Zephaniah 3

Jerusalem is Corrupt

1The filthy,
The present translation assumes מֹרְאָה (morah) is derived from רֹאִי (roi,“excrement”; see Jastrow 1436 s.v. רֳאִי). The following participle, “stained,” supports this interpretation (cf. NEB “filthy and foul”; NRSV “soiled, defiled”). Another option is to derive the form from מָרָה (marah, “to rebel”); in this case the term should be translated “rebellious” (cf. NASB, NIV “rebellious and defiled”). This idea is supported by v. 2. For discussion of the two options, see HALOT 630 s.v. I מרא and J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 206.
stained city is as good as dead;
the city filled with oppressors is finished!
Heb “Woe, soiled and stained one, oppressive city.” The verb “is finished” is supplied in the second line. On the Hebrew word הוֹי (hoy, “ah, woe”), see the note on the word “dead” in 2:5.
The following verses show that Jerusalem, personified as a woman (“she”), is the referent.

2 She is disobedient;
Heb “she does not hear a voice” Refusing to listen is equated with disobedience.

she refuses correction.
Heb “she does not receive correction.” The Hebrew phrase, when negated, refers elsewhere to rejecting verbal advice (Jer 17:23; 32:33; 35:13) and refusing to learn from experience (Jer 2:30; 5:3).

She does not trust the Lord;
she does not seek the advice of
Heb “draw near to.” The present translation assumes that the expression “draw near to” refers to seeking God’s will (see 1 Sam 14:36).
her God.
3 Her princes
Or “officials.”
are as fierce as roaring lions;
Heb “her princes in her midst are roaring lions.” The metaphor has been translated as a simile (“as fierce as”) for clarity.

her rulers
Traditionally “judges.”
are as hungry as wolves in the desert,
Heb “her judges [are] wolves of the evening,” that is, wolves that prowl at night. The translation assumes an emendation to עֲרָבָה (’aravah, “desert”). For a discussion of this and other options, see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah (AB 25A), 128. The metaphor has been translated as a simile (“as hungry as”) for clarity.

who completely devour their prey by morning.
Heb “they do not gnaw [a bone] at morning.” The precise meaning of the line is unclear. The statement may mean these wolves devour their prey so completely that not even a bone is left to gnaw by the time morning arrives. For a discussion of this and other options, see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah (AB 25A), 129.

4 Her prophets are proud;
Applied to prophets, the word פֹּחֲזִים (pokhazim, “proud”) probably refers to their audacity in passing off their own words as genuine prophecies from the Lord (see Jer 23:32).

they are deceitful men.
Her priests defile what is holy;
Or “defile the temple.”
These priests defile what is holy by not observing the proper distinctions between what is ritually clean and unclean (see Ezek 22:26).

they break God’s laws.
Heb “they treat violently [the] law.”

5 The just Lord resides
The word “resides” is supplied for clarification.
within her;
he commits no unjust acts.
Or “he does no injustice.”

Every morning he reveals
Heb “gives”; or “dispenses.”
his justice.
At dawn he appears without fail.
Heb “at the light he is not missing.” Note that NASB (which capitalizes pronouns referring to Deity) has divided the lines differently: “Every morning He brings His justice to light; // He does not fail.”

Yet the unjust know no shame.

The Lord’s Judgment will Purify

6 “I destroyed
Heb “cut off.”
their walled cities
Heb “corner towers”; NEB, NRSV “battlements.”
are in ruins.
I turned their streets into ruins;
no one passes through them.
Their cities are desolate;
This Hebrew verb (צָדָה, tsadah) occurs only here in the OT, but its meaning is established from the context and from an Aramaic cognate.

no one lives there.
Heb “so that there is no man, without inhabitant.”

7 I thought,
Heb “said.”
‘Certainly you will respect
Or “fear.” The second person verb form (“you will respect”) is feminine singular, indicating that personified Jerusalem is addressed.
God’s judgment of the nations (v. 6) was an object lesson for Israel’s benefit.
Now you will accept correction!’
If she had done so, her home
Or “dwelling place.”
would not be destroyed
Heb “cut off.”

by all the punishments I have threatened.
Heb “all which I have punished her.” The precise meaning of this statement and its relationship to what precedes are unclear.

But they eagerly sinned
in everything they did.
Heb “But they got up early, they made corrupt all their actions.” The phrase “they got up early” probably refers to their eagerness to engage in sinful activities.

8 Therefore you must wait patiently
The second person verb form (“you must wait patiently”) is masculine plural, indicating that a group is being addressed. Perhaps the humble individuals addressed earlier (see 2:3) are in view. Because of Jerusalem’s sin, they must patiently wait for judgment to pass before their vindication arrives.
for me,” says the Lord,
“for the day when I attack and take plunder.
Heb “when I arise for plunder.” The present translation takes עַד (’ad) as “plunder.” Some, following the LXX, repoint the term עֵד (’ed) and translate, “as a witness” (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV). In this case the Lord uses a legal metaphor to picture himself as testifying against his enemies. Adele Berlin takes לְעַד (lead) in a temporal sense (“forever”) and translates “once and for all” (Zephaniah [AB 25A], 133).

