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Zephaniah

ZEPHANIAH, the ninth of the minor prophets in the Bible. The name (Yoh[weh] "hides" or "treasures"; there is a similar Phoenician compound of Baal) is borne by various individuals, in Jer. xxix. 25 (cf. lii. 24); Zech. vi. 10, 14; i Chron. vi. 36, and among the Jews of Elephantine in Egypt (sth century B.C.). The prophet's ancestry is traced through Cushi (cf. Jer. xxxvi. 14) to his great-grandfather Hezekiah, who may, in spite of 2 Kings xx. 18, xxi. i, be the well-known king of Judah (c. 720-690). This would agree fairly with the title (i. i) which makes the prophet a contemporary of King Josiah (c. 637), and this in turn appears to agree (a) with the internal conditions (i. 4-6, cf. 2 Kings xxiii. 4, 5, 12) which, it is held, are evidently earlier than Josiah's reforms (620); (b) with the denunciation of the royal household, but not of the (young) king himself (i. 8, iii. 3); (c) with the apparent allusion in ch. i. to the invasion of the Scythians (perhaps c. 626), and (d) with the anticipated downfall of Assyria and Nineveh (ii. 13, 607 B.C.). Zephaniah's prophecies are characterized by the denunciation of Judah and Jerusalem and the promise of a peaceful future, and these are interwoven with the idea of a world-wide judgment resulting in the sovereignty of a universally recognized Yahweh. The theme in its main outlines is a popular one in biblical prophecy, but when these 53 verses are carefully examined and compared with prophetical thought elsewhere, several difficult problems arise, an adequate solution of which cannot as yet be offered.

After the'title (i. i) and the announcement of the entire destruction of every living thing (23), the fate of Judah and Jerusalem is heralded (4-6). The name of Baal (so LXX. ; remnant implies a date after Josiah's reforms) and of the idolatrous priests will be cut off, together with them that worship the " host of heaven " (condemned later than 620 in Jer. xix. 13, cf. xliv. 15-19) and swear by the Ammonite god Milcom (or perhaps by their Moloch ; for the persistence of his grim cult, see MOLOCH). Silence is enjoined at the presence of Yahweh (v. 7, cf. Zech. ii. 13) and there follows a fine description of " the Day of Yahweh " (n>. 7-I8). 1 The inveterate popular belief in the manifestation of the warring deity on behalf of his people (e.g. Isa. xxxiy. 8, Ixiii. 4; Jer. xlvi. 10; Obad. 15; Ezek. xxx. 3) is treated (a) ethically, as a day of judgment upon sin and pride (Amos v. 18 ; Isa. ii. 12-21) and (b) apocalyptically, is bound up with ideas of a universal doom. Punishment will fall upon an oppressive court, upon those who wear foreign apparel; and who " leap over the threshold " (v. 9, cf . I Sam. v. 5, a Philistine custom) a protest against heathen intercourse, for which cf. Isa. ii. 6, and COSTUME, Oriental. The blow falls upon the north side of Jerusalem (v. 10 seq., the merchant quarter (?), cf. Zech. xiv. 21); the city will be ransacked and the indifferent or apathetic, who thought that Yahweh could do neither good nor evil (so, of the idols, Isa. xli. 23 ; Jer. x. 5) will be ruined. With v. 13 contrast the promises Isa. Ixv. 21. " That day is a day of wrath" (v. 15)* with celestial signs (cf. Amos v. 18, 20, viii. 9; Isa. xiii. 10; Joel ii. 2, iii. 15), war and distress, when wealth shall not avail (c. 18, cf. Isa. xiii. 17, of the Medes against Babylon, and more generally Ezek. vii. 19). Thus Yahweh s jealousy fired by the dishonour shown towards him in Judah will make an end of all them that dwell in the earth (v. 18, cf. v. 2 seq., and see Isa. x. 23, where a remnant is promised).

