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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Zephaniah 3

 

 

Verses 1-7

WOE UPON THE POLLUTED CITY OF JERUSALEM, Zephaniah 3:1-7.

In Zephaniah 3:1, the prophet turns once more to Jerusalem, “the rebellious and unclean, the city of oppression.” He strikes the same notes as in chapter i, only here he emphasizes almost exclusively moral and social vices. Her princes are thieves, her prophets “bold jugglers instead of God’s witnesses,” her priests profane the sanctuary (1-4). Jehovah has done all he could to win the city back to purity, but in vain; her inhabitants “corrupted all their doings” (5-7).

Woe — Introduces not only a threat, but also a lament, prompted by sorrow and compassion.

Filthy — Better, R.V., “rebellious,” that is, against Jehovah.

Polluted — By the heathenish religious practices condemned in Zephaniah 1:4-6, as well as by the acts of violence and bloodshed described in Zephaniah 1:8-9, and Zephaniah 3:3-7.

Oppressing — Not other cities. Within the city itself the poor and weak were being oppressed by the strong and powerful. A more forceful rendering would be, “Woe, rebellious and polluted! city of oppression!”

Zephaniah 3:2-4 explain the epithets in Zephaniah 3:1; Zephaniah 3:2 explains “rebellious.” Jerusalem’s rebellion against Jehovah manifested itself under four aspects: (1)

She obeyed not the voice — The voice of Jehovah as it spoke through the prophets (see on Amos 2:11-12). (2)

She received not correction — Margin, “instruction.” If the marginal translation is correct this clause is practically equivalent to the preceding. It is more likely, however, that the prophet is thinking of instruction given by means of chastisements, such as are described, for example, in Amos 4:6-11, or Isaiah 9:8-21. The two clauses are found together again in Jeremiah 7:28. (3)

She trusted not in Jehovah — The original is more forceful, Jehovah standing at the head: “In Jehovah she did not trust.” Instead, she trusted in Assyria (2 Kings 16:7-9) or in Egypt (Isaiah 30:31). Compare also the constant complaint of Hosea (see p. 19f.). (4)

She drew not near to her God — In spirit and truth, as she should have done in view of the covenant relation existing between Jehovah and Israel (compare the refrain in Amos 4:6-11, “but ye did not return unto me”). Their worship was mere form, and not a true approach to Jehovah.

Zephaniah 3:3-4 explain “polluted” and “oppressing” (Zephaniah 3:1). The corruption is widespread. Political and ecclesiastical leaders are equally guilty (compare Micah 3:9-11).

Princes — See on Hosea 3:4.

Roaring lions — Seeking whom they might devour (compare Ezekiel 19:1-3; 1 Peter 5:8).

Judges — The men in judicial positions, whose duty it was to guard the rights of others; instead, they devour all like wild beasts.

Evening wolves — See on Habakkuk 1:8. In both passages LXX. reads erroneously “wolves of Arabia.” Wolves may be less powerful than lions, but they are equally greedy and bloodthirsty.

They gnaw not the bones till the morrow — R.V., “they leave nothing till the morrow.” The meaning of the verb is uncertain. Another translation has been suggested, “that have not gnawed a bone in (=since) morning”; as a result they are hungry and ferocious in the evening. The form of the verb is in favor of the last translation, but the preposition before “morning” cannot mean “since.” The translation “leave” is supported by some of the ancient versions, but it can be had from the Hebrew only in a roundabout way. The translation “gnaw the bones” assumes, not without reason, that the verb is a denominative form of a noun “bone.” The verb occurs only three times in the Old Testament — in Numbers 24:8; Ezekiel 23:34, and here. The passage in Ezekiel is thought to be corrupt, therefore it is of little value in determining the meaning of the verb. In Numbers it means “to gnaw” (a bone, but the noun is added); it is quite natural, therefore, to give the verb the same meaning in this passage, and this A.V. does. Schwally, unable to see any sense in the clause as it stands at present, omits the negative and reads, “they do gnaw bones till morning”; that is, all night long they go about devouring everything that comes in their way. The negative might easily have slipped in from Zephaniah 3:2, but if Schwally is right the imperfect would be expected in Hebrew instead of the perfect. It seems better to retain the negative. The prophet refers to the judges as evening wolves; they are ravenous, tearing everything that comes in their way. In the light of this statement “to gnaw bones until morning” would be practically equivalent to “to spend all night in devouring the prey.” What the prophet means to say is that they are too greedy to do this; they do not leave anything until morning, but devour all at one time. The translations of the ancients may be explained as attempts to present smoother readings.

