Zephaniah - The Day of the Lord
(May 28, 2017 version)


Zephaniah is a book that contrasts the fierce wrath of God with the tender mercy of God. In both dreadful and hopeful ways, Zephaniah mentions the Day of the Lord more than other prophets. Zephaniah emphasizes the Lord's jealousy, and that He will come in their midst.

Dating of Zephaniah: Zephaniah was written between the start of the reign of Manasseh (640 B.C.) to before the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. Since the king's sons were criticized for wearing foreign clothes in Zephaniah 2:13, it probably means they were old enough to choose their own wardrobe. This might put Zephaniah after the scrolls of the Law were discovered in the temple by Hilkiah in 622 B.C.

Early writers who quote or allude to Zephaniah

Epistle of Barnabas (100-150 A.D.) (allusion) Athanasius of Alexandria (367 A.D.)
Melito of Sardis refers to the twelve minor prophets Ephraem the Syrian (350-378 A.D.) allusion
Clement of Alexandria (193-202 A.D.) Cyril of Jerusalem (c.349-385 A.D.)
Origen (225-254 A.D.) Jerome (373-420 A.D.)
Treatise Against Novatian (c.248-258 A.D.) Augustine of Hippo (388-430 A.D.)
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.) Semi-Pelagian John Cassian (419-430 A.D.)


Early manuscripts of Zephaniah
Dead Sea scroll 4Q77 (=4QIIb) Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.)
Dead Sea scroll 4Q78 (=4QXIIc) Sinaiticus (Si) 340-350 A.D.)
Commentary on Zechariah 1Q15 (=1QpZeph) Vulgate (4th-5th century)
Nahal Hever (50 B.C. to 50 A.D.) Alexandrinus (=A) c.450 A.D.)
The wadi Murabb'at scroll (Mur XII) from c.132 A.D.  


An outline of Zephaniah
A: Combining five different Christian sources, here is an outline:
1:1-3 Destruction of everything
1:4-13 Judgment of Judah
1:14-2:3 The Day of the Lord
2:4-15 Judgment on other nations
3:1-7/8 Judgment on Jerusalem
3:8/9-20 God's Restoration

Main events between 640 to 612 B.C.
664 B.C. Ashurbanipal and the Assyrians try to capture Tyre   614 B.C. Babylonians capture Asshur and Calah in Assyria
630/625 The Scythians raided Israel according to Herodotus   614 Medes try to take Nineveh, Assyrian capital
642-639 Assyrians sack Susa in Elam   c.613-12 Medes sack Nineveh (Babylonians too late)
633 Assyrians sack Thebes in Egypt   -616-612 Assyrian Empire ends
c.631/27 Medes under Kyaxares besiege Nineveh   612 Medes conquer Armenia
628-571 Lydians fight Cimmerians   612-609 Last of Assyrians destroyed
626/625 Babylonians gain independence   611-604 Lydian Alyattes fights Thrasybulus of Miletus
625 Cyaxares the Mede drives Scythians from Iran   610-605 Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II fights in Syria
620 Assyrian vassal states in open revolt   609 Medes capture Tuspa, Urartian capital
620-619 Lydian Sadyattes & his son Alyattes II fight   609-606 Babylonians raid northern Israel
615 Arrapkha in Assyria captured   609/608 Egyptians destroy Megiddo & attack Gaza

Zephaniah 1:1-2:3 The Fierce Day of the Lord Against Judah


1. In Zeph 1:1, who was Zephaniah?



2. In Zeph 1:1, why is Zephaniah the only prophet with his ancestry listed?


3. In Zeph 1:2, since God would consume all on the land, including specifically men and animals, how come some things, including men and animals, are left in Palestine?


