Zephaniah Essay, Research Paper
A. Judgment upon all nations, especially upon Judah:
1. The word of the Lord came to the prophet
2. The whole world to be punished for ignoring the moral law of the
3. The judgement will fall especially upon Jerusalem and Judah
4. The judgment is described
5. The day of judgment is near and its devastation will be great
B. A plea for repentance:
1. All the people of earth are to consider their ways
2. Punishment on many nations, beginning with the Philistines
3. Moab and Ammon also to be punished
4. Jehovah will demonstrate once again his power over idols
5. Ethiopians and Assyrians to be destroyed
6. If God punishes heathens for their immorality, his covenant people will
surely not escape
7. God’s righteous judgments on heathen nations should cause Judah to
reconsider and repent
C. Promise of future blessings for Israel and the whole world
1. Israel to be restored
2. Israel to be purified
3. Israel to be comforted and blessed
Zephaniah the prophet, the opening verse of the book Zephaniah is given a genealogy stretching back four generations. Starting with the son of Cushi. Cushi could be a personal name, but also means Ethiopian . This raises the question as to whether an editor thought that someone who may have come from foreign, perhaps immigrant stock needed a longer pedigree to justify his true Jewishness. Zephaniah is also the great-grandson of Hezekiah; giving rise to speculation as to whether this was King Hezekiah.
So Zephaniah and Josiah, king of Judah could have been contemporaries. Zephaniah prophesized during the time of Josiah, sometime between 640-609 B.C.E..
Zephaniah has received minimal critical attention. Even those who write about Zephaniah have little regard for its uniqueness. Note the words of Frank Eakin, who says ‘Thus we recognize that there was little that was new in the message of Zephaniah. Primarily he built upon the prophetic mentality developed before his time’ .
Zephaniah opens his prophecy with an announcement of doom. It begins with broad panorama ( all living beings ) then moves to a much narrow focus ( Judah and Jerusalem ) to those who engage in idolatry and syncretistic religious practices Zephaniah speaks specifically of three types of idolatrous worship which have three loci: Baal worship, conducted in the temple; astral worship, practiced on the rooftops; and the ritual dedicated to the Molekh, performed in the valley of Ben Hinnom.
The Day of the Lord is described in graphic detail. Destruction spreads through Jerusalem’s business district and wealthy residential areas from northwest ( the Fish Gate ) to the southwest ( the Mishneh ) to the south and southeast. The destruction is characterized by its sound, wailing and crashing. Sound is also the feature of the day itself, a day of trumpet blast and siren. Along with sound comes sight, or the absence of clear sight, darkness and gloom, clouds and fog, and finally people walking like the blind. In the aftermath homes will be destroyed, possessions plundered, the victims will wander blindly and will be killed. The whole land will be consumed. The underlying image is that of war .
The time of punishment is imminent, the day of the wrath of the Lord draws swiftly near. The humble of the land ( poor ) or those loyal to God are urged to seek safety from the oncoming destruction. If they seek the Lord then perhaps they will escape the disaster. The totality and finality of the prophecy of destruction is moderated by a ray of last-minute hope. There is, perhaps a call to repent, or perhaps it is just encouragement for the faithful. There is no absolute guarantee of escape, only the possibility.
The last section of the book of Zephaniah marks a reversal of its previous parts. The theme of this section is joyful. Jerusalem shall sing, for her sentence has been commuted and her enemies removed . God will rejoice over Jerusalem, with whom he is reunited. The gentle nations will be converted, and the faithful, righteous remnant of Judah will be saved and renowned again among the peoples of the world
“I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,”
declares the Lord.
“I will sweep away both men and animals;
I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea
The wicked will have only heaps of rubble
when I cut off man from the face of the earth,”
declares the Lord