The expression is undoubtedly awkward, but the interpretation given is that favored by the present Hebrew text, which may, however, be in disorder.

The religious leaders are no better.

Her prophets — The false prophets (see on Micah 3:7), not men like Zephaniah.

Light — Vainglorious and boastful; LXX., “carried by the wind” — bags of wind. “The figure is that of the boiling over of water, and the word characterizes the prophets as vaporers, extravagant and arrogant in their own imaginations and conceits, their minds lacking the restraint of the word of God under which the true prophets spoke” (Jeremiah 23:22; Ezekiel 22:28).

Treacherous persons — Literally, men of treacheries. The verb underlying the noun “treachery” is used frequently of faithlessness to the marriage vow, in a literal or figurative sense (Jeremiah 3:20; Hosea 6:7); hence the expression may mean “men who are faithless to Jehovah;” but an additional thought is implied: because they are faithless to Jehovah they betray and lead astray the people.

Priests — Condemned severely by Micah (Micah 3:11) and especially by Hosea (Hosea 4:4 ff.).

Polluted the sanctuary — Better, that which is holy, which includes everything that belongs to Jehovah or is connected with him. These things they have profaned or polluted by disregarding their sanctity and treating them to suit their own fancies and interests (compare Ezekiel 22:26).

They have done violence to the law — Not law in the narrow sense of that term, nor the laws concerning clean and unclean things, but every expression of the will of Jehovah (see on Hosea 4:6). In trying to serve their own interests they have disregarded the teaching of Jehovah, and in order to justify their own conduct they have perverted it (Isaiah 5:20).

5, 6. In striking contrast to the people’s unrighteousness is Jehovah’s righteousness. He manifests himself continually as a God of mercy and a God of power. Zephaniah 3:5 emphasizes the former, Zephaniah 3:6 the latter; both have failed to accomplish the conversion of the people.

The just Lord is in the midst thereof — Better, R.V., “Jehovah in the midst of her is righteous.” Jerusalem was in a special sense the dwelling place of Jehovah (compare Isaiah 2:3). Righteous (R.V.) — He always did that which was right and proper in view of the covenant relation existing between him and Israel (compare Deuteronomy 32:4).

He will not do — Better, he doeth not, for Zephaniah 3:5 describes the conduct of Jehovah in the past, present, and future.

Iniquity — That which is contrary to the spirit of the covenant. 5b enumerates some of the things that Jehovah does for his people from day to day.

Every morning — Literally, morning by morning.

Bring his judgment to light — R.V., “justice.” Judgment is used here not in the sense of punitive judgment, which Jehovah executes daily, nor of his righteous will which he makes known through his prophets and other teachers, but of his righteous acts, which he executes from day to day in carrying on the government of the world.

He faileth not — Literally, not is omitted=without fail.

But the unjust knoweth no shame — The righteous acts of Jehovah awaken no response in those who are unrighteous, that is, those who live without regard for the covenant that exists between Jehovah and them. Without shame or contrition they persist in their evil conduct.

Zephaniah 3:5 contains several linguistic peculiarities; as a result textual corruptions have been suspected, and various emendations have been proposed. Marti reads, “Jehovah in the midst of her is righteous, he does no iniquity; morning by morning he shows forth his righteous acts (er setzt in Kraft seine Ordnung); light is never misled, error is unknown.”

Zephaniah 3:6 points to divine manifestations in history, which should have had a salutary effect upon the people.

I have cut off — The change to the first person is unexpected, but there is no reason for doubting its originality. To make the address more forceful Jehovah is introduced as the speaker.

The nations — Literally, nations, without the article. The reference is not to the nations threatened with destruction in Zephaniah 2:4-15, but to nations cut off in the past.

