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Zephaniah 3 Commentary


Pulpit Commentary
Verses 1-5. - § 6. The prophet turns to Jerusalem, and warns her that, if God punishes the heathen, he will not spare the hardened sinners in Judah. Verse 1. - Woe to her! This is addressed to Jerusalem, as is seen by vers. 2-4. Filthy; rather, rebellious, i.e. against God. The LXX., mistaking the word, renders ἐπιφανής, "notable." So the Syriac. Jerome has provocatrix. The true sense is seen by the expansion of the term in ver. 2. polluted by her many sins. Jerome, following the Septuagint ἀπολευτρωμένη, "ransomed," has, redempta, which he explains, "Captivitatibus traditia, et rursum redempta." The oppressing city, that acts unjustly and cruelly to the weak and poor. So the three sins for which she is here denounced are that she is rebellious against God, defiled with sin in herself, and cruel to others. The Septuagiut and Vulgate translate jonah ("oppressing") "dove," which seems singularly inappropriate here, though some try to explain it as applied to Jerusalem in the sense of "silly" or "stupid" (Hosea 7:11)

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
3:1-7 The holy God hates sin most in those nearest to him. A sinful state is, and will be, a woful state. Yet they had the tokens of God's presence, and all the advantages of knowing his will, with the strongest reasons to do it; still they persisted in disobedience. Alas, that men often are more active in doing wickedness than believers are in doing good.

Pulpit Commentary
Verses 6-8. - § 7. Obdurate and blinded as nations are, these extreme measures are the only way left to secure salvation for Israel and the whole world. Verse 6. - God speaks, showing why he has sent these judgments. I have cut off the nations. The reference is to facts well known to the hearers (though not specified here); such as the rain of Pentapolis, the destruction of the Canaanites, the defeat of the Chaldeans in Hezekiah's time, the conquest of cities and countries by the Assyrians, and the devastation of Israel itself. Their towers are desolate. Their towers (see note on Zephaniah 1:16), in which they trusted for defence, are overthrown and lie in ruins. Others translate, "street corners," where people most do congregate. Streets; perhaps, roads; signifying the open country. So Keil. None inhabitant (comp. Jeremiah 4:7).

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
3:8-13 The preaching of the gospel is predicted, when vengeance would be executed on the Jewish nation. The purifying doctrines of the gospel, or the pure language of the grace of the Lord, would teach men to use the language of humility, repentance, and faith. Purity and piety in common conversation is good. The pure and happy state of the church in the latter days seems intended. The Lord will shut out boasting, and leave men nothing to glory in, save the Lord Jesus, as made of God to them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Humiliation for sin, and obligations to the Redeemer, will make true believers upright and sincere, whatever may be the case among mere professors.

V.8 - Barnes' Notes on the Bible
For then - In the order of God's mercies. The deliverance from Babylon was the forerunner of that of the Gospel, which was its object. The spread of the Gospel then is spoken of in the connection of God's Providence and plan, and time is overlooked. Its blessings are spoken of, as "then" given when the earnest was given, and the people, from whom according to the flesh Christ was to be born, were placed anew in the land where He was to be born. Lap.: "The prophet springs, as is his wont, to Christ and the time of the new law." And in Christ, the End of the Law, the prophet ends.

I will turn - Contrary to what they had before, "to the people," literally, "peoples," the nations of the earth, "a pure language," literally, "a purified lip." It is a real conversion, as was said of Saul at the beginning 1 Samuel 10:9; "God" (literally) "turned to him another heart." Before the dispersion of Babel the world was "of one lip," but that, impure, for it was in rebellion against God. Now it shall be again of "one lip;" and that, "purified." The purity is of faith and of life, "that they way call upon the Name of the Lord," not as heretofore on idols, but that every tongue should confess the one true God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, in Whose Name they are baptized. This is purity of faith. To "call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus" Acts 22:16; Romans 10:13 is the very title of Christian worship; "all that called upon the Name" of Jesus, the very title of Christians Acts 9:14, Acts 9:21; 1 Corinthians 1:2. "To serve Him with one consent," literally, "with one shoulder," evenly, steadfastly, "not unequally yoked," but all with united strength, bearing Christ's "easy yoke" and "one another's burdens, fulfilling the law of Christ." This is purity of life. The fruit of the lips is the "sacrifice of praise" Hebrews 13:15.

