The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Zephaniah 3

Zep 3:1

Zep 3: "The prophet sees a Jerusalem that has forgotten its Husband, and has sought after other lovers; the people compromised the Truth, and let worldliness enter into the sphere of their experiences. But in the discipline of Jerusalem, the Spirit would remove the oppressor, Nineveh. Zephaniah shows the purpose of His judgmental hand over Jerusalem and the nations, and now in Zep 3 there is an explanation of how the vindication of His Name is accomplished and great blessings flow from His mercy. So the final chapter sets out the divine program for the future: [1] Why Jerusalem must be punished: vv 1-7. [2] The Purging of Evil and the Conversion of the people: vv 8-10. [3] Israel shamed and sanctified: vv 11-13. [4] Israel comforted, blessed and exalted to honour before all, through the presence of Yahweh: vv 14-20. With what a lovely panorama the prophecy concludes (v 20). The Good Shepherd is seen bringing his flock into the fold, naming each one, and causing Israel to become a praise in all the earth. This will be done before all mankind, so that all will see Yahweh's purpose with Israel down the centuries, now to be vindicated to the honour of His great name" (GEM).

The sins of Jerusalem were four, and the reasons for those sins were likewise fourfold:

The sins (Zep 3:2)
The reasons (Zep 3:3,4)
1. No obedience
1. Wicked princes
2. No correction
2. Wicked judges
3. No trust
3. Wicked prophets
4. No atonement ("drawing near")
4. Wicked priests

In Zephaniah's day, all the kings and princes (except Josiah) were wicked men who could not lead a wicked nation into obedience. "Like princes, like people." The judges were accustomed to bribery and graft, and did not teach "correction" or "instruction" (AV mg). With the exceptions of Zephaniah and Jeremiah, the prophets were false and wicked men, who trusted in the arm of flesh and not God. And the priests, who "profaned" the sanctuary, could not help in the least to draw men back to God.

It was a sorry state, but there was yet hope. As the sins of the people fell under four headings, because of the failures of all four classes of national leaders, so God's remedy for His nation (and for the world) is also seen in four parts -- all involving Christ. The recurring theme through the last section is: "The LORD -- Yahweh -- is in the midst of you!" (vv 5,12,15,17).

Christ was once, and will be yet again in greater scope, the manifestation of the LORD or Yahweh upon the earth. He will be "in the midst" of men once again, in the capacity of righteous leader, when he returns to set up his Father's Kingdom. At that time, he will be: (1) A righteous JUDGE (vv 5-7) -- who will do no iniquity himself, but will instruct the world in righteousness; (2) A righteous PROPHET (vv 8-13) -- who will bring to mankind "a pure lip" or language (v 9), with which they will call upon the LORD, and "the meek and humble" will "trust in the name of the LORD" (v 12); (3) A righteous KING (vv 14-16) -- who will deliver his people from evil and lead them in the ways of obedience; (4) A righteous PRIEST (vv 17-20) -- who will save his people, and bring them back to oneness, or atonement, with God.

Zep 3:3

ROARING LIONS: The language of Pro 28:15. Cp also Eze 22:25; 1Pe 5:8.


Zep 3:4

ARROGANT: "Light" (AV). Lit, bubbly, frothy, with no real substance -- easily dissipated or blown away! Cp Isa 57:21.

Zep 3:5

MORNING BY MORNING: "Each/every morning": Manna given (Exo 16:21). Fire on the altar (Lev 6:12). Incense offered (Exo 30:7). Praise offered (1Ch 23:30). Service offered (1Ch 9:27). Sacrifice presented (2Ch 2:4; 13:11). God visits (Job 7:18). God is their arm (Isa 33:2). His compassions new (Lam 3:23). The Philistines present themselves (1Sa 17:16). God silences the wicked (Psa 101:8). Judgment (here). Administer justice (Jer 21:12).

YET THE UNRIGHTEOUS KNOW NO SHAME: Their consciences are insensible (1Ti 4:2).

Zep 3:6

Paraphrase: 'Look at what I have done before, to other nations! Be warned, before it is too late!

Zep 3:7

BUT THEY WERE STILL EAGER TO ACT CORRUPTLY IN ALL THEY DID: A great zeal and dedication to do evil!

