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An Argument of the Book of Zephaniah

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MESSAGE STATEMENT:1

Even though Judah's refusal to repent of her evil in the face of the imminent, terrifying judgment of the lord upon the nations will result in her own judgment, she is encouraged to wait for that time when after judgment the Lord will purify his people, save them, protect them, restore them, and bless them

I. Introduction: The Word of the Lord came to the prophet Zephaniah during the reign of Josiah 1:1

II. The Destructive Day of the Lord--Guilt and Judgment of Judah in the Context of Universal Judgment:2 Zephaniah proclaims that the Lord is going to imminently intervene in the world with an intense judgment known as the Day of the Lord when He will not only judge all people, but will also judge the evil ones among His people in Judah and Jerusalem 1:2-18

A. The Lord's Intervention: The Lord is going to intervene in the world by bringing sweeping universal judgment as well as judgment upon idolatrous Judah and Jerusalem 1:2-6

1. A Time of General Judgment: A time of sweeping judgment is coming when the Lord will remove all things, animals, and mankind from the face of the earth 1:2-3

a. All Things Removed from the Earth (like the Flood?): 1:2

b. The Destruction of Animals and Mankind (Gen 6:7?): 1:3

2. A Time of Judgment on Judah: Yahweh will judge Judah and Jerusalem to eliminate those engaged in false worship and who have turned their back from Him 1:4-6

a. Yahweh Will Judge Judah and Jerusalem: 1:4a

b. Yahweh Will Cut Off Remembrance from Judah of Baal, Idolatrous Priests, Those Who Worship Astral Bodies, Those Who Worship Milcom, and Those Who Have Turned from Yahweh: 1:4b-6

B. A Vivid Description of the Day of the Lord:3 The imminent Day of the Lord will be a time of intense judgment upon the evil doers of God's people in Jerusalem as well as upon all people 1:7-18

1. A Time to Judge His People in Jerusalem: Zephaniah urges the people to be quiet before the Lord because the Day of judgment is near when He will sacrifice those in Jerusalem do evil, punishing her profane leaders, as well as all in the city of Jerusalem who do evil 1:7-13

a. Exhortation: The people are to be silent before the Lord God because the Day of the Lord is near 1:7a

b. The Lord's Sacrifice: On the Day of the Lord He has prepared a great sacrifice4 1:7b

c. Punishment of the Leaders: On that day of the Lord He will punish the leaders of the nation who adopt foreign religious practices and fill the temple with violence and deceit 1:8-9

d. The Result of the Judgment--Mourning and Wailing: On the day of the Lord all of Jerusalem will be judged and wail out loud as the Lord searches out evil doers 1:10-13

2. A Time of Terrible (Universal) Judgment: Zephaniah proclaims that the day of the Lord is imminent, and a time of intense judgment upon all people 1:14-18

a. The Day of the Lord is Imminent: 1:14

b. The Day of the Lord will be a time of intense Judgment bringing terror, warfare, distress, and death 1:15-17

1) A Time of Terror:5 1:15

2) A Time of Warfare: 1:16

3) A Time of distress and death: 1:17

c. The Day of the Lord is certain upon all 1:18

III. Prophetic Exhortations and Judgment Oracles as Admonitions for Jerusalem to Seek the Lord: Urging Judah to come together and repent in the face of the coming Day of the Lord, and emphasizing world wide judgment through the fall of the nations around Judah, Jerusalem continues in corruption before their upright God, and refuses to be instructed, preferring to rush ahead into evil 2:1--3:7

A. Hinge Verse--Exhortations to God's Shameless People to Seek the Lord in View of the Coming Judgment: In view of the coming Day of the Lord Zephaniah urges the shameless nation of Judah to gather itself together, and to seek Yahweh, righteousness and humility so that Yahweh's anger might pass over them 2:1-3

1. The Shameless Nation Should Gather Itself Together: 2:1-2

2. Seek Yahweh, Righteousness, and Humility 2:3a

3. Possibility of Being Hidden from His Anger: 2:3a

B. Judgment upon all the Earth--Judgment Oracles against the Nations:6 Zephaniah proclaims that Yahweh will bring judgment upon all of the earth as he foretells the calamity which will befall Judah's surrounding neighbors to the west (Philistia), east (Moab & Ammon), south (Egypt), and north (Assyria) 2:4-15

1. Philistia Judged--to the West: 2:4-7

a. Cities Destroyed: 2:4

b. People Destroyed: 2:5-6

c. Land Given to Judah: 2:7

2. Moab and Ammon Judged--to the East: 2:8-11

a. Moab and Ammon are Arrogant against Judah: 2:8

b. Destruction for Arrogance: 2:9-10

c. All Will Worship God: 2:11

3. Ethiopia Judged--to the South: 2:12

4. Assyria--to the North: 2:12-15

a. Nineveh and Assyria Destroyed--a Wasteland: 2:13-14

b. Judgment in Spite of Arrogance: 2:15a

c. Contemptuous Response of Others to Judgment of Assyria: 2:15b

C. Woe Oracle Against Judah:7 Zephaniah exposes Jerusalem's shameless, abhorrent, spiritual condition along side of Yahweh's righteousness and justice to affirm that even though Yahweh will judge the nations for their evil, Jerusalem will not be taught, but runs to commit her evil 3:1-7