God gave back one pure language, when, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, the Author of purity, came down in fiery tongues upon the Apostles, teaching them and guiding them "into the whole truth" John 16:13, and to "speak to every one in his own tongue, wherein he was born, the wonderful works of God" Acts 2:8, Acts 2:11. Thenceforth there was to be a higher unity than that of outward language. For speech is not the outer sound, but the thoughts which it conveys and embodies. The inward thought is the soul of the words. The outward confusion of Babel was to hinder oneness in evil and a worse confusion. At Pentecost, the unity restored was oneness of soul and heart, wrought by One Spirit, whose gift is the one Faith and the one Hope of our calling, in the One Lord, in whom we are one, grafted into the one body, by our baptism Ephesians 4:3-6. The Church, then created, is the One Holy Universal Church diffused throughout all the world, everywhere with one rule of Faith, "the Faith once for all delivered unto the saints," confessing one God, the Trinity in Unity, and serving Him in the one law of the Gospel with one consent.

Christians, as Christians, speak the same language of Faith, and from all quarters of the world, one language of praise goes up to the One God and Father of all. : "God divided the tongues at Babel, lest, understanding one another, they should form a destructive unity. Through proud men tongues were divided; through humble Apostles tongues were gathered in one. The spirit of pride dispersed tongues; the Holy Spirit gathered tongues in one. For when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, they spake with the tongues of all, were understood by all; the dispersed tongues were gathered into one. So then, if they are yet angry and Gentiles, it is better for them to have their tongues divided. If they wish for one tongue, let them come to the Church, for in diversity of the tongues of the flesh, there is one tongue in the Faith of the heart." In whatever degree the oneness is impaired within the Church, while there is yet one faith of the creeds, He alone can restore it and 'turn to her a purified language,' who first gave it to those who waited for Him. Both praise and service are perfected above, where the Blessed, with one loud voice, 'shall cry, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the Throne and unto the Lamb; blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be unto our God forever and ever' Revelation 7:10, Revelation 7:12. And they who 'have come out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb," shall be 'before the Throne of God and serve Him day and night in His Temple' Revelation 7:14-15."

V.10 - Pulpit Commentary
Verse 10. - From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia (Cush); i.e. from the distant south, a type of the remotest parts of the world (Zephaniah 2:12). The rivers of Cush (Isaiah 18:1), are the Nile, the Atbara, and their affluents. My suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering. From the ends of the earth, the Jews who have continued faithful to Jehovah, and have not lost their nationality among the Gentiles, but have considered themselves as belonging to "the dispersion," shall be again received of the Lord, and bring their oblations unto him. This may be the sense intended: but looking to the thought in Isaiah 66:20 (where it is said that the Gentiles shall bring the Israelites out of all nations as a meat offering unto the Lord), we had better render the passage as the Revised Version margin, "They shall bring my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, for an offering unto me." The remote Gentiles shall show their faith in God by aiding the Hebrews among them to turn to the Lord; this shall be their offering to the true God, whom they have learned to adore. When they themselves are converted, they shall be evangelists to the Hebrews of the Dispersion. For this work of the Gentiles in converting the Hebrews, Wordsworth compares Song of Solomon 3:4; Song of Solomon 8:8, 9; Isaiah 61:5, 6; Isaiah 65:18-21. St. Paul speaks to the same effect in Romans 6. Offering (minehah). The pure meal offering (Malachi 1:10, 11, where see notes; comp. Romans 15:16; Philippians 2:17). Dr. Briggs renders, "From beyond the rivers of Gush will be my incense (athar); the daughter of Phut will bring a minchah." This brings out the parallelism. The universal worship of Messianic times is expressed in the ceremonial terms of the old dispensation, but has a very real applicableness to the Christian religion (see note on Malachi 1:11).