Towers — See on Zephaniah 1:16. Here the term seems to include palaces or citadels. Fortifications, streets (open country), and cities were wasted so completely that no one passed along the streets and no inhabitant remained in the city (compare Jeremiah 33:10).

7. The deeds enumerated in Zephaniah 3:5-6 Jehovah did in the expectation that his righteous acts would bring Jerusalem to her senses; this verse declares that the expectation was not realized.

I said — To myself; I thought (Jeremiah 3:19), when planning the acts.

Surely thou wilt fear me — Perhaps the third person should be read — “Surely she will fear me, she will receive instruction.” Jehovah expected that as a result of his manifestations the inhabitants of Jerusalem would maintain a reverential attitude toward him (see on Hosea 10:3).

So their dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them — The pronouns “their” and “them” are in the original “her,” that is, Jerusalem. The thought expressed in this translation seems to be that Jehovah hoped that the acts of his providence would lead the people to repentance, so that he would not be compelled to cut them off from their dwelling place. R.V. gives a different meaning to the second clause, “according to all that I have appointed concerning her.” This might be understood as supplying the reason for the cutting off — Jehovah had appointed it; or it might give the reason for Jehovah’s hope for repentance; he desired the city to remain, for he had ordained it so. Both A.V. and R.V. do more or less violence to the Hebrew text. The difficulties vanish if the reading of LXX. and Peshitto, which presupposes a slight change in a single word, is substituted for the present Hebrew text, “and not will vanish from her eyes all that I have commanded her.” Jehovah expected his providence to lead his people to loyal obedience.

They rose early, and corrupted all their doings — They were so anxious to do wrong that they rose early in the morning; equivalent to “they zealously corrupted all their doings” (compare Jeremiah 7:13; Jeremiah 11:8). The expectation of Jehovah was not realized; on the contrary, the corruption increased.


Verses 8-13

THE WORLD JUDGMENT AND ITS EFFECTS, Zephaniah 3:8-13.

Since all warnings have failed, the judgment is inevitable. But in the midst of the rebellious nation there is a faithful remnant (Zephaniah 2:3); to it are addressed Zephaniah 3:8 ff. It is exhorted to remain loyal in the midst of the calamity, for the future has brighter things in store.

8. Therefore wait ye — The faithful remnant is exhorted not to despair, but to wait patiently for the manifestation of Jehovah that will result in its exaltation.

Upon me — Better, R.V., “for me,” that is, for my manifestation, as described in the succeeding clauses.

Until the day — The preposition is the same as the one translated “for” in the preceding clause, and should be rendered so here.

Rise up to the prey — The meaning of “to the prey” is obscure. Davidson says, “If this meaning be accepted, the impending judgment of God is expressed figuratively as a hostile attack upon him, and the question what is meant by the ‘prey’ must not be asked: the prey is merely part of the metaphor.” A more satisfactory reading, requiring the change of only one vowel point, is offered by LXX. and Peshitto, “for a witness” instead of “to the prey.” Jehovah will rise up as accusing witness (Micah 1:2) and judge.

Determination — Literally, judgment, which may be used in the sense of judicial decision or sentence; if so, the thought is that Jehovah has determined to execute judgment. Or it may mean judicial right or prerogative; as the judge of all the earth, Jehovah has the right to summon the nations before the judgment bar. The former is preferable. The contents of the determination are brought out in the rest of Zephaniah 3:8 and in the following verses.

That I may assemble the kingdoms — Following LXX. the pro-nominal suffix should be omitted from the second verb and the two clauses should be co-ordinated: “to gather the nations, to assemble the kingdoms,” that is, to judgment. The thought is not implied that they will be summoned to one locality, that is, to Jerusalem, where the judgment is to be executed (compare Joel 3:2; Zechariah 14:2).

Pour… indignation,… fierce anger — Aroused by the sin and rebellion of the nations (see on Zephaniah 1:15, and references there; also on Hosea 5:10).

All the earth — Including Judah and Jerusalem.

The fire of my jealousy — See on Zephaniah 1:18, and reference there.

