Further reproofs for sin. (1-7) Encouragement to look for mercy. (8-13) Promises of future favour and prosperity. (14-20)
Verses 1-7 The holy God hates sin most in those nearest to him. A sinful state is, and will be, a woful state. Yet they had the tokens of God's presence, and all the advantages of knowing his will, with the strongest reasons to do it; still they persisted in disobedience. Alas, that men often are more active in doing wickedness than believers are in doing good.
Verses 8-13 The preaching of the gospel is predicted, when vengeance would be executed on the Jewish nation. The purifying doctrines of the gospel, or the pure language of the grace of the Lord, would teach men to use the language of humility, repentance, and faith. Purity and piety in common conversation is good. The pure and happy state of the church in the latter days seems intended. The Lord will shut out boasting, and leave men nothing to glory in, save the Lord Jesus, as made of God to them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Humiliation for sin, and obligations to the Redeemer, will make true believers upright and sincere, whatever may be the case among mere professors.
Verses 14-20 After the promises of taking away sin, follow promises of taking away trouble. When the cause is removed, the effect will cease. What makes a people holy, will make them happy. The precious promises made to the purified people, were to have full accomplishment in the gospel. These verses appear chiefly to relate to the future conversion and restoration of Israel, and the glorious times which are to follow. They show the abundant peace, comfort, and prosperity of the church, in the happy times yet to come. He will save; he will be Jesus; he will answer the name, for he will save his people from their sins. Before the glorious times foretold, believers would be sorrowful, and objects of reproach. But the Lord will save the weakest believer, and cause true Christians to be greatly honoured where they had been treated with contempt. One act of mercy and grace shall serve, both to gather Israel out of their dispersions and to lead them to their own land. Then will God's Israel be made a name and a praise to eternity. The events alone can fully answer the language of this prophecy. Many are the troubles of the righteous, but they may rejoice in God's love. Surely our hearts should honour the Lord, and rejoice in him, when we hear such words of condescension and grace. If now kept from his ordinances, it is our trial and grief; but in due time we shall be gathered into his temple above. The glory and happiness of the believer will be perfect, unchangeable, and eternal, when he is freed from earthly sorrows, and brought to heavenly bliss.
Zephaniah 3:1-20 . RESUMPTION OF THE DENUNCIATION OF JERUSALEM, AS BEING UNREFORMED BY THE PUNISHMENT OF OTHER NATIONS: AFTER HER CHASTISEMENT JEHOVAH WILL INTERPOSE FOR HER AGAINST HER FOES; HIS WORSHIP SHALL FLOURISH IN ALL LANDS, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM, WHERE HE SHALL BE IN THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE, AND SHALL MAKE THEM A PRAISE IN ALL THE EARTH.
1. filthy--MAURER translates from a different root, "rebellious," "contumacious." But the following term, "polluted," refers rather to her inward moral filth, in spite of her outward ceremonial purity [CALVIN]. GROTIUS says, the Hebrew is used of women who have prostituted their virtue. There is in the Hebrew Moreah; a play on the name Moriah, the hill on which the temple was built; implying the glaring contrast between their filthiness and the holiness of the worship on Moriah in which they professed to have a share.
oppressing--namely, the poor, weak, widows, orphans and strangers ( Jeremiah 22:3 ).
2. received not correction--Jerusalem is incurable, obstinately rejecting salutary admonition, and refusing to be reformed by "correction" ( Jeremiah 5:3 ).
trusted not in . . . Lord--Distrust in the Lord as if He were insufficient, is the parent of all superstitions and wickednesses [CALVIN].
drew not near to her God--Though God was specially near to her ( Deuteronomy 4:7 ) as "her God," yet she drew not near to Him, but gratuitously estranged herself from Him.
3. roaring--for prey ( Proverbs 28:15 , Ezekiel 22:27 , Amos 3:4 , Micah 2:2 ).
evening wolves--which are most ravenous at evening after being foodless all day ( Jeremiah 5:6 , Habakkuk 1:8 ).
they gnaw not the bones till the morrow--rather, "they put not off till to-morrow to gnaw the bones"; but devour all at once, bones and flesh, so ragingly ravenous are they [CALVIN].
