Zephaniah 3


The prophet reproves Jerusalem, and all her guides and rulers,

for their obstinate perseverance in impiety, notwithstanding

all the warnings and corrections which they had received from

God, 1-7.

They are encouraged, however, after they shall have been

chastised for their idolatry, and cured of it, to look for

mercy and restoration, 8-13;

and exited to hymns of joy at the glorious prospect, 14-17.

After which the prophet concludes with large promises of

favour and prosperity in the days of the Messiah, 18-20.

We take this extensive view of the concluding verses of this

chapter, because an apostle has expressly assured us that in

EVERY prophetical book of the Old Testament Scriptures are

confined predictions relative to the Gospel dispensation.

See Ac 3:24.


Verse 1. Wo to her that is filthy] This is a denunciation of

Divine judgment against Jerusalem.

Verse 2. She obeyed not the voice] Of conscience, of God, and of

his prophets.

She received not correction] Did not profit by his

chastisements; was uneasy and ill-tempered under her afflictions,

and derived no manner of good from these chastisements.

She trusted not in the Lord] Did not consider him as the

Fountain whence all help and salvation should come; and rather

sought for support from man and herself, than from God.

She drew not near to her God.] Did not worship him; did not walk

in his ways; did not make prayer and supplication to him.

Verse 3. Her princes-are roaring lions] Tearing all to pieces

without shadow of law, except their own despotic power.

Her judges are evening wolves] Being a little afraid of the

lion-like princes, they practise their unjust dealings from

evening to morning, and take the day to find their rest.

They gnaw not the bones till the morrow.] They devour the flesh

in the night, and gnaw the bones and extract the marrow

afterwards. They use all violence and predatory oppression, like

wild beasts; they shun the light, and turn day into night by their


Verse 4. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons] They

have no seriousness, no deep conviction of the awful nature of

their office, no concern for the immortal souls of the people.

Treacherous persons-they betray the souls of the people for the

sake of worldly honour, pleasure, and profit. Even in our own

enlightened country we find prophets who prefer hunting the hare

or the fox, and pursuing the partridge and pheasant, to

visiting the sick, and going after the strayed, lost sheep of the

house of Israel. Poor souls! They know neither God nor themselves;

and if they did visit the sick, they could not speak to them to

exhortation, edification, or comfort. God never called them to his

work; therefore they know nothing of it. But O, what an account

have these pleasure-taking false prophets to render to the

Shepherd of souls!

They have done violence to the law.] They have forced wrong

constructions on it in order to excuse themselves, and lull the

people into spiritual slumber. So we find that it was an ancient

practice for men to wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction.

Verse 5. The just Lord is in the midst thereof] He sees, marks

down, and will punish all these wickednesses.

Every morning doth he bring his judgment to light] The sense is,

says Bp. Newcome, "Not a day passes but we see instances of his

goodness to righteous men, and of his vengeance on the wicked."

Verse 6. I have cut off the nations] Syria, Israel, and those

referred to, Isa 36:18, 20.


Verse 7. Surely thou wilt fear me] After so many displays of my

sovereign power and judgments.

But they rose early] And instead of returning to God, they

practised every abomination. They were diligent to find out times

and places for their iniquity. This is the worst state of man.

Verse 8. Wait ye upon me] Expect the fulfilment of all my

promises and threatenings: I am God, and change not.

For all the earth] All the land of Judah.

Verse 9. Will I turn to the people] This promise must refer to

the conversion of the Jews under the Gospel.

That they may all call] That the whole nation may invoke God by

Christ, and serve him with one consent; not one unbeliever being

found among them.

The pure language, saphah berurah, may here mean the

form of religious worship. They had been before idolaters: now God

promises to restore his pure worship among them. The word has

certainly this meaning in Ps 81:5; where, as God is the speaker,

the words should not be rendered, "I heard a language which I

understood not," but, "I heard a religious confession, which I

approved not." See Isa 19:18; Ho 14:3; and see Joe 2:28,

where a similar promise is found.

Verse 10. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia] This may denote

both Africa and the southern Arabia. Bochart thinks that Arabia

Chusaer is meant; and that the rivers are Besor, which flows into

the Mediterranean; Rhinocorura, which flows into the Lake

Sirbonis; Trajanus Amnis, which flows into the Red Sea; and the

river Corys. Calmet thinks that these rivers mean the Nile,

which by seven mouths falls into the Mediterranean. The Nile comes

from Ethiopia, properly so called; and runs through all Egypt, and

falls into the sea at that part of Arabia which the Scripture

calls Cush or Ethiopia.

My dispersed] The Jews, scattered through different parts of the

world. Shall bring mine offering. Shall acknowledge my mercy in

sending them the Messiah to bless them, by turning every one of

them away from their iniquities.

