Introduction to Zephaniah
The book of Zephaniah contains both dark pictures of impending doom on Judah and also bright glimpses of a glorious distant future under the reign of Messiah. It is a beautifully written study in contrasts, with both severe warnings and glorious promises.
Zephaniah himself prophesied during the reign of Josiah, and thus was a contemporary of Jeremiah. It seems likely that his warnings may have contributed to the revival that took place under Josiah, and thus were written during the early years of his reign. Jeremiah then came on the scene during the later years of both Josiah and Zephaniah.
Zephaniah’s name means “Jehovah has treasured.” Zephaniah was, according to his introductory verse (Zephaniah 1:1), a great, great grandson of good king Hezekiah, and so was in Judah’s royal family. He presumably lived and prophesied in Jerusalem.
In addition to prophesying of Judah’s coming judgment because of her own wickedness, Zephaniah foretold imminent judgments on other nations that were even more wicked—including Philistia (Zephaniah 2:4-7), Moab and Ammon (Zephaniah 2:8-11), Ethiopia (Zephaniah 2:12) and especially Assyria (Zephaniah 2:13-15). Nevertheless his book closes with a wonderful prophecy concerning the future Messianic kingdom when all nations will serve the Lord, and restored Israel will finally be “a name and a praise among all people of the earth” (Zephaniah 3:20).
1:1 Zephaniah. Zephaniah lists more of his ancestry than any other prophet. Apparently his great great grandfather was good king Hezekiah (same as Hizkiah); he himself ministered in the days of good king Josiah, and thus was an older contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. His preaching may even have prepared the way for the brief revival under Josiah (II Chronicles 34:3-7).
1:2 utterly consume. The burden of Zephaniah’s prophecy is the coming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the armies of Babylon. However, as is often the case with the prophets, near and far fulfillments are blended together, and one must be careful in distinguishing them. Much of his prophecy, especially Zephaniah 3:9-20, deals with the future glories of the kingdom age following the great tribulation.
1:7 day of the LORD. The term “day of the LORD” normally refers to the future period of God’s judgments against the earth because of man’s sin. It may also, as here, refer to a precursive fulfillment on a local scale. The ultimate fulfillment seems to be at Armageddon, when the angel of God will invite all the birds of the air as His guests to “the supper of the great God” (Revelation 19:17). He will also invite the birds to “my sacrifice” at the defeat of Gog’s army (Ezekiel 39:17-20).
1:12 lees. That is, “dregs” or “residue.”