4. light--in whose life and teaching there is no truth, gravity, or steadiness.
treacherous--false to Jehovah, whose prophets they profess to be ( Jeremiah 23:32 , Ezekiel 22:28 ).
polluted . . . sanctuary--by their profane deeds.
5-7. The Jews regard not God's justice manifested in the midst of them, nor His judgments on the guilty nations around.
The just Lord--Why then are ye so unjust?
is in the midst thereof--He retorts on them their own boast, "Is not the Lord among us" ( Micah 3:11 )? True He is, but it is for another end from what ye think [CALVIN]; namely, to lead you by the example of His righteousness to be righteous. Leviticus 19:2 , "Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy" [MAURER]. But CALVIN, "That ye may feel His hand to be the nearer for taking vengeance for your crimes: 'He will not do iniquity' by suffering your sins to go unpunished" ( Deuteronomy 32:4 ).
every morning--literally, "morning by morning." The time in the sultry East for dispensing justice.
bring . . . to light--publicly and manifestly by the teaching of His prophets, which aggravates their guilt; also by samples of His judgments on the guilty.
he faileth not--He is continually setting before you samples of His justice, sparing no pains. Compare Isaiah 5:4 , 50:4 , "he wakeneth morning by morning."
knoweth no shame--The unjust Jews are not shamed by His justice into repentance.
6. I had hoped that My people by My judgments on other nations would be led to amendment; but they are not, so blinded by sin are they.
towers--literally, "angles" or "corners"; hence the towers built at the angles of their city walls. Under Josiah's long and peaceful reign the Jews were undisturbed, while the great incursion of Scythians into Western Asia took place. The judgment on the ten tribes in a former reign also is here alluded to.
7. I said, Surely, &c.--God speaks after the manner of men in condescension to man's infirmity; not as though God was ignorant of the future contingency, but in their sense, Surely one might have expected ye would under such circumstances repent: but no!
thou--at least, O Jerusalem! Compare "thou, even thou, at least in this thy day" ( Luke 19:42 ).
their dwelling--the sanctuary [BUXTORF]. Or, the city. Compare Jesus' words ( Luke 13:35 ), "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" ( Leviticus 26:31 Leviticus 26:32 , Psalms 69:25 ); and used as to the temple ( Micah 3:12 ). "Their" is used instead of "thy"; t his change of person implies that God puts them to a greater distance.
howsoever I punished them--Howsoever I might have punished them, I would not have cut off their dwelling. CALVIN, "Howsoever I had marked them out for punishment" because of their provocations, still, if even then they had repented, taught by My corrections, I was ready to have pardoned them. MAURER, "Altogether in accordance with what I had long ago decreed (ordained) concerning you" ( Deuteronomy 28:1-14 , and, on the other hand, Deuteronomy 28:15-68 , 27:15-26 ). English Version, or CALVIN'S view, is better.
rose early, and corrupted, &c.--Early morning is in the East the best time for transacting serious business, before the relaxing heat of midday comes on. Thus it means, With the greatest earnestness they set themselves to "corrupt all their doings" ( Genesis 6:12 , Isaiah 5:11 , Jeremiah 11:7 , 25:3 ).
8. wait ye upon me--Here Jehovah turns to the pious Jews. Amidst all these judgments on the Jewish nation, look forward to the glorious time of restoration to be ushered in by God's precious outpouring of wrath on all nations, Isaiah 30:18-33 ; where the same phrase, "blessed are all they that wait for Him," is used as to the same great event. CALVIN erroneously makes this verse an address to the ungodly; and so MAURER, "Ye shall not have to wait for Me in vain"; I will presently come armed with indignation: I will no longer contend with you by My prophets.
until the day--that is, waiting for the day ( Habakkuk 2:3 ).
rise up to the prey--like a savage beast rising from his lair, greedy for the prey (compare Matthew 24:28 ). Or rather, as a warrior leading Israel to certain victory, which is expressed by "the prey," or booty, which is the reward of victory. The Septuagint and Syriac versions read the Hebrew, "I rise up as a witness" (compare Job 16:8 , Malachi 3:5 ). Jehovah being in this view witness, accuser, and judge. English Version is better (compare Isaiah 33:23 ).
gather the nations--against Jerusalem ( Zechariah 14:2 ), to pour out His indignation upon them there ( Joel 3:2 , Zechariah 12:2 Zechariah 12:3 ).