V.11-13 - Pulpit Commentary
Verses 11-13. - § 2. Israel, restored to God's favour, shall be cleansed and sanctified. Verse 11. - In that day. When the Lord rises to seize the prey (ver. 8), when the Gentiles are converted, and Judah returns to her obedience. Shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings. God addresses Israel repentant and converted, and assures her that she shall not have to reproach herself any more, or to blush for her iniquities, because God blots them out, or because she sins no more as she has done. And the great help to this improvement is the abolition of the cause and incitement to sin. I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride (thy proud triumphers, Isaiah 13:3). God will cut off all those who gloried in their temporal prosperity without thought of God, who in the pride of their heart walked as they pleased, deeming themselves accountable to no one, subject to no law. Such shall no longer be found in the holy nation. Haughty because of (in) my holy mountain; i.e. in the temple (Isaiah 11:9). They shall no longer exult in the exclusiveness of their privileges, or feel a vain glorious confidence in their own election, or the sanctity of their temple or its provision of worship. The Gentiles should be admitted to the covenant, and share in their privileges. Here we see adumbrated the nature of the Christian Church, an organized body no longer local, insulated, but Catholic - a spiritual temple open to all believers.

Pulpit Commentary
Verse 12. - A further characteristic of Messiah's kingdom is here unfolded. No worldly pomp or splendour shall be found in it; its members are not proud, conceited, self-reliant. I will also leave in the midst of thee. I will leave over, as a remnant saved in the judgment (camp. Romans 9:27; Micah 2:12, and the note there). An afflicted and poor people. The two epithets and elsewhere joined together (Job 34:28; Isaiah 26:6) to express the feeling of patience under affliction and inability to help one's self by one's own efforts. The spirit signified is just the contrary of the haughty, complacent, self-satisfied temper previously mentioned (1 Corinthians 1:26; James 2:5). They shall trust in the Name of the Lord. All self-confidence shall be abolished, and the religion of the remnant shall be characterized by quiet trust in God.

Pulpit Commentary
Verse 13. - The remnant of Israel (see note on ver. 12). Though they claim no worldly eminence, the true Israelites shall be conspicuous for spiritual graces. Shall not do iniquity. Their acts shall be just and holy; their daily conduct such as becomes the children of God's election (Leviticus 19:2; 1 John 3:9). Nor speak lies. There shall be no lying prophets there, and all fraud and double-dealing shall be abolished. The proof of their righteous conduct is found in the favour of the Lord and the security in which they shall live. For they shall feed, etc. The remnant is compared to a "little fleck" (Luke 12:32), of which the Lord is the Shepherd (comp. Micah 7:14). The blessing is that promised to Israel in the Law if she kept the commandments (Leviticus 26:5, 6). Vers 14-20. - § 3. Israel shall be cam forted and largely blessed by the presence of Jehovah and exalted to honour in the eyes of all the world.

Zephaniah 3:14, Zephaniah 3:17.

What a wonderful rush of exuberant gladness there is in these words! The swift, short clauses, the triple invocation in the former verse, the triple promise in the latter, the heaped together synonyms, all help the impression. The very words seem to dance with joy. But more remarkable than this is the parallelism between the two verses. Zion is called to rejoice in God because God rejoices in her. She is to shout for joy and sing because God's joy too has a voice, and breaks out into singing. For every throb of joy in man's heart, there is a wave of gladness in God's. The notes of our praise are at once the echoes and the occasions of His. We are to be glad because He is glad: He is glad because we are so. We sing for joy, and He joys over us with singing because we do.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
3:14-20 After the promises of taking away sin, follow promises of taking away trouble. When the cause is removed, the effect will cease. What makes a people holy, will make them happy. The precious promises made to the purified people, were to have full accomplishment in the gospel. These verses appear chiefly to relate to the future conversion and restoration of Israel, and the glorious times which are to follow. They show the abundant peace, comfort, and prosperity of the church, in the happy times yet to come. He will save; he will be Jesus; he will answer the name, for he will save his people from their sins. Before the glorious times foretold, believers would be sorrowful, and objects of reproach. But the Lord will save the weakest believer, and cause true Christians to be greatly honoured where they had been treated with contempt. One act of mercy and grace shall serve, both to gather Israel out of their dispersions and to lead them to their own land. Then will God's Israel be made a name and a praise to eternity. The events alone can fully answer the language of this prophecy. Many are the troubles of the righteous, but they may rejoice in God's love. Surely our hearts should honour the Lord, and rejoice in him, when we hear such words of condescension and grace. If now kept from his ordinances, it is our trial and grief; but in due time we shall be gathered into his temple above. The glory and happiness of the believer will be perfect, unchangeable, and eternal, when he is freed from earthly sorrows, and brought to heavenly bliss.