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Zephaniah Summary


Author: Zephaniah 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Zephaniah as the Prophet Zephaniah. The name Zephaniah means "defended by God."

Date of Writing: The Book of Zephaniah was likely written between 735 and 725 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Zephaniah's message of judgment and encouragement contains three major doctrines: 1) God is sovereign over all nations. 2) The wicked will be punished and the righteous will be vindicated on the day of judgment. 3) God blesses those who repent and trust in Him.

Key Verses: Zephaniah 1:18, "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."

Zephaniah 2:3, "Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger."

Zephaniah 3:17, "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."

Brief Summary: Zephaniah pronounces the Lord's judgment on the whole earth, on Judah, on the surrounding nations, on Jerusalem and on all nations. This is followed by proclamations of the Lord's blessing on all nations and especially on the faithful remnant of His people in Judah.

Zephaniah had the courage to speak bluntly because he knew he was proclaiming the Word of the Lord. His book begins with "The word of the Lord" and ends with "says the Lord." He knew that neither the many gods the people worshiped nor even the might of the Assyrian army could save them. God is gracious and compassionate, but when all His warnings are ignored, judgment is to be expected. God's day of judgment is frequently mentioned in the Scriptures. The prophets called it the "Day of the Lord." They referred to various events such as the fall of Jerusalem as manifestations of God's Day, each of which pointed toward the ultimate Day of the Lord.

Foreshadowings: The final blessings on Zion pronounced in 3:14-20 are largely unfulfilled, leading us to conclude that these are messianic prophecies that await the Second Coming of Christ to be completed. The Lord has taken away our punishment only through Christ who came to die for the sins of His people (Zephaniah 3:15; John 3:16). But Israel has not yet recognized her true Savior. This is yet to happen (Romans 11:25-27).

The promise of peace and safety for Israel, a time when their King is in their midst, will be fulfilled when Christ returns to judge the world and redeem it for Himself. Just as He ascended to heaven after His resurrection, so will He return and set up a new Jerusalem on earth (Revelation 21). At that time, all God's promises to Israel will be fulfilled.

Practical Application: With a few adjustments in names and situations, this prophet of 8th century B.C. could stand in our pulpits today and deliver the same message of judgment of the wicked and hope for the faithful. Zephaniah reminds us that God is offended by the moral and religious sins of His people. God's people will not escape punishment when they sin willfully. Punishment may be painful, but its purpose may be redemptive rather than punitive. The inevitability of the punishment of wickedness gives comfort in a time when it seems that evil is unbridled and victorious. We have the freedom to disobey God but not the freedom to escape the consequences of that disobedience. Those who are faithful to God may be relatively few, but He does not forget them.

ZEPHANIAH (Blessing Through Judgment)


As seen in 1:1, the book was written by Zephaniah, the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah. In tracing the prophet's ancestry through four generations, this heading is unique. Usually only the prophet's father is identified (cf. Isa. 1:1; Jer. 1:1; Ezek. 1:3; Hos. 1:1; Joel 1:1) when the author provides genealogical information. Such a long genealogy suggests the noble birth of the prophet, his great-great-grandfather being the good King Hezekiah.


630-625 B.C.
According to the introduction (1:10), Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah (640-609 B.C.). His prophecy preceded the fall of Nineveh in 612 and the reforms of Josiah in 622-621. This seems evident since the book of Zephaniah presupposes the existence of pagan idolatry in Judah (1:4-6) which was pretty much eliminated by Joshiah's reforms. All this suggests a date of between 630 and 625 B.C.

Title of the Book:

The book takes its name from the prophet Zephaniah (s£panyah from s£a"pan, "hide, treasure up, store," and a shortened form for Yahweh. It means "hidden of Yahweh." See 2:3. The Greek and Latin title is Sophonias.

Theme and Purpose:

The prophet speaks to the people of Judah whose moral and spiritual life had been dulled by the evil influence of the reigns of Manasseh and Amon (see 3:1-7). Consequently, in keeping with the warnings of cursing for disobedience in Deuteronomy 28, the central theme is that of judgment or the coming of the day of the Lord. In view of Yahweh's holiness, He must vindicate and demonstrate His holiness against sin by calling the nations of the world into account before Him. But God is also a God of mercy and blessing so there is also a strong emphasis and call for repentance with the promise of blessing. Thus, Zephaniah clearly divides into three sections: retribution or judgment for sin, a call for repentance, and a promise of future redemption or blessing.

Key Word:

The key words are "day of the Lord," "that day," the day," which combined occur some twenty times. The key idea is that of judgment and restoration in the day of the Lord.

Key Verses:

1:7. Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near, For the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, He has consecrated His guests.
1:12. "And it will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, 'The LORD will not do good or evil!'"
1:14-15. Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. 15 A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness,
2:3. Seek the LORD, All you humble of the earth Who have carried out His ordinances; Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden In the day of the LORD'S anger.

Key Chapters:

The day of the Lord involves two distinct aspects: judgment followed by blessing. Chapter three clearly records these two distinct aspects of this awesome day. After Israel repents and returns to the Lord, they will be restored under the righteous rule of Messiah.

Christ as seen in Zephaniah:

Though not specifically mentioned in this book, Messiah is presented as the Righteous One within the nation of Israel (3:5) who is also their King (3:15).


I. Introduction (1:1)

II. The Judgment of the Day of Yahweh (1:2-3:8)

A. Judgment on the whole earth (1:2-3)

B. Judgment on Judah (1:4-2:3)

1. The causes of judgment (1:4-13)

2. The description of judgment (1:14-18)

3. A summons to the nation: Repent and Seek God (2:1-3)

C. Judgment on the surrounding nations (2:4-15)

1. On Philistia (2:4-7)

2. On Moab and Ammon (2:8-11)

3. On Ethiopia (2:12)

4. On Assyria (2:13-15)

D. Judgment on Jerusalem (3:1-7)

1. The prophet's indictment (3:1-5)

2. The Lord's judgment (3:6-7)

E. Judgment on all the earth (3:8)

III. The Restoration of the Day of Yahweh's (3:9-20)

A. The restoration of the nations (3:9-10)

B. The restoration of Israel (3:11-20)