Zephaniah, whose name means “YHWH has hidden” and perhaps was chosen to deliver this prophecy because he speaks of a “hidden remnant” that remains safe during the dreaded and awesome “Day of the LORD.” He has the longest recorded linage of any other prophet; He was the great-great grandson of King Hezekiah, who was one of Judah’s righteous kings. Which also meant he was related to righteous king Josiah and there fire had access to the king and may have been very influential in his righteous reform. He was contemporary of Nahum, Habakkuk and Jeremiah. Oddly enough, outside of the book that bears his name, he is not mentioned in the books of Kings or Chronicles or elsewhere in the entirety of the Tanak; although Yeshua may have alluded to him, because Matthew 13:40-42; 24:9 sounds a lot like Zeph. 1:2-3.
Zephaniah prophesied around the same time as Jeremiah (630 BCE) and was most likely around during Josiah’s reign (640-608 BCE) and his reforms (631-621 BCE) which are recorded in II Chron. 34:3-35:19. Unfortunately Josiah was the last of the righteous and godly kings.
With the context and time frame of Zephaniah’s words that this prophecy was the most likely before Josiah’s reform because many passages sound much like the condemnation of the sins of the wickedly evil King Manasseh and Amon led Israel into and were still present as he prophesied. Josiah attempted to erase the sins of his aforementioned predecessors in 627 BCE, the 12th year of Josiah’s reign, which eventually ended up in a revival because while cleansing Solomon’s Temple, a copy of the Torah was found. ALL revivals in Scripture, if one properly studies it will find out it is a direct result of people rededicating themselves to follow and keep the Torah. Another reason 630 BCE is most likely the date of this writing of Zephaniah is due to there being no mention of Babylon as a super power. The only hint of Babylon in this book is the prophesied destruction of Assyria in which the book of Nahum divulges great detail and names Babylon as its conqueror.
For being such a short book, there is much to consider eschatologically when reading Zephaniah, especially in regards to the “Day of the LORD” when the wicked will be judged and the righteous saved and so there are many passages from Hosea, Amos, Habakkuk and the Brit Chadasha (New Testament/Renewed Covenant) that can be called to mind, paralleled and compared with this book. The main message was to warn Judah and Jerusalem of impending judgment but also prophetically warn is Philistia, Moab and Amon (the latter two are distant relatives, but enemies of Israel through Lot), Cush and Assyria.
I have entitled this commentary “Zephaniah’s Sardonic Siren Song” because Zephaniah’s words are a prophetic poetic warning, like an air raid siren, warning Judah and surrounding Gentile nations to repent.
Zephaniah 1:1 The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
As stated in the introduction, Zephaniah is the great-great-grandson of the righteous King Hezekiah, and is most likely a cousin to Josiah. It is said by Radak that Jeremiah prophesied in the public marketplaces and Zephaniah prophesied in the synagogues to the women in Huldah (II Kings 22:14).
2 I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.
“It will be the end (of the world) when I take away all things from the face of the earth (by a consuming fire).” This is my personal rendering of this verse; the parenthesis is my own added emphasis. If the original text does not say “fire” how do I know this to be true? Because the first time around God wiped the face of the earth clean through flood waters. The Torah tells us if we see something with a blight that we first attempt to wash it with water and if it comes back you must burn it (Lev. 13:47-59). What The LORD wiped clean on this earth was the sin and it has come back and so now the Earth will be cleansed and purged by Fire according to Yeshua’s Talmid, Kefa (II Peter 3:10,12) and alluded to by Yochannon (Rev. 21:1-2).
God’s time table, His reckoning of time is so different from ours. Ours is linear, a marking and a progression of time; past, present and future. God’s however is above the confines of linear time, He is above it and sees the “big picture” and thus everything, as I call it, to Him, is an “eternal now.”
II Peter 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
My point is approximately 3000 years ago through Zephaniah the end of the world was prophesied. 2000 years ago with Yochannon (John) the Revelator the end was proclaimed and here we are today and modern prophets speak of what the old prophets said. So is the “END” near? Well, it’s closer than it was yesterday or 2000 or 3000 years ago.
“Thus saith the LORD,” is tacked on as if to say it WILL happen, it is a sure thing and there is no negotiation about it.
3 I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked: and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.
Man, animals, plants and material things, all will be no more, from the heavens to the sea depths and everything in between, men along with their idols (stumbling blocks) whether fictitious gods, or wealth, power or fame; it will all go into the flaming trash heap.
God is not a frustrated parent who gives empty threats, He seeing the beginning from the end all at once has a set future date in stone when it all will go down.
Hosea 4:3 Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
4 I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests;
When the countdown occurs, Judah and Jerusalem will not be exempt from the cleansing, however as Noah and his family were safe, hidden in the Ark, so too will a remnant during this time be hidden away and protected. This is the very definition of Zephaniah’s name “YHWH has hidden.”
Though Jerusalem is the Holy City, the apple of God’s eye (Deut. 32:10; Psalm 17:8; Prov. 7:2), nonetheless it too will be infected with the blight of idolatry, paganism and immorality, as it is was in the days of the evil king Manasseh and Amon; just as it was further back in the days of days of Noah.
Matt. 24:37 But as the days of Noe [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
If we can extract a sod level insight from Zephaniah 1:4 I’d say that this tells me that in the time to come Christianity of the modern day will lose its appeal and decline. Even now churches are closing faster than ever. Where I live you can drive 20 miles and count approximately 5-8 churches are boarded up and sit empty! Many who use to attend church are finding alternative forms of spirituality.
“Chemarims” means idolatry persists, implying corrupt Levites, like Eli’s sons in I Samuel 1-3. Likewise, to continue on with the shallow sod level adaptation, chemarims can be the money hungry charlatans who call themselves “Evangelists” whether on a circuit, TV, or Radio peddle their perverted doctrine for a price. Nothing but self-help, new age elixir, sprinkled with “Jesus.”
In the end, no one will remember or call to mind the wealth, health and prosperity preachers. Like wet cotton candy the sicky sweet fluffy doctrine will all melt away with the cold, rock solid truth.