TWO PRONOUNCEMENTS OF JUDGMENT MERGED TOGETHER IN A DENUNCIATION OF IDOLATROUS TRANSGRESSIONS
(:1) INTRODUCTION: PROPHECY OF THE DAY OF THE LORD
A. The Message
“The word of the Lord”
B. The Messenger
“which came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah”
name means “the Lord hides” (cf. 2:3) – cf. Passover motif
C. The Setting
“in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah”
I. (:2-3) PRONOUNCEMENT OF END-TIMES GLOBAL JUDGMENT
A. (:2) Summary Comprehensive Judgment (cf. Noah’s Flood, Gen. 6; 2 Pet. 3)
“‘I will completely remove all things
From the face of the earth,’ declares the Lord.”
B. (:3) Detailed Targeted Judgment
“‘I will remove man and beast;
I will remove the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea,
And the ruins along with the wicked;
And I will cut off man from the face of the earth,’
Declares the Lord.”
MacArthur: The prophet began by noting the far fulfillment of the Day of the Lord, when even animal and physical creation will be affected by His judgment of the earth (cf. Ge 3:17-19; Ex 12:29; Jos 7:24,25; Ro 8:22).
Baker: These two verses are united by the concept of “sweeping away”, which occurs four times in the Hebrew, showing the emphatic and comprehensive nature of the action (cf. Est. 9:28; Ps. 73:19; Je. 8:13). This emphasis is reinforced by the objects of the verbs: everything, men and animals, including birds and fish, will be done away with. This judgment by God will be the undoing of his creation, as all of these words are found in Genesis.
Keathley: God is angry. Everyone is so wicked that He vows to totally destroy the earth. The mention of man and beast, birds and fish, etc. emphasize how thorough the destruction will be. It will be like in the days of Noah. Notice that this is the reversal of creation. The order of creation was fish, birds, beasts and man. Here we have the opposite order.
II. (:4-6) PRONOUNCEMENT OF IMMINENT JUDGMENT ON JUDAH FOR PARTICULAR TRANSGRESSIONS
A. (:4a) Judah / Jerusalem Targeted for God’s Wrath
“So I will stretch out My hand against Judah
And against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
Freeman: Sin on the part of those professing to be worshipers of God is always more heinous that that of the world, and is, therefore, judged more severely. Therefore, judgment always begins at the house of God (1 Pe 4:17; cf. Lev 10:1-3; Eze 8-9).
B. (:4b-6) Three Main Categories of Transgression
1. (:4B-5) Religious Idolatry / Adultery is the Primary Issue
a. Baal Worshipers targeted (In-your-face Idolatry)
“And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place”
b. Idolatrous Religious Leaders targeted (Blind Leading the Blind)
“And the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests.”
c. Astrology Worshipers targeted (Worshiping the Creation rather than the Creator)
“And those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven,”
Feinberg: Another class designated in Judah for judgment were those that worshiped the host of heaven upon the housetops. It was carried out on the flat housetops to afford a clearer view of the sky and chiefly by altars for burning incense. (Cp. Jer 8:2; 19:13; and 32:29.) This worship was called Sabeanism, and prevailed quite early in the East. Moses warned against it in Deuteronomy 4:19. Nevertheless, it was widely practiced in Israel, thus virtually making every home an idol sanctuary.
d. Syncretistic Worshipers targeted (Split Allegiance = No Allegiance)
“And those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom,”
Baker: what is strongly condemned is mixing worship of the true, covenant God of Israel with that of another deity (cf. Ex. 20:3; Dt. 5:7). Swearing by another god meant acknowledging his authority, something which was denied to Israel.
2. (:6a) Religious Apostasy
“And those who have turned back from following the Lord,”
3. (:6b) Neglectful, Self-Sufficient Transgressors (even atheists)
“And those who have not sought the Lord or inquired of Him.”