The Book of Zephaniah

The Prophet Zephaniah, like the Prophet Joel, wrote largely about the coming Day of the Lord or the last day wrath of God. Zephaniah was introduced in his own book through the series of paternal line. He was the great great grandson of king Hezekiah, one of the latter kings of the House of Judah. He received the revelations from God during the time of King Josiah between the time 640 to 610 BC. That was about twenty to fifty years prior to the fall of the House of Judah by the Babylon Empire.

After his brief introduction of himself, he started his book with abrupt warning about God ending all life on earth.

Zeph 1:2-3
2 "I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth," declares the LORD. 3 "I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth," declares the LORD.

Notice how similar these words are when God told Noah before the Great Flood:

Gen 6:11-14, 17-18
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah , "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.

This is God expressing His anger because of man's sin. During the great deluge, God destroyed all men except Noah's family in the ark. In the Second Coming, God will also destroy all life by fire, except those He will save (Isa 43:2). I have discussed in the past topics how the end will be by fire as Jesus Christ will come with fire (2 Thess 1:7) of extreme heat that even mountains will turn into a molten lava (Mic 1:3-4).

The Bible portrays the same process in every man's complete transformation. First, a person has to be baptized with water and secondly, baptized also with fire (Matt 3:11). I need to put more explanation to this with another topic with how important for a person to experience the baptism of fire. Man's transformation is an illustration that God will only be able to restore the earth into a blessed place as promised to Abraham after He purifies it with fire—like precious gold is made pure also with fire.

The nations to suffer most under God's wrath

1. House of Judah
The House of Judah is first in the list to suffer God's wrath through her enemies. Zephaniah prophesied prior to the fall of the House of Judah. However, his prophecy on Judah found in Zeph 1:4-13 is more specific on Judah's fall in the last days. Judah in these last days, by the way, is actually the nation of Israel today. It is not representing the complete twelve tribes of Israel. For more on this please read Israel, The Divided House. How do I know that his prophecy for Judah pertains to the last days? Read Zeph 1:7-10

7 Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited. 8 On the day of the LORD's sacrifice I will punish the princes and the king's sons and all those clad in foreign clothes. 9 On that day I will punish all who avoid stepping on the threshold, who fill the temple of their gods with violence and deceit. 10 "On that day," declares the LORD, "a cry will go up from the Fish Gate, wailing from the New Quarter, and a loud crash from the hills.

The Bible is specific that when it mentions "Day of the Lord," it always speaks of the Last Day which is actually one year (Isa 34:8; 61:2; 63:4), the last year of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel. Read Confirm the Covenant - History to Repeat Itself for the timeline of the last seven years according to Daniel. As mentioned, one day in prophecies is measured one year in its fulfillment. It is true that Zephania's prophecy on the fall of Judah also applies during his time when Judah fell in the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. But it will happen again in the future when the nation Israel will fall under the symbolic Babylonian king to confirm the covenant. The difference about the last days fulfillment is that, the last days will culminate with the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ when He defeats the Antichrist. That did not happen yet in the past and so Zephaniah was prophesying about the last days. When I say "last days" in includes all the last days of the week according to Daniel's prophecy of the Last Week. But when I say last day, it is specific on the Day of the Lord, the seventh day of the last seven years.

For the last days fulfillment, Zephaniah's reference to idol gods Baal (verse 4), the starry hosts and Molek (or Molech, verse 5)   become symbols for idols and false gods of modern Israel to whom they put their trust. These are the people who rejected Jesus and embraced other faiths and idols. Read also Modern Idolatry for more details on idolatry.

2. Philistia

In the last days, all nations surrounding tiny Israel will all turn hostile against the West and Israel. The great Western Alliance will fall.

Philistia (Philistine) was an ancient region along the Mediterranean Sea that was conquered and occupied by ancient Israel. It was also called Canaan, the ancient Land of Promise composing of the five cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza. These places still exist and we also call the whole place now as Palestine. We know for sure that Israel and Palestine can never come into agreement and peace due to historic and contrasting claims of ownership of their territories. However, in the end, Israel will repossess the land but not after Israel will suffer horrible defeat at the hands of the Philistines.

Zeph 2:4-5
4 Gaza will be abandoned and Ashkelon left in ruins. At midday Ashdod will be emptied and Ekron uprooted. 5 Woe to you who live by the sea, O Kerethite people; the word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines. "I will destroy you, and none will be left." 6 The land by the sea, where the Kerethites dwell, will be a place for shepherds and sheep pens. 7 It will belong to the remnant of the house of Judah [now Israel]; there they will find pasture. In the evening they will lie down in the houses of Ashkelon. The LORD their God will care for them; he will restore their fortunes.

3. Moab and Ammon
Moab and Ammon were sons of Lot, two among the traditional enemies of Israel. They became nations and today, they also surround Israel whose identities only God knows. No country was named after them except probably, the capital city of Jordan, Amman, derived from Ammon. Traditionally, Moab and Ammon is now the nation of Jordan. Some of them may be in Saudi Arabia, still friendly to the West. Although Israel and Jordan are now at peace through the peace treaty signed in October 26, 1994, time will come when Jordan will join with other armies of the Arab world to attack Israel.

