The Book of Zephaniah Bible Study Chapter 3 Part 1

Our last reading this week is Zephaniah 3:1-7

We need to understand things from G-d’s perspective (Isaiah 55:8-9).

v1: Woe: How awful it is going to be for these people if there is no change. They will experience destruction and hopelessness if they do not change. 

  • Her: It is always important, in a passage, to know who G-d is speaking about. For the most part of this chapter, G-d is speaking about His Old Covenant people – Israel. 
  • Polluted: Defiled. 
  • Oppressing city: From G-d’s perspective Jerusalem is rebellious, corrupt and displeasing to Him. This is not a city of blessing but is a city of oppression. This is how the L-rd is going to see Jerusalem in the last days. There is no earthly reason, from a human perspective, why this city should be renewed or restored [Just as there seemed to be no earthly reason why the city of Ninevah (wealthy, magnificent and powerful) failed]. 

v2: Not received correction (discipline): She has been unable to discern or practice truth. She has not done what is right in the eyes of the L-rd. 

  • Not trusted in the L-RD: She did not believe in the L-rd or in His instructions. 
  • She has not drawn near to her G-d: G-d was not inaccessible to her. She knew how to draw near to Him, but her rebellion kept her away from Him. 

v3: Princes: High officials. In modern Hebrew this is a word that refers to a Cabinet member.

  • Roaring lions: In the last days the leaders of Israel (those who have authority and who are in power) are going to be like roaring lions – making dangerous, loud and threatening noise.
  • Leave not a bone: These wolves will not stop chewing on this bone. They will chew it until its bitter end. 

v4: Insolent: Careless. Reckless. Fickle. They are casual and do not take things seriously. They have no passion or commitment and are careless with the Word of G-d.

  • Treacherous: Traitors.
  • Polluted the sanctuary (literally: That which is Holy): Some say that this should be seen as them profaning what is holy in a general sense. They not only profane the Holy places or places of worship, but they profane all that is holy. 
  • Done violence to the law: Many commentators see this as meaning that they have utilised the authority given to them through the Law (the Torah) in order to mistreat people. 

Note: From G-d’s perspective, these people are doing nothing good. Based on their actions, they do not deserve redemption.  

v5: The L-RD is righteous: This verse introduces a change. There is a shift away from the people and their spiritual condition, and the focus is turned onto G-d – the L-rd, our Master, the One who we are to live in submission to. 

  • Is in her midst: The presence of G-d in our lives changes everything. His presence brings about a glorious transformation. It is only His presence in our lives that can give us any hope for change. 
  • Every morning: Day in and day out. G-d is consistent. 
  • He brings His justice to light; He never fails: This is a promise. G-d, the righteous G-d in their midst, is going to make things different.
  • Knows no shame: The one who is unjust does not recognize his shameful position. He does unjustly, he follows his own desires, and he is ashamed about nothing. 

v6: I have cut off nations: After reading the first few verses in this chapter we would assume that if anyone deserves the wrath of G-d it is Jerusalem – the city of oppression and rebellion. G-d does not bring about change in the way that we would expect. His ways are not our ways. After saying that He was displeased with Jerusalem, the righteous Judge does what we would not expect – pouring His judgment on the nations and not on the nation of Israel. To our way of thinking this does not make sense. However, what G-d is doing is revealing His righteousness. He is showing Israel that He is faithful to His covenant that He made with them. He is showing them that He is trustworthy (Roms 11:25-27). G-d is going to act/behave in a way to accomplish His purposes. It may not seem right to us, but it is what is going to work to cause Israel to repent and to draw the remnant of Israel to G-d (Zec 12:8-14). 

  • Their fortresses (towers) are devastated: G-d destroys their places of defence. 

v7: I said: G-d has said.

  • You: Referring to Israel. 
  • Fear Me: When Israel sees the wrath of G-d that falls on the nations it is going to make an impression on them. 
  • Her dwelling would not be cut off: Most commentators see this as referring to Jerusalem, and they also interpret it to mean that Israel will not go into exile again. Israel is going to witness G-d’s power and His righteous judgment, and they’re going to respond in obedience to Him. 
  • Punished: Also translated ‘visited’. G-d has been intentional with Jerusalem (Israel). He has visited her in order to bring about a change. What G-d has done to the nations is going to have an impact on Israel and is going to bring about a change in their perspective. 
  • They: Change in pronoun. No longer speaking about Israel but about the nations. 
  • Rose early: Rising early is seen as showing commitment. This is usually a good thing (Gen 26:31, Num 14:40, Mark 1:35 etc).
  • Corrupted all their deeds: They witnessed G-d’s wrath and discipline, but it did not lead them to change. 

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