The word of the Lord came to Zephaniah in the reign of Josiah (約西亞) the son of Amon (亞們), king of Judah. (1:1) Josiah’s reign is 640-609 BC. Assyria is conquered by Babylon in 612 BC. The fall of Assyria is prophesied by Zephaniah in 2:13-15.

“The day or time of the Lord” is emphasized many times throughout the book. (1:7,8,10,12,14,15,18; 2:2,3; 3:8,11,16,19,20) “That day” carries totally different meaning to different people. To the wicked, it is a day of wrath, pointing either to the downfall of Judah and the nations, or, more significantly, to the tribulation at the end of the world. To God’s people, it is a day of joy and salvation, either pointing to the return of the captivity from Babylon (2:7, 3:20) or the eternal salvation at the end of the world.

The day of the Lord: a day of wrath for the unrighteous

The Lord’s day is described as “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, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities and the high towers.” (1:15-16) “Desolation” has appeared 8 times. (1:13,15; 2:4,9,13,14,15; 3:6)

In that day, the Lord will do the following:

  • He will consume everything, man, beast, fowls, fish, and “the wicked”. (1:2-3)
  • I will stretch out my hand (伸手攻擊) upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; cut off the Baal worshippers, the priests, those who deserted the Lord; punish the princes (首領; NRSV, ‘officials’), the king’s children, and all those that are “clothed with strange apparel (穿外邦衣服; NRSV, ‘foreign attire’)”; punish those that “fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit”. (1:4-9)
  • All the merchants will be cut down. Their goods shall become a booty (掠物) and their houses a desolation. They shall also build houses but not inhabit them. They shall plant vineyards but not drink the wine. (1:10-13)
  • The mighty man shall cry bitterly. (1:14)
  • For those who have sinned against the Lord, their blood shall be poured out as dust and their flesh as the dung. Their gold or silver cannot deliver them. (1:17-18)
  • The whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy. (1:18)
  • Gaza shall be forsaken and Ashkelon a desolation. Ashdod and Ekron shall be rooted up. The land of the Philistines shall be destroyed, that there shall be no inhabitant. The sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds and folds for flocks. The coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah. They shall feed there. (2:4-7)
  • Moab and Ammon have reproached my people and magnified themselves against their border (侵犯他們的境界). Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles (變為刺草) and saltpits and a perpetual desolation. The residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them. (2:8-10)
  • Ethiopians shall be slain by my sword. (2:12)
  • Assyria will be destroyed and Nineveh a desolation, because she said in her heart, "I am, and there is none besides me." (2:13-15)
  • Nations are cut off because they corrupted all their doings. I will assemble the kingdoms to pour upon my indignation, for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. (3:6-8)

Purpose of the prophesy

1. Establish sovereignty.

The Lord will be terrible unto them, for he will famish (使瘦弱) all the gods of the earth, and men shall worship Him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen (列國海島的居民). (2:11)

2. Execute righteousness.

The Lord brings his judgment to light (顯明他的公義). The oppressing city obeyed not the voice; she received not correction. She trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God. Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; her prophets are light and treacherous persons (虛浮詭詐的人); her priests have polluted the sanctuary; they have done violence to the law. (3:1-5)

3. Give warning signal.

Before the day of the Lord’s anger come upon you, seek ye the Lord; seek righteousness and meekness (謙卑). It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger. (2:1-3)

The day of the Lord: a day of comfort for His people

  • The land of the Philistines, the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds and folds for flocks. The coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah. They shall feed there. In the houses of Ashkelon they shall lie down in the evening, for the Lord their God shall visit (眷顧) them and turn away their captivity (使他們被擄的人歸回). (2:5-7)
  • I will turn to the people a pure language (使萬民用清潔的言語) (NRSV—‘change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech’), that they may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent (同心合意地事奉我). The daughter of my dispersed (我所分散的民) shall bring my offering. They shall trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth, for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. (3:9-13)
  • Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments (刑罰); he hath cast out thine enemy. The king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee; thou shall not see evil any more. In the time that I gather you, I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity (使你們被擄之人歸回的時候). (3:14-20)