The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Zephaniah 2

Zep 2:1

GATHER TOGETHER: Zephaniah called the shameless people of Judah to gather together, evidently in a public assembly, to repent (cp Joel 2:12-14).

Zep 2:2

CHAFF: Suggestive of that which is worthless, to be swept away by the "wind" of war!

BEFORE THE DAY OF THE LORD'S WRATH COMES UPON YOU: Implying that repentance is still possible, though time is short. See Rom 9:22,23; 2Pe 3:15; 2Co 6:12.

Zep 2:3

SEEK RIGHTEOUSNESS: Which comes by faith: Gal 2:21; Rom 3:22; 4:3-9.

PERHAPS YOU WILL BE SHELTERED: "Sheltered" is the Heb "sathar", a synonym of "zaphan", which is probably the root of the name Zephaniah. Thus the prophet makes a play on words related to his own name.

Zep 2:4

Vv 4-15: For us, these can be both warning and encouragement: warning, because God is a jealous and holy God, whose longsuffering is not endless; but also encouragement, because His judgments on the nations are the prelude to the kingdom, when "the people of the world learn righteousness" (Isa 26:9).

In this section (Zep 2:4-15), four peoples or groups of peoples stand for the Gentiles in their totality: (a) To the west of Israel were the Philistines (vv 4-7) -- modern Palestine; (b) To the east, Moab and Ammon (vv 8-11) -- modern Jordan; (c) To the south, Cush (Ethiopia or southern Arabia) (v 12); and (d) To the north, Assyria or Babylon (vv 13-15) -- modern Iraq.

These nations encircle Israel, which is of course at the center of God's plan. Their "bounds" -- both as to national boundaries and limits of influence -- are set by God according to His purpose with His people Israel (Acts 17:26; Deu 32:8).

This is a comfort to those who see and understand the Divine Hand in world affairs. God has said, in effect, "This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt" (Job 38:11). Even though around us men's hearts are failing them for fear, if God be for US, then nothing will "harm" US except what HE causes or allows for our betterment.

Vv 4-7: Against the Philistines. See Lesson, Philistia in prophecy.

There were 5 major Philistine cities (1Sa 6:17; Josh 13:3), but in later days the prophets carefully leave Gath out of the picture (Amo 1:6-8; Zeph 2:4; Jer 25:20; Zech 9:5,6). Why? Uzziah, in his war against the Philistines, smashed up Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod (2Ch 26:6). The last of these was evidently strategic enough to warrant rebuilding (Isa 20:1), but the other two disappeared from history -- and from prophecy also.

GAZA... ABANDONED... EKRON... UPROOTED: "Gaza" and "abandoned" sound similar in Hebrew, as do "Ekron" and "uprooted."

AT MIDDAY: A sudden attack during the heat of the day, unexpected and thus successful.

Zep 2:5

PHILISTINES: The Philistines inhabited the Mediterranean seacoast, and they had come from Crete (cp 1Sa 30:14; 2Sa 8:18; 20:23; 1Ch 18:17; Eze 25:16). See Lesson, Philistia in prophecy.

I WILL DESTROY YOU: Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt (609-594 BC) initially fulfilled this prophecy (cp Jer 47).

Zep 2:6

THE LAND BY THE SEA... WILL BE A PLACE FOR SHEPHERDS AND SHEEP PENS: The flat Philistine seacoast would become depopulated pastures, and its caves -- there are many in Mt Carmel -- would serve as refuges for shepherds and folds for sheep.

Zep 2:7

IT WILL BELONG TO THE REMNANT OF THE HOUSE OF JUDAH...: After this destruction, the survivors from Judah would take possession of the coastal plain and pasture their sheep there.

IN THE EVENING THEY WILL LIE DOWN IN THE HOUSES OF ASHKELON. THE LORD THEIR GOD WILL CARE FOR THEM; HE WILL RESTORE THEIR FORTUNES: They would also take over the houses in Ashkelon and make them their homes because Yahweh would care for this remnant and restore their fortunes (cp Zep 3:20; Gen 15:18-20).

Zep 2:8

Vv 8-11: Against Moab and Ammon. The sons of the incestuous unions between Lot and his daughters (Gen 19:37,38), characterized by pride and hostility toward Israel. They had repeatedly lifted themselves up as enemies of God's chosen people (cp Num 22; 24:17; Jdg 3:12-14; 10:7-9; 11:4-6; 1Sa 11:1-11; 2Sa 10:1-14; 2Ki 3).

INSULTED MY PEOPLE: Hiring Balaam to curse Israel (Num 22:4).

THEIR LAND: Or "MY borders" (LXX). Israel's land was really God's land.

Zep 2:9

MOAB WILL BECOME LIKE SODOM: Moab was adjacent to the Dead Sea. Note also the closeness of Moab, through Lot, with Sodom -- his old city.

A WASTELAND FOREVER: A "perpetual" desolation, that is, UNTIL the remnant of Israel will possess the land!

Zep 2:11

WHEN HE DESTROYS ALL THE GODS OF THE LAND: Lit, "famishes"! The gods of the nations, like Molech, will have no more child sacrifices to "feed" upon!

THE NATIONS OF EVERY SHORE: The most distant parts of the earth (Psa 72:10; Isa 11:1; 60:12).

Zep 2:12

CUSHITES: Zephaniah's oracle against Cush, or Ethiopia, is very brief (cp Isa 18 -- 20; Jer 46; Eze 29 -- 32). Biblical Ethiopia occupied the territory now held by southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia. The Ethiopians were the southernmost (really southwestern-most) people known to the Judeans. God promised to send His sword against this nation. His instrument of judgment proved to be Nebuchadnezzar who defeated Ethiopia shortly after overrunning all of Judah in 586 BC (cp Eze 30:4,5,9,24,25). The prophet gave no reason for this overthrow, though it must be that Ethiopia shared the same disregard for Yahweh and His people that the other nations he condemned did.

Zep 2:13

ASSYRIA, NINEVEH: Zephaniah also prophesied the destruction of Assyria to Judah's north (really northeast) and her capital Nineveh (cp Isa 13:1 -- 14:27; 21:1-10; Jer 50; 51). Nineveh fell to the combined forces of Babylonia, Media, and Scythia in 612 BC. The LORD would make Nineveh a parched desolation (cp Nah 3). Until her fall Nineveh had much water surrounding and circulating through it, but in the future she would be dry (cp Nah 1:8; 2:6,8).

Zep 2:14

Beautiful Nineveh would become a dwelling place for wild animals and birds rather than populated with multitudes of sophisticated citizens. The very idea must have seemed incredible in Zephaniah's day because Nineveh was the greatest city in the ancient Near East.

Zep 2:15

WHAT A RUIN SHE HAS BECOME: Assyria fell to Babylon in 612 BC.

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