Zephaniah Lesson 1



KEY VERSE: Zephaniah 3:9 “For then will I turn to the people a pure language that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.”

THEME: In the book of Zephaniah the whole earth becomes a theater where the Judge of all time displays the working of the law and judgment and the working of mercy and grace.

DATE: Zephaniah prophesied about 630 B.C. in the reign of the young and good King Josiah. Josiah reigned from 641-610 B.C. Zephaniah’s prophecy was about fifty years after Nahum, but before the actual destruction of Ninevah and the collapse of the Assyrian Empire. The Babylonian Empire was in the making, but it had not come to the front yet.

WRITER: Zephaniah. Zephaniah’s name means “the Lord hides, or protects”. He was the great, great grandson of King Hezekiah and therefore, of royal blood. He was also, of course, influenced by the moral principles and good traits of King Hezekiah. His ministry may well have helped prepare for the great revival of 621 B.C., which occurred under Josiah’s reign when the Law of Moses was rediscovered during the repair of the temple (see II Chronicles 34-35).

WRITTEN: The book was written, not only to pronounce judgment and restoration during the current time, but to give a real look into the future, right to the very end of time. Even though Ninevah would not fall until 612 B. C., some eighteen years later, yet the threat of Assyria on Judah was now gone. It is well to keep in mind that the prophecy was written in a time of favorable conditions for such writing, while young Josiah was setting in the reforms of his earlier predecessor, Hezekiah. Even though the prophecy is emphatic about judgment and wrath, the final chapter looks away to the end of time to picture Christ’s glorious reign and future glory of a restored Israel. It is written, also, to give practical application to this present time for believers.

THE BOOK: Number in Bible: 36th of 66 books of the Bible. Number of chapters: 3. Number of verses: 53. Number in order of writing: 9th of 12 minor prophecies.

PURPOSE: The purpose of the book of Zephaniah is three-fold. 1. To show that a faithful remnant (remaining few) should be delivered from captivity. 2. To show that the heathen shall be converted. 3. To show that, instead of men having to worship God in Jerusalem, they will be able to do so anywhere (see Zephaniah 2:11; John 4:21).

DIVISIONS: There are two basic divisions. 1. A bad day. Zephaniah pronounced judgment. 2. A glad day. Zephaniah announced justice.

FACTS: Good King Hezekiah had been succeeded by three descendants before young Josiah came on the scene and Zephaniah began to prophesy. Two of the kings were wicked and idol worshipping kings. The rich had amassed a great fortune by their oppression of the poor. Conditions were very bad when Josiah, only sixteen years of age, undertook to promote a revival of religion. He was one of the most beloved kings of Judah. He took a hatchet and hewed down the altars and images of Baal. This background gave Zephaniah great courage and comfort. Zephaniah foretold the doom of Ninevah, as Nahum had done (see Zephaniah 2:13). Tradition says that Jeremiah prophesied at the same time. The book begins with sorrow, but ends with singing. The first of the book is full of sadness and gloom, but the last contains one of the sweetest songs of love in the Old Testament. Three classes of false worshippers of Judah are denounced: (1:4-5): 1. The black robed, unlawful priests of Baal. 2. The unworthy priests of Jehovah. 3. Those who worshipped the stars from the housetops. There was also denunciation for those who wavered, for at one time they swear by the Lord, and at other times they swear by the god Molech (see 1:5). Then there were those who turned backward from outwardly following the Lord and began to despise Him. (See 1:6)

OUTLINE: I. THE DETERMINATION OF THE LORD. 1. To judge fully. (1:2-4). 2. To judge fairly. (1:5-6). II THE DAY OF THE LORD. 1. The people mentioned. A. The mighty, too independent to listen. (1:7-8) B. The mob, too sinful to listen. (1:9) C. The merchants, too involved to listen. (1:10-11) D. The majority, too indifferent to listen. (1:12-13) 2. The period mentioned. A. Its nearness. (1:14). B. Its nature. (1:15-18). 3. The places mentioned. (2:1-3:8. III. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE LORD. 1. Israel’s regathering. (3:9-10). 2. Israel’s repentance. (3:11-13). 3. Israel’s rejoicing. (3:14-15). 4. Israel’s redeemer. (3:16-20)

MISCELLANEOUS: Zephaniah mentions the “Day of the LORD” some seven times within the fifty three verses of his short book. Joel, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Isaiah, and other prophets besides Zephaniah make mention of the “Day of the Lord.” Zephaniah has none of the tenderness of Jeremiah. Instead, he hammers hard at the nation’s conscience. He does end on a happy note looking beyond the time of wrath to the blessings that follow. His message was very pertinent to ours, as well.

Zephaniah names four sins of omission that cursed Israel (2:3) 1. She obeyed not the voice. 2. She received not the correction. 3. She trusted not in the Lord. 4. She drew not near to her God. Habakkuk – Zephaniah – Haggai page 5

The judgments pronounced by Zephaniah fell into three categories: 1. Upon the land of God. 2. Upon the enemies of God. 3. Upon the city of God.

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