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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

Zephaniah - Introduction

Most distinctive about Zephaniah is the absolute devastation that characterizes his images of God's punishment of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. Like most other prophets, * Zephaniah calls attention to the crimes of Judah's leaders, their corruption and idolatry * ( 1.4–9; 3.1–7 ). And like other prophets, he anticipates and announces an impending disaster brought on Judah by God to punish it for its crimes ( 1.2–2.3 ). But Zephaniah's description of this disaster, called by him “the day of the LORD,” is unmatched in its intensity. The disaster is so sweeping and unbounded that nothing can survive it ( 1.2–3, 18 ). Two other kinds of material found in Zephaniah are typical of prophetic books. One is a collection of judgment speeches against Judah's neighbors ( 2.4–15; Am 1.3–2.3 ); the other is a speech announcing the restoration of Judah and the return of its exiles ( 3.8–20; Mic 4.6–13 ).

The title of Zephaniah's prophecy places his ministry during the reign of Josiah, who governed the southern kingdom of Judah during 640–609 BCE, not long before its fall in 587 BCE. Zephaniah's protest against the worship of other gods and his condemnation of foreign practices ( 1.4–9 ) may indicate that he preached during the height of Assyrian influence in the early years of Josiah's reign, before Josiah initiated the reforms recorded by Israel's historians (1 Kings 22.1–23.30 ). Such a date would make Zephaniah a contemporary of Jeremiah, who also predicted the fall of Judah and Jerusalem (Jer 7 ). The conclusion of the book of Zephaniah ( 3.8–20 ), if not from Zephaniah himself, was added by editors after Judah's fall to announce hope for its survivors and exiles.

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