OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF ZEPHANIAH
Author: The author identifies himself as Zephaniah, son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah. Listing four generations of ancestry is relatively unique in OT literature, which suggests emphasis on the prophet's noble origins. King Hezekiah of Judah (2 Kgs 18-20; 2 Chr 29-32) was his great-great-grandfather. In Hebrew, his name means "hidden (or protected) by the LORD."
Date: Written during the reign of Josiah, king of Judah (640-609 B.C.), but sometime before his reforms against pagan practices in 622-621 B.C., dates the book between 630-625 B.C.
Purpose of Writing: The central theme is "judgment" or "the coming of the Day of the LORD," with the sub-themes:
- God is sovereign over ALL nations (not only the Jews);
- God will punish the wicked nations on the "Day of Judgment"; and
- God will show mercy and bless those who repent and trust in Him.
Summary: Zephaniah declares God's forthcoming judgment on the whole world, and specifically, Judah, Philistia, Moab and Ammon, Ethiopia, Assyria, and the city of Jerusalem.
Foreshadowings: The final blessings on "Zion" (can refer to either Jerusalem or Israel in OT usage) mentioned in Zep 3:14-20 are unfulfilled, which suggests they are Messianic prophecies that await the Second Coming of Christ. For NT Christians, God has removed us from judgment (as individuals) through the sacrifice of Christ; however, since Israel has yet to recognize her true Savior, that day is still forthcoming (see Rom 11:25-27). The promise of peace and security for Israel will be fulfilled when Christ returns to judge the world and redeem it for Himself. He will also establish a New Jerusalem on earth, at which point all of God's promises to Israel will be fulfilled (see Rev 21).
- Introduction (1:1)
- The judgment of the "Day of the LORD" (1:2-3:8)
- Judgment on Judah (1:4-2:3)
- Summons to repent and seek God (2:1-3)
- Judgment on the surrounding nations (2:4-15)
- Judgment on Jerusalem (3:1-7)
- Judgment on all the earth (3:8)
- The restoration of "the Day of the LORD" (3:9-20)
Christ in Zephaniah: Jesus Christ "hides" us (the faithful) from God's wrath and is the "Righteous One" within the nation of Israel who will one day rule the earth as her king.
Application: The prophet Zephaniah could stand in our church pulpits today and deliver the same message: That any nation that refuses to follow God or has turned away from Him will face certain Judgment. Almost 220 years ago, the United States was formed as "One Nation Under God" and guided by principles found in the Bible; however, in recent times, especially the last 50 years, it has turned in the opposite direction. A return to the moral principles expressed in the Bible is our country's only hope, and this will only come from revival. As Christians, we can't force the nation to change, but we can foster revival by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our cities, towns, and communities.