1 For " day " (i.e. of battle) cf. the Arab usage, W. R. Smith, Proph. of Israel, p. 398. The victorious and divine kings of Egypt in the XlXth and XXth Dynasties are likened to Baal in his ' ' hour " (J. H. Breasted, Hist. Doc. Eg., iii. 312, 326, iv. | 106).

1 The Vulgate Dies irae dies ilia, whence the striking hymn by Thomas of Celano (c. 1250).

Chap. ii. opens probably " Get you shame, and be ye ashamed, O nation unabashed, before ye become as chaff that passeth away " (the last two clauses of v. 2 are doublets). With this very general call to repentance (cf. Amos v. 6, 15; Jer. iv. 14, etc.) is joined a particular appeal to " the humble ones of the earth " (v. 3, cf. iii. 12; Isa. xi. 4; Ps. Ixxvi. 9) to seek righteousness and humility, peradventure (but LXX. so that) they may be hid in the day of Yahweh's wrath (cf. Isa. xxvi. 20). " For " the cities of the Philistines shall be destroyed (v. 4, cf. on i. 9 above), and an oracle of woe is uttered against their land (. 5 seq.). With a sudden transition the " remnant of the house of Judah " is promised the maritime coast (v. 7, read by the sea for thereupon), and this is enhanced by the tidings of the return of the captivity. This thought is developed further. Yahweh has " heard ' (cf. Isa. xvi. 6, 13 seq.; Jer. xlviii. 29 sqq.; Ezek. xxxv., 12) " the reproach of Moab and the revilings of the Ammonites," and the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, swears by his life that both shall be destroyed for their hostility towards his people, and the remnant of his nation shall possess their territory (vv. 8-10). After turning aside to Yahweh's supremacy (v. ii, iii. 9 seq.) the chapter continues with a short and vague doom " also " upon Cush (Ethiopia) " slain by my sword " (cf. Isa. Ixvi. 16), and a more detailed prophecy upon Assyria and Nineveh. The exulting and boastful city (cf. Babylon, Isa. xlvii. 8, 10, with xlv. 5 seq.) shall be a haunt of wild animals (cf. Babylon, Isa. xiii. 20 sqq., and more especially Edom ibid, xxxiv. 11-13) ar "d is pictured as shortly to be made desojate (v. 15, with the last words cf. Jerusalem, Jer. xix. 8, Edom, xlix. 17).

In chap. iii. there are again changing situations. The defiant, polluted and oppressive city is condemned for failing to regard the warnings. Her secular and religious leaders are denounced, and stress is laid, not upon foreign cults, but upon the rampant treachery and profanation (cf. Mai. ii. II ; Isa. Ivi. 10-12, and especially Ezek. xxii. 25-28). Yahweh in the midst of her is " righteous " (cf. Neh. ix. 33, and especially the " Deutero-Isaiah," xl. sqq.), 1 but although the nations round about have been cut off and destroyed, Jerusalem, instead of taking warning in order to escape destruction, has been persistently corrupt (vv. 1-7; v. 2, cf. Jer. ii. 30 and often). " Therefore, wait ye for me, saith Yahweh, for the day when I arise as a witness " (so read in v. 8, cf. Mic. i. 2; Mai. iii. 5). But there is another sudden transition in that day Yahweh shall assemble all nations and kingdoms to pour out upon them his anger (v. 8). This judgment upon the world will be followed by a universal conversion (v. 9, cf. u. n) and " from beyond the rivers of Cush " (cf. ii. 12) tribute will be brought to Yahweh (cf. Isa. xlv. 14, and especially xviii. i, 7; some reference to a return of dispersed Jews may be suspected in the now corrupt text). " In that day " (i.e. after the judgment, implied by v. 7 seq.) there will be a purified Judah (cf. often in Isaiah, i. 24 sqq., iv. 2-6) and, with the removal of the proud, there will be left an afflicted, poor and trusting people (v. 12). " The remnant of Israel," also, shall dwell in peace and piety (v. 13; cf. the corrupt people who are to be " refined," Jer. ix. 3-9). Next, a noteworthy jubilant note is struck when " the daughter of Zion " is bidden to exult (v. 14, cf. Zech. ii. 10, ix. 9), for the " judgments " are removed, the " enemy " is cleared away. Yahweh, the mighty deliverer, is in her midst as " king of Israel " (Isa. xxiv. 23, xliv. 6), he will take joy in her (cf. Isa. Ixii. 5, Ixv. 19), and she shall no more see evil. In conclusion (w. 18-20), he will gather them that are in exile away from the sacred festivals, who were a cause of " reproach " (cf. Ezek. xxxvi. 15; Isa. liv. 4; Neh. i. 3); he will "deal with" all oppressors and restore the outcast and the lame (cf . Mic. iv. 6 seq. ; Ezek. xxxiv. 16). She shall become a praise and a name (cf. Jer. xxxiii. 9) when Yahweh brings back the captivity " before your eyes " (i.e. in your generation).

