The Book of Zephaniah Chapter 1: Day of Wrath in Type and Antitype

Oct 28th, 2009 | By | Category: Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name), Zephaniah

The Book of Zephaniah Chapter 1: Day of Wrath in Type and Antitype


Zeph. 1:1 The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah, who was on the throne for 31 years.

However, it is not known what year of that reign Zephaniah began his ministry. By discounting the short (less than a year) reigns of two other kings and just counting the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, each of whom ruled for 11 years, we conclude that Zephaniah prophesied approximately 53 years (31 + 11 + 11) before 606 BC and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Hizkiah could be thought of as good King Hezekiah. However, this Gedaliah is not the Gedaliah whom King Nebuchadnezzar made ruler over a small remnant of vinedressers he left in the land after Zedekiah was put off the throne (2 Kings 25:22). That Gedaliah, who lived later, was assassinated.

Zeph. 1:2 I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.

Verse 2 is another way of saying the land would be left desolate. In other words, this prophecy corresponds to what Jeremiah said about the land having to lie desolate for 70 years in order to fulfill its sabbaths (Jer. 25:11). Beginning in 606 BC, the land had to be utterly wiped clean of inhabitants, beasts, etc. Some question this date, saying like other Bible chronologers that it should be 586 BC, but we would dispute their claim and agree with the date 606 BC.

Zeph. 1:3 I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.

The word “all” in verse 2 does not literally mean that every person would be consumed, for in the final analysis, the people were either destroyed literally or taken off the land into captivity.

The emphasis is given at the end of the verse; namely, God would “cut off man from off the land.” Since Moab and Ammon were also taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar during the 70 years, they did not take up residence in the land of Israel. And for much of that time, Egypt was likewise in captivity at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. While the Israelites were in Babylon for the 70 years, the land lay fallow and hence became a desert, a wilderness.

Q: Did any other prophets prophesy at the same time as Zephaniah?

A: Yes, Jeremiah began to prophesy in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign, so Jeremiah and Zephaniah were contemporaries (Jer. 1:2). We are inclined to think that Zephaniah prophesied during the entire reign of Josiah. If so, Jeremiah started his ministry after Zephaniah.

“I will consume man and beast [all domesticated animals].” The animals were either slain for food by the invading Babylonian army or taken to Babylon. If wild beasts were included in this prophecy, they would have left the land of Israel when their prey, the domestic animals, left. “I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea.” Birds tend to follow the people in order to feed off their crops, so when the people were removed from the land, the birds would have migrated. Thus there was a chain reaction. When the people and the domesticated animals were removed, birds that fed on either crops or carcasses left. Birds zero in on the food, so generally speaking, if there is a great paucity of animal life, the birds leave too. Caged birds, used for Temple sacrifices, were no longer brought. And fish-eating birds left when the fish became scarce. During the 70 years, passersby and travelers noticed the desolation of the land.

Fishing normally occurred in the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee, and to a small extent in the Jordan River. Zephaniah was prophesying that the Lord would affect the water or the fish themselves. It is known, for instance, that when the Aswan Dam was built in Egypt, the sardine bed shifted to another area. When the Gulf Stream shifts, fishermen have to work in different areas. Therefore, a shift in currents in the Mediterranean could change the location of the fish along the coast of Israel. With regard to the Sea of Galilee, something happening upstream could affect the fish in that body of water. Moreover, since the people on both sides of the Jordan River were taken into captivity, no one would be fishing in the Sea of Galilee.

The resulting wilderness condition of Israel would deter anyone passing through the land fromsettling there. Hence the land was radically different for the 70-year period.

Comment: In the Kingdom, God will withhold rain from any nation that does not send representatives to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16-18). Here, too, during the 70 years, rain could be withheld. Without rain and water for irrigation, the land in Israel would quickly become a desert.

“I will consume … the stumblingblocks with the wicked.” Both the statuary and the “wicked” worshippers of the statuary would be removed from the land. The idols were a blemish that had to be swept away.

Zeph. 1:4 I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests;

Zephaniah’s prophecy was primarily directed to Judah. God would “cut off the remnant of Baal from this place [from Jerusalem as well as Judah].” Although the Bible does not specify, Zephaniah probably lived somewhere in Judah and would have gone into Jerusalem fairly frequently to deliver some of his messages. Of course when the people were either killed or taken into captivity, there would be no more worshippers of idols in the land, and the idols themselves were destroyed.