4. In Zeph 1:2-3, when will God consume even the animals?


5. In Zeph 1:4, why did God cut off the worship of Baal?



6. In Zeph 1:5, who was Malcom/Milcom?



7. In Zeph 1:7, who are God's guests for a sacrifice?



8. In Zeph 1:7,9,10,14 (2x), 15 (5x),16; 2:2,3; 3:8,11,16, also 1:8,19; 2:3, Isa 2:12; 13:6,9; Jer 46:10; Ezek 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1,11,31, 3:14; Amos 5:18,20; Obad 15, Zeph 14:1; Mal 4:5, how is the day of the Lord near for people?


9. In Zeph 1:9, what is the significance of stepping over the threshold?



10. In Zeph 1:12, how are the persistent evil like wine left on its dregs?



11. In Zeph 1:12, why does it seem that sometimes God will not do good or evil?



12. In Zeph 1:14-18, should people look forward to the day of the Lord?



13. In Zeph 2:1, what is interesting about the word "shamed"?

Zephaniah 2:4-15 Judgment on Other Nations


1. In Zeph 2:4, what is poetic about these words?




2. In Zeph 2:5, since the land of the Philistines will have no inhabitants, why does it have inhabitants today?




3. In Zeph 2:8, when (if at all) is it appropriate to taunt or insult someone?




4. In Zeph 2:9, how come there were Moabites and Ammonites after the exile?



5. In Zeph 2:11, why does everyone who dwells on the earth not worship God?



6. In Zeph 2:12, how are "Ethiopians slain by my sword"?



7. In Zeph 2:14, what is appropriate about the flocks?



8. In Zeph 2:14, what is the meaning behind mentioning owls?



9. In Zeph 2:8-15 how did the pride of Moab and Ammon differ from the pride of Assyria?




10. In Zeph 2:15 what is the significance of the description here?



11. In Zeph 2:4-15 why are people quick and eager to see the evil in others, but not in themselves?

Zephaniah 3 After Judgment is Restoration


1. In Zeph 3:1-2 what is the relationship between being an oppressor, not accepting correction, and not trusting in the Lord?



2. In Zeph 3:5,11,19 why does Zephaniah emphasize shame?



3. In Zeph 3:2,7, what did God expect them to accept correction about?



4. In Zeph 3:2,7, why did God expect them to fear Him and accept correction?



5. In Zeph 3:2,7, why do some people, even bad people, accept correction, and others not?






6. In Zeph 3:8, why does God tell people to "wait for Him"?



7. In Zeph 3:9 what does this mean?



8. In Zeph 3:15-20, what does God promise to a crushed and guilty people? What else does God promise?



9. In Zeph 3:15, when will Jerusalem never again fear any harm?



10. In Zeph 3:17, how do you cultivate tenderness towards God?



11. In Zeph 3:19, what does it mean by the lame and outcast/driven away?

Zephaniah 1:1-2:3 The Fierce Day of the Lord Against Judah - some brief answers

1. In Zeph 1:1, who was Zephaniah?
A: Since the name Hezekiah is not qualified, this most likely means Zephaniah was the great grandson of Hezekiah the king on his father's side, and thus distantly related to the current King Josiah. Between Hezekiah and Josiah were almost 50 years of only evil kings.
Zephaniah was not a priest. Since he was the paternal grandson of King Hezekiah, and the kings were from the tribe of Judah, Hezekiah was from Judah. The priests were all from the tribe of Levi. One did not have to be a priest or minister to proclaim the word of God, either then or today. Though he was not a priest, Zephaniah was a person familiar with Deuteronomy. He alludes to Deuteronomy in nine places: Dt 1:13,15,17; 2:2,5,7,11; 3:5,19-20 according to The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.538
There were three other people in the Old Testament with the same name: 1) 1 Chronicles 6:36-38; 2) 2 Kings 25:18-21 and 3) Jeremiah 52:24-27; and Zechariah 6:10,14 according to The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.537 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1523.

2. In Zeph 1:1, why is Zephaniah the only prophet with his ancestry listed?
A: The fathers of other prophets generally were given, but generally not their ancestors. Zephaniah was descended from King Hezekiah, and perhaps this was mentioned to remind the people of King Hezekiah's reforms.
Both Hezekiah and Josiah were godly kings, but there were no godly kings between them. See the Believers Bible Commentary p.1147, the New Geneva Study Bible p.1451, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1523-1524 for more info.