Most recent commentators doubt the originality of Zephaniah 3:9-10, chiefly because these verses are thought to interrupt the connection between 8 and 11. Even Davidson thinks that the omission of at least Zephaniah 3:10 would add force and dignity to the utterance. That there is much uncertainty about the meaning of these verses must be admitted, and yet it is not quite clear that Zephaniah 3:11 is the natural continuation of Zephaniah 3:8, or that the thought of Zephaniah 3:9-10 is foreign to the context. Zephaniah 3:8 contains, along with an announcement of an impending world judgment, an exhortation to a remnant, to remain faithful in the midst of the impending calamity. The succeeding verses, beginning with Zephaniah 3:9, may be understood as supplying the reason why the remnant may safely trust in Jehovah. The judgment about to fall is not sent by a wrathful God who delights in destruction, but by one who has at heart the best interests of mankind; and when it has served its disciplinary purpose its beneficent effects will be seen in the conversion of many. Zephaniah 3:9-10 speak of the effects upon the nations, Zephaniah 3:11-13 of those upon Judah. When interpreted in this manner, Zephaniah 3:9-13, just as they stand, seem to make a good continuation of Zephaniah 3:8, which announces the coming of the judgment.

If the verses are retained they express the thought that by means of the judgment many will be converted to Jehovah; even far-distant nations will bring their offerings to him.

To the people — Literally, to peoples; that is, people among all nations of the earth (Zephaniah 3:8).

Will I turn… a pure language — Literally, a pure lip (compare 1 Samuel 10:9). The expression is equivalent to “I will turn their impure lip into a pure lip,” so that they will be fit to worship Jehovah (Isaiah 6:5). Lip does not stand for language, as the English translators seem to have thought. Since thoughts proceed from the heart, the purity or impurity of the lip depends upon the purity or impurity of the heart; therefore, the purification of the lips presupposes the purification of the heart (compare Isaiah 6:7). When heart and lip are cleansed they will “call upon Jehovah,” that is, worship him.

Serve him with one consent — Literally, with one shoulder, which LXX. interprets “under one yoke.” The figure is that of animals working together, with a single yoke placed over their shoulders. The converted people will co-operate heartily in the service of Jehovah (Jeremiah 32:39).

Zephaniah 3:10 is obscure.

Ethiopia — See on Zephaniah 2:12. Here it is mentioned as a representative of far-distant countries.

My suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed — If this is the correct translation, the home-coming of the dispersed Jews to bring offerings to their God is predicted here. Another possible translation of Zephaniah 3:10 is, “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia shall they (the converted people of Zephaniah 3:9) bring my suppliants, the daughter of my dispersed, as mine offering.” With this translation the thought is that far-distant peoples will bring back the dispersed Jews as an offering to Jehovah. The correctness of the present Hebrew text has been questioned, however, chiefly for two reasons: 1. Up to this point there has been no reference to a dispersion (but compare Zephaniah 3:19). 2. The expression “daughter of my dispersed” is peculiar. Combinations like “daughter of Zion,” “daughter of Babylon,” etc., are quite common, but in all such phrases “daughter” is connected with a place name. Three very slight alterations would give what many consider a very much better text: “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia devotees of the daughter of Put will bring offerings to me.” The devotees are people of the land of Put who have been won to the service of Jehovah in the manner indicated in Zephaniah 3:9. Put is to be identified with the Punt of the Egyptian inscriptions, the name given to the territory comprising the whole African coast from the desert east of Upper Egypt to the modern Somali country, which brings it near Ethiopia. If this emendation is accepted, Zephaniah 3:10 must be considered the continuation of Zephaniah 3:9. From the very ends of the earth the people will come and pay homage to Jehovah.

In Zephaniah 3:11-13 the prophet explains what the effect of the judgment will be upon Judah and Jerusalem.

In that day — The day of judgment and purification (8-10).

Shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings — R.V., “shalt thou not be put to shame.” With the former translation the meaning is that they will no longer feel shame, either because they will no longer do anything for which they need to be ashamed, or because their former sins have so completely passed away that sense of guilt or self-condemnation for them is no longer called for; with the other the thought is that Jerusalem and Judah will not be put to shame completely, that is, will not be destroyed completely; only the proud and arrogant will be cut off, while the rest will be preserved and exalted. The latter thought fits better in the context.