Zep 3:8

THEREFORE WAIT FOR ME: The exhortations to the virgins in Mat 25. Ct 2Pe 3:15: "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation."

Zep 3:9

THEN: "Then" signals a major change in time as well as in the focus of Zephaniah's prophecy. It is a hinge word that serves as a transition from judgment in the Tribulation to blessing in the Millennium.

I WILL PURIFY THE LIPS OF THE PEOPLES: A pure language -- not like the unclean lips of idolatry (Psa 16:4; cp also Isa 6). "Lip" = doctrine in Isa 32:4; 33:6. In Kingdom, Egypt will speak the language of Canaan (Isa 19:18).

THAT ALL OF THEM MAY CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD: Ct Gen 11:6, where one language leads to rebellion against God.

AND SERVE HIM SHOULDER TO SHOULDER: "With one consent" (AV). Cp Mat 11:28: yoked together with Christ.

Zep 3:10

FROM BEYOND THE RIVERS OF CUSH MY WORSHIPERS... WILL BRING ME OFFERINGS: Those beyond Ethiopia -- sig, prob, the end of the known world -- will bring a people back to Yahweh (Isa 18:1,7). Cp Psa 72:10; Isa 60:9; 66:20. The implication is that the Jews will come to Jerusalem, the city the Lord chose as the place where He would dwell among His people (cp Deu 30:1-10; Isa 66:18,20).

Zep 3:13

THEY WILL EAT AND LIE DOWN AND NO ONE WILL MAKE THEM AFRAID: They will resemble a flock of sheep at peace grazing and lying down with nothing to disturb them (cp Psa 23; Mic 4:4).

Zep 3:14

DAUGHTER OF JERUSALEM: The phrase "daughter of" is a way of referring to the citizens of Zion (Jerusalem) as the children of the city. Children born in any city are the children of that city in a metaphorical sense. A phrase used almost exclusively in the context of deliverance from the enemy (2Ki 19:21; Isa 37:22; Lam 2:13,15; Mic 4:8; Zeph 3:14; Zech 9:9).

Zep 3:15

THE LORD, THE KING OF ISRAEL, IS WITH YOU; NEVER AGAIN WILL YOU FEAR ANY HARM: Yahweh, Israel's true and omnipotent king, will be in the midst of His people (in the person of Messiah, Jesus Christ, during the Millennium: v 17; cp Isa 9:7; 44:6; Zech 14:9). Consequently they will fear disaster no more (v 13).

Zep 3:17

THE LORD YOUR GOD IS WITH YOU, HE IS MIGHTY TO SAVE: He will be a victorious warrior having defeated all His enemies and all opposition worldwide (Zep 1:2,3; 3:8).

HE WILL TAKE GREAT DELIGHT IN YOU, HE WILL QUIET YOU WITH HIS LOVE, HE WILL REJOICE OVER YOU WITH SINGING: Like a bridegroom He will take joy in His people Israel, and they will rest quietly in the security of His love for them as His bride. Yahweh will even shout with joy over His beloved Israel.

Zep 3:18

THE SORROWS FOR THE APPOINTED FEASTS I WILL REMOVE FROM YOU...: In the past Jews who lived far from Jerusalem were very sad because they could not travel to Jerusalem to observe Israel's annual feasts. They may also have suffered a certain criticism from their fellow Jews for living so far away. But in this time of blessing (the Millennium) the LORD will enable them to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts.

Zep 3:19

I WILL RESCUE THE LAME: Ref Jacob, who limped after his encounter with the angel: Gen 32:24-32.

I WILL GIVE THEM PRAISE AND HONOR IN EVERY LAND WHERE THEY WERE PUT TO SHAME: Worldwide extent of the Kingdom of God: Dan 2:44; Zec 14:9; Rev 11:15; Dan 7:27; Psa 22:27,28.

Zep 3:20

I WILL GATHER YOU; AT THAT TIME I WILL BRING YOU HOME. I WILL GIVE YOU HONOR AND PRAISE AMONG ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH: He will regather them in their land and give them a good reputation when He restores their fortunes (cp v 15; Gen 12:1-7; 13:14-17; 15:7-21; 17:7,8; 2Sa 7:16; Psa 89:3,4; Isa 9:6,7; Dan 7:27).
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