3. In Zeph 1:2, since God would consume all on the land, including specifically men and animals, how come some things, including men and animals, are left in Palestine?
A: This refers to the wanton destruction of the land, as well as the people, by the Babylonian army. It does not say the destruction was permanent.
Furthermore, many prophecies have a dual fulfillment, and this could also refer to the future destruction of the earth.

4. In Zeph 1:2-3, when will God consume even the animals?
A: In two ways. At the end, God will sweep the earth clean at the end. In addition, the Babylonian invasion would be like a "broom" that sweeps the land of Judah. It is curious that the animals are mentions in exactly the reverse order mentioned in Creation in Genesis 1:20-26. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1525

5. In Zeph 1:4, why did God cut off the worship of Baal?
A: The Lord despises the worship of idol gods. Since this is the case, it does not make much sense for believers to have any idols in their homes.

6. In Zeph 1:5, who was Malcom/Milcom?
A: This was another name for the idol Molech. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.705 mentions that Molech was an Ammonite god worshipped with human sacrifice. Molech might be the same as the idol Muluk worshipped at Mari around 1700 B.C..

7. In Zeph 1:7, who are God's guests for a sacrifice?
A: Three points to consider in the answer.
1. Zephaniah 1:7 could refer to the Great Supper of the Lamb mentioned in Revelation 19, or it could be the time of judgment of Judah prior to that, or it could be a dual reference. Nahum 1:3-5 is a second example of a dual reference. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1525 for more on the view that both are "two parts of one grand event".
2. When an earthly king had a triumphal procession there were guests who were happy to be there and "guests" who were prisoners and not at all happy to be there. The question boils down to which type of guest is intended.
3. Willing guests view: At the supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19, the guests are believers. In Zephaniah 1:7, the New Geneva Study Bible believes these might be the nations who are judging Israel or else believers. The Believer's Bible Commentary p.1149 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1526 believe these are the nations judging Judah.

8. In Zeph 1:7,9,10,14 (2x), 15 (5x),16; 2:2,3; 3:8,11,16, also 1:8,19; 2:3, Isa 2:12; 13:6,9; Jer 46:10; Ezek 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1,11,31, 3:14; Amos 5:18,20; Obad 15, Zeph 14:1; Mal 4:5, how is the day of the Lord near for people?
A: the Day of the Lord of "that day" is mentioned in 19 places. Zephaniah 1:7,9,10,14 (2x), 15 (5x), 16, 2:2,3; 3:8,11,16
The Day of the LORD's sacrifice is in Zephaniah 1:8
The Day of the LORD's wrath/anger 1:19; 2:3
At that time is in Zephaniah 3:20 (2x)
The appointed time Zephaniah 2:2

9. In Zeph 1:9, what is the significance of stepping over the threshold?
A: This refers to the pagan practice of not stepping on the threshold out of reverence for the idol Dagon. The statue's head was broken when the Philistines had the ark, as 1 Samuel 5:5 mentions. The Philistines, Babylonians, and Phoenicians, as well as some idolatrous Israelites worshipped Dagon. The Lord did not want them holding other gods in respect. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1527 for more info.

10. In Zeph 1:12, how are the persistent evil like wine left on its dregs?
A: "The analogy of wine left on its dregs suggests that the nation had become spiritually polluted. Wine allowed to ferment for a long time forms a hard crust and the liquid becomes syrupy, bitter, and unpalatable. Instead of removing the dregs of daily pollution, Judah had become hardened and indifferent to God." The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1527

11. In Zeph 1:12, why does it seem that sometimes God will not do good or evil?
A: Sometimes God wants to see what we will do. God cannot judge a person's actions if they have no opportunity to do good or evil.

12. In Zeph 1:14-18, should people look forward to the day of the Lord?
A: Ungodly people definitely should not. Godly people should look forward to their redemption. However, realize that like birth, a painful time comes before the joy.