9. For--The blessed things promised in this and Zephaniah 3:10 are the immediate results of the punishment inflicted on the nations, mentioned in Zephaniah 3:8 (compare Zephaniah 3:19 ).
turn to the people a pure language--that is, changing their impure language I will give to them again a pure language (literally, "lip"). Compare for this Hebrew idiom, 1 Samuel 10:9 , Margin. The confusion of languages was of the penalty sin, probably idolatry at Babel ( Genesis 11:1-6 , Margin, where also "lip" expresses language, and perhaps also religion; Zephaniah 3:4 , "a tower whose top may reach unto heaven," or rather, points to heaven, namely, dedicated to the heavens idolized, or Bel); certainly, of rebellion against God's will. An earnest of the removal of this penalty was the gift of tongues on pentecost ( Acts 2:6-13 ). The full restoration of the earth's unity of language and of worship is yet future, and is connected with the restoration of the Jews, to be followed by the conversion of the world. Compare Isaiah 19:18 , Zechariah 14:9 , Romans 15:6 , "with one mind and one mouth glorify God." The Gentiles' lips have been rendered impure through being the instruments of calling on idols and dishonoring God (compare Psalms 16:4 , Hosea 2:17 ). Whether Hebrew shall be the one universal language or not, the God of the Hebrews shall be the one only object of worship. Until the Holy Ghost purify the lips, we cannot rightly call upon God ( Isaiah 6:5-7 ).
serve him with one consent--literally, "shoulder" or "back"; metaphor from a yoke, or burden, borne between two ( Numbers 13:23 ); helping one another with conjoint effort. If one of the two bearers of a burden, laid on both conjointly, give way, the burden must fall to the earth [CALVIN]. Christ's rule is called a burden ( Matthew 11:30 , Acts 15:28 , Revelation 2:24 ; compare 2 Corinthians 6:14 for the same image).
10. From beyond . . . Ethiopia my suppliants--literally, "burners of incense" (compare Psalms 141:2 , Revelation 5:8 , Revelation 8:3 Revelation 8:4 ). The Israelites are meant, called "the daughter of My dispersed," a Hebrew idiom for My dispersed people. "The rivers of Ethiopia" are those which enclose it on the north. In the west of Abyssinia there has long existed a people called Falashas, or "emigrants" (akin to the synonym "Philistine"). These trace their origin to Palestine and profess the Jewish religion. In physical traits they resemble the Arabs. When Bruce was there, they had a Jewish king, Gideon, and his queen, Judith. Probably the Abyssinian Christians were originally in part converted Jews. They are here made the representatives of all Israel which is to be restored.
shall bring mine offering--that is, the offering that is My right. I prefer, with DE WETTE and Chaldee Version, making "suppliants" the objective case, not the nominative. The peoples: ( Zephaniah 3:8 Zephaniah 3:9 ), brought to fear Me by My judgments, "shall bring as Mine offering My suppliants (an appropriate term for the Jews, on whom then there shall have been poured the spirit of supplications, Zechariah 12:10 ), the daughter of My dispersed." So Isaiah 66:20 , "they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord." Compare HORSLEY'S view of Isaiah 18:1 Isaiah 18:2 Isaiah 18:7 . England in this view may be the naval power to restore Israel to Palestine ( Isaiah 60:9 ). The Hebrew for "Ethiopia" is Cush, which may include not only Ethiopia, but also the region of the Tigris and Babylon, where Nimrod, Cush's son ( Genesis 10:8-12 ), founded Nineveh and acquired Babylon, and where the ten tribes are mentioned as being scattered ( 1 Peter 1:1 , 5:13 ; compare Isaiah 11:11 ). The restoration under Cyrus of the Jews transported under Pharaoh-necho to Egypt and Ethiopia, was an earnest of the future restoration under Christ.
