Zephaniah traces his lineage back to Hezekiah, one of the godly kings of Judah. Zephaniah was in the royal family and lived in Jerusalem – the great-great grandson of King Hezekiah – and he prophesied to the kings and people of Judah during the last years of the 7th century B.C. Zephaniah’s name means “Jehovah hides.” He prophesied 630 to 615 B.C.
Read II Chronicles 33-35 and II Kings 21-23 for background. King Hezekiah of Judah was supposed to die, but he pleaded with God to let him live a little longer. God granted him his request and it was during the 15-year extension of his life that Manasseh was born. Manasseh became the worst king in Judah’s history. The things Manasseh promoted in Judah resulted in the nation declining past the point of no return and God pronouncing certain judgment. Although Manasseh repented at the end of his life, his son, Amon, continued the idolatry and decline. King Josiah followed Amon and was a godly king. Josiah was the last good king to reign over Judah. At the age of sixteen he began to seek after Jehovah, the God of his fathers. At the age of twenty, Josiah began to purge Judah of their wickedness. He instituted reforms with an iron fist. King Josiah was under the influence of Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Nahum most of his life. When Josiah died, the people went back to their wicked ways because Josiah’s reforms were more than likely forced on them by edict of the king rather than reformation from the heart.
The theme of Zephaniah is the approaching doom which will occur at “the day of the Lord.” Other prophets used this term to describe a time of God’s judgment within history as contrasted to a day at the end of history (cf Amos 5:18; Obadiah 15; Joel 1:15; 2:1,11,14). Zephaniah uses “the day of the Lord” to describe God’s judgment for sin and sees it falling upon both the Hebrew and Gentile peoples (see Zephaniah 1:7-8, 14,16,18; 2:2-3).
- The day of the Lord as judgment 1:1 – 3:8
- Judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem, 1:1 – 2:3
- The destruction of all things, 1:2-3
- The causes of judgment, 1:4-9
- The nature of the day of the Lord, 1:10-18
- Exhortation to repentance, 2:1-3
- Judgment upon the nations, 2:4-15
- Judgment against Philistia, 2:4-7
- Judgment against Moab and Ammon, 2:8-11
- Judgment against Ethiopia, 2:12
- Judgment against Assyria, 2:13-15
- Announcement of universal judgment, 3:1-8
- Woe to Jerusalem, 3:1-7
- All nations summoned to judgment, 3:8
- Judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem, 1:1 – 2:3
- The day of the Lord as salvation 3:9-20
- Salvation of a remnant among the nations, 3:9-10
- The purging and salvation of a remnant in Israel, 3:11-13
- The restoration of Israel and establishment of the kingdom, 3:14-20
The Day of the Lord
The day of the Lord appears in four New Testament passages (Acts 2:20; I Thessalonians 5:2; II Thessalonians 2:2; and II Peter 3:10). However, Old Testament prophets actually wrote more about the day of the Lord. The Old Testament provides the basis for whatever Peter and Paul understood about the day of the Lord. God’s servants, the prophets, spoke of the day of the Lord as something near historically, but something that is a picture or “type” of something eschatologically far. In many Old Testament passages about the day of the Lord, the prophet moves from focusing on the near to focusing on the far. This relationship between near and far can be seen in Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, and Zephaniah.
|Joel||1:15; 2:1-11||2:31; 3:14|
The Old Testament scriptures dealing with the day of the Lord often convey a sense of urgency, nearness, and expectation. The prophet Isaiah warned the people in his day as told in Isaiah 13:6, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near!” In Ezekiel 30:3 the prophet Ezekiel warned, “For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near.” Joel urged the people by saying to them, “Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is close at hand” (Joel 2:1); “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision!” (Joel 3:14); “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near” (Zephaniah 1:7). These aforementioned passages from the Old Testament speak of a near and a far fulfillment, as does much of the Old Testament prophecy.
Some Old Testament passages that refer to the day of the Lord describe historical judgments that have already been fulfilled in some sense. Some of these passages are found as follows: Isaiah 13:6-22; Ezekiel 30:2-19; Joel 1:15, 3:14; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18. The Scriptures tell us that the day of the Lord will come quickly, like a thief in the night (Zephaniah 1:14-15; I Thessalonians 5:2), therefore Christians must be watchful and ready for the coming of the Lord at any moment. No one can predict the day of the Lord, since not even the Son (Jesus) knows the moment that God will send Him back in the world to receive His own. Thus, the Christian believer cannot be misled by the false prophets in the world today as to when Jesus will come again.
The day of the Lord is mentioned some twenty-nine times in the Old Testament. The New Testament speaks to this day seven times, both in a positive and negative way. The first is the Apostle Peter quoting Joel 2:31 in Acts 2:20. The next three are in the Corinthian epistles and are given as an expectation of believers. The Apostle Paul says that the Corinthians were “awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthian 1:7-8). He delivered one brother to Satan “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (I Corinthians 5:5). Paul further wrote that in II Corinthians 1:14, “we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.” In all of these passages it seems they were expecting the day of the Lord. The remaining references to the day of the Lord are found in I Thessalonians 5:2 and 4. In many instances the day of the Lord may indicate the end times.
Every tragedy that occurs in this life should serve as a picture or a reminder of the coming “Great Day of the Lord.” Paul writes to Timothy and says, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I charge you…” (II Timothy 4:1).