We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Zephaniah - Introduction

THE BOOK OF ZEPHANIAH claims to be a particular instance of the LORD's word, namely that associated with Zephaniah, the son of Cushi (see 1.1 and n. ). The book is set in the time of Josiah (late 7th centuryBCE), the last great king of Judah according to the books of Kings and Chronicles. Judah as described in Zephaniah is quite an ungodly place, however. This is to be expected: Prophetic books that include divine announcements of judgment and destruction against Judah tend for obvious reasons to describe the social and religious situation in monarchic Judah in harsh, negative terms.

Some scholars attempted to harmonize the godly image of Josianic times in the historical books and its negative characterization here by assigning the circumstances described in the book to a time when Josiah was still a minor and consequently did not actually rule over the land, or to a time after his death. But this is not the claim of the book of Zephaniah. To be sure, the king is not explicitly criticized when all the leadership of Judah is condemned, but the same can be said of other prophetic books (e.g., Micah) and it is difficult to reach historical conclusions on this basis. Some scholars associate the oracles against the nations in chapter 2 with a presumed plan for territorial expansion that was advanced by King Josiah, but either never materialized or did so to only a very small extent, but this is speculative.

Many scholars attribute much of the book of Zephaniah to the monarchic period, but they agree that some portion of the book dates to the postmonarchic period. It is worth stressing that the division of the text of the book between words that go back to Zephaniah or monarchic times and words that come from a later time is nowhere made in the book. Moreover, the usual association between supposedly earlier sections and increased authoritative status (and supposedly later and less authoritative status) is contrary to the basic claim of the book, namely that it is in its entirety the LORD's word, all equal in value.

The book uses wordplay and potential or actual ambiguities that channel the attention of the readers and contribute to the possibility of multiple readings. These features are typical in prophetic books because they facilitate the continuous reading and study of these texts.

The book begins like most prophetic books with an introduction or superscription andthen moves to sets of prophetic pronouncements. The book announces severe judgment against Judah and nations other than Israel, and, as do all other prophetic books, Zephaniah includes reports of prophecies of hope. Even the announcements of doom against Judah serve, in part, to emphasize hope from the perspective of the postmonarchic readers of the book of Zephaniah, because for them the fact that the announcements of doom were fulfilled in the past, as written, reassured them that those of hope will also be fulfilled in the future.

There are several possible ways to outline the book of Zephaniah, each pointing to a particular but partial reading that emphasizes certain aspects of the book and de‐emphasizes others. These partial readings inform each other, and all together create a meaning much richer than any of them separately. This is a common situation in prophetic books. The following is one of these possible outlines:

[EHUD BEN ZVI]

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2017. All Rights Reserved. Privacy policy and legal notice