Chapter One:

Vs. 1 – Zephaniah, meaning ‘hidden by Jehovah’, is one of the only prophets with royal blood, he comes from the line running from King Hezekiah. Zephaniah was active in the years 630-620 B.C. prior to the Babylonian captivity (II Kings 22&23). Nahum was ministering at the same time and both of them briefly overlapped with the ministry of Habakkuk.

Zephaniah ministered with the goal of bringing Judah and the surrounding Gentile nations to repentance. Judah’s desire for God was severely weakened after the consecutive reigns of such godless kings as Manasseh and Amon. The prophet is clear in that God is a God of holiness and such will be demonstrated.

The scene in Judah:

II Kings 22

Vss. 1-2: Josiah was eight (the number for resurrection/new beginnings) years old when he came to the throne and his reign lasted thirty-one years and was largely one of godliness and no compromise. The king must have received sound training (22:2a) in the ways of the Lord regardless of the godless ragings (which included child sacrifice to Molech) and administration of his father Amon (Ezekiel 18; Romans 8:31-39).

Vss. 3-7: After eighteen years Josiah commands the High priest to count up the money that has been collected at the temple so that it can be given to the workers for the necessary repair work at the temple. He required no accounting of the use of the funds as the quality of their work would show if they had managed the finances properly (Matthew 7:17).

Vss. 8-10: In seeking out all of the money required by the king, Hilkiah stumbles across the ‘book of the law’ which was, in all likelihood, the Torah (Jeremiah 11:1-17; 23:2). Hilkiah gives it to the king’s messenger, Shaphan the scribe, who immediately reads it. The scribe returns to the king with the book. He informs Josiah that the task for which he was sent has been completed and then excitedly goes onto to tell the king of the book of the law which he then proceeded to read to the king.

Vss. 11-13: The king’s reaction to the Word of God is humbling. His response was one of remorse and repentance (cf. Acts 2:37&38) and an immediate desire to hear what he should do after fifty or so years of neglect, such was his fear of God.

Vss. 14-20: The king sends a delegation led by the high priest to the prophetess Huldah to ascertain whether or not any hope remained. Given the fact that Jeremiah and Nahum were active in and around Judah, it is surprising, given the patriarchal nature of the prevailing culture, that he should approach a woman. Perhaps she played some role in his upbringing (Proverbs 22:6). She responded thus:

  • God would release evil upon Judah according to His Word.
  • The reason for judgement was the nation’s forsaking of the Lord, their worship of foreign gods (idolatry) (Exodus 20:3&4).
  • However, because of the king’s tenderness of heart towards the Lord, he would neither witness nor be subject to the coming judgement (Revelation 20:11-15).

II Kings 23

Vss. 1-3: The king makes a covenant with God concerning the things written in the book of the law. He includes all the people in the making of the covenant, he ensures that none miss the opportunity (John 17:11; cf. Hebrews 13:17) but lets them decide for themselves.

Josiah makes this covenant standing at the pillar where kings were traditionally anointed for office (11:14), thus indicating his willingness to start again (cf. John 3:3).

Vss. 4-8: Immediately Josiah sets about a mass clean up of the temple (reformation), the city and the land as a whole. The lesson here is clear: Intention without subsequent and equal action is both pointless and worthless.

All of the materials removed were burnt in the fields of Kidron according to the demands of the law (Deuteronomy 7:25 & 12:3).

Vs. 9: A clear understanding of this verse is vital to an overall appreciation of Zephaniah’s message. The priests in the out of town areas could not be bothered to follow through on the reformation demands of Josiah’s covenant but did what was convenient to them in the placation of what they saw as religious demands – Reformation without revival is incomplete and cannot lead to regeneration.

Produced by: Adrian Tamblyn-Watts

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