1. Jerusalem's Abhorrent Spiritual Condition: 3:1-4

a. Rebellious: 3:1a

b. Defiled: 3:1b

c. Tyrannical: 3:1c

d. Unlearning: 3:2a

e. Not trusting Yahweh: 3:2b

f. Abusive Political Leaders: 3:3

g. Religious Leaders Astray: 3:4

2. God's Nature: Unlike the unjust who know no shame, Yahweh is righteous and continually just 3:5

3. Judgment is Certain: Even though judgment is seen to be certain for the nations who have done evil, Judah refuses to be instructed and rushes to do evil 3:6-7

a. Judgment is Seen to Be Certain for the Nations: 3:6

b. The Refusal of the City to Change: 3:7

IV. Salvation--Future Restoration--Exhortations to Wait on the Lord in View of Coming Judgment, Salvation, and Restoration: When the Lord gathers all of the nations to receive judgment and the nations come to Him in worship, He will purify His people, save them, protect them, restore them, and bless them 3:8-20

A. Hinge Verse--An Exhortation to Wait on the Lord in View of the Coming Judgment and Salvation: At the time when Yahweh gathers all of the nations to receive His judgment, He will purify His people 3:8-9

1. Call for an Assembly of the Nations for Judgment: 3:8

2. God's People Will Be Purified: 3:9

B. The Restoration of the Remnant in the Context of Universal Salvation: While the nations come to worship Yahweh, He will save His people causing them to rejoice as He protects them, restores them, and blesses them 3:10-20

1. People from Far Away Will Bring Offerings to Yahweh 3:10

2. Yahweh Will Save a Remnant among Judah: 3:11-13

a. Yahweh Will Changed His People's Arrogant Attitude: 3:11

b. A Humble People Will Take Refuge in Yahweh: 3:12

c. Changed Actions of God's People That Result in Safety: 3:13

3. Exhortation to Rejoice in Yahweh's Salvation: 3:14-17

a. Command to Rejoice: 3:14

b. Yahweh in Their Presence: 3:15

c. Yahweh Their Protector: 3:16-17

4. Yahweh will Protect and Prosper His People: 3:18-20

a. Yahweh will Gather Those Who Long for Restoration: 3:18

b. Yahweh Will Deal with their Oppressors: 3:19

c. Yahweh Will Restore the Blessings of the Nation: 3:20


1 This outline is adapted through my own study from the analyses of Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 201-15; John D. Hannah, Zephaniah, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1524; Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Zephaniah, unpublished class notes in seminar in the exilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 158-161; John A Martin, An Outline of Zephaniah, unpublished class notes in 304 preexilic and exilic prophets, (Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1983), 1-4; Ralph L. Smith, Micah-Malachi, Word Biblical Commentary, XXXII:94-117.

This book is often divided into two major units: (1) The Day of Yahweh's Judgment [1:2--3:8], (2) The Day of Yahweh's Restoration [3:9-20] (John A Martin, An Outline of Zephaniah, unpublished class notes in 304 preexilic and exilic prophets, (Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1983), 1534; Larry Lee Walker, Zephaniah, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:541). Nevertheless, this writer is of the opinion that there are actually three major units which in a cyclic fashion expose Judah of coming judgment, speaks of future judgment, and exhorts Judah to wait for future restoration that will occur in a context of universal salvation (see Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 201-203; Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Zephaniah, unpublished class notes in seminar in the exilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 158-161).

2 Chisholm notes a chiastic structure for this unit:

A Universal Judgment 1:2-3

B Judgment on Judah 1:4-6

B' Judgment on Judah 1:7-13

A' Universal Judgment 1:14-18

Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 203.

3 Chisholm sees a chiastic structure in 1:7-18:

A ...the Day of the Lord is near 1:7

B The Lord has prepared a sacrifice ... 1:7b

B' On the Day of the Lord's Sacrifice ... 1:8-13

A' The Great Day of the Lord is Near ... 1:14-18

Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 203-204. Commenting on this structure he writes, Verse 7 provides a summary of the second part, affirming that 'the Day of the Lord is near' (v. 7a) and that the Lord has prepared a special sacrifice involving Judah's wealthy inhabitants (v. 7b). Verses 8-13 then develop the sacrifice motif, while verses 14-18 elaborate on the nearness of the Day of the Lord (Ibid., 203).

4 The people become the sacrifice. Their false sacrifices fall back on them in a talionic manner.

5 See Deuteronomy 4:11.

6 Zephaniah covers the four points of the compus to show that judgment will come upon all of the earth.

7 If the unit above was describing the four points of the compass, then this section places Jerusalem at the center point of the earth!

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines