Book of the Week 36: Zephaniah

Hebrew Name: Zefan’Yah

Human Author: Zephaniah                                                 

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 3

Basic Facts

  1. Zephaniah is the thirty-sixth book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Zephaniah is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. The Hebrew name for the book of Zephaniah is Zefan’Yah which means “Yah hides” or “God hides.”
  4. Zephaniah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah.
  5. Zephaniah ministered during the time of king Josiah of Judah.

Story of the Book

The story of Zephaniah is one of wrath and of hope. The book opens with a warning about the coming day of God’s wrath against several nations, including Judah, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Cush, and Assyria. God then turns His warnings directly against the city of Jerusalem and rebukes the unfaithfulness of its people. God proclaims that after He has poured out His wrath upon the nations on account of their sin, He will gather His scattered people together and purify them. The book finishes with a word of the LORD in which He gives hope to His people by telling them of a day of hope not only for the remnant of Judah, but for the nations. God proclaims that the day is coming when all the nations will glorify God in their own lands. After God has punished the nations for their sin, God will destroy their “gods,” and He alone will be the God of the nations. The book closes as God proclaims that He will give His people honor and praise as He restores their fortunes in the midst of the nations.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Zephaniah

The message of Zephaniah is one of both coming judgment and of hope. God’s promise to ultimately restore the fortunes of Israel included a promise that God would not only restore the fortunes of Israel but that the nations would also worship God (Zephaniah 2:11; 3:9). This promise looks both backward and forward in time. First, it looks back to the Covenant God made with Abraham in which all nations of the earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3). In large part, throughout the history of the nation of Israel, the people of Israel did not reach all the nations of the earth in such a way that caused them to worship God and therefore be blessed through Abraham. Zephaniah, when he proclaims the word of the LORD that all of the nations would one day worship Him, he is proclaiming a future fulfillment of God’s Covenant commitment to Abraham. What Zephaniah looks forward to in a future time of fulfillment when God would be worshiped among the nations is seen only vaguely in his time. However, in Christ, this reality is revealed and brought to continually greater fulfillment as the resurrected Jesus proclaims, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). This command of Jesus, and the church’s obedience to it, is the ongoing and continual fulfillment of the day that Zephaniah saw as the gospel reaches the nations and as the nations worship God.