Wherein thou hast transgressed — See on Zephaniah 1:4-6; Zephaniah 1:8-9; Zephaniah 3:1-4.

Then — In that day.

I will take away — Exterminate.

Them that rejoice in thy pride — Better, R.V., “thy proudly exulting ones.” In Isaiah 13:3, the phrase is applied to the divinely commissioned hosts, here to the self-righteous in Judah who in pride and arrogance exalt themselves above Jehovah, and glory in their own wisdom and power (Isaiah 5:21; compare Amos 6:13). Only the humble in spirit will be hidden in the day of judgment (Zephaniah 2:3).

Thou — The purified remnant.

Shalt no more be haughty — When the manifestation of the divine power is seen the remnant will recognize its own weakness and will not again exalt itself in proud arrogance. The prophet evidently considers pride the root of all sin, and rightly so, for when a person comes to disregard the authority and rule of Jehovah he is apt to be reckless about his life and conduct (compare Isaiah 3:16; Isaiah 9:8).

Because of my holy mountain — Better, R.V., “in my holy mountain” (see on Joel 2:1). The temple mount represents here the entire city.

12. The “proudly exulting ones” will be exterminated, but a remnant of a different character will be left.

In the midst of thee — Jerusalem.

Afflicted and poor — There is no special virtue in poverty or affliction, and the two English words fail to reproduce the thought of the prophet. Afflicted is the opposite of proud (Zephaniah 3:11); the proud man boasts in his own strength, the afflicted is one who is bowed down by a recognition of his own weakness; “lowly” would be a more appropriate rendering (Zechariah 9:9; compare Isaiah 14:32; Matthew 11:29). A better word for poor would be “weak” or “helpless.”

Zephaniah 3:12 b is more closely connected with 13 than with 12a. The latter part of Zephaniah 3:12 and Zephaniah 3:13 describe the piety and peace of the remnant. The translation would be improved if “the remnant of Israel” were made the subject of “trust,” which the Hebrew permits: “And trust in the name of Jehovah shall the remnant; it shall not do iniquity.… “

Trust in the name of Jehovah — The recognition of their weakness and helplessness will keep them humble and lead them to rely fully upon Jehovah. For the importance of faith in religion see on Habakkuk 2:4; on name, Amos 2:7; Micah 5:4.

The remnant of Israel — Identical with the “afflicted and poor people” of Zephaniah 3:12 (see on Amos 5:15).

Shall not do iniquity — The converted remnant will do nothing that is not in accord with the spirit of the new covenant between it and Jehovah. In this respect the remnant will resemble Jehovah (see on Zephaniah 3:5). Lying and deceitfulness, condemned so frequently by the prophets, will disappear. How different it will be from the prophet’s present!

Deceitful tongue — Literally, tongue of deceit; a tongue that practices deceit.

For — Does not introduce a causal clause, as if the peace and security were responsible for the transformation in character; 13b rather describes a new aspect of the life of the remnant, and might be introduced by “verily” or “yea” or “but rather” (G.-K., 148d.).

Feed and lie down — The picture is that of a flock which feeds and rests in perfect security under the watchful eye of the shepherd (Micah 5:4; Micah 7:14).

None shall make them afraid — Undisturbed they will enjoy the presence and blessing of Jehovah (compare Micah 4:4; Isaiah 17:2).


Verse 14

14. Sing,… shout,… be glad and rejoice — The accumulation of these verbs indicates that there is abundant cause for rejoicing (Zechariah 2:10; Zechariah 9:9). The use of four verbs necessitated the use of several terms denoting Jerusalem, “daughter of Zion,” “Israel,” “daughter of Jerusalem.” The city might be called Israel, because it was the center of the restored and redeemed Israel.


Verses 14-20

THE JOY OF THE REDEEMED DAUGHTER OF ZION, Zephaniah 3:14-20.

