Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2002 James Melough
Zephaniah means Treasured of
Jehovah. If the Hezekiah, of whom he was the great-great-grandson, was,
as many believe, the good king Hezekiah, then he was of royal descent, and a
relative - possibly a distant cousin - of the good king Josiah, in whose reign
he prophesied. It is not clear beyond all doubt, however, that his ancestor
Hezekiah was in fact a king, but the matter is of little importance since it
has nothing to do with his message. In the fifty or so years between the
reigns of these two good kings, Judah had suffered the misrule of the evil
Manasseh and his equally evil son Amon, two of Israel’s most wicked kings.
The date of his writing is believed to have been 621-612 BC., scholars being
divided in opinion as to whether his ministry began before or after the
revival instituted by king Josiah.
His prophecy is set against the background of a measure of freedom enjoyed by
Judah due to the declining power of Assyria (which had carried Israel, the ten
northern tribes, into captivity 100 years earlier), and the emergence of
Babylon, and the Medes, as major powers. These latter two, in fact, united in
612 BC to destroy Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, thus virtually ending
Most of the good that had been brought in by the righteous king Hezekiah had
been undone by the evil Manasseh and his successor, his equally evil son Amon.
Under this iniquitous pair idolatry, including child sacrifice, had been
reintroduced, altars to many of the false gods being set up in the Temple
courts, and an idol even in the Temple itself, 2 Ki 21:6-7. Amon’s servants,
however, slew him, and then were themselves slain by the people, who then made
his eight-year old son Josiah, king in his stead, and he at the age of only
sixteen began to seek after the Lord, and started the reforms which resulted
in the abolition of much, but not all, of the idolatry in the land.
Unfortunately, acceptance of his reforms by the majority of the people was
outward, they in their hearts still preferring the licentious worship of their
idols, hence the warnings by Zephaniah, and Jeremiah, of coming doom.
Concerning this period, the late Dr Harry Ironside has written, “... the
prophecy of Zephaniah has much in common with the New Testament letter to the
Philadelphian assembly, contemplating a condition of things answering in large
measure to what we see at the present time - a day when many vaunt themselves
in Laodicean pride while walking in utter indifference to the written Word of
God and despising a feeble remnant who cling to that Word and seek to honor
Him who gave it.”
As with all the chastisements foretold by the prophets, this one also points
forward to a day still future, when the now imminent terrible Tribulation
judgments will be poured out, which will destroy the present world order, but
that will also lead a small remnant of Israel, and of the nations, to
repentant faith in Christ, they becoming the nucleus of the Israel and of the
Gentile nations that will inherit millennial blessing.
Since Zephaniah’s message will be better understood against the background of
2 Ki 18-23 and 2 Chr 31-35, it is suggested that the reader review those
chapters before beginning his study of these present notes.