God would not only “cut off the remnant of Baal … [but also] the name of the Chemarims with the priests.” The word “Chemarims” may be a derivative of sun worship; hence God would cut off sun worshippers and their priesthood.

Comment: A marginal reference is 2 Kings 23:5, which states that King Josiah “put down … them also that burned incense … to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the hosts of heaven.”

Reply: Yes, Holy Writ tells us that good King Josiah started a great reform to rid the land of idol worship. Now we can see that Zephaniah’s prophecy influenced Josiah and encouraged the reform. Josiah did all he could in a practical way, but some idols remained until 606 BC, when God made a complete sweep of the land.

There are two thoughts with regard to Jehovah’s cutting “off the remnant of Baal from this place.” (1) The bulk of the Baal worship was cut off when the ten tribes went into captivity, but much still remained in the land and had to be dealt with. (2) While the reform Josiah instituted was very good, a remnant of Baal worship continued to exist. Josiah started in Jerusalem and worked his way out into the peripheral areas, but some pockets of idol worship were still there. God said He would make the reform thorough but not necessarily in the days of Josiah.

Zeph. 1:5 And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham;

“I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah … and [on] them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops” refers to private worship. The antitype would be the worship of statues in private homes and on private property. In Zephaniah’s day, the people went up on their roofs at night to worship idols. Not only would God destroy the Temple and Jerusalem, but He would wipe the slate clean of all heathen practices in the land.

“I will also stretch out mine hand … [on] them that worship and that swear by the LORD [Jehovah], and that swear by Malcham [Molech].” The problem was that heathen worship was mixed in with the worship of Jehovah, so the Israelites had their foot in two religious camps. A mixed religion is very dangerous.

Zeph. 1:6 And them that are turned back from the LORD; and those that have not sought the LORD, nor inquired for him.

God would also cut off “them that are turned back from the LORD.” This segment of the populace formerly worshipped God but fell away and rejected or forsook Him.

Finally, God would cut off “those that have not sought the LORD, nor inquired for him.” These Israelites refused to seek God and the path of truth. They refused to inquire after Him.

Comment: In verses 4b-6, the King James punctuation is accurate. Five classes would be cut off for impure religious or nonreligious practices. A semicolon divides the classes, and commas separate couplets.

Reply: In other words, for 70 years, God would clean the land of all kinds of false worship and atheistic tendencies. Zephaniah went into detail to show just how thorough the Lord’s reform would be—a thoroughness that was guaranteed! Hearing the prophet’s words, Josiah tried to establish the reform, and he will be blessed in the Kingdom Age for his efforts, even though pockets of idol worship remained. He risked his kingship and suffered unpopularity for a while, but when temporal benefits began to accrue from his reform efforts, the people followed him. Josiah must have been a wonderful leader and very unusual to win the confidence and support of the people. Other prophets tried to effect a reform through their message and were persecuted as a result.

Zeph. 1:7 Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.

Comment: This verse applies to natural Israel, but of course it has overtones for the Christian.

Revelation 19:17 comes to mind with regard to a feast yet future: “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God.”

Reply: Yes, that is true when the content is spiritualized.

“Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand.” In other words, “Be silent, and listen to what the Lord has to say about the coming day of wrath.” Back there the day of wrath was 606 BC, which is the primary picture. However, there is also a connotation with regard to the day of wrath coming on spiritual Israel at the end of the Gospel Age. Both Zephaniah and Jeremiah prophesied of the drastic experience that the nation of Israel would have at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.

“Hold thy peace … for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.” The situation is the same with us. God is bidding, consecrating, sanctifying, and preparing His guests. We are studying prophecy and know that the day of the Lord’s wrath is coming. We are blessed to be able to study and have fellowship on these matters.

The “guests” in the type were the witnesses of the 606 BC sacrifice. The Prophet Ezekiel discussed an end-of-the-age sacrifice, in which the fowl of heaven will be called to feed upon the carcasses in the Gog and Magog setting (Ezek. 39:17-22). Thus there is a double fulfillment. Not only was God telling those of Judah what He would do, but also He was showing favor to those who would witness the trouble. The implication to natural Israel was that if they would hearken to Him, they might be spared in the coming trouble. As an illustration, God delivered two people from the trouble in 606 BC: Jeremiah and Baruch. In fact, orders were specifically given by King Nebuchadnezzar not to harm Jeremiah. Thus the Lord selected consecrated people in past ages, and He dealt with them on a different basis than with those who turned their backs on Him and worshipped Molech or the host of heaven. Generally speaking, the populace did not believe Zephaniah, but the sincerely consecrated did—and God has dealt favorably with that class in all ages.