It is a natural assumption that prophecies have a practical end and refer to existing or impending conditions. 2 But although one single leading motive runs through the book of Zephaniah there are abrupt transitions which do not concern mere subjective considerations of logical or smooth thought, but material and organic changes representing different groups of ideas. The instruments of Yahweh's anger (ch. i.) are not so real or prominent on the political horizon as, for example, in Isaiah, Jeremiah or Habakkuk. The true date of the Scythian inroad and its results for Judah and Philistia are less important when it is observed that the doom upon Philistia, the vengeance upon Moab and Ammon and the promises for Judah (ch. ii.) belong to a large group of prophecies against certain historic enemies (Edom included) who are denounced for their contempt, hostility and intrusion. These prophecies 1 The idea of " righteousness " (j-<J-J), or loyalty, appears to have implied the mutual bonds uniting the community and its deity, see Journ. Theol. Stud., 1908, p. 632 n. i; Expositor, Aug. 1910, p. 120.

1 Material familiar to contemporary thought is naturally used (see especially H. Gressmann, Ursprung d. israel-jud. Eschatologie; J. M. P. Smith, Biblical World, 1910, pp. 223 sqq.).

are in large measure associated traditionally with the fall of Jerusalem, and to such a calamity, and not to the inroad of the Scythians, the references to the " remnant " and the " captivity " can only refer. 3 The anticipation of future, events is of course conceivable in itself, but the promises (in ch. ii.) presuppose events other and later than those with which the Scythians were connected. On the other hand, it is entirely intelligible that a prophecy relating to Scythians should have been re-shaped to apply to later conditions, and on this view it is explicable why the indefinite political convulsions should be adjusted to the exile and why the gloom should be relieved by the promise of a territory extending from the Mediterranean to the Syrian desert (ii. 7, 9). After a period of punishment (cf. Lamentations) Yahweh's jealousy against the semi-heathen Judah has become a jealousy for his people, and we appear to move in the thought of Haggai and Zechariah, where the remnant are comforted by Yahweh's return and the dispersed exiles are to be brought back (cf. Zech. i. 14-17, viii. 2-17). But in ch. iii. other circles of thought are manifest. Israel's enemies have been destroyed, her own God Yahweh has proved his loyalty and has fulfilled his promises, but the city remains polluted (m. 1-7, cf. Isa. Iviii. seq.; Malachi). Once more doom is threatened, and once more we pass over into a later stage where Yahweh has vindicated his supremacy and Zion is glorified. Instead of the realities of history we have the apocalyptical feature of the gathering of the nations (v. 8); the thought may be illustrated from Zech. xii. i.-xiii. 6, where Jerusalem is attacked, purged and delivered, and from Zech. xiv. where the city is actually captured and half the people are removed into captivity (cf. Zeph. iii. ii purging, 15 removal of the enemy, 18-20 return of the captivity). The goal is the vindication of Israel and of Israel's God, and the establishment of universal monotheism (ii. n, iii. 9 seq.). The foe which threatened Judah has become the chastiser of Ethiopia and Assyria (ii.) and the prelude to the golden age (iii., cf. Ezek. xxxviii. seq.). No longer does Yahweh contend for recognition with Baal and the " host of heaven " (i. 4-6); the convulsions of history are Yahweh's work for the instruction and amendment of Israel (iii. 6 seq.); the heathen gods prove helpless (ii. 1 1 ), but in what manner the conviction of Yahweh's greatness is brought home is not stated. 