Vss. 14-18 – This paragraph also focuses on [a] day of the Lord. The context will determine which the three, as already established, is in view here. In this instance the judgment of Judah is the immediate context and then the final global judgment is superimposed over that, so to speak.

The day of the Lord, as far as Judah was concerned, and us today, was coming quickly (Amos 5:18-20; Joel 2:11).

The Hebrew word ‘yֿm’, meaning day, is connected to the sovereignty of God (Psalm 90:4; Isaiah 43:13; Daniel 7:9) and His rule over the concept of time (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 74:16).

Verse 16 makes it clear that judgment was rapidly approaching in the form of an irresistible military strike, in this instance the Babylonian Imperial armies under the command of Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Habakkuk 1:15).

Verse 14 speaks of “the warrior cries out bitterly”, this is not the battle cry of a confident soldier but one who sees no hope of victory at all.

The day of judgement against Judah is described six (6 = the number of man, i.e. not quite 7) ways:

  • A day of wrath = Outburst of passion, anger, rage, wrath. Carried with such meanings is the idea of suddenness (Luke 21:35-36; I Thessalonians 5:2&3).
  • A day of trouble and distress
  • A day of destruction and desolation
  • A day of darkness and gloom
  • A day of clouds and thick darkness
  • A day of trumpet and battle cry

Each of the above ‘days’ can be easily interpreted as the immediate effects and ongoing consequences of mortal combat on the battle field.

The closing line of verse 18 makes it clear that this judgment will also impact upon the entire world’s population. One needs to ask whether or not the fall of Judah to the Babylonian invader would have had a direct impact upon the world’s population, even at that time. The answer has to be “no”. Therefore, Zephaniah is being used of God to project this judgment upon Judah onto the broad canvas of the end of days (II Peter 3:10-13; Matthew 24:4-14 & 29-51; Revelation 6: 12-17; 20:11-15). 

The middle line of verse 17 is the only reason that judgment must come, “Because they have sinned against the Lord.” How they came to sin is not the issue (Romans 3:23; 5:12; cf. Ezekiel 18).

Verse 17 leaves one in no doubt that the judgement is against sinners, for the consequences of sin in this life are often distress and the blindness that prevents one from seeing truth, morality and common sense (Proverbs 11:19; Romans 6:23; 7:11).

The closing lines of the verse clearly illustrates the dehumanizing effect of sin. Blood is dispensed with in the manner reserved for dust and human flesh is held in more regard than animal faeces. In short, sin has a dehumanizing effect upon the sinner (Jeremiah 42:22; Revelation 16:2). This serves as a graphic illustration of the aftermath of battle: Pools of blood trampled upon and human body parts and entrails strewn about the battlefield (cf. Leviticus 17:11; II Kings 13:7; Psalm 83:10; Isaiah 5:25).

Verse 18a carries a sobering truth for our materialistic world. No amount of wealth can withstand judgment, God cannot be bribed to turn a blind eye (Exodus 23:8; Proverbs 17:23).

Produced by: Adrian Tamblyn-Watts

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