Reading 0,09 - 3 Chapters - 53 verses - 1,617 words



Vital Statistics

 Purpose:  To shake the people of Judah out of their complacency and urge them to return to God
 Author:  Zephaniah 
 Original audience:  The people of Judah (the southern kingdom)
 Date written:  Probably near the end of Zephaniah's ministry (640-621 B.C.), when King Josiah's great reforms began 
 Setting:  King Josiah of Judah was attempting to reverse the evil trends set by the two previous kings of Judah - Manasseh and Amon. Josiah was able to extend his influence because no strong superpower was dominating the world at that time (Assyria was declining rapidly). Zephaniah's prophecy may have been the motivating factor in Josiah's reform. Zephaniah was a contemporary of Jeremiah  
 Kay verse:  Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger. (2:3)
 Key place:  Jerusalem 


 The prophet Zephaniah was evidently a person of considerable social standing in Judah and was probably related to the royal line. The prophecy opens with a statement of the author's ancestry (1:1), which in itself is an unusual feature of the Hebrew prophetic tradition. Zephaniah was the fourth-generation descendant of Hezekiah, a notable king of Judah from 715 to 686 B.C. Apart from this statement, nothing more is said about his background. Whereas the prophet Micah dealt carefully and sympathetically with the problems of the common people of Judah, Zephaniah's utterances show a much greater familiarity with court circles and current political issues. Zephaniah was probably familiar with the writings of such prominent eighth-century prophets as Isaiah and Amos, whose utterances he reflects, and he may also have been aware of the ministry of the young Jeremiah.


 According to 1:1, Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 B.C.), making him a contemporary of Jeremiah, Nahum and perhaps Habakkuk. His prophecy is probably to be dated relatively early in Josiah's reign, before that king's attempt at reform (and while conditions brought about by the reigns of Manasseh and Amon still prevailed) and before the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal's death in 627 (while Assyria was still powerful, though threatened).


 See Introductions to Jeremiah and Nahum: Background; see also 2Ki 22:1-23:30; 2Ch 34-35.

Purpose and Theme

 The intent of the author was to announce to Judah God's approaching judgment. A Scythian incursion into Canaan may have provided the immediate occasion. This fierce, horse-mounted people originated in what is now southern Russia, but by the seventh century B.C. had migrated across the Caucasus and settled in and along the northern territories of the Assyrian empire. Alternately the enemies and allies of Assyria, they seem to have thrust south along the Mediterranean sometime in the 620s, destroying Ashkelon and Ashdod and halting at the Egyptian border only because of a payoff by Pharaoh Psamtik (Psammetichus). Ultimately, however, the destruction prophesied by Zephaniah came at the hands of the Babylonians after they had overpowered Assyria and brought that ancient power to its end.

 Zephaniah's main theme is the coming of the day of the Lord (see notes on Isa 2:11, 17, 20; Joel 1:15; 2:2; Am 5:18; 8:9), when God will severely punish the nations, including apostate Judah. He portrays the stark horror of that ordeal with the same graphic imagery found elsewhere in the prophets. But he also makes it clear that God will yet be merciful toward his people; like many other prophets, he ends his pronouncements of doom on the positive note of Judah's restoration.

The Rulers and Prophets of Zephaniah's Time


Kings of Assyria


669     Ashurbanipal       633

Ashuretililani 633-629   

   Sinsharishkun      629           612

Ashuruballit                    612-609

Kings of Babylon



 Fall of Nineveh

 Nabopolassar   626      605        

605 Nebuchadnezzar  562 


Kings of Judah(Southern Kingdom)

          Jehoiachin 3 months
      Amon 642-640 Jehoahaz 3 months 

697               Manasseh              642

640 Josiah  609

Jehoiakin 609-597Judah taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar
 Zedekiah 597-586

Zephaniah and His Contemporary Prophets     (Southern Kingdom)



636              623


605              Daniel              536



620       609


593                          559>


650       Nahum       620


627                     Jeremiah                       574


Zephaniah Interpretive Challenges

The book presents an unambiguous denunciation of sin and warning of imminent judgment on Judah. Some have referred the phrase “I will purify the lips of the peoples” (3:9) to the restoration of a universal language, similar to the days prior to confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel (Ge 11:1-9). The point out that the same Hebrew word translated “lips” is also used in (Ge 11:7). It is better, however, to understand the passage as pointing to a purification of heart and life.

This is confirmed by the context (3:13) and corroborated by the fact that the word “languages” is most commonly translated “lips,” as here. When combined with “purify,” the reference to speech speaks of inward cleansing from sin (Isa 6:5) manifested in speech (Mt 12:34), including the removal of the names of false gods from their lips (Hos 2:17). It does not imply a one world language.   


I. Introduction 1:1-3)

A. Title: The Prophet Identified (1:1)

B. Prologue: Double Announcement of Total Judgment (1:2-3)

II. The Day of the Lord Coming on Judah and the Nations (1:4-18)

A. Judgment on the Idolaters in Judah (1:4-9)

B. Waiting throughout Jerusalem (1:10-13)

C. The Inescapable Day of the Lord’s Wrath (1:14-18)

III. God’s Judgment on the Nations (2:1-3:8)

A. Call to Judah to Repent (2:1-3)

B. Judgment on Philistia (2:4-7)

C. Judgment on Moab and Ammon (2:8-11)

D. Judgment on Cush (2:12)

E. Judgment on Assyria (2:13-15)

F. Judgment on Jerusalem (3:1-5)

G. Jerusalem’s Refusal to Repent (3:6-8)

IV. Redemption of the Remnant (3:9-20)

A. The Nations Purified, the Remnant Restored, Jerusalem Purged (3:9-13)

B. Rejoicing in the City (3:14-17)

C. The Nation Restored (3:18-20)

Zephaniah Horizontal

1:1 - Come to Zephaniah

Universal vs.  2-3

1:2 - Sweep away  everything


1:7 - Prepared a sacrifice


1:10 - Traders have perished



1:14 - Day of the Lord


1:17 - Distress on people

2:1 - Seek the Lord

2:5 - Land of the Philistines

2:8 - Taunts of Moab


2:12 - Ethiopians shall be killed

Wrath on

2:13 - Destroy Assyria

The Nations

3:1 - Oppressing city

3:3 - unjust knows no shame

3:6 - Cut off nations


3:8 - Earth shall be consumed

3:9 - Change the speech


3:11 - Not put to shame

Day of Rejoicing

3:14 Rejoice and exult

God's character in Zephaniah

  1. God is judging - 1:2, 3; 2:2; 3:6, 7
  2. God is just - 3:5
  3. God is loving - 3:17
  4. God is wrathful - 1:14-18

Christ in Zephaniah

    Even though Zephaniah explicitly portrays the judgment pf God, Christ is present as the "Mighty One" who will bring salvation to the earth (3:17). Christ Himself made allusions to Zephaniah (1:3, see Matt 13:41; and 1:15, see Matt 24:29), further connecting the prophecies of Zephaniah and the second coming of Christ.