13. In Zeph 2:1, what is interesting about the word "shamed"?
A: In Hebrew shame is niksap, which comes from the word kasap, which means to be pale or white with shame. The word kesep means silver. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1529.

Zephaniah 2:4-15 Judgment on Other Nations - some brief answers


1. In Zeph 2:4, what is poetic about these words?
A: There are two plays on words here. In Hebrew The word for "Gaza" sound similar to the word for "abandoned", and the word for "Ekron" sounds similar to the word for "uprooted". See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.553 for more info.

2. In Zeph 2:5, since the land of the Philistines will have no inhabitants, why does it have inhabitants today?
A: In Zephaniah 2:5, Kerethites are another term for Philistines. There are no Philistine inhabitants today. In fact, there is no Philistia today, as the people living in the Gaza strip are Palestinians, not related to Philistines.
Kerethites were another name for the Philistines or at least a part o the Philistines. The name actually meant people from Crete, which was the original homeland of the Philistines and other Sea Peoples. The Minoan Civilization was very rich and powerful, until it was destroyed by a combination of volcano and the Mycenaean Greeks. There were five main Philistine cities and four of the five are mentioned, going from south to north. A fifth one, Gath, was not mentioned, probably because it was so thoroughly destroyed by King Uzziah in 2 chronicles 26:2. Kerethite can also mean cut off, in a punning sense. Philistia "by the sea"
Gaza ('azzah) like abandon ('azubah). Ekron ('eqron) like uproot (ta'aqer). Kerethites are also mentioned in 1 Samuel 30:14; 2 Samuel 8:18; 20:23; 1 Chronicles 18:17; Ezekiel 25:16. Caphtorites, or Cretans, are also mentioned in Jeremiah 47:4 and Amos 9:7. Necho II of Egypt, reigning from 609-599 B.C., destroyed the Philistines.

3. In Zeph 2:8, when (if at all) is it appropriate to taunt or insult someone?
A: 1 Peter 3:15 says "...Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect," (NIV). Even more, 1 Peter 2:23a gives the example of Jesus, who When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats." (NIV) We should remember that the point is not to win an argument, but to win them to Christ.
But do not try to make meekness or gentleness an excuse for lack of boldness. Peter might have been meek, but he was also bold in Acts 4:8-13.
On the other hand, what about those, what while they might not be won to Christ, are actively teaching others soul-perishing things? Those people should be publicly rebuked as John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and Peter did in numerous places. Jesus was harsh towards the Pharisees in Luke 11:37-52 and other places, though not with all Pharisees, such as Nicodemus in John 3:1-21. Paul was harsh to Elymas in Acts 13:9-11. Peter rebuked the Jewish leaders in Acts 5:28-30, saying bluntly, they murdered Jesus. Peter sounded harsh to Simon in Acts 8:20-23.

4. In Zeph 2:9, how come there were Moabites and Ammonites after the exile?
A: This verse did not say when the Moabites and Ammonites would be come extinct, only that they would. In fact, Nabateans (around 325 B.C.) and other Arabs later came and settled in these lands of modern-day Jordan. The Nabateans also conquered the east part of Edom. According to the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.41-42, the Ammonites were finally conquered by Judas Maccabeus in 1 Maccabees 5:6.
The land also became desolate, in that it is dry desert today where it used to simply be arid range.
Moab and Ammon, but no Edom

5. In Zeph 2:11, why does everyone who dwells on the earth not worship God?
A: They do not now, but when Christ comes again and removes the unbelievers, all will worship God during the millennium in Revelation 20:4-5, and also on the new earth in Revelation 21:1-3.
In Zephaniah 2:11 it could either be translated "The Lord will be awesome" or else "The Lord will be against them". Regardless though, the meaning is that the Lord will be awesome against them.

