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Zephaniah 3 Study Notes

3:1-2 Verses 1-8 repeatedly refer to the city, which is nowhere specified. That it states he had Jerusalem as the referent is clear from v. 5 that says “the righteous Lord is in her”.

3:3-4 These verses indict all Judah’s leaders as corrupt.

3:5 On in her (or “in her midst”) cp. vv. 15,17.

3:6-7 You will certainly fear me and accept correction follows up v. 2, where Jerusalem neither “accepted discipline” nor “trusted in the Lord” (Pr 1:7; 3:5,7). It also follows logically after v. 6. What God did to nations was supposed to teach his people a lesson. But it did not.

3:8 The fire of my jealousy may incorporate two OT themes: (1) the Lord’s fierce, jealous judgment of Israel by covenant curses (Dt 29:20-21) because they ignored warnings against idol worship (Dt 29:16-18); and (2) his zeal or jealousy for his people (cp. Zch 8:2), resulting in fire upon his enemies (Is 26:11) during earth’s universal judgment (Is 24) to bring salvation to the remnant (Zch 8:6-8).

3:9-10 The phrase restore pure speech to the peoples may reflect a reversal of the Babel motif (cp. Is 2:2-4; 19:18-25) or international worship without language barriers. But its meaning apparently also involves genuine worship of the Lord without deceit (Zph 3:13-14; cp. Rv 14:5). Zph 3:10 describes dispersed Israelites joining the nations in worship.

3:11 In v. 5 they had no shame because they had no conscience and no repentance. Here they have no shame because they are forgiven and purged of sin.

3:12-13 Pride had been at the base of Israel’s sinfulness. Humility, then, is the preeminent characteristic of the righteous remnant, who are finally ready to seek refuge in the Lord’s name. The key behavioral characteristic of the remnant is their truthfulness, and their reward is peace.

3:14-15 Nothing could be more different from the pronouncement of “woe” in v. 1 than this hymnic call to praise in v. 14. The point of v. 15b is that Israel’s king was in their midst, and the result was the chasing away of fear. The apostle John prefaced his announcement of the coming king in Jn 12:15 with “do not be afraid.”

3:16-17 The call not to be afraid is repeated, followed by the exhortation not to let your hands grow weak. As Palmer Robertson (The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah) says, “fear inevitably paralyzes.” Citing John Calvin, he notes that deliverance should not end in delight in selfish pleasure, but “that they may, on the contrary, strenuously devote themselves to the performance of their duties.” Robertson refers to v. 17 as “the John 3:16 of the OT.”

3:18 As the NET Bible suggests, “Any translation of this difficult verse must be provisional at best.”

3:19-20 These verses describe seven things the Lord promises to do for his redeemed people.

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