Verse 11. Shalt thou not be ashamed] Thy punishment shall cease,

for God shall pardon thy sin.

For then I will take away out of the midst of thee] The wicked

Jewish priests and scribes who blasphemed Christ, and would not

come under his yoke.

Because of my holy mountain.] Thou wilt no more boast in my

temple, but become meek and lowly in following him who is meek

and lowly in heart, that ye may obtain rest to your souls.

Verse 12. An afflicted and poor people] In such a state will the

Jews be found when they shall hear the universal call, and believe

in Christ Jesus. Indeed, this is the general state of the Jews in

the present day; except a few that are called Jews, who are

very rich; and who believe just as much in the God of Jacob, as

they do in Jesus Christ.

Verse 13. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity] O what a

change! And then, how different shall they be from their present

selves! Iniquity, lying, and deceit shall not be found among them!

A Jew once said to me, "Tere are shome of you Christians who are

making wonderful efforts to convert the Tshews (Jews.) Ah, dere

ish none but Gott Almighty dat can convert a Tshew." Truly I

believe him. Only God can convert any man; and if there be a

peculiar difficulty to convert any soul, that difficulty must

lie in the conversion of the Jew.

Verse 14. Sing, O daughter of Zion] Here is not only a gracious

prophetic promise of their restoration from captivity, but of

their conversion to God through Christ.

Verse 15. The King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of

thee] They have never had a king since the death of Zedekiah, and

never shall have one till they have the King Messiah to reign

among them; and this promise refers to that event.

Verse 16. Fear thou not] Thou shalt have no more captivities nor

national afflictions.

Let not thine hands be slack.] This may refer, first, to the

rebuilding of the temple of God, after the return from Babylon;

and, secondly, to their diligence and zeal in the Christian


Verse 17. The Lord thy God] Yehovah Eloheycha, "The

self-existent and eternal Being, who is in covenant with you;" the

character of God in reference to the Jews when standing in the

nearest relation to them.

Is mighty] gibbor, is the prevailing One, the

all-conquering Hero. The character which is given to Christ,

Isa 9:6: "His name shall be called

El gibbor, the prevailing Almighty God."

He will save] Deliver thee from all the power, from all the

guilt, and from all the pollution of thy sins; and when thus

saved, "he will rejoice over thee with joy," with peculiar

gladness. "He will rest in his love,"-he will renew his love. He

will show the same love to you that he did of old to Abraham,

Isaac, and Jacob.

He will joy over thee with singing.] The conversion of the Jews

will be a subject of peculiar delight and exultation to God

himself! There will be a more than ordinary joy in heaven, when

the Jews return to God through Christ. This event cannot be at a

great distance; they are as wretched and as ungodly as they can

well be. The arms of Christians are open to receive them; and all

things are now ready!

Verse 18. I will gather-sorrowful] This may refer to those who,

during the captivity, mourned for their former religious

assemblies; and who were reproached by their enemies, because they

could not enjoy their religious solemnities. See Ps 137:1-9: "By

the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we

remembered Zion. For there they that carried us away captive

required of us a song," &c. This very circumstance may be the

reference here.

Verse 19. I will undo all that afflict thee] They who have

persecuted you shall be punished for it. It shows much malignity

and baseness of mind, to afflict or reproach those who are lying

under the chastising hand of God. This was the conduct of the

Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites, when the Jews were in

adversity; and how severely did the Lord punish them for it! And

he gave this as the reason for the severity of the punishment.

The first clause here is translated thus by Abp. Newcome:

"Behold I will work with thee for thy sake at that time." The

original is obscure; and it may bear the above sense.

I will save her that halteth] See Mic 4:6, where there is a

parallel place.

And gather her that was driven out] By captivity. The reference

may be to renewing the covenant with the Jews, who were considered

as an unfaithful spouse divorced by her husband. I will bring her

back to my house.

I will get them praise and fame in every land] They shall become

a great, a good, and a useful people. And as they are now a

proverb of reproach, full of base wiles and degrading selfishness,

they shall lose this character, and be totally changed; and they

shall be as eminent for excellence, as they were before for

baseness, in those countries where they had sojourned.

Verse 20. At that time] First, when the seventy years of the

Babylonish captivity shall terminate. "I will bring you again" to

your own land; and this restoration shall be a type of their

redemption from sin and iniquity; and at this time, and at this

only, will they have a name and praise among all the people

of the earth, not only among the Jews, but the Gentiles.

Before your eyes] Some read before THEIR eyes; that is, the eyes

of all people. On their conversion to Christianity, they shall

become as eminent as they ever were in the most illustrious days

of their history, Lord, hasten the conversion of Israel! Amen.

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