Comment: In the antitype, the feet members will be accounted worthy to escape the trouble that is coming on the world (Luke 21:36).

Q: Josiah had a reverent, remarkable Passover, the largest ever. Is this sacrifice in Zephaniah a play on words, saying that God would have a huge sacrifice also, but an unfavorable one?

A: It is possible that Zephaniah was alluding to Josiah’s Passover, but what makes us think the bidding of the guests is favorable is the word “sanctified.” God “hath sanctified his guests” (see King James margin). A sanctified class was bidden to the feast. For instance, we study about future events and the severe trouble that lies ahead, but the Lord is showing favor by giving us advance information. Of course the sacrifice Zephaniah was describing was a holocaust, a burning, a consumption, but two classes were bidden to this feast: (1) the guests, a sanctified favorable class, and (2) those who would be slaughtered, or sacrificed, hence an unfavorable class. The guests were favored with information regarding God’s purposes because they inquired. He would punish those who were not interested and did not inquire, but the class who sincerely worshipped Him would not be included in the coming judgment.

Comment: In principle, it is like our telling the unconsecrated, “Seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger” (Zeph. 2:3).

Zeph. 1:8 And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.

The sacrifice, or slaughter, would involve the punishment of princes, the king’s children, and “all such as are clothed with strange [foreign] apparel,” that is, those who had mixed themselves with foreigners and had adopted foreign customs. In other words, the spirit of innovation in religious practices is dangerous. For example, when King Ahaz admired an altar in Damascus, he had it copied and put in the Temple and gave it greater prominence than the authorized altar (2 Kings 16:10-14). Therefore, the term “strange apparel” signified the mixing of foreign doctrines and practices that were inimical to the true worship of Jehovah. Certainly the worship of the sun, moon, and planets was a foreign custom.

Q: Would “strange apparel” also indicate a wealthier class who had been trading and merchandising with foreigners, getting money from them as well as their customs?

A: Yes, the term indicates fraternization, commercially or otherwise, which is dangerous.

Q: Were the princes and the king’s children singled out for punishment because their responsibility was greater?

A: Yes, and that is what happened to Zedekiah, who was captured and taken to Babylon. His sons were slain before him, and then his eyes were put out. The leadership was more responsible.

Q: Would the leaders be the victims of this great slaughter? Would they be fed upon?

A: Yes. A holocaust was coming, but it was meant to be a cleansing agent.

Zeph. 1:9 In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.

“In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on [over] the threshold.” Some Bible expositors associate this verse with the time the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant. Dagon, their idol, subsequently fell and broke so that its hands were on the threshold (1 Sam. 5:4,5). We do not think that application is correct, but the incident did lead to a custom, not only in Israel but also in other nations, whereby people entering a temple did not step on the threshold because it was viewed as having an ominous effect. Nor does verse 9 refer to the judgment Isaiah saw in vision when the doorposts and the Temple shook (Isa. 6:4).

The term “the same day” hearkens back to verses 4-6 and 8, which list some of the categories of evildoers to be punished and put out of the land in the trouble of 606 BC: those who were turned from the right way to an evil way, those who were not interested in God, those who wore strange apparel, those who worshipped the host of heaven, etc. The category of servants, which is now being discussed in verse 9, has caused puzzlement to some because it sounds contradictory. The wording seems to say that the servants leaped over the threshold to enter their own master’s house. However, the thought is as follows. The “masters,” the nobility of Zephaniah’s day, those in positions of prestige and power, sent their servants out to rob and plunder other people. Thus the servants, on behalf of their masters, entered homes with impunity and plundered the less fortunate, robbing them of what little they had and bringing back the goods to enrich their masters. When the servants returned with the goods, they were filling “their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.”

This plundering can also be thought of as figurative; namely, the masters enslaved and enriched themselves on those underneath their authority, and the immediate servants in the household proper were guilty of participating in this practice.