These verses, which form the closing section of the Book of Zephaniah, fall naturally into two parts, Zephaniah 3:14-17 and Zephaniah 3:18-20. In the former the daughter of Zion is urged to rejoice mightily, because Jehovah has redeemed her and now rules in the midst of her. In the latter Jehovah promises to the restored community deliverance from all foes, the removal of all reproach, the restoration of the dispersed, and the exaltation of the faithful among the nations of the earth.


Verses 15-17

15-17. The reason for the exultation is found in the fullness of the redemption wrought.

Hath taken away thy judgments — He has made an end of the judgments which have come upon the nation again and again on account of sin (compare Isaiah 40:2). Since these have come to an end, Zion may live in peace and contentment. A change in the vocalization would change “thy judgments” into “thine adversaries,” which is favored by the presence of “thine enemy” or “enemies” (LXX.) in the parallel clause. Those who in the past have troubled the chosen people are swept away.

The king of Israel — In the Messianic age north and south will be reunited (Hosea 1:11), and over the united people Jehovah will rule as king (Obadiah 1:21; Micah 4:7), with Jerusalem as his royal residence (see on Joel 2:27; compare Micah 4:7; Isaiah 2:2-4). Marti proposes the omission of “of Israel” and the change of “king” into a verb form, “has become king,” so that the entire clause would read, “Jehovah has become king in the midst of thee.”

Thou shalt not see evil any more — R.V., “fear.” Evil is not moral evil, but calamity or misfortune. Some ancient authorities favor A.V., others R.V.; the difference between the two words “fear” and “see” is so slight in Hebrew that confusion might easily occur. See in the sense of experience (compare Psalms 90:15; Proverbs 27:12) is the more suitable.

So marked will be the transformation that others will observe it and encourage Jerusalem. R.V. offers a more accurate reproduction of the original: “Fear thou not; O Zion, let not thy hands be slack.”

Fear thou not — Because Jehovah is near, ready to help.

Let not thine hands be slack — Or, hang down inactive, which is a sign of despair and despondency (compare Isaiah 13:7; Jeremiah 6:24).

Zephaniah 3:17 states why there is no ground for despondency. 17a should be rendered with R.V., “Jehovah thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty one who will save.” For the first part compare Zephaniah 3:15, and see reference there. A mighty one (R.V.) — Who has power to render assistance in every need and to save from all difficulties.

He will rejoice over thee with joy;… joy over thee with singing — Because uncleanness has been swept away and the community consists only of those who are obedient to his will (compare Isaiah 65:19; Jeremiah 32:41). Between the two clauses calling attention to the joy of Jehovah stands a rather obscure clause.

He will rest in his love — Literally, he will be silent in his love. If this is the original text the meaning can only be that Jehovah’s love will be too tender and strong for expression. LXX. renders, “he will renew thee,” but this does not suit the context. One would expect a verb expressing joyful emotion, and one that would lend itself to the formation of a climax. A verb containing the same consonants as the Hebrew word translated “rest,” but in different order, occurs in Psalms 45:2 (Eng. Zephaniah 3:1) in the sense of “overflow.” This would not be inappropriate here, “he will overflow (with joy) in his love”; it would also produce a climax. Jehovah will joy inwardly, but cannot contain the joy, he will overflow with it, and finally burst into a song of rejoicing.


