The Word Made Fresh
1Gather together, you shameless people.
2You will be driven away like rubbish.
The terrible anger of the LORD will overwhelm you.
The day of the LORD’s wrath will rush over you.
3But you who are humble should seek the LORD.
You who follow God’s commands, seek righteousness.
Seek humility and perhaps you will escape the LORD’s anger.
4Gaza will be deserted and Ashkelon will become a desolate heap.
The people of Ashdod will be driven out at noon.
Ekron will be displaced.
5And you people of the Cherethites who live in the coastlands,
the word of the LORD is against you.
And you Philistines in the land of Canaan,
I will destroy you. No one will remain.
6The seacoast will become pastures for shepherds and flocks,
7and will be possessed by those left in the family of Judah.
They will tend their sheep there,
and in the evening lie down in the houses of Ashkelon.
The LORD their God will care for them and restore their future.
8I have heard the way the Moabites and Ammonites
have taunted my people and made claims on their land.
9So, as surely as I live, says the LORD Almighty, Israel’s God,
Moab will suffer like Sodom and Ammon like Gomorrah.
They will be a land filled with brambles and salt pits.
They will be plundered by my people who remain,
whose fortunes will be restored.
10This is what they will receive because of their pride.
They insulted and boasted over the people of the LORD Almighty,
11and the LORD will take terrible action against them.
Their earthly gods will be stripped of their power.
They will each bow down where they stand,
including all the coastal and island nations.
12The Cushites also will fall to my sword.
13The LORD will reach out against the north.
Assyria will be destroyed. Nineveh will be desolate.
They will be like the desert’s dry wasteland.
14Herds of animals, even wild animals, will live there.
The roosting birds will settle on the rooftops.
Their voices will be heard in the windows,
and on the thresholds where cedar work is barren.
15Is this the same city that exulted in its imagined security,
saying, “This is all ours. It belongs to no one else?”
But how wasted it has become.
It is no more than a lair for wild beasts,
and everyone who passes by shakes their fists at it.
1-4: Zephaniah calls the nation to repentance, using the familiar imagery of wind-blown chaff to describe the judgment of God that is coming. The Philistine cities mentioned in verse five are along the usual coastal invasion route taken by Egypt, Assyria and Babylon.
5-7: The Philistine strongholds will be decimated. Zephaniah foresees that Judah will rule over those territories in the years to come. Judah did exercise some control over that area following a failed Egyptian invasion more than a century earlier.
8-11: Now the prophet turns to the nations adjacent to Israel/Judah on their eastern flank – Moab and Ammon – and predicts destruction for them and sees them also under subjection to Judah and, more importantly, to Judah’s LORD. Moab and Ammon had in the past warred with Judah (2 Chronicles 20:1-30).
12-15: He goes farther afield, now speaking a word against Ethiopia and Assyria. The Ethiopians had invaded Judah during the reign of King Asa (2 Chronicles 14:9-15). The Assyrians had besieged Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah, Zephaniah’s great-great grandfather, and had been thwarted by an invasion of the Egyptians who were also seeking to extend their control over Judah (see 2 Kings 19). During Zephaniah’s time the Assyrian empire was on the wane and their decline probably fueled his pronouncements against them.
Zephaniah’s prophesies stand as an unshakeable belief that God will always be about the work of rescuing God’s people. Keep the faith! Don’t surrender to the lures offered by the world! God will always and steadfastly be about the work of restoring those who believe.