4 If Jer. iv. s-vi. 30 originally referred to the Scythians, it has been revised to refer to the Chaldeans; also in Ezek. xxxviii. seq. the northern foe has been associated with the great worldjudgment. The replacing of the sequel of Amos (q.ii.) by one which presupposes a later historical background, the addendum to the prophecy against Moab (Isa. xvi. 13 seq.), the pessimistic glosses in Isa. xlviii., the variations in the Hebrew and Greek text of Jeremiah, and the general treatment of prophecies of judgment and promise, exemplify certain literary processes which illustrate the present form of Zephaniah. In Isaiah and Zechariah, notably, older and later groups of prophecies are preserved, whereas here the new preludes and new sequels suggest that the original nucleus has passed through the hands of writers in touch with those vicissitudes of thought which can be studied more completely elsewhere. It is not to be supposed that the elimination of all later passages and traces of revision will give us Zephaniah's prophecies in their original extent. In fact the internal religious and social conditions in i. 4-6 or iii. 1-4 do not compel a date before Josiah's reforms. The doom of Cush is still in the future in Ezek. xxx. 4; and if the impending fall of Nineveh (ii. 13) implies an early date, yet it is found in writings which have later additions (Nahum), or which are essentially later (Jonah, cf. Tobit xiv. 4 [LXX], 8, 10, 15); cf. also the use of Assyria for Babylon (Ezra vi. 22) or Syria (Zech. x. 10). Historical references in prophecies are 8 The " humble " (ii. "3) can scarcely be identified with the " remnant " and, as in iii. 12, are viewed as a small pious community such as we find in the Psalms (see Nowack's Comnt.).

* See further W. R. Smith, art. " Zephaniah," Ency. Brit., gth ed., who points out that " in the scheme of Isaiah it is made clear that the fall of the power that shatters the nations cannot fail to be recognized as Yahweh's work."

not always decisive (Ezek. xxxii., for example, looks upon Edom and Sidon as dead), and while the continued revision of the book allows the presumption that the tradition ascribing its inception to the time of Josiah may be authentic, it is doubtful how much of the original nucleus can be safely recognized. These are problems which concern not only the criticism of biblical prophetical writings as a whole, but also the historical vicissitudes of the period over which they extend (see JEWS; PALESTINE: History).

According to late tradition Zephaniah, like Habakkuk, was of the tribe of Simeon (cf. Micah of Mareshah and Obadiah of Bethhaccerem, see Cheyne, Ency. Bib., col. 3455). The apocryphal prophecy of Zeph. (Clement of Alex., Strom., v. II, 77; see Schiirer, Gesch. Volk. Isr., iii. 271 seq.) merely illustrates the tendency to utilize older traditions. See further on textual, metrical and literary details, W. R. Smith (note 4, previous page), reprinted in Ency. Bib., with additions by S. R. Driver, J. A. Selbie in Hastings's Diet. Bib., J. Lippl in Bibl. Studien (1910), and the commentaries on (all or portions of) the Minor Prophets by A. B. Davidson (Camb. Bible, 1896); G. A. Smith (1898); W. Nowack (1903); K. Marti (1904; especially valuable); Driver (Cent. Bib., 1906); Von Hoonacker (1908). (S. A. C.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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