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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Class Assignment: The Message of the Text: Zephaniah (Short Version, turned in per assignment guidelines)










The Message of the Text: Zephaniah






The King’s University, Southlake, Texas

Biblical Background and Interpretation (2021FA-BIBL-2301-ONL)

Professor: Dr. J. Wallace



By Darrell Wolfe

Zephaniah (Circa 640-609 BCE)

Understanding of the message of Zephaniah can be enhanced by contextualizing the history, intertextual factors, and biblical hyperlinks to the Hebrew matrix of ideas. Zephaniah’s message was that “the Day of Yahweh” would purge the land of Israel, allowing a remnant to return, so he could continue to bring all nations back to himself.


Historical factors

Despite many reformations and warnings by the prophets leading up to King Josiah’s reign, Israel/Judah worshiped a plurality of gods, incorporating neighboring cultures deities (aka syncretism)[1] and maintained only ritual obedience to Yahweh.[2] It was in the days of Josiah’s reign that Zephaniah came warning of a “day” when Yahweh would cleanse the land of faithless covenant breaking, and restore it to his purposes. In the year 641 BCE, Josiah became the fourth and final “good” king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Constable notes, “Josiah’s reforms were more extensive than those of any of his predecessors”; but they did not purge everything.[3] In 586 BCE, just 55 years after Josiah first took his throne, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, destroyed the temple and captured Judah (fulfilling Zephaniah’s words).[4]


Intertextual factors

The accounts of Josiah can be found in 2 Chronicles 34-35 and 2 Kings 22-23. The prophets Jeremiah, Huldah, and possibly Nahum operated in this period (Jer 1:1-3; 2 Chr 34:22).[5] While no text specifies they are the same person, the “second priest Zephaniah” was among those who were killed by Nebuchadnezzar at the fall of Jerusalem (2 Kgs 25:18–21; Jer 52:24–27). Yates notes, if these were the same individual “Zephaniah lived to see his prophecy.”[6]


The message and theme of Zephaniah

Face of the ground: The Hebrew Phrase "פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָ֖ה" (the face of the ground") occurs several times in the Hebrew Bible,[7] and it occurs twice in Zephaniah (1:2-3). It refers not to the whole earth, as some say, but to the immediate whole-territory which with the prophet is concerned.[8] Anyone who defiles Yahweh’s territory will be removed. This is further supported by Zephaniah’s later reference to “Canaan, land of the Philistines” which is the traditional land of Israel (2:4-7). The purpose of this purge is to “remove from your midst those exulting in your pride and you shall no longer be haughty in MY holy mountain” (3:11). The use of the phrase “the face of the ground” carries with it the pre-loaded conceptualization of ground that is to be “fruitful and multiply”. While the judgments of Yahweh are hard; Zephaniah concludes that a remnant that will return to the land and become fruitful as always was Yahweh’s will and intention for his people.


The Divine Council and “other gods”: Another set of hyperlinks within Zephaniah, come with the phrase “host of heaven” in connection with the judgment of not only the human inhabitants but the other gods they worshiped (1:4-5). This phrasing brings hyperlinks to texts regarding the fallen Watchers and rebel Divine Council members (Psalms 82, 89; Duet 32).[9]


Day of the Lord: The day of Yahweh (aka the day of the sacrifice of Yahweh, the great day of Yahweh, day of wrath, day of trouble, etc.) (1:6-7; 14-17) is a major theme in the Hebrew scriptures. The rest of the book outlines the “Day of Yahweh” and its results. The Day is intended to be a judgment for all those who rejected Yahweh and followed other gods. In the middle of describing all the horror to come, the prophet pauses to call those who will listen to “gather” (2:1-3; also echoed in Jesus’ ministry Luke 13:34; Mat 23:37). Zephaniah calls for repentance with the possibility that those might be spared in the coming judgment.


After bringing the Day of Yahweh to purge His land of the fallen Divine Council and their worshipers, what result will come? He says, “I will leave in your midst a people afflicted and poor, and they shall take refuge in the name of Yahweh” (3:12). Yahweh promises to annul the judgments after His enemies are purged, to save and gather the lame and outcast, and change their shame to glory throughout the land (אֶרֶץ). This was always Yahweh’s plan from the day he told Abram, “through your seed, all the lands (אֶרֶץ) will be blessed”. From the day Yahweh divorced the nations at Babel, he has worked through Abraham’s seed to get them all back. Thus, the Day of Yahweh becomes a symbol not just for restoring His territory to fruitfulness but of his eventual restoration of all people unto himself through “the seed”. Yahweh always intended that this land be his territory, that all nations would be brought back to him through this land, and that this land would be praised by the nations.





“Enuma Elish - New World Encyclopedia.” Accessed November 17, 2021.


Faithlife Study Bible, via Logos Software. Faithlife / Logos Bible Software, 2018.


Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas K. Stuart. How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2002.


Goodrich, Richard J, Albert L Lukaszewski, A. Philip Brown, and Bryan W Smith. A reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible: 2nd edition., 2020.


Heiser, Michael. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. First edition. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015.


Heiser, Michael S. Demons: What the Bible Really Says about the Powers of Darkness. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020.


Imes, Carmen Joy. Bearing God’s Name: Why Sinai Still Matters. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2019.


Jackson, Jeffrey Glen. Synopsis of the Old Testament. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009.

Logos Bible Software 8.17 SR- Faithlife Corporation, 2000.


Mounce, William D., ed. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2006.


The Lexham Bible Dictionary - Barry, J. D., Bomar, D., Brown, D. R., Klippenstein, R., Mangum, D., Sinclair Wolcott, C., … Widder, W. (Eds.). (2016). In The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. Billingham, WA: Leham Press, 2016.


Walton, John H. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Westmont: InterVarsity Press, 2010.


Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, Ill: Victor Books, 1983.


[1] Faithlife Study Bible, via Logos Software (Faithlife / Logos Bible Software, 2018), Infographics “The United Kingdom” & “The Divided Kingdom.”

[2] The Lexham Bible Dictionary - Barry, J. D., Bomar, D., Brown, D. R., Klippenstein, R., Mangum, D., Sinclair Wolcott, C., … Widder, W. (Eds.). (2016). In The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. (Billingham, WA: Leham Press, 2016), LBD Entries: Baal (בַּעַל), Asherah (אֲשֵׁרָה), Milcom (מִלכֹּם),

[3] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, Ill: Victor Books, 1983), 581-Thomas L. Constable, “2 Kings,”.

[4] Lexham Bible Dictionary, Elliot Ritzema, “Nebuchadnezzar,.”

[5] Jeffrey Glen Jackson, Synopsis of the Old Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), “Josiah’s Reign”; Lexham Bible Dictionary, NAHUM THE PROPHET (נחום, nchwm).

[6] Lexham Bible Dictionary, Gary E. Yates, “Zephaniah, Book of,”.

[7] Logos Bible Software 8.17 SR- (Faithlife Corporation, 2000), Search Function,; Richard J Goodrich et al., A reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible: 2nd edition., 2020; William D. Mounce, ed., Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2006), H622; H5486; H3772. Note: Genesis 2:5; Gen 6:1: Gen 7:3; Num 12:3; Jeremiah 35:7.

[8] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas K. Stuart, How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2002), 248–49.

[9] Heiser, The Unseen Realm; Michael S. Heiser, Demons: What the Bible Really Says about the Powers of Darkness (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020).


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