Zephaniah was denouncing masters who became wealthy by acquiring ill-gotten gains from others. They and the plunderers in their employ would be punished. The literal sense of the Hebrew gives this thought. In other words, verse 9 is talking not about renegades who turned against their masters but about servants who acted on behalf of their masters.

Zeph. 1:10 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills.

In 606 BC, “the noise of a cry [would come] from the fish gate, and an howling from the second [quarter], and a great crashing from the hills.”

Comment: The hills were farther way, and the Fish Gate was close at hand. Therefore, verse 10 prophesied that the people would hear the trouble approaching, getting closer and closer. The sound would increase the element of fear.

Q: A marginal Bible note states that the Fish Gate was the Damascus Gate. Is that note true?

A: Translators have difficulty identifying the Fish Gate. It was on the west side of the city of Jerusalem and toward the north. Thus it could be either the Damascus Gate or the Jaffa Gate. We are inclined to think it was the Jaffa Gate, which was on the direct route from the Mediterranean Sea, and of course that body of water had fish. The Damascus Gate was for those who wanted to travel the trade route north to Lebanon and Damascus.

The “second [quarter]” was the portion of the city that was near the Fish Gate. This area was not necessarily the city proper but was probably an addition to the city that was outside the  Old City. People brought fish from the Mediterranean into this second quarter to be sold through the local merchants. In other words, wholesalers brought their wares to a certain segment of the city to be sold directly to the people by merchants. Incidentally, another gate, called the New Gate, which is between the Damascus Gate and the Jaffa Gate, was introduced when the Muslims built a wall around the city.

The “howling” from the second quarter suggests the fear and distress that the people would experience as the threat came nearer. A “great crashing from the hills” was the sound of the army approaching with their armaments. Zephaniah highly dramatized what the future trouble would entail. The enemy would approach from the northwest because Jerusalem was fairly well defended on all sides except in that area.

Zeph. 1:11 Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.

Maktesh was another quarter, or segment, of Jerusalem that would be threatened, and it probably pertained to the silver merchants. The lower Tyropoeon Valley was conducive to this type of trade, for the soil was good for pottery making and smelting.

Comment: According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, the word maktesh means “depression,” which would fit the thought of a lower place.

Reply: The word maktesh also means “hollow.” In addition, the word can be defined as “mortar” in the sense of a crucible or a bowl in which a pestle is used for grinding. Thus maktesh as a “depression” or “hollow” can also have the thought of a bowl.

In summary, the second quarter was the market with regard to the Fish Gate and produce coming from the Mediterranean. The Maktesh quarter pertained to merchants dealing with silver, smelting, and making molds. Thus the account is discussing different sections of the city. Earlier the subject matter was the character of individuals and the judgment coming upon them. Now Zephaniah turned to sections of the city of Jerusalem and the type of people who would be affected by the trouble. The point was that all segments of the populace would be deeply affected in 606 BC. Religious attitudes had a bearing, and now the merchants and particularly the financial or economic factors were being treated.

Zeph. 1:12 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.

Those who tried to hide when the trouble came would be ferreted out by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. In the past, an egg was “candled” to see the yolk and make sure the egg did not contain an embryo. Therefore, to search with a candle was a colloquial term meaning that the invading army would look in every nook and cranny to get both the parties in hiding and the goods that were secreted. Those who hid would be caught and their goods taken as booty. Moreover, God would “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 [that is, He will do nothing].” This class was content in their sins, thinking they could continue in their corrupt practices. They obtained their gain through fraudulent practices and at the expense of others.

“Lees” would be something that is literally thickened or made stable. The King James margin has “thickened on their lees.” The figurative interpretation would be those who sit on their bottoms, or behinds. The individuals of this class were so content and comfortable in their corrupt practices that they were ensconced, stabilized, and at ease in their wickedness.

Comment: “Lees” are also thickened dregs, or sediment, that settles in the bottom of wine.

Reply: Yes. Those of this class were so settled and confident that they said in their heart, “God will not interfere.”

Comment: Their attitude was that of an infidel.

Reply: That is true. They felt that God was so busy with His huge universe that He was not concerned about what was happening down here with earth’s picayune populace. But actually, when we can see that this planet is the first place where God created human beings, we realize He is very much interested. Infidels believe there is a God but not a revealed God who will interfere, so this class continued in the wicked ways they loved.

Comment: Psalm 94:8-11 reