Many theologians, ministers, Bible teachers, and educational institutions wish to identify April 1948 as the God-promised return of all Israelis to Israel. This is only partially correct. We will find out why such thinking in this chapter of Zephaniah it s functionally incorrect.
Zephaniah 3:1-3 WOE!!! We have discussed the word woe in previous narrative commentary. The woe used here is the “prolonged form of o’ee” in the Hebrew; hoh’ee. There is an emphasis on how it is said. The her identified in this chapter (“…woe to her…”) of Zephaniah is Jerusalem/Israel. It is not, as often assumed or desired by some, to be the woe of Nineveh. The filthy labels rebellion, bitterness, disobedience. The polluted are identified in conjunction with the word filthy. According to Strong’s H1351 it means to free. Free what? To free oneself from following the Law of Moses (O.T.). To make God to be what the people wish instead of the people being what God wants. Jerusalem and Judean leadership including citizens of the State had rejected and renounced God as their only God of Israel. They wanted gods they could see.
V2: She has not obeyed His voice,
She has not received correction;
She has not trusted in the Lord,
She has not drawn near to her God.
NOTE: The “she” is Jerusalem
Let’s look closer at highlighted line four (above) of Zephaniah 3:2. James (N.T.) explains this conditional dilemma expressed in verse 2 of Zephaniah; a factor in the cause for God’s judgement. James 4:8 defines the problem we see in Israel/Judah. Contrary to the ignorant Christian prayer of “asking God to be with so-in-so”, such is not scripture based. According to scripture, so-in-so must first draw closer to God (If you ___, then I ___). Don’t take our word for it. Re-read James 4:8 then read Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5. Every sin comes from not being in the will or drawing nearer to God. This is the free-will of mankind. There is a continual need for the true believer to be disciples continually drawing closer to God through Bible study and prayer. Those who decide that expectation is too demanding may need to question his or her salvation in the first place. Israel (722 B.C.), now Judah had compromised their relationship with God. They had walked away from God…If one walks away, then God will not bless.
Zephaniah 3:3 The word prince(s) does not limit itself to mean only royalty. Princes (Sar) means anyone in a leadership position who comes from the rank and file. Roaring (shaw-ag’) means to mumble, grumble, or complain. The word judges can also be misleading if one compares it to the culture of what traditionally is meant by a judge. Shaw-fat’ (judge) in this verse is not a pronoun but a verb meaning to judge someone from his or her own perspective.”
AHAMOMENT: The last line in verse 3 says…[those] “that leave not a bone until morning.” We say it today as one who has a bone to pick with another.
Zephaniah 3:4 does not bring accusations against the people of Judah. These are God’s charges for all Israel; guilty as charged. The qualifier of guilty as charged is found in verse 5. ”The Lord is righteous and will do no unrighteousness.” God righteously charged them through the prophet Zephaniah. What a person thinks in his or her mind as okay does not always line up with what God says is okay. This literally means a continual scenario of personal evaluation. It is a moment-by-moment scenario. What is in the heart IS.
Zephaniah 3:6 The people and leadership of the Kingdom of Judah, much like as had the Kingdom of Israel, forgot that God’s judgement of others around them and in the past has already occurred. They were not immune. Zephaniah is saying, God has done it before to you and others. Unless you (Judah) draw closer to God, he will judge once again. They didn’t so God did. Just a couple years later Nebuchadnezzar brought that judgement.
Zephaniah 3:7 is Israel’s balance beam. If one who is not coached falls off a balance beam, much to her demise or injurious consequences, s/he will then have a deeper respect for a coach. In this verse God is saying we should fear God’s position as our creator; receive, then follow his coaching instructions (before getting back on the balance beam). Zephaniah is the final minor prophetic book before Judah goes into Babylonian captivity. One can guess they heard but rejected God’s instructions given to them by “coach” Zephaniah. Now for the consequence of falling from the balance beam once again.
Zephaniah 3:8 is a serious consideration. Verse 7 states that the warning and instructions were not heeded by Judah. Now the consequence (if you do or don’t, then I will…). Zephaniah is also prophesying End Time. A time when the earth, mankind, and beast will suffer for humankind rejection God. God is not a religion divided into compartments by denominations. God is GOD! The created cannot command the creator to do this or that. Denominations damage the unity of the true church body of believers.
Verse 8b reads: “All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy.” The word “all” used twice in this passage is kole in the Hebrew. It is emphatic. It means “without exception”.