11. shalt thou not be ashamed--Thou shalt then have no cause to be ashamed; for I will then take away out of the midst of thee those who by their sins gave thee cause for shame ( Zephaniah 3:7 ).
them that rejoice in thy pride--those priding themselves on that which thou boastest of, thy temple ("My holy mountain"), thy election as God's people, &c., in the Pharisaic spirit ( Jeremiah 7:4 , Micah 3:11 , Matthew 3:9 ). Compare Jeremiah 13:17 , "mine eyes shall weep for your pride." The converted remnant shall be of a humble spirit ( Zephaniah 3:12 , Isaiah 66:2 Isaiah 66:10 ).
12. afflicted . . . they shall trust in . . . Lord--the blessed effect of sanctified affliction on the Jewish remnant. Entire trust in the Lord cannot be, except where all cause for boasting is taken away ( Isaiah 14:32 , Zechariah 11:11 ).
13. nor speak lies--worshipping God in truth, and towards man having love without dissimulation. The characteristic of the 144,000 sealed of Israel.
none shall make them afraid--either foreign foe, or unjust prince ( Zephaniah 3:3 ), prophet, or priest ( Zephaniah 3:4 ).
14. The prophet in mental vision sees the joyful day of Zion present, and bids her rejoice at it.
15. The cause for joy: "The Lord hath taken away thy judgments," namely, those sent by Him upon thee. After the taking away of sin ( Zephaniah 3:13 ) follows the taking away of trouble. When the cause is removed, the effect will cease. Happiness follows in the wake of holiness.
the Lord is in the midst of thee--Though He seemed to desert thee for a time, He is now present as thy safeguard ( Zephaniah 3:17 ).
not see evil any more--Thou shalt not experience it ( Jeremiah 5:12 , 44:17 ).
16. Let not thine hands be slack--( Hebrews 12:12 ). Do not faint in the work of the Lord.
17. he will rest in his love--content with it as His supreme delight (compare Luke 15:7 Luke 15:10 ) [CALVIN], ( Isaiah 62:5 , 65:19 ). Or, He shall be silent, namely as to thy faults, not imputing them to thee [MAURER] ( Psalms 32:2 , Ezekiel 33:16 ). I prefer explaining it of that calm silent joy in the possession of the object of one's love, too great for words to express: just as God after the six days of creation rested with silent satisfaction in His work, for "behold it was very good" ( Genesis 1:31 , 2:2 ). So the parallel clause by contrast expresses the joy, not kept silent as this, but uttered in "singing."
18. sorrowful for the solemn assembly--pining after the solemn assembly which they cannot celebrate in exile ( Lamentations 1:4 , 2:6 ).
who are of thee--that is, of thy true citizens; and whom therefore I will restore.
to whom the reproach of it was a burden--that is, to whom thy reproach ("the reproach of My people," Micah 6:16 ; their ignominious captivity) was a burden. "Of it" is put of thee, as the person is often changed. Those who shared in the burden of reproach which fell on My people. Compare Isaiah 25:8 , "the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth."
19. undo--MAURER translates, "I will deal with," that is, as they deserve. Compare Ezekiel 23:25 , where the Hebrew is similarly translated. The destruction of Israel's foes precedes Israel's restoration ( Isaiah 66:15 Isaiah 66:16 ).
her that halteth--all that are helpless. Their weakness will be no barrier in the way of My restoring them. So in Psalms 35:15 , Margin, "halting" is used for adversity. Also Ezekiel 34:16 , Micah 4:6 Micah 4:7 .
I will get them praise, &c.--literally, "I will make them (to become) a praise and a name," &c.
shame--( Ezekiel 34:29 ).
20. make you a name . . . praise--make you to become celebrated and praised.
turn back your captivity--bring back your captives [MAURER]. The Hebrew is plural, "captivities"; to express the captivities of different ages of their history, as well as the diversity of places in which they were and are dispersed.
before your eyes--Incredible as the event may seem, your own eyes with delight shall see it. You will scarcely believe it for joy, but the testimony of your own eyes shall convince you of the delightful reality (compare Luke 24:41 ).