The Word of the Lord to Zephaniah

Chapter 3

A sharp reproof of Jerusalem for various sins, 1-7. An exhortation to wait for the restoration of Israel, 8-13, and to rejoice for their salvation by God, 14-20.

1 Woe to her who is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!

2 She did not obey the voice. She did not receive correction. She did not trust in the LORD. She did not draw near to her God.

3 Her princes within her are roaring lions. Her judges are evening wolves. They do not gnaw the bones until the next day.

4 Her prophets are unstable and treacherous persons. Her priests have polluted what is holy. They have done violence to the law.

5 The just LORD is in the midst of her. He will not do iniquity. Every morning he brings his judgment to light. He does not fail. But the unjust knows no shame.

6 "I have cut off the nations. Their towers are desolate. I made their streets waste so that no one passes by. Their cities are destroyed so that there is no man, so that there is no inhabitant.

7 I said, 'Surely you will fear me and receive instruction. And her dwelling place shall not be destroyed on account of everything in which I have visited her.' But they rose early and corrupted all their doings.

8 Therefore, wait for me," says the LORD, "until the day that I rise up to the prey. For my determination is to gather the nations, so that I may assemble the kingdoms to pour upon them my indignation, even all my fierce anger, for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

9 For then I will restore to the people a pure language, so that they may all call upon the name of the LORD to serve him with one consent.

10 From beyond the rivers of Cush my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring my offering.

11 In that day you shall not be ashamed for all your doings in which you have transgressed against me. For then I will take away out of the midst of you those who rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer be haughty because of my holy mountain.

12 I will also leave in the midst of you an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.

13 The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth, for they shall feed and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid."

14 Sing, O daughter of Zion. Shout, O Israel. Be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.

15 The LORD has taken away your judgments. He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of you. You shall not see evil anymore.

16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, "Do not fear, O Zion. Do not let your hands be slack.

17 The LORD your God in the midst of you is mighty. He will save. He will rejoice over you with joy. He will rest in his love. He will joy over you with singing.

18 I will gather those among you who are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, to whom its reproach was a burden.

19 Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you. And I will save her who is lame and gather her who was driven out. And I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.

20 At that time I will bring you back, even in the time that I gather you. For I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth when I turn back your captivity before your eyes," says the LORD.


Matthew Henry Commentary - Zephaniah, Chapter 3


John Gill's Chapter Summary

In this chapter the character of the city of Jerusalem, and its inhabitants in general, is drawn, as it would be, and as it was, in the times of Christ and his apostles (verses 1-2), and of the principal persons of it in particular: its princes, judges, prophets, and priests (verses 3-4). The hardness, impenitence, and shamelessness of this people, are exposed and aggravated by the just Lord being among them; who, by his example and doctrine, taught them otherwise; yet they were not amended or made ashamed (verse 5), nor received instruction, nor took warning by the judgments of God on other nations (verses 6-7), therefore the followers of God are called upon to wait his time, who would gather many people together, and destroy the whole land of Judea (verse 8), at which time he would send his Gospel among the Gentiles, who should thereby be brought to the true worship and service of God (verses 9-10), though there should be a remnant among the Jews, according to the election of grace, that should be saved from that general calamity (verses 11-13), and the spiritual Israel are encouraged with promises of better times, when the Jews in general should be converted and gathered into the church of God, have the presence and protection of God with them, and deliverance from all their enemies, and be a praise among all people of the earth (verses 14-20).

[v.4a] - "unstable" - That is, "fanciful, and of a vain imagination, frothy and airy, and of a loose conversation, men of no consistency with themselves, in whom one can put no confidence" (Matthew Henry).

[v.4b] - "what is holy" - From the Pulpit Commentary: "Not the temple only, but all that has to do with God's service, worship, rites, sacrifices; they make no distinction between what is sacred and what is profane (Ezekiel 22:26)."

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-5:

Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as you have deigned to favor us with an honor so invaluable, as to adopt us for a holy people to you, and to separate us from the world,— O grant, that we may not close our eyes against the light of your truth, by which you show to us the way of salvation; but may we with true docility follow where you call us, and never cast away the fear of your majesty, nor mock you with frivolous ceremonies, but strive sincerely to devote ourselves wholly to you, and to cleanse ourselves from all defilements, not only of the flesh, but also of the spirit, that by thus seeking true holiness, we may aspire after and diligently labor for that heavenly perfection, from which we are as yet far distant; and may we in the meantime, relying on the favor of your only-begotten Son, lean on your mercy; and while depending on it, may we ever grow up more and more into that true and perfect union, reserved for us in heaven, when we shall be made partakers of your glory, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[v.9a] - "a pure language" - Literally, "a pure lip," which "is evidently not the language which God would adopt in addressing the nations, but the language they would adopt in addressing him. What is meant is a pure heart" (John Owen).

[v.9b] - "consent" - Literally, "shoulder." From John Calvin's Commentary: "That is, that they may unitedly submit to God in order to do him service; for to serve him with the shoulder is to unite together, so as to help one another. The metaphor seems to have been derived from those who carry a burden; for except each assists, one will be overpowered, and then the burden will fall to the ground. We are said then to serve God with one shoulder when we strive by mutual consent to assist one another."

