Book of Zephaniah: Historical Overview – Zephaniah calls God’s people to repentance and hope – Will you? Will I respond?
Historical Introduction: Zephaniah the prophet prophesied during the reign of King Josiah who ascended his throne in 639 BC. at the age of eight years-old (2 Chronicles 34-35). The book of Zephaniah was written before 629 BC when Josiah found and eagerly read the holy scriptures discovered in the temple. He later celebrated a great Passover feast and cleansed both the temple and the priests. At this time, Assyria had already captured the northern kingdom of Israel. Over hundred years had passed. God was now ready to destroy Judah the southern kingdom. But because of Josiah's reform, the fall of Judea was postponed until shortly after Josiah's time. Zephaniah's message no doubt played a key part in this revival. [link]
Zephaniah 1-2 – The Prophet Zephaniah [from the Tribe of Judah] a 4th generation descendant of King Hezekiah is a fellow middle period prophet with the Prophets Jeremiah and Habakkuk [actually slightly earlier than Habakkuk] – Zephaniah is going to have a short but compelling Ministry to Israel – Zephaniah much like the vision Jeremiah had of the two baskets of figs, the basket of very good figs and the basket of very bad figs with no in-between figs [Jeremiah 24:1-3] – Zephaniah is going to contrast the coming events in the darkness of wrath for the evildoer and in a brightness of Salvation for the “remnant of God’s people” — ‘Zephaniah 1:1-2 The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah. *I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.’
Zephaniah 1:7-18 Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests. And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD'S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills. Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off. *And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles [i.e. The Passover feast and the practice of searching with a lit candle the floor and counters for bits of leven to be removed from the household before the Passover Feast begins], and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil. Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof. The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land. - The Prophet Zephaniah dramatically illustrates the coming wrath of God a wrath that is to equal the 'bad fig' unjust behavior of mankind.
Zephaniah 3 – The Prophet Zephaniah after revealing the devastating wrath of God upon the ungodly now reveals the much higher magnitude of the Salvation of God — ‘Zephaniah 3:14-17 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. … The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.’
Zephaniah 3:14-20 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel [God], even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden. Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: *for I will make you a Name and a praise among all people of the earth, *when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD. - As mighty as the wrath and the judgments of God are, even during the future ultimate wrath of Revelation, God is continually doing a work of Salvation that far surpasses and exceeds His work of wrath.