Verses 18-20

Zephaniah 3:18-20 do not contain the song of rejoicing sung by Jehovah, but rather a series of promises made by him to the redeemed community. Zephaniah 3:18 is very obscure. The translation of the present Hebrew text is uncertain. R.V. differs but slightly from A.V.: “I will gather them that sorrow for the solemn assembly, who were of thee; to whom the burden upon her was a reproach.” Both translations make the verse a promise of the restoration of the dispersed, who, far from the holy city, are in deep sorrow because they can no longer gather in the temple, and who have suffered reproach (see on Joel 2:17) because of the national calamity that has fallen upon them. The thought suggested by the translation in the margin, “They have been sorrowful for the solemn assembly which I took away from thee, for the lifting up of reproach against her,” is less appropriate. The meaning of the verb translated “sorrow” is uncertain; it occurs in the same construction in 2 Samuel 20:13, in the sense of “thrust away,” or “remove.” The first clause might be translated, therefore, “I will gather them that are thrust away from the solemn assembly,” which would give acceptable sense. While the translation of the English versions may, perhaps, be had from the present Hebrew text, the latter is very awkward and may have suffered in the course of transmission. The ancient versions differ from it and from one another. LXX. presents a reading which, in part at least, is thought by many to be original. It joins the first two words of Zephaniah 3:18 to Zephaniah 3:17 and reads them “as on a feast day” — the whole clause, “he will joy over thee with singing as on a feast day”; then continues, “I will gather thy crushed ones; woe unto him who utters mockery against her.” Zephaniah 3:17 is not improved by the addition; Zephaniah 3:18 gives good sense, but it cannot be affirmed with certainty that it is original. Instead of the pronoun of the third person we should probably read, with margin, “thee.” Marti proposes to read Zephaniah 3:18, “Removed have I (prophetic perfect) from thee the reproach; taken away have I from thee the shame.” With this he compares Zephaniah 3:11 a (see further on Zephaniah 3:19).

19. At that time — When the promise made in Zephaniah 3:18 will be fulfilled.

I will undo all that afflict thee — The verb is literally do, sometimes in the sense of “to deal with,” either in a good or in an evil sense; here the latter, so that A.V. is right in rendering “undo.” If the LXX. rendering of Zephaniah 3:18 is correct the first clause of Zephaniah 3:19 is an expansion of 18b; but since “at that time” seems to mark a new beginning, and since the rest of Zephaniah 3:19 and Zephaniah 3:20 speak only of the blessings to be showered upon the remnant, it is not impossible that the first clause of Zephaniah 3:19 also speaks of a blessing intended for the afflicted children of Jehovah. An alteration in the vocalization would change “they that afflict thee” into “thy afflicted ones.” If this change is made, “to deal with” is used in a favorable sense: “At the time when I will deal with all thy afflicted ones.” How he will deal with them is stated in the rest of Zephaniah 3:19 and in Zephaniah 3:20.

Save — From oppression, suffering, and disease.

Halteth,… driven out — See on Micah 4:6 (compare Ezekiel 34:16).

I will get them praise and fame — Better, R.V., “I will make them a praise and a name.” The wonderful things Jehovah will do for his people will so impress the nations by whom they have been oppressed that even they will recognize that “Jehovah hath done great things for them” (Psalms 126:2); then they will reproach them no more (see on Joel 2:17), but will praise and glorify them (compare Deuteronomy 26:19, margin; Isaiah 62:7; Jeremiah 33:9).

In every land where they have been put to shame — R.V., “whose shame hath been in all the earth”; literally, in the whole earth their shame. It is difficult to get from this the translation of A.V. or even of R.V. LXX. differs from the Hebrew but does not relieve the difficulty. The omission of “their shame” would simplify matters — “I will make them a praise and a fame in the whole earth” (compare Zephaniah 3:20). Some omit the pronoun after “make” (in Hebrew one letter) and take “their shame” as the object of the verb, “I will make (or, turn) into praise and fame in all the earth their shame.”

Zephaniah 3:20 expresses essentially the same thought as Zephaniah 3:19.

Will I bring you again — R.V., more literally, “bring you in,” for which LXX. reads “will do good,” which may be original.

Even in the time that I gather you — R.V. co-ordinates this clause with the preceding, “and at that time will I gather you.” Both translations are based on an emended text. The present Hebrew text cannot be correct; the only question is whether A.V. or R.V. has made the proper correction — probably A.V. Combining the emendation of A.V. with the reading of LXX., 20a may be read, “At that time I will do good to you, even at the time when I shall gather you together.” I will do good is explained by, “For I will make you a name and a praise among all people (R.V., “all the peoples”) of the earth” (see on Zephaniah 3:19), and when I shall gather you together by “when I turn back (R.V., “bring back”) your captivity” (see on Zephaniah 2:7, and references there).

Before your eyes — Within your own lifetime.

Saith Jehovah — A seal upon the promises. Since they are uttered by Jehovah, they will surely be fulfilled.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Zephaniah 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/zephaniah-3.html. 1874-1909.

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