Few summarize the life and circumstances around Zephaniah better than does Chuck Swindoll. Click on the below link to read Swindoll’s overview of Zephaniah
One significant point to be made per Zephaniah’s prophetic life is what he said about the population of Judah. He identified four specific groupings.
- Those who worshiped other gods
- Those who worshiped other gods AND God
- Those who in their own eyes stood neutral
- Those who still adhered to the God of Israel.
Once again, commentaries are all over the place regarding this book. Many identify the Book of Zephaniah as the sacrifice of God. Others identify this book as the great day of God. Even the lineage of Zephaniah casts some commentators into confusion. In verse one he traces his lineage back to Hezekiah. The confusion: is this the 4th generation tracing back to Hezekiah, the *13th king of Judah, or another by the same name? The math works out that he could be of royal blood, but then why trace one’s lineage for three generations through non-royalty? We conclude it is of royalty.
*Halley’s Bible Handbook identifies Zephaniah as the great-great grandson of King Hezekiah.
God’s 70-year judgement of the Kingdom of Judah is prophetic at this time, soon to occur. Like other minor prophets, Zephaniah points to the time the Kingdom of Judah will fall. Some see this as a close parallel prophecy of God’s End Time judgment of the world. This parallel is highly probable since Zephaniah mentions all living things will be judged. We also find evidence to support this distant prophetic parallel message. In Zephaniah 3:15 God himself is called the King of Israel. Israel to the north of Judah was destroyed and exiled by the Assyrians 90 years earlier. Only Judah remained.
An outline of Zephaniah by J Vernon McGee
JIV NOTE: Unlike some of the minor prophets, we can time stamp Zephaniah by reading 1:1
“I. Judgment of Judah and Jerusalem, Chapter 1
v. 1 — Zephaniah completely identifies himself and his time period
v. 2 — Worldwide devastation is predicted. The Book of the Revelation and Matthew confirm placing the time as the Great Tribulation.
v. 3 — All living creatures are included in the judgment.
v. 4 — Judah and Jerusalem are singled out for judgment (NOTE: Not the church).
v. 5 — The reason for the judgment is idolatry — three types of idolatry are mentioned.
v. 6 — Also they have turned completely from God. Two classes are mentioned: backsliders and those who were never saved.
v. 7 — “The day of the LORD” is judgment (see TWO THOUGHTS, also notes on Joel 1:15). Here the coming of Nebuchadnezzar is treated as a picture of the day of the LORD.
“Hold thy peace” means to hush; to keep still.
v. 8 — The “sacrifice” is the judgment of Judah.
v. 10 — “That day” is the day of the LORD.
v. 12 — Evidently this is one of the first groups to say that God was dead. They were the self-sufficient of an affluent society.
v. 13 — This marks the end of prosperity and the beginning of a depression.
vv. 14, 15 — This is a doleful, dreary, and dreadful picture of the Great Tribulation.
v. 16 — It is a day of fear.
v. 17 — Sin of man brings the judgment.
v. 18 — There will be no deliverance. Silver and gold are their gods, and they are powerless to save any possession or self.
v. 1 — A call to Israel to come together to plead for deliverance from the wrath of the day of the LORD.
“Not desired” means that they were by choice oblivious to the shame of their sinful condition.
v. 2 — This is a brief but vivid description of the day of the LORD.
v. 3 — The call is extended to the inhabitants of the earth who in meekness seek the Lord.
vv. 4-11 — This is judgment upon surrounding enemy nations and their idols.
v. 12 — Judgment on Ethiopia.
vv. 13-15 — Judgment on Assyria (literally fulfilled).
vv. 1-5 — Judgment on Jerusalem. Judgment is in ratio to her privilege.
vv. 6-8 — Judgment on all nations — this is *Armageddon, which ends with the return of Christ to the earth. *Some consider Armageddon the final battle with Satan after the Millennial reign.
III. Judgments removed; kingdom established, Chapter 3:9-20
v. 9 — This does not mean there will be one language for the entire world, although there may be only one language — perhaps the language prior to the Tower of Babel. The thought here is “pure” in the sense of the removal of the filthy, profane, and nasty language.
vv. 10-12 — These are kingdom conditions.
vv. 13-16 — The remnant of Israel enters the kingdom. Their attitude and speech are changed. Fear is removed. The Lord Jesus Christ personally reigns over them. This refers to the second coming of Christ.
v. 17 — This verse is the key to the book. This is the white light in a black background. The purpose of judgment is not vindictive, but to cleanse and purify in order that blessing and goodness might ensue from the ordeal.
vv. 18-20 — This describes kingdom [of Judah] conditions.”
Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of a Godly King Josiah in the mid to late 600’s B.C. If Zephaniah descended from *King Hezekiah, a Godly king, then he would have had access to the royal courts and King Josiah. Whether they worked in concert we do not know but they lived with a common goal of God in the lives of Israel (Kingdom of Judah). However, if Zephaniah descended from and was tutored along with or under Hezekiah, why did Hezekiah’s king son and king grandson fall so far from Jehovah God?
*Hezekiah’s son (king) Manasseh and grandson (king) Amon were very evil. They undid or reversed many of the reforms instituted by King Hezekiah. King Amon was so bad that after reigning for two years, he was killed by one of his own officials. Hezekiah himself found such favor with God he was given a 15-year reprieve in life following a deadly disease.
This means what we study in Zephaniah is akin to King Josiah’s reformations. What one reads about one in likelihood applies to the other. Even with the reforms instituted by King Josiah and ministered by Zephaniah, Judah would still fall to the Babylonians. Do not exclude Isaiah from this period. He too is contemporary to this historical scene [2 Kings 20:5-7].
Hezekiah recognized his people wanting to worship a tangible object. The bronze serpent Moses had made while all Israelis were still in the wilderness was one of those worship objects. Certainly, Zephaniah and Isaiah knew about this practice. Hezekiah made one major mistake, which is recorded in 2 Kings 20. Ambassadors on a secret mission from Babylon happened to “visit and overly proud King Hezekiah in Judah allowed Hezekiah to arrogantly show them all the gold in his treasury, armaments, and the riches of Jerusalem. Afterward, the prophet Isaiah criticized him for his pride. Isaiah foretold that everything would be taken away, including the *king’s descendants. This all lead up to the 70-year captivity in Babylon.
Zephaniah was still the era of the Assyrians. Within 90 years of this time the Assyrians would be no more. The Babylonians would rule the then known world. How it sequenced: Babylonians, along with the Medes, overran the Assyrians. Then they overran the Kingdom of Judah. Then began the 70 year captivity of the Jews (Judeans) and those who resided in Judah.
Now, let’s turn to Hezekiah’s contemporary, the Prophet Zephaniah.
PS; Archaeologists found Hezekiah’s royal seal in 2010 in an area at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Yes, in JERUSALEM. Israelis were dominant in this area over 2,500 years ago. Muhammad was born around 570, AD, 1,000 years later.
Rev. Dr. Jstark