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

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Commentary on Zephaniah

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

3.1–7 :

Jerusalem is indicted. The sins listed here, together with those in 1.4–9 , are the basis for the devastating judgment described in 1.2–2.3 .

1 :

The oppressing city is Jerusalem, Judah's capital.

3–4 :

While Zephaniah's first indictment of Judah's sins focuses on the worship of other gods ( 1.4–9 ), this indictment focuses, as do those of Micah ( 4.6–8 ), on Judah's political and religious leadership.

7 :

The city is Jerusalem.

3.8–20 :

Judah is restored. A major shift occurs here in the book of Zephaniah from the criticism of Judah and announcement of its destruction ( 1.2–2.3; 3.1–7 ) to the anticipation of its renewal. Either Zephaniah himself looked forward to a new era after Judah's fall, or this speech was added by Zephaniah's editors after Judah's fall to provide hope to its exiles. The speech shares numerous images with literature composed during and after the Exile * (after 587 BCE).

9 :

The expectation of the conversion of the nations is characteristic of exilic literature (Isa 55.4–5; Mic 4.1–2 ).

11 :

My holy mountain is the Temple * mount in Jerusalem.

19–20 :

The return of Judah's exiles, often pictured as lame and outcast, was a widespread hope during the Exile and afterwards (Isa 35.5–10; Mic 4.6–8 ).

1.1 :

Title. Josiah governed the southern kingdom of Judah during 640–609 BCE (2 Kings 22.1–23.30 ). Hezekiah, Zephaniah's great-great-grandfather, may be the earlier Judean king who governed from 715–687 (2 Kings 18–20 ).

1.2–2.3 :

The day of the Lord: Judah is judged. Though Zephaniah does include in this speech an indictment of Judah's sins ( 1.4–9 ), as is customary in prophetic judgment speeches, he emphasizes the sentence, God's punishment on Judah and its people.

1.2–3 :

This is one of the most desolate images of judgment in prophetic literature (Jer 4.23–26 ).

4 :

Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, is singled out for further criticism in 3.1–7 . With this mention of Baal, * the Canaanite god who is the major rival of Judah's God (Hos 2 ), Zephaniah begins the indictment of Judah's crimes, focusing on its rejection of Yahweh and its worship of other gods (vv. 4–9 ).

5 :

The host of the heavens are the sun, moon, planets, and stars, the worship of which became widespread in Judah under Assyrian influence (2 Kings 21.3–5 ). Milcom is the god of the Ammonites ( 2.8; 2 Kings 23.13 ).

7 :

Zephaniah introduces the theme of the day of the LORD for God's judgment on Judah, a theme that carries this judgment speech forward to its conclusion in 2.3 . God's sacrifice is not the customary animal sacrifice but God's enemies (Jer 46.10 ), in this case the people of Judah themselves.

9 :

Those who leap over the threshhold may be priests practicing a ritual associated with the Philistine god Dagon (1 Sam 5.5 ).

10 :

The Fish Gate is located in the north wall of Jerusalem (Neh 12.39 ). The Second Quarter is a district in Jerusalem near the Temple * complex (2 Kings 22.14 ).

11 :

The Mortar is Jerusalem's business district.

12 :

The phrase “who thicken (note b; or rest complacently) on their dregs” may be translated: “Who are as undisturbed as the sediment of wine.”

18 :

While the picture of destruction in this verse appears to include the entire world, Zephaniah's concern is Judah in particular, as the preceding and following verses show.

2.1–3 :

Zephaniah's judgment speech concludes with an appeal to Judah (shameless nation, v. 1 ) to seek the LORD and reform in order to avert disaster (Am 5.6, 14–15 ).

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