The word of the Lord which came unto Zephaniah the son
This is the title of the book, which expresses the subject matter of it, the word of the Lord; the word of prophecy from the Lord, as the Targum; and shows the divine authority of it; that it was not of himself, nor from any man, but was of God; as well as describes the penman of it by his descent: who or what this his father was; whether a prophet, according to the rule the Jews give, that, when the name of a prophet and his father's name are mentioned, he is a prophet, the son of a prophet; or, whether a prince, a person of some great family, and even of the blood royal, as some have thought, is not certain; or who those after mentioned: the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah;
which last name, consisting of the same letters with Hezekiah, king of Judah, some have thought, as Aben Ezra, that he is intended; and that Zephaniah was a great-grandson of his; and which some think is confirmed by his style and diction, and by the freedom he used with the king's family, ( Zephaniah 1:8 ) but it is objected, that, if so it was, Hizkiah, or Hezekiah, would have been called king of Judah; that it does not appear that Hezekiah had any other son besides Manasseh; and that there was not a sufficient distance of time from Hezekiah for four descents; and that, in fact, there were but three generations from him to Josiah, in whose days Zephaniah prophesied, as follows; though it is very probable that these progenitors of the prophet were men of note and character, and therefore mentioned, as well as to distinguish him from others of the same name, who lived in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah:
not Amos, as the Arabic version: Amon and Manasseh, who reigned between Hezekiah and Josiah, were both wicked princes, and introduced idolatrous worship among the Jews; which Josiah in the twelfth year of his reign began to purge the people from, and endeavoured a reformation; but whether it was before or after that Zephaniah delivered out this prophecy is not certain; it may seem to be before, by the corruption of the times described in it; and so it may be thought to have some influence upon the after reformation; though it is thought by many it was after; since, had he been in this office before the finding of the book of the law, he, and not Huldah the prophetess, would have been consulted, ( 2 Kings 22:14 ) nor could the people so well have been taxed with a perversion of the law, had it not been as yet found, ( Zephaniah 3:4 ) and, besides, the reformation seems to be hinted at in this prophecy, since mention is made of the remnant of Baal, which supposes a removal of many of his images; and also notice is taken of some that apostatized after the renewal of the covenant, ( Zephaniah 1:4 Zephaniah 1:6 ) moreover, the time of the Jews' destruction and captivity is represented as very near, ( Zephaniah 1:7 Zephaniah 1:14 ) which began a little after the death of Josiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; to which Dr. Lightfoot F6 adds, that the prophet prophesies against the king's children, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah, for their new fashions, and newfangled apparel, ( Zephaniah 1:8 ) and therefore it must be in the latter part of his reign; and, if so, it shows how a people may relapse into sin after the greatest endeavours for their good, and the best of examples set them. Mr. Whiston F7 and Mr. Bedford F8 place him in the latter part of his reign, about 611 or 612 B.C.: there were three that prophesied about this time, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Huldah the prophetess; of whom the Jewish Rabbins say, as Kimchi quotes them, Jeremiah prophesied in the streets, Zephaniah in the synagogues, and Huldah among the women.