Survey of Zephaniah

Book Type: The ninth book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-sixth book of the Old Testament; the thirty-sixth book of the Bible.

Author: Zephaniah, named in Zephaniah 1:1.

Audience: Zephaniah wrote for Jews living in Judah, during the reign of the godly king Josiah. Because of Josiah's influence, Zephaniah's message fell upon ears open to the message of the Lord. This occurred during a brief period of revival prior to Judah's apostasy and Jerusalem's fall. Zephaniah would declare to the people that the day of the Lord was near. In this context, this meant the coming judgment through Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdom of Babylon. Even so, the impending struggles of Israel would be overcome later, by the future salvation of the Lord for His people.

Date: Between approximately 635 and 625 BC.

Overview: Zephaniah consists of three chapters and two major themes. The first theme of judgment covers the beginning of the book all the way through Zephaniah 3:8. The prophecy begins with God's judgment upon the world (Zephaniah 1:2–3), followed by the prediction of judgment upon Judah, which is where the prophet Zephaniah lived (Zephaniah 1:4—2:3). Much of this segment deals with "the day of the LORD," a phrase referring to either judgment in general, or to the ultimate end-times wrath of God.

Next, Zephaniah condemns the surrounding nations of Philistia (Zephaniah 2:4–7), Moab and Ammon (Zephaniah 2:8–11), Ethiopia (Zephaniah 2:12), and Assyria (Zephaniah 2:13–15). Then Zephaniah speaks regarding future judgment, specifically regarding the city of Jerusalem, predicting their coming judgment and destruction, which would be fulfilled by Babylon (Zephaniah 3:1–7). Verse 8 seems to be another broad reference to the "day of the LORD."

The second major section consists of the final verses of chapter 3. These declare the Lord's future blessings. There will be blessing for both Gentiles and Jews. Zephaniah 3:9–10 speaks of those who will follow the Lord from among the nations. Verses 11 through 20 refer to the Jewish people who will again praise the Lord. They will "sing aloud" (Zephaniah 3:14) to the Lord. The Lord will live among them (Zephaniah 3:15–17). In the end they will be fully restored before the Lord (Zephaniah 3:18–20).

Key Verses (ESV):

Zephaniah 1:18: "Neither their silver nor their gold \ shall be able to deliver them \ on the day of the wrath of the LORD. \ In the fire of his jealousy, \ all the earth shall be consumed; \ for a full and sudden end \ he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth."

Zephaniah 2:3: "Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, \ who do his just commands; \ seek righteousness; seek humility; \ perhaps you may be hidden \ on the day of the anger of the LORD."

Zephaniah 3:17: "The LORD your God is in your midst, \ a mighty one who will save; \ he will rejoice over you with gladness; \ he will quiet you by his love; \ he will exult over you with loud singing."