In Part 01, we learned that Zephaniah, the ‘hidden one,’ lived near the end of the kingdom of Judah, especially, after the evil reigns of kings Manasseh and Amon. He inspired king Josiah and the prophet Jeremiah, and Jesus Christ quoted him (1:3 cf Matthew 13:41; 1:15 cf Matthew 24:29). His is the most concise, comprehensive description of the key period known as the ‘day of the Lord’ (1:14-15). Just as Zephaniah was ‘hidden’ from the evil designs of Manasseh, so the meek who seek the Lord may be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger (2:3).
In order to encourage serious study of Zephaniah and other books of the Bible, we offer this concise background information.
SUMMARY OF ZEPHANIAH
Judah and Jerusalem in the days of good king Josiah are the immediate objects of Zephaniah’s prophecy. By this time, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had already been deported a century earlier in 722 BC. Zephaniah’s ministry may have spawned king Josiah’s reformation, where he destroyed the altars of Baal, burning the bones of false prophets, getting rid of the incense altars, breaking down the images of Ashera. Later, when Hilkiah found the Book of the Law (most probably Deuteronomy) in the temple, a second reformation commenced. Most probably the young Jeremiah was also greatly influenced by the older prophet.
The Day of the Lord is mentioned or alluded to 23 times. What is the Day of the Lord? It is the time of judgement, return, and restoration; the tribulation followed by the Millennium. It is when God’s righteous anger finally spills out after showing legendary patience. While people don’t like the idea of God being angry, it comes after a long wait and is righteously executed. Jesus, who is the Son of God and image of God, showed this same anger when He cleansed the temple (John 2:14-17).
- Judah would be judged, Day of Judgement for God’s people comes first 1 Peter 4:17 – For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
- Followed by the judgement of the nearby nations – he prophesied the downfall of Assyria and Nineveh fell in 612 BC. (Zephaniah 2; Rev 4-15);
- Jerusalem & the whole world will be judged (3:1-8 cf Revelation 20).
DISTINCTIVE OF ZEPHANIAH
- Gives his genealogy, though we know nothing else about him;
- Most concise and extensive description of the Day of the Lord;
- God’s people are recipients of strong warnings and promises of restoration;
- Coverage of faithful remnant (3:9-20) restored when God comes;
- Sets template of wrath against the wicked and salvation for the just, a clear New Testament theme;
- Parallels the Book of Revelation: Both speak of God’s people judged first; then the judgement of the nations; finally, what we know as the Last Judgement (3:1-8 cf Revelation 20).
- Of the 400 Old Testament allusions (rather than direct quotes) in Revelation, it is possible that Zephaniah comes closest to it.
OUTLINE OF ZEPHANIAH
I. Judgment in the Day of the Lord (1:2-3:8)
A. Judgement on the World (1:2-3)
B. Judgement on Judah (1:4-18)
- Judah’s sins (1:4-9)
- Warning to Jerusalem (1:10-13)
- The Great & Notable Day of the Lord (1:14-18)
C. Call to Repentance (2:1-3)
D. Judgement on the Nations (2:4-15)
- Philistia (2:4-7)
- Ammon & Moab (2:8-11)
- Cush (2:12)
- Assyria (2:13-15)
E. Judgement on Jerusalem (3:1-7)
- Jerusalem’s sins (3:1-4)
- God’s Justice and Jerusalem (3:5-7)
F. Judgement on the World (3:8)
II. Restoration & Salvation in the Day of the Lord (3:9-20)
A. Faithful Remnant Restored & Jerusalem Cleansed (3:9-13)
B. Rejoicing People with God in the Midst (3:14-17)
C. Promise of Restoration (3:18-20)