; disquiet not yourselves with fears, though you may apprehend some dangers from Sanballat and Tobiah, &c., though troublous times. as Nehemiah 4:1,2 Da 9:25.

Let not thine hands be slack, in the work of the Lord, building the city and temple, and restoring the worship of God; take heart, O ye returned captives, for God your King is with you.


Verse 17

The Lord; the everlasting One, who changeth not.

Thy God; thine in covenant, never to be forgotten or repealed. Is mighty; can do all he will, can restrain and destroy enemies, can support and defend his own people. He will save, from thy fears, and thine enemies’ rage.

Will rejoice over thee with joy; will greatly rejoice in thee. Will rest in his love; will take content and satisfaction in this his love. The love he showeth to thee shall be rest to him; not thy loveliness, but his own love shall satisfy him.

Will joy over thee with singing; will show greatest love and joy in most affectionate manner: all expressions borrowed from the entirest love of man toward dearest relations, Psalms 103:11,13 Isa 62:5.


Verse 18

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, Psa 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 Psalms 42:3,10.

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


Verse 19

Behold; mark well.

I will undo; I will deal with them, do their work for them, as we say, I will break their power and dissolve their kingdom.

All that afflict thee; Babylonians who afflicted the Jews. and who were undone by Cyrus and his Persians.

I will save her that halteth; who is in great trouble and ready to fall, as Psalms 38:16,17; who is under greatest distress, and hath least strength to bear, or get out.

Driven out; by force of the enemy, carried away captives, and scattered into far remote countries.

Get them praise and fame; vindicate them, as a people that are not rejected of their God, as the people of the great God of heaven and earth, as Psalms 121:2.

In every land; among all people with whom they dwelt as strangers.

Where they have been put to shame; were scorned and reproached as slaves and abjects, whose God could not, or would not, help them, or had cast them off, and none other would take care of them. But now, gathered together by the Lord, they shall appear to be still his peculiar people and his delight.


Verse 20

This verse is a repetition of the promise for the greater assurance of it, and seems to add but little to what was before promised, unless it be the speediness of what God doth for them, and the comprehensiveness of it; he will turn back their captivities, Heb. plural, whether under Manasseh, or Jehoiakim, or Jeconiah, or Zedekiah; all which is confirmed with the broad seal of Heaven,

Thus saith the Lord. Believe, then, and rejoice in it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Zephaniah 3:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/zephaniah-3.html. 1685.

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