AUTHOR AND DATE
Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah (640–609 B.C.), a Judean king who sought to reestablish acceptable worship practices (2 Kings 22:1–23:30). The name of the prophet, “Zephaniah” means “Yahweh has hidden/protected” which could indicated his parents’ piety, as they trusted in God during the godless reign of Manasseh. The genealogy in 1:1 may indicate that Zephaniah was a descendant of Hezekiah, the pious ruler of Judah before two wicked kings assumed the throne.
THE GOSPEL IN ZEPHANIAH
During his reign, King Manasseh brought Judah into idolatry, even going so far as setting up altars to the pagan god Baal. Amon, his son, was no better, and was assassinated two years into his reign. That meant Josiah, who became king at age 8, inherited a country that had long rebelled against God. But at age 16, he discovered the scroll of the Law in the temple and initiated a massive countrywide reform to return his people to faithfulness to God’s law.
Zephaniah prophesied during these times (see Zeph. 1:1). While we don’t know exactly when the book was written, it appears to have been part of the reform effort. Zephaniah rebuked the people for their sins, pride, and false worship, describing the Lord’s judgment in vivid detail. But the promise of judgment is preparation for the word of grace (3:9–20), where Zephaniah exhorts Judah to sing because God has taken her judgments away. At the climax of the book we hear one of the Bible’s deepest assurances of God’s invincible love for his people:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love.” (3:16–17)
Zephaniah’s prophecy, taken as a whole, points to Jesus. We learn from this prophet of the steadfast love of a just God. Such a love would ultimately provide the One who took the punishment for his people’s sins to satisfy divine justice. For those who trust in him, the “day of the Lord” foretold in Zephaniah has already taken place, on Christ’s cross (1 John 2:2). In Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), we see just how true the Lord’s words are that he is “in our midst” and is “a mighty one who will save.
Zephaniah’s exhortation to Judah has clear application to us today. On the one hand, he exhorts us to repent of our sins and idolatry because of the purity of God’s holiness and the fierceness of his jealousy. Yet we also rejoice, with overflowing praise, because the God who judges is the very God who redeems. Then as now, he rejoices over his people with gladness. Zephaniah’s prophecy is rich in the grace of God that ultimately climaxes with the coming of Jesus and the preaching of the gospel.
- Heading (1:1)
- Judgment Coming against Judah (1:2–6)
- The Day of the Lord (1:7–3:20)
- Day of sacrifice and punishment (1:7–9)
- The coming wrath (1:10–18)
- Repentance is still possible (2:1–3)
- Nations warned (2:4–3:8)
- Anticipation of hope (3:9–20)
* Taken from ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.
For a video on Zephaniah via the Bible Project, click here.
This week’s Bible reading schedule:
|Monday: Zephaniah 3||☐||Thursday: Zechariah 5-6||☐|
|Tuesday: Zechariah 1-2||☐||Friday: Zechariah 7||☐|
|Wednesday: Zechariah 3-4||☐||Saturday: Zechariah 8||☐|