Ch. 2: 1&2 – Zephaniah urges the nation to come together and seek God, to make right. It is clear that he considers the time short before judgement befalls the nation. It is interesting that the prophet calls for repentance even though such an action, no matter how heartfelt, will not delay or cancel the advent of God’s wrath. Judgment is a consequence of sin and rebellion. Forgiveness of sin will not remove the consequences of such actions (Exodus 20:5; II Samuel 12:15b-23; Ezekiel 18:20).

Vs. 1b is tinged with sarcasm (cf. I Corinthians 14:34-36), “Oh nation without shame.” Judah had carried on as if there were no God to answer to, or if there was, they did not care. Even in this attitude the love of God reaches out (Romans 5:8; I Timothy 1:15).

Zephaniah’s preaching is coloured by the need for haste, the window of opportunity – “the day passes like the chaff” – will quickly close (Joshua 24:15; Revelation 2:16, 21; 3:11; 22:20).

Vs. 3 – This verse makes it clear that there were some, a minority to be sure, who were godly. It is to this group, this remnant, that Zephaniah appeals (Deuteronomy 4:29; 30:1-3; Psalm 105:4). This verse carries echoes of II Chronicles 7:14 recording the reign of King Solomon.

The prophet hints that the remnant may be hidden during the judgment but they will still endure it, although vs. 7 may offer some insight. It is disturbing to the modern reader that the prophet, speaking under the direction of the Holy Spirit, can offer no certainty to the righteous. However, this does not imply uncertainty as to whether God will save anyone or whether anyone will repent. The word preserves the absolute sovereignty of God (Proverbs 21:1; Isaiah 40:23; 44:25).

Vss. 4&5 – The prophet now widens his scope to include the surrounding nations in the coming judgement. In other words the wrath of God is not to be spent only on Judah, but is to be transnational (regional) in its scope. He mentions Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ekron. These were four major cities of the Philistines. This is a literary or poetic, i.e. the use of signs and symbols, way of saying that judgment upon the Philistines will be universal. The land of the Philistines lay to the west of Judah.

Vss. 6&7 – As a consequence of the Cherethites (some believe this is an early mention of the inhabitants of Crete – cf. Acts 2:11; Titus 1:5ff) being judged, their territory, the seacoast, becomes a place grazing and a sanctuary for the remnant that would apparently be hidden during the coming judgement, or, perhaps, those who would return after the seventy year captivity. Vs. 7 carries with it a promise of restoration, albeit in the houses of the enemy.

Vss. 8-11 – God is ever watchful over His people (Exodus 14:14; Psalm 125:2; Revelation 7:3), obedient or not. He listens intently to the threats and whispered hatred against His people. Moab and Ammon, located to the east, are about to find out what becomes of such people. They were as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah and their punishment would be as bad. It is ironic that two nations born as the result of incestuous relationships (Lot and his daughters – Genesis 19:30-38) would be guilty of arrogance .

Vs. 9 closes with the remnant of Judah plundering their spoil and inheriting their possessions (Proverbs 13:22b).

Vss. 12-15 – The regional outpouring of wrath against the enemies of Judah will widen to become international: Assyria to the north and Ethiopia to the south.

Therefore, the judgement that was about to come upon Judah for her backsliding, would emanate outwards, like ripples on a pond, and execute a universal judgment upon the enemies of God in general. This would be applicable in terms of both the micro and macro applications of this prophecy (Revelation 7:1-3).

Produced by: Adrian Tamblyn-Watts

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