I have decided
Heb “for my decision is.”
to gather nations together
and assemble kingdoms,
so I can pour out my fury on them –
all my raging anger.
Or “certainly.”
the whole earth will be consumed
by my fiery anger.
9 Know for sure that I will then enable
the nations to give me acceptable praise.
Heb “Certainly [or perhaps, “For”] then I will restore to the nations a pure lip.”
I will then enable the nations to give me acceptable praise. This apparently refers to a time when the nations will reject their false idol-gods and offer genuine praise to the one true God.

All of them will invoke the Lord’s name when they pray,
Heb “so that all of them will call on the name of the Lord.”

and will worship him in unison.
Heb “so that [they] will serve him [with] one shoulder.”

10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia,
Or “Nubia”; Heb “Cush.” “Cush” is traditionally assumed to refer to the region south of Egypt, i.e. Nubia or northern Sudan, referred to as “Ethiopia” by classical authors (not the more recent Abyssinia).

those who pray to me
Heb “those who pray to me, the daughter of my dispersed ones.” The meaning of the phrase is unclear. Perhaps the text is corrupt at this point or a proper name should be understood. For a discussion of various options see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah (AB 25A), 134–35.
It is not certain if those who pray to me refers to the converted nations or to God’s exiled covenant people.
will bring me tribute.
11 In that day you
The second person verbs and pronouns are feminine singular, indicating that personified Jerusalem is addressed here.
will not be ashamed of all your rebelliousness against me,
Heb “In that day you not be ashamed because of all your actions, [in] which you rebelled against me.”

for then I will remove from your midst those who proudly boast,
Heb “the arrogant ones of your pride.”

and you will never again be arrogant on my holy hill.
12 I will leave in your midst a humble and meek group of people,
Heb “needy and poor people.” The terms often refer to a socioeconomic group, but here they may refer to those who are humble in a spiritual sense.

and they will find safety in the Lord’s presence.
Heb “and they will take refuge in the name of the Lord.”
Safety in the Lord’s presence. From the time the Lord introduced his special covenant name (Yahweh) to Moses, it served as a reminder of his protective presence as Israel’s faithful deliverer.

13 The Israelites who remain
Or “the remnant of Israel.”
will not act deceitfully.
They will not lie,
and a deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouth.
Indeed, they will graze peacefully like sheep
The words “peacefully like sheep” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
and lie down;
no one will terrify them.”
14 Shout for joy, Daughter Zion!
This phrase is used as an epithet for the city and the nation. “Daughter” may seem extraneous in English but consciously joins the various epithets and metaphors of Israel and Jerusalem as a woman, a device used to evoke sympathy from the reader.

Shout out, Israel!
Be happy and boast with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has removed the judgment against you;
Heb “your judgments,” that is, “the judgments directed against you.” The translation reflects the implications of the parallelism.

he has turned back your enemy.
Israel’s king, the Lord, is in your midst!
You no longer need to fear disaster.
16 On that day they will say
Heb “it will be said.” The passive construction has been translated as active for stylistic reasons.
to Jerusalem,
“Don’t be afraid, Zion!
Your hands must not be paralyzed from panic!
Heb “your hands must not go limp.”

17 The Lord your God is in your midst;
he is a warrior who can deliver.
He takes great delight in you;
Heb “he rejoices over you with joy.”

he renews you by his love;
The MT reads, “he is silent in his love,” but this makes no sense in light of the immediately preceding and following lines. Some take the Hiphil verb form as causative (see Job 11:3) rather than intransitive and translate, “he causes [you] to be silent by his love,” that is, “he soothes [you] by his love.” The present translation follows the LXX and assumes an original reading יְחַדֵּשׁ (yekhaddesh, “he renews”) with ellipsis of the object (“you”).

he shouts for joy over you.”
Heb “he rejoices over you with a shout of joy.”

18 “As for those who grieve because they cannot attend the festivals –
I took them away from you;
they became tribute and were a source of shame to you.
Heb “The ones grieving from an assembly I gathered from you they were, tribute upon her, a reproach.” Any translation of this difficult verse must be provisional at best. The present translation assumes three things: (1) The preposition מִן (min) prefixed to “assembly” is causal (the individuals are sorrowing because of the assemblies or festivals they are no longer able to hold). (2) מַשְׂאֵת (maset) means “tribute” and refers to the exiled people being treated as the spoils of warfare (see R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah [WEC], 385–86). (3) The third feminine singular suffix refers to personified Jerusalem, which is addressed earlier in the verse (the pronominal suffix in “from you” is second feminine singular). For other interpretive options see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah (AB 25A), 146.

19 Look, at that time I will deal with those who mistreated you.
I will rescue the lame sheep
The word “sheep” is supplied for clarification. As in Mic 4:6–7, the exiles are here pictured as injured and scattered sheep whom the divine shepherd rescues from danger.

and gather together the scattered sheep.
I will take away their humiliation
and make the whole earth admire and respect them.
Heb “I will make them into praise and a name, in all the earth, their shame.” The present translation assumes that “their shame” specifies “them” and that “name” stands here for a good reputation.

20 At that time I will lead you –
at the time I gather you together.
In this line the second person pronoun is masculine plural, indicating that the exiles are addressed.

Be sure of this!
Or “for.”
I will make all the nations of the earth respect and admire you
Heb “I will make you into a name and praise among all the peoples of the earth.” Here the word “name” carries the nuance of “good reputation.”

when you see me restore you,”
Heb “when I restore your fortunes to your eyes.” See the note on the phrase “restore them” in 2:7.
says the Lord.

Copyright information for NETfull