The book of Zephaniah contains messages of divine judgment against Judah and Jerusalem, as well as against other nations. It addresses a rare concentration of references to central issues in the history of ancient Israel. Idolatry, violence, and deception abound in Judah when Zephaniah began prophesying. Zephaniah's prophesying made it clear that Yahweh would execute vengeance upon unrepentant wrongdoers. His adverse judgments would be visited not only upon Judah and Jerusalem, but also upon other peoples: the Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, Ethiopians, and Assyrians. Significantly, Zephaniah, the prophet, never stands at the center of the book of Zephaniah; the word of Yahweh is at the center of the book. Zephaniah is mentioned only insofar as he is necessary for the interpretation of the text.
Zephaniah neither performs miracles nor claims that his prayers may influence or even change the expected course of events, he does not perform any symbolic acts, and is not related to the Temple. Instead, he is a speaker who delivered a sophisticated speech concerning the future and called for repentance (Zvi). Relatively little is known about the prophet Zephaniah, whose name in Hebrew, Tsephan-Yah' means, "Jehovah has concealed (Freedman). In contrast with other prophets, however, Zephaniah provided his genealogy to the fourth generation, back to Hezekiah. (Zephaniah:1:1, Jeremiah: 1:1, Ezekiel:1:3) Most commentators agree that his great-great grandfather was King Hezekiah. Therefore, Zephaniah was of royal descent and this would have added to his harsh condemnation of the princes of Judah and have shown that he was a courageous prophet of Yahweh. (Zvi) In Zephaniah 1:1 the "Word of Yahweh" came to Zephaniah at a certain historical time, in the days of Josiah. Thus, the days of Josiah are set as a background against which the text is read. (Zvi) Josiah ruled from 640-609 B.C.(Mason) However, when in the days of Josiah, whether...
Cited: Zvi, Ehud Ben. A Historical-Critical Study of the Book of Zephaniah. Walter de Gruyter & Co. Publishing. 1991.
Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Doubleday Publishing. 1991.
Mason, Rex. Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Joel. JSOT Press. 1994.
Coogan, Michael D. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Oxford University Press. 2001.
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