Scripture reading – Zephaniah 1; Zephaniah 2

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Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Zephaniah, a minor prophet who ministered in Judah during the reign of King Josiah (Zephaniah 1:1). Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah.  Some suggest the “Hizkiah” mentioned in Zephaniah 1:1 is King Hezekiah; if so, Zephaniah was of that king’s lineage.

As noted in earlier devotionals, though he was a child king, Josiah set his heart to serve the LORD and obey His commandments (2 Chronicles 34:1-3). Perhaps the influence of the prophet Zephaniah was the impetus for the young king’s reforms.

Zephaniah 1


A Prophecy of Imminent Judgment (Zephaniah 1:1-4)

Zephaniah’s pronouncement of God’s judgment was frightening and graphic. He warned Judah that nothing would be spared the wrath of the LORD. Quoting “the word of the LORD” (1:1), Zephaniah prophesied: “I will consume man and beast… fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea…Judah…all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Zephaniah 1:3-4).

A Warning of the Day of the LORD’s Vengeance (1:5-9)

The sins and idolatry of Judah necessitated God’s judgment, for the people had “turned back from the Lord…[and] not sought the Lord, nor inquired for him” (Zephaniah 1:5-6). You will notice that “The Day of the Lord” was an oft-repeated phrase in Zephaniah 1 and warned of the day of God’s vengeance (Zephaniah 1:7, 8, 14, 18).

Zephaniah warned that the wicked would not be spared God’s judgment (Zephaniah 1:7-8). The young, proud leaders of Judah (“the princes, and the king’s children”) would be punished (Zephaniah 1:7-8). Why? They were “clothed in strange apparel” (perhaps the fashion of the heathen or the robes like the priests of Baal and Molech, 2 Kings 10:22). They had spurned the distinctive robes of their offices (perhaps the priesthood) and disobeyed the law (Deuteronomy 6:8).

The Terror of God’s Judgment

The Terror of God’s Judgment (Zephaniah 1:10-18)


We are reminded again that prophecies often have immediate applications and future implications. In the immediate, the “day of the LORD” was the day of God’s judgment against Judah, and Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. In the far-reaching implication, the “day of the LORD” is still the future and will be fulfilled at the Second Coming of Christ.

Zephaniah 1:10 mentioned “the noise of a cry from the fish gate…and a great crashing from the hills.” The Fish Gate was the second most important entrance into Jerusalem, with the “Sheep Gate” being the primary gate through which sheep were led to be sacrificed at the Temple.

Why was the Fish Gate important? That was the gate through which King Nebuchadnezzar passed when Babylon conquered Jerusalem! The city’s destruction and the people’s captivity would be so thorough it was likened to searching out every crevice of the city with candles (Zephaniah 1:12a).

Tragically, the people of Judah lived in denial of the imminent threat of God’s judgment and said, “The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil” (Zephaniah 1:12b). Yet, Zephaniah warned, the strongest men of Judah would be unable to save themselves. They would cry bitterly on the day of God’s judgment (Zephaniah 1:14).

Concerning the terror of the day of God’s judgment, we read, “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Zephaniah 1:15). The trumpets would sound the alarm (Zephaniah 1:16). Men would become “like blind men, because they [had] sinned against the LORD” (Zephaniah 1:17). The blood of men would be poured out into the streets, and “neither their silver nor their gold [would] be able to deliver them” (Zephaniah 1:18).

Having declared the severity of God’s wrath and judgment, Zephaniah left no doubt the time of judgment was at hand. 

A Warning of the Day of the LORD’s Vengeance

Zephaniah 2

An Exhortation to Judah to Repent (Zephaniah 2:1-3)

Remembering the LORD’s longsuffering, we are not surprised to read that the prophet Zephaniah called upon Judah to repent and, “seek…the LORD, all ye meek of the earth…seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger” (Zephaniah 2:3).

A Declaration of God’s Judgment Against Judah’s Adversaries (Zephaniah 2:4-15)

Having heralded God’s warning of imminent judgment against Judah, Zephaniah turned the focus of his message toward neighboring nations that had oppressed and taken pleasure in Judah’s afflictions (Zephaniah 2:4-15)

The Philistines (Zephaniah 2:4-7)

Zephaniah prophesied the LORD would punish the Philistines for their cruelties (Zephaniah 2:4-7). The prophet named four major Philistine cities (Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron) that would be “forsaken…a desolation…[driven] out… [and] rooted up” (Zephaniah 2:4). The once thriving seacoast towns would fall, and become “dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks” (Zephaniah 2:6). Yet, Zephaniah prophesied a future day when the “remnant of the house of Judah” would occupy the Philistines’ land (i.e., “in the houses of Ashkelon”) and dwell in peace (Zephaniah 2:7).

The Moabites and Ammonites (Zephaniah 2:8-11)

The Moabites and Ammonites (descendants of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters, Genesis 19:30-38) were condemned for having “reproached [God’s] people (Zephaniah 2:8). Like the Philistines, they succumbed to Babylon as divine punishment for their abuses of Israel. Their lands became a wasteland, like Sodom and Gomorrah, and their cities were destroyed by fire (Zephaniah 2:9-11; note Amos 1:13-2:3). 

The Ethiopians and Assyrians (Zephaniah 2:12-15)

Zephaniah prophesied the Ethiopians (of the lineage of Cush, whose land was southeast of Egypt on the continent of Africa) would be slain by the sword of the LORD (Zephaniah 2:12). Also, the once proud Assyrian empire would be destroyed (Zephaniah 1:13). The citizens of Nineveh, Assyria’s capital, were guilty of deifying the city as though it was a god (Zephaniah 2:15; Isaiah 47:10). Thus, the LORD determined Babylon would utterly destroy the city and it would “become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down” (Zephaniah 2:15; Isaiah 47:10).

Closing thought –

Despite the prophet’s warnings and King Josiah’s effort to call Judah to repent and turn to the LORD, the revival was short-lived. After Josiah’s death, the people returned to idolatry, and soon after, the armies of Babylon plundered the land, destroying the Temple and Jerusalem and leading the people into captivity.

The history of the world and the rise and fall of nations, kings, and cities should remind every generation that the LORD is Sovereign. The Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Ethiopians, Assyrians, Israel, and finally, Judah all fell to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, whom God declared in Jeremiah 43:10 to be His “servant.”

It is comforting to be reminded that God is sovereign and regardless of who might rule a nation, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

Friend, Jesus Christ the LORD is King and Sovereign of the earth! I invite you to make Him the sovereign of your heart and life by opening your heart to Him and accepting Him as your Savior and LORD.

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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