Prophet Zephaniah Summary
This is book number 8 in the summary of the 12 Minor Prophets of the Bible.
Historic info / background
Zephaniah (Contemporary of Jeremiah) preached around 625 bc – King Manasseh is dead after a reign of 55 years – the most evil King in Judah he was the exact opposite of his father King Hezekiah.
Manasseh’s son Amon is also dead after a reign of only 2 years he was assassinated by his own servants.
We are now in the reign of ‘good’ King Josiah.. 640-609 who took the throne at the ripe old age of 8 years!
Age of Josiah’s reforms
Final countdown – Only 11 years to the destruction of Nineveh in 614; under 40 years to the loss of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586.
Whole region in turmoil .. Assyria on the back foot with the rise of the Medio Persians and Babylonians……Judah on the edge of massive reform under Josiah.
A time of huge spiritual and political upheaval.
Josiah met his death whilst trying to hinder the Pharaoh Neco 11 from lending aid to Assyrian forces at Harran.
Succeeded by Jehoahaz – who was deposed by Pharaoh – the first king of Judah to die in exile.
Where to read Josiah’s story: 2 Kings 22:1 – 23:30; 2 Chronicles 34:1 – 35:27
The Book of Zephaniah
Needless to say…..BOOK OF JUDGEMENT !
“Day of the Lord” mentioned 17 times between 1:7 – 2:3.
George Adam Smith, in The Book of the Twelve Prophets; “No hotter book lies in all the Old Testament. Neither dew nor grass nor tree nor any blossom lives in it, but it is everywhere fire, smoke and darkness, drifting chaff, ruins, nettles, salt pits, and owls and raven looking from the windows of desolate palaces.”
Some would say that the happiest thing about this book is the fact that it is only 3 chapters !!!
However they would be wrong! Read 3:14-17
“Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You will fear disaster no more.
16 In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “ Do not be afraid, O Zion;
Do not let your hands fall limp. 17 “The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
The book of Zephaniah follows the pattern of the Four R’s Rebellion, Retribution, Repentance, Restoration. So often found in the teachings of the prophets of Israel.
- Rebellion: The people rebel against the teachings of the Lord or his servants the Prophets.
- Retribution: The Lord exacts retribution or judgement against them.
- Repentance: The people see the error of their ways – leading to repentance, or a ‘turning away’ from evil.
- Restoration: When the people finally see the error of their ways and repent, then The Lord is able (and willing) to restore fully.
The Lords judgement is not about him ‘getting his own back’ ! It is about bringing people to repentance so that he is able to restore or forgive.
What’s in a name?….Zephaniah, who’s name means ‘the Lord Hides – or conceals.’
King Hezekiah was his great great grandfather and so of royal blood, during the reign of Manasseh all royal descendants were destroyed to secure his own position; he even sacrificed his own son top the pagan god Molech (2 kings 16) burning him alive.
Zephaniah however, The Lord concealed until the time was ripe.
This book warns the people of a comprehensive judgement not only on Assyria-the old enemy- but also on all the nations surrounding Judah and ultimately on Judah itself !
Judgement on the nations East and West
Zeph 2:4-7 Philistia.
Zeph 2:8-11 Moab & Amon.
Judgement on nations South and North
Zeph 2:12 Ethiopia. “You also Ethiopians will be slain by the sword”
Zeph 2:13-15 Assyria …READ
“And He will stretch out His hand against the north, And destroy Assyria,
And He will make Nineveh a desolation, Parched like the wilderness.
14 Flocks will lie down in her midst, All beasts which range in herds;
Both the pelican and the hedgehog, Will lodge in the tops of her pillars;
Birds will sing in the window, Desolation will be on the threshold;
For He has laid bare the cedar work.
15 This is the exultant city
Which dwells securely, Who says in her heart,
“ I am, and there is no one besides me.” How she has become a desolation,
A resting place for beasts! Everyone who passes by her will hiss
And wave his hand in contempt.”
This was of course fulfilled completely in 614 B.C. With the destruction of Nineveh the capital city of Assyria.
Judgement on Jerusalem ……WHY ?
Zeph 3:1-4 READ…..2 Kings 24:3-4 “Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon.”
Again, Judgement then repentance leads ultimately to Blessing 3:14-17
Maybe more than you would think!
In the book of Zephaniah, we have the familiar lessons about the Lord’s Judgement on Sin and Rebellion. It was fairly severe to say the least, making the God of the Old Testament seem to some like a very severe, stern task-master not to be crossed!
We are fortunate that as Christians we are able to ‘approach the throne’ so to speak, under an entirely different relationship with The Lord almighty. A relationship that has been made possible only through the sacrifice of Jesus, who is now our advocate or intercessor before God.
Some things however have not changed. The ‘four r’s’ of Rebellion, Retribution, Repentance and Restoration; is still a pattern today for Christians when we rebel in any aspect of our everyday lives.
The scripture says that “whom The Lord loves, he also chastises.” (Heb 12:6)
The main difference being; we have chastisement of a loving parent rather than an angry God?
Points for discussion..
- Is the God of the Old Testament really all ‘smoke and thunder’ – a God of wrath and judgement?
- What is the difference between our relationship with God, and the relationship that a common individual in the Old Testament times would have had?
- If we have already been forgiven through the sacrifice and blood of Christ – Is repentance still necessary!?