6. In Zeph 2:12, how are "Ethiopians slain by my sword"?
A: While this could refer solely to the land of Ethiopia, it is more likely that it refers to Egypt as well, since they were one kingdom just prior to the Assyrian invasion. Egypt was under the control of an Ethiopian Dynasty from about 728 B.C. to the conquest of Egypt by Esarhaddon of Assyria in 671 B.C. The Ethiopians tried to revolt around 664 B.C. but were defeated. Zephaniah wrote around 630 to 612 B.C.
See Pharaohs and Kings : A Biblical Quest p.22-23 for more info.

7. In Zeph 2:14, what is appropriate about the flocks?
A: Assyria was a nation where armies lived; it had too many people to just support itself by agriculture. In the future there will be armies living there too; armies of sheep and cattle that is.

8. In Zeph 2:14, what is the meaning behind mentioning owls?
A: A lot happens at night time when people are not around. The land will not be barren; there might be a lot happening as far as wildlife is concerned, but humans will not be part of it. Owl qol = voice

9. In Zeph 2:8-15 how did the pride of Moab and Ammon differ from the pride of Assyria?
A: H.A. Ironside emphasizes the pretensions of these wicked nations. Assyria was a militarily impressive nation; Moab and Ammon never were. Assyria had something they thought they could be proud of, though in an evil, perverse way. Moab and Ammon had nothing to be proud of, but they were proud anyway. Zephaniah 2:15 says people would scoff and raise their firsts at Assyria. They would not do that so much to Moab and Ammon.

10. In Zeph 2:15 what is the significance of the description here?
A: This is not just that it is a desolate place for wild beasts. Rather it is the contrast between the former crowded city and the desolate place in the future.

11. In Zeph 2:4-15 why are people quick and eager to see the evil in others, but not in themselves?
A: this is perhaps one of the many varied aspects of our fallen nature. Many are blind, sometimes willfully so, to the sins and selfishness in themselves and their children. But they not only see quickly many genuine faults in others, but sometimes they see bad things that are not really there, or not there to the degree they think. Jesus talked about pulling the log out of your own eye before trying to remove the speck from someone else's in Matthew 7:3-5 and Luke 6:41-42.

Zephaniah 3 After Judgment is Restoration - some brief answers


1. In Zeph 3:1-2 what is the relationship between being an oppressor, not accepting correction, and not trusting in the Lord?
A: These were three sins of Jerusalem spoken against in Zephaniah. Verses 3-4 explain in more detail. People can oppress for at least three reasons: they are arrogant, they do not want to be under someone, and they are fearful that if they stop they will be oppressed, as they have oppressed others. A person might want to be their own boss, just so they don't have to accept correction from anyone else.

2. In Zeph 3:5,11,19 why does Zephaniah emphasize shame?
A: It is said that many western societies are "truth-based" societies, at least before post-modernism. But many eastern societies, including in the Mideast, India, and the orient are "honor/shame-based" societies. Some people are more concerned about being correct or knowing the truth than being an honorable person. Others are more concerned about being an honorable person than in being right, or even fighting for the right side. Zephaniah emphasizes honor instead of shame in Zephaniah 3:19.

3. In Zeph 3:2,7, what did God expect them to accept correction about?
A: Zephaniah 3:1 says they oppressed others, they were rebellious, and they were defiled.
They oppressed others, especially their rulers in Zephaniah 3:3-4. Sometimes religious leaders, by their position, oppress others too. Sometimes people give no thought whatsoever to others.
They were rebellious in that they accepted correction and would obey no one in Zephaniah 3:2. Sometimes a person will not obey certain people they do not respect; however here it says they will obey no one.
They were defiled in that rather than drawing near to God (Zephaniah 3:2), their drawing near to the sanctuary only profaned it (Zephaniah 3:4b).

4. In Zeph 3:2,7, why did God expect them to fear Him and accept correction?
A: Even though they did not have the Holy Spirit inside them, and even though some of them might not have received godly instruction, they still would know something of God by nature and the truth that they did have. They still had their conscience. There is a sense of "oughtness" here; that they should have done some things they did not do, and not done some things that they did.

