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).