Zeph 2:8-11
8 "I have heard the insults of Moab and the taunts of the Ammonites, who insulted my people and made threats against their land. 9 Therefore, as surely as I live," declares the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, "surely Moab will become like Sodom, the Ammonites like Gomorrah — a place of weeds and salt pits, a wasteland forever. The remnant of my people will plunder them; the survivors of my nation will inherit their land." 10 This is what they will get in return for their pride, for insulting and mocking the people of the LORD Almighty. 11 The LORD will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land.

4. Cush
Cush was the eldest son of Ham, one of the three sons of Noah. He became the father of the Cushites known for their toned skin, not necessarily black. These are the people of North Africa like Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Algeria, Morocco, Chad, Niger, etc. In the ancient times, they were just one nation, Cush. All these will be united to fight against Israel in the last days. Again, God assured Israel that they will prevail in the end.

Zeph 2:12
12 "You too, O Cushites, will be slain by my sword.

5. Assyria
Assyria was the empire that conquered the House of Israel, not the House of Judah. However Assyria destroyed some of Judah's cities before the angel of the Lord annihilated the Assyrian army after plotting to attack Jerusalem. Assyria today remained in the same area they occupied in biblical times. Today, they are the nations of Iraq, Syria, part of Iran and Turkey. These nations will soon joined forces together to invade Europe, the Ten Lost Tribes and Israel, the House of Judah. Read Who Are the Ten Horns of the Beast? - Part 1 and Part 2 to follow the journeys of the ancient kingdoms up to the last days. In our study, The Prophecies of Nahum, we have explained why Assyria became not only the worst enemy of Israel but also the entire world in the last days. It will be Assyria who will fire the first salvo to start the war against the modern Israel. Again, God will finally put an end to Assyria and to its capital city Nineveh, where the Antichrist will come from.

Zeph 2:13-15
13 He will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, leaving Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert. 14 Flocks and herds will lie down there, creatures of every kind. The desert owl and the screech owl will roost on her columns. Their calls will echo through the windows, rubble will be in the doorways, the beams of cedar will be exposed. 15 This is the carefree city that lived in safety. She said to herself, "I am, and there is none besides me." What a ruin she has become, a lair for wild beasts! All who pass by her scoff and shake their fists.

The Great Day of the Lord

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2). The Lord will burn the earth, but the saved will not get hurt.

Going back to chapter 1 of the book, Zephaniah explained how the Day of the Lord will be like. All the other prophets described that day in the same manner—day of gloom and pit darkness, day of wrath, day of fire melting all elements.

Zeph 1:14-18
14 "The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. 15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, 16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. 17 I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD's wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth."

The Day of the Lord will swiftly take place on the very last year of the last seven years of Daniel. The Antichrist, will cause desolation for forty-two months until the time God's wrath is poured out on him.

Dan 9:27
27 "He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."

By causing terror throughout the West and the world, the Antichrist is actually repeating the past events on God's chosen nation, Israel. He is actually confirming that what were written in the Bible regarding Israel and the world indeed happened for there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1:9).  For example, Zephaniah mentioned, "I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men..." (Zeph 1:17). This repeats what happened in the city of Sodom when one night before the city was burned to the ground, God blinded the men so they can not do evil against Lot and his angel visitors (Gen 19:10-11). I will illustrate more examples like this in my future topics.

God's justifies His wrath

In chapter 3, Zephaniah summarized and explained why God will destroy His chosen people but after that, the new Kingdom of Israel will rise. Zeph 3:1-5 details the sins of His people and the prophet used many adjectives to describe them.

  1. Verse 1 - Oppressive, rebellious and defiled

  2. Verse 2 - Disobedient, accepts no correction, unfaithful, refusing to draw near to God

  3. Verse 3 - Her officials are brutal like lions and wolves

  4. Verse 4 - Her prophets are arrogant and treacherous, her priests are wicked and violent to the Law

  5. Verse 5 - Her people are unrighteous and shameless

Verses 6-7 is about God's wrath not simply destroying the nations but to purify Israel and every people that are called by His name to make them repentant and come back to God. And yet His people still refused to obey.

Zeph 3:6-7
6 "I have cut off nations; their strongholds are demolished. I have left their streets deserted, with no one passing through. Their cities are destroyed; no one will be left — no one at all. 7 I said to the city, 'Surely you will fear me and accept correction!' Then her dwelling would not be cut off, nor all my punishments come upon her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did.

In verse 8, it talks about the time when the Lord Jesus Christ will gather all nations in one place to testify to them and right there, all those who refuse to obey will be consumed. This will be the Battle of Armageddon. All those who endured and waited for the Lord's coming will be rewarded and will also be gathered back to the original Promised Land through he Great Exodus. Then all the nations will be in one place. This is the last and final act of God against His enemies and it will happen in the very last day prior to the start of the Millennium. By then, the earth will be empty of sinners.

Zeph 3:8
8 Therefore wait for me," declares the LORD, "for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them — all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.

The Millennium

The rest of the chapter describes the future glory of Israel. No more will they defile the name of God. God has promised so much blessings for the new Kingdom of Israel. The future glory is summarized in these few verses:

Zeph 3:14-17
14 Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. 16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, "Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. 17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

Zephaniah was very firm and direct in warning us today. We belong to the last days generation. He also declared that the Day of the Lord is coming near and quickly (Zeph 1:14). Let us all be prepared to receive all the promises of God. If we belong to Him, there will be nothing that can harm us, we shall fear nothing if we are on the side of the Lord. The coming wrath of God may be frightening but today, let us not be motivated by fear but by our love for God.

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