5. In Zeph 3:2,7, why do some people, even bad people, accept correction, and others not?
A: If there is something that looks enticing to do, different people might think about it in at least four different ways.
Risk: Some might look at the desirability, balanced by the severity and probability (often judged by frequency) of getting caught. They might also look at the urgency of the action (offer good today only), and if how much they want to believe it. On the other hand, some are reckless, meaning that they don't even bother to think about possible negative consequences.
Sin management: Some might want to be "a little bad and a little good". Not bad by too much, but they think a little is OK at long as they don't overdo it. Robin hood was said to rob from the rich and give to the poor. Robbing itself is bad, and if you rob people, God is not at all impressed with giving a portion of wealth, that never belonged to you in the first place, to others.
Blocking the desire to sin: Some might want to commit the sin, but something, such as getting caught, or seeing possible future consequences will stop them. I know of an atheist who would never get drunk, or even drink. He was a long-distance runner, and he would not commit the sin of getting drunk because he wanted to stay in good shape. I know of another non-religious college student who would never have sex before marriage. He really wanted his wife to be a virgin before he got marriage, and he figured that for that to happen he would need to be too. I know of a heavy smoker, who when he was discharged from the military was given his lung x-rays and told to walk them to another office. He peeked at them, and saw that they were all black. So he threw away his cigarettes right then and there, and never smoked again. He did not know that those x-rays were over-exposed. The point is that people can decide not to commit some sins for reasons that have nothing to do with God.
Desire to please God: Sometimes when something might look enticing, a Christian might remember that God is watching him, remember how much God loves them and has done for them, and as a result does not try to commit that sin for one simple reason: they just don't want to.

6. In Zeph 3:8, why does God tell people to "wait for Him"?
A: While we should wait patiently on God, that is not at all what this verse means.
In Zephaniah 3:8, when God is telling evildoers to "wait for Me" God is using irony according to the New International Bible Commentary p.956. When people are doing violence to God's people, God is saying, "rest assured, I will be coming after you."

7. In Zeph 3:9 what does this mean?
A: This means to purify the lips of the people. It is not referring to a particular language, such as Greek or Hebrew, but rather to using proper godly speech in any language.

8. In Zeph 3:15-20, what does God promise to a crushed and guilty people? What else does God promise?
A: God promises His protection, so that this won't happen again to God's chosen people. Of course some people wonder about God's promises in light of the Holocaust. Some that concluded that God's not protecting them from genocide means does not consider the Jews His chosen people anymore. But regardless of the theology behind the evil that happened then, Revelation 7:5-8 assures us that Jewish people have a special place in God' will in the future.
But even more important that God's protection is God's promise of His presence. He will be with His chosen people; though there will still be trials, God will carry us through them.

9. In Zeph 3:15, when will Jerusalem never again fear any harm?
A: The last verses of the minor prophets speak of God's future judgment and/or the Millennium, and Zephaniah is no exception. This speaks of the time after the tribulation, after God assembles all the nations and comes in power in Zephaniah 3:8. However, Jews would be able to know that until God has cleared away all their enemies (in Zephaniah 3:15), then they can fear disaster no more. It will come true in the Millennium in Revelation 20:4-5, and when the New Jerusalem comes down in Revelation 21:2.

10. In Zeph 3:17, how do you cultivate tenderness towards God?
A: Hold God in awe, desire to draw closer to Him, and then spend time with Him in prayer and in the word. Here are four aspects.
Spiritual breathing: be in constant prayer with God as you go about your day.
Devote quality time exclusively to God: Take some time every day, such as in the morning, to concentrate solely on God in Bible Study, prayer, and meditation on Him.
Fellowship with other believers one-on-one or in small groups.
Worship in larger groups, such as on Sunday mornings.

11. In Zeph 3:19, what does it mean by the lame and outcast/driven away?
A: Some animals were considered so inferior that it was not desired to keep them in the herd. If they were not even worth killing for food (due to size or fear of disease), the shepherds could only drive them away. Here God is promising that no matter how worthless they might feel, at that time God will bring them to His herd. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.376 for more info.

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