Zephaniah 1

The Word Made Fresh

1This is the word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi son of Gedaliah son of Amariah son of Hezekiah, during the reign of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah:

2“I am going to sweep away everything from the face of the earth,”
says the LORD,
3“people and animals, birds of the air and fish of the sea.
I will cause the wicked to stumble
and I will eliminate people from the earth.
4My hand will be against Judah and all who live in Jerusalem.
I will eliminate every remnant of Baal
and the idolatrous priests.
5I will cut off all who worship the host of heaven on their rooftops,
and those who bow down to the LORD
but also worship Milcom.
6I will do away with those who have turned their backs
and no longer seek or inquire of the LORD.
7Be silent before the LORD!
The day of the LORD is coming;
the LORD has prepared a sacrifice
and has consecrated those who are invited.
8On that day I will punish the officials and the king’s sons
along with all who wear foreign clothes.
9I will punish all those who refuse to step on the threshold
and who fill their gods’ house with violence and deceit.
10The LORD says that on that very day
a cry will arise from the Fish Gate,
and wailing will be heard from the Second Quarter.
A loud crash will resound from the hills.
11Those who live in the Mortar will cry out,
because all the traders will have perished
and all the money counters ruined.
12Then I will search Jerusalem with lamps
and punish those who rest on their laurels,
saying in their hearts that the LORD can do neither good nor harm.
13Their wealth will be stolen, their homes destroyed.
They build houses but will never live in them.
They plant vineyards but will never drink wine from them.
14The great day of the LORD is fast approaching.
Bitter sounds will arise on that day
and even soldiers will cry out aloud.
15That will be a day of anger;
it will be a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and destruction,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of thick clouds blocking out all light,
16 a day of trumpet blasts and battle cries
against the walled cities
and against the high towers.
17I will make the people so distressed
that they will walk like those who are blind,
all because they have sinned against the LORD.
Their blood will be poured out like dust
and their flesh like filth.
18Their silver and gold won’t save them
on the day of the LORD’s anger.
In the fire of God’s passion, the world will be consumed.
God will make a complete and terrible end
of everyone alive on the earth.”


1: Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah (641-609 B.C.). He may have been related to Josiah, if the Hezekiah mentioned here was the king of Judah during the time of the prophet Isaiah. Not much more is known of Zephaniah aside from hints within the text that he was intimately acquainted with Jerusalem and the temple.

2-6: The book begins with a warning that God is displeased with the pagan worship that is being practiced in Jerusalem. The destruction he imagines is greater even than the destruction caused by the Great Flood of Genesis — even the fish of the sea will be swept away.

7-9: Zephaniah denounces those in power for dressing in foreign garb and mimicking pagan practices (for “leaping over the threshold” see 1 Samuel 5:5). These are the kinds of things introduced during the reign of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, which persisted through the years and which Josiah had sought to do away with during his reign.

10-13: The Fish Gate, the Second Quarter, and the Mortar were neighborhoods in the city. The LORD will search out all those who think God is incapable of doing good or ill and punish them.

14-16: The Day of the LORD is described as a terrible and terrifying attack on the city. The people will be punished. Their ill-gotten wealth is worthless to them now. Note that the prophet sees the calamity as being worldwide and complete – a rather typical example of oriental hyperbole.


God is a forgiving God – up to a point. Pray that point is never reached!