Zephaniah was one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament. The word Zephaniah means “Yahweh has hidden,” or “Yahweh has treasured.” Not much is known about the prophet Zephaniah except that which is mentioned in his book. It seems certain from ch. 1:1 that he came from a distinguished family. The fact that he traces his ancestry back to “Hizkiah,” or Hezekiah, may indicate his royal ancestry (ch. 1:1).
His prophetic work
Zephaniah gives as the time of his prophecy (ch. 1:1) the reign of Josiah, king of Judah (640–609 B.C.). Inasmuch as Zephaniah predicted the overthrow of Nineveh (ch. 2:13), an event that occurred in 612 B.C., it is most likely he prophesied in the earlier part of Josiah’s reign. And it is possible that he was contemporaneous with Habakkuk.
The book of Zephaniah, like that of Joel, focuses on “the day of the Lord.” Not only does the prophet reveal the coming judgment of Israel, he also warns of the punishment to come upon other nations. The purpose of warning about severe judgments was so that the people may repent, may “seek righteousness, seek meekness” (ch. 2:3), and thus escape the punishment.
God intended that Israel should receive the highest honor “among all people.” But Israel failed to live up to her possibilities. As a result, these glorious promises of Zephaniah can today be fulfilled through the redeemed church of the Lord. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
The very last words of Zephaniah’s prophecy are an affirmation of the certainty of the prophet’s message, for it rests on the word of a never-failing God. “’For I will give you fame and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I return your captives before your eyes,’ says the LORD” (ch. 3:20). The prophet closes his book with a glorious picture of promise, stressing the future day of restoration from Babylonian captivity.
In His service,
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