I. THE NAME OF THE BOOK
A. It is named after the prophet.
B. His name meant:
1. "YHWH has hidden" (word play on 2:3d)
2. "YHWH watches"
A. This book is part of the "latter prophets" (Ecclesiasticus 49:10).
B. It is part of "the Twelve," a grouping of minor prophets (Baba Bathra 14b):
1. like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, they fit on one scroll
2. represent the twelve tribes or the symbolic number of organization
3. reflect traditional view of the books chronology
C. The order of "the Twelve" or Minor Prophets has been linked by many scholars to a chronological sequence. It is obvious that Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah form a unit.
A. This was classical Hebrew prophecy (poetry) which focused on the themes of sin, judgement and restoration.
B. 3:14-20 may be an ancient hymn/psalm.
A. The book had an unusually long genealogy: ". . .son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah," 1:1.
1. This implies that he was of the royal line of Judah. If the Hezekiah listed is the king of Judah (715-687 b.c.), then this seems to be the purpose of the lengthy genealogy.
2. Possibly the length is to prove his Jewishness because his father's name was Cushi (Ethiopian).
B. Many believe he was cousin to Josiah and was possibly trained by the same teachers as the godly King.
C. Three others in the OT have the same name: I Chr. 6:36-38; Jer. 21:1; II Kgs. 25:18-21; 29:25; 37:3; 52:24-27; Zech. 6:10,14.
A. Zephaniah spoke during the life of the godly King Josiah (640-609 b.c.).
B. Because of the internal tensions in Judah mentioned in the book, 1:4-6, 8-9, 12; 3:1-3, it seems that the recipients were Judeans before Josiah's reform was instituted (621 b.c., cf. II Kgs. 22:8-13).
VI. HISTORICAL SETTING
A. Some see God's instrument of invasion
1. as the Scythian hordes (NIV, Clyde Francisco says 626 b.c.) which had earlier attacked Assyria
2. Heroditus (I:103-106) says that the Scythians invaded through Palestine as far as Egypt before they were turned back by Pharaoh Psammetichus I (663-609 b.c.) by a pay off.
B. Although the Scythian invasion is possible, probably it is Babylon that invaded Judah. Most scholars see the invaders as Babylon.
VII. LITERARY UNITS (taken from Introduction to the Old Testament by R. K. Harrison, p. 939-940)
A. The Day of the Lord, 1:1-2:3
1. Threat of desolation against Ba'al worshipers, 1:2-6.
2. The implications of the Day of the Lord, 1:7-13.
3. The ensuing judgement, 1:14-18.
4. Means of avoiding judgement, 2:1-3.
B. Judgements Against Foreign Nations, 2:4-15
1. Philistia, 2:4-7
2. Moab and Ammon, 2:8-11
3. Egypt, 2:12
4. Assyria, 2:13-15
C. Woe and Blessing, 3:1-20
1. Threat of punishment for Jerusalem, 3:1-7
2. Assurance of blessing for the faithful remnant, 3:8-20
VIII. MAIN TRUTHS
A. This prophet warns of the approaching invasion of Judah. The reason for this act of judgement was the rampant idolatry in Jerusalem which was begun by Manasseh. Zephaniah used the concept of "the Day of the Lord." Often the prophets used a crisis in their day to foreshadow future, end-time events.
B. There is a call to repentance in 2:3. Judah's only hope was in the Messiah's love (3:17) and presence (3:15 & 17)!
C. It is obvious that God used Assyria to punish Israel and this Fertile Crescent empire now stands judged but, so too, Judah!
IX. TERMS AND/OR PHRASES AND PERSONS TO DEFINE
A. Terms and/or Phrases
1. "the idolatrous priests," 1:4 (NASB & NIV)
2. "the host of heaven," 1:5 (NIV, "the starry hosts")
3. "the day of the Lord is near," 1:7 (NASB & NIV)
4. "all who leap on the threshold," 1:9 (NIV, "all who avoid stepping on the threshold")
5. "the Mortar," 1:11 (NIV, "the market district")
6. "and flocks will lie down in her midst, all beasts which range in herds," 2:14 (NASB & NIV)
7. "everyone who passes by her will hiss and wave his hand in contempt," 2:15 (NIV, "all who pass by her scoff and shake their fists")
8. "My holy mountain," 3:11 (NIV, "my holy hill")
1. Cushi, 1:1
2. Milcom, 1:5 (NIV, "molech")
3. Cherethites, 2:5 (NIV, "kerethite")
X. MAP LOCATIONS
1. Gaza, 2:4 4. Ekron, 2:4
2. Ashkelon, 2:4 5. Sodom and Gomorrah, 2:9
3. Ashdod, 2:4 6. Ethiopia, 2:12 (NIV, "Cushites")
XI. STUDENT CONTENT QUESTIONS
1. Why does Zephaniah have the longest genealogy of any of the OT prophets?
2. Why is Zephaniah's prophecy of judgement worse than Noah's flood?
3. Define and explain the concept of "the Day of the Lord."
4. Why was Judah even more sinful and guilty than Israel?
5. Does 3:9 have a universal element which relates to the Gentiles? Why (3:8)?
6. How does 3:17 show us the heart of God?