Zephaniah 3:9 “For then…” means, after this 70-year Babylonian judgment. Zephaniah shifts gears in verse 9. This passage defines the Millennial Reign of Christ. He will bring absolute justice to ALL mankind. This verse uses the word pure (Baw-rar’) as in a pure language. Some translations substitute clear language (Baw-rar’ also means pure). It is less of a language change of God’s people than identifying and removing what is no longer to be on his or her lips. This must include the mind and the heart. “…to call upon the name of the Lord with the desire to serve in one accord.” The significance and point of this verse goes back to why God originally created Adam.
Zephaniah 3:10 A prophet of God again references Ethiopia. Once more at the exclusion of other African nations. Here is a clue that refers to the DISPERSED ones of God’s chosen. “My worshipers, the daughters (offspring) of my dispersed ones.” God is identifying location, location, location. Of those dispersed from Israel by Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks (Alexandria), Romans, and many others, many are located even beyond the borders of Ethiopia in Africa and north into Scandinavia including Ukraine and Russia. It appears or hints that the confusion of language at the Tower of Babel may then be reversed by God.
To identify all Israelites as Jews is incorrect. The term JEW was never used by Moses in the first five books he wrote for the Old Testament. The first use of this word was derogatory. II Kings distinguished between those of the Tribe of Judah and scatterings of other tribes in the Southern Kingdom of Judah (Jews) versus the ten Northern Tribes in the Kingdom of Israel (Israelis). The king of the northern ten tribes was planning an offensive against the Kingdom of Judah. He called them Jews. The first use of the word Jew as regards an individual is in the book of Esther; a reference to Mordecai. Mordecai was actually a Benjamite but descended from the territory of the Kingdom of Judah. This made him a Jew-dean.
Zephaniah 3:12,13 contrasts the personalities of the Israelis then, with those God will give a millennial “pure language.” Included in this transformation is a clean heart. Those who are offensive will be removed. Israel will tend to their business(es) and fear no outside interference.
*Shem was the spiritual one of Noah’s three sons. He lived 500 years after the flood. It is possible if not probable that he is the Melchizedek of “…Salem”. Melchizedek, whose name means “king of righteousness,” was an early king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God (Genesis 14:18–20; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6–11; 6:20—7:28). In the book of Genesis Melchizedek’s sudden appearance then disappearance to Abraham is somewhat mysterious. Some theologians claim that in pre-New Testament (Old Testament), Jesus is the embodiment of Melchizedek.
Zephaniah 3:14 instructs the remnant of Israel, in that Day, to shout and sing praises. Peace at last. True joy in the heart. A pure language. No enemies from within or without. The daughter of Jerusalem refers to the offspring of long past and future generations of Israelis. The constant is Jerusalem itself i.e., the City of David and possibly *Shem (son of Noah), God’s holy city. Zephaniah defines this in the next verse.
*Shem was the spiritual one of Noah’s three sons. He lived 500 years after the flood. It is possible if not probable that he is the Melchizedek of “…Salem”. Melchizedek, whose name means “king of righteousness,” was an early king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the Most High God (Genesis 14:18–20; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6–11; 6:20—7:28). In the book of Genesis Melchizedek’s sudden appearance then disappearance to Abraham is somewhat mysterious. Some theologians claim Jesus id the embodiment of
Zephaniah 3:15 “…the LORD has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; You shall see disaster no more”. If this is difficult to understand, one has a severe case of denial. Israel is God’s chosen in the Old Testament and during the Millennial reign.
Zephaniah 3:16 Again we find that identifying phrase, “on that day.” Where we read “let not your hand be weak” means Israelis will no longer need to look over his or her shoulder or have a need to be aware of defensive posturing. Be strong in the confidence of the Lord Jesus who will then be on the throne in Jeru-Salem. (NOTE: This spelling helps us understand the connectivity of Melchizedek/Salem and what we now call JeruSalem)
Zephaniah 3:17-20 (THAT DAY). Note that nowhere in this passage does God ask mankind for their opinion. Neither does God ask man’s opinion of the method by which he plans to end the world as we know it, then begin a new world. We do know that Matthew 5:18 and 24:35 tell us the current heavens above and earth will be gone. So will Satan. After being bound for 1,000 years, he will have an address somewhere in the Lake of Fire.
Rev. Dr. Jstark