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Zephaniah 1:12

12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.’

Read Zephaniah 1:12 Using Other Translations

And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.
At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, 'The LORD will not do good, nor will he do ill.'
“I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to punish those who sit complacent in their sins. They think the LORD will do nothing to them, either good or bad.

What does Zephaniah 1:12 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Zephaniah 1:12

And it shall come to pass at that time, [that] I will search
Jerusalem with candles
To find out the sins of the inhabitants of it, and the authors of them, and punish them for them, however hid and concealed from the eyes of others, or thought to be: this must be understood consistent with the omniscience of God, who knows all persons and things; nothing is hid from him; men may fancy their sins are hid, being privately and secretly committed; but all will be manifest, sooner or later; if not now, yet at the day of judgment; and sometimes they are made manifest by God in this life, as here; for what the Lord here says he would do, he did it by instruments, by the Chaldeans, whom he sent to Jerusalem; and to whom the gates of the city, the doors of houses, and the innermost recesses of them, were opened and plundered by them; and all for the sins of the people, which were hereby exposed. So the Targum,

``and it shall be at that time that I will appoint searchers, and they shall search Jerusalem, as they that search with candles;''
and no doubt but this was literally true of the Chaldeans, who with candles might search vaults and cellars, and such like dark places, where they supposed goods and riches were concealed. The allusion may be to the searching with lamps for leaven on the fourteenth of Nisan, when the passover began, in every corner of a house, and, when they found it, burnt it F21; or in general to searching for anything which lies concealed in dark places, where the light of the sun comes not, and can only be discovered by the light of candles; and denotes that nothing should escape the sight and knowledge of God, by whom a full discovery would be made of their persons and sins, and cognizance taken of them in a vindictive way, as follows: and punish the men that are settled on their lees;
like wine on the lees, quiet and undisturbed; in a good outward estate and condition, abounding in wealth and riches, and trusting therein; and which, as the Targum paraphrases it, they enjoy in great tranquillity; Moab like, having never been emptied from vessel to vessel, ( Jeremiah 48:11 ) and so concluded they should ever remain in the same state, and became hardened in sin, or "curdled", and thickened, as the word F23 signifies; and were unconcerned about the state of religion, or the state of their own souls; and fearless and thoughtless of the judgments of God; but should now be visited, disturbed in their tranquil state, and be troubled and punished: that say in their heart;
not daring to express with their lips the following atheism and blasphemy; but God, who searched and tried their hearts, knew it: The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil;
which is a flat denial of his providence; saying that he takes no notice of what is done by men on earth, whether good or bad; and neither rewards the one, nor punishes the other. So the Targum, as Kimchi quotes it,
``it is not the good pleasure of God to do good to the righteous, or to do evil to the wicked;''
than which nothing is more false! the Lord does good to all in a providential way, and to many in a way of special grace; and rewards with a reward of grace all good men, both here and hereafter; and though he does not do any moral evil, yet he executes the evil of punishment in this world, and in that to come, on evildoers.
FOOTNOTES:

F21 Vid. Misn. Pesachim, c. 1. sect. 1, 4.
F23 (Myapqh) "concreti sunt", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "congelati", Calvin; "coagulatos", Montanus, Cocceius; "qui concreverunt glaciei, [vel] casei ad instar", Burkius.
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