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 6-9:

Grant, Almighty God, that since it is the principal part of our happiness, that in our pilgrimage through this world there is open to us a familiar access to you by faith,— O grant, that we may be able to come with a pure heart to your presence: and when our lips are polluted, O purify us by your Spirit, so that we may not only pray to you with the mouth, but also prove that we do this sincerely, without any dissimulation, and that we earnestly seek to spend our whole life in glorifying your name, until being at length gathered into your celestial kingdom, we may be truly and really united to you, and be made partakers of that glory, which has been procured for us by the blood of your only-begotten Son. Amen.

[v.11] - "you shall no longer be haughty because of my holy mountain" - This may also be read as, "You shall no longer add to take pride in my holy mountain." From John Calvin's Commentary: "Here the Prophet points out the main spring of the evil, because the Jews had hardened themselves in a perverse self-confidence, as they thought that all things were lawful for them, inasmuch as they were God's chosen people. Jeremiah also in a similar manner represents their boasting as false, when they pretended to be the temple of God (Jeremiah 7:4). So our Prophet condemns this pride, because they concealed their sins under the shadow of the temple, and thought it a sufficient defense, that God dwelt on Mount Zion... As then they imagined that God was thus bound to them, they insolently despised all admonitions, as though they were exempt from every law and restraint."

[v.12] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "We hence see for what purpose God deprives us of all earthly trust, and takes away from us every ground of glorying; it is, that we may rely only on his favor. This dependence ought not, indeed, to be extorted from us, for what can be more desirable than to trust in God? But while men arrogate to themselves more than what is right, and thus put themselves in the place of God, they cannot really and sincerely trust in him. They indeed imagine that they trust in God, when they ascribe to him a part of their salvation; but except this be done wholly, no trust can be placed in God. It is hence necessary that those who ascribe to themselves even the smallest thing, should be reduced to nothing: and this is what the Prophet means. Let us further know, that men do not profit under God's scourges, except they wholly deny themselves, and forget their own power, which they falsely imagine, and recumb on him alone. But the Prophet speaks of the elect alone; for we see that many are severely afflicted, and are not softened, nor do they put off their former hardihood. But the Lord so chastises his people, that by the spirit of meekness he corrects in them all pride and haughtiness. But by saying, 'They shall trust in the name of the Lord,' he sets this trust in contrast with the pride which he had previously condemned. They indeed wished to appear to trust in the name of God, when they boasted of Mount Zion, and haughtily brought forward the adoption by which they had been separated from heathen nations; but it was a false boasting, which had no trust in it. To trust, then, in the name of the Lord is nothing else than sincerely to embrace the favor which he offers in his word, and not to make vain pretenses, but to call on him with a pure heart and with a deep feeling of penitence."

[v.13] - "for they shall feed and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "He mentions another benefit from God—that he will protect his people from all wrongs when they had repented... And this argument is taken from the law; for it is mentioned among other blessings, that God would render safe the life of his people; which is an invaluable blessing, and without which the life of men, we know, must be miserable; for nothing is more distressing than constant fear, and nothing is more conducive to happiness than a quiet life: and hence to live in quietness and free from all fear, is what the Lord promises as a chief blessing to his people."

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 10-13:

Grant, Almighty God, that since the depravity of our nature is so great, that we cannot bear prosperity without some wantonness of the flesh immediately raging in us, and without becoming even arrogant against you,— O grant, that we may profit under the trials of the cross; and when you have blessed us, may we with lowly hearts, renouncing our perverseness, submit ourselves to you, and not only bear your yoke submissively, but proceed in this obedience all our life, and so contend against all temptations as never to glory in ourselves, and feel also convinced, that all true and real glory is laid up for us in you, until we shall enjoy it in your celestial kingdom, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[v.15a] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "Here the Prophet briefly shows, that the sum of real and true happiness is then possessed, when God declares, that he undertakes the care of his people."

[v.15b] - "You shall not see evil anymore" - This can also be read as, "You shall not fear evil anymore." Regarding these two readings, John Calvin said, "The meaning is the same: for the verb, to see, in Hebrew is, we know, often to be taken in the sense of finding or experiencing."

[v.19] - "shame" - Or, "reproach."

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 14-20:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day so scattered on account of our sins, and even those who seem to be collected in your name and under your authority, are yet so torn by mutual discords, that the safety of your Church hangs as it were on a thread, while in the meantime your enemies seem with savage cruelty to destroy all those who are yours, and to obliterate your gospel,— O grant, that we may live in quietness and resignation, hoping in your promises, so that we may not doubt, but that you in due time will become our deliverer: and may we so patiently bear to be afflicted and cast down by you, that we may ever raise up our groans to heaven so as to be heard through the name of your Son, until being at length freed from every contest, we shall enjoy that blessed rest which is laid up for us in heaven, and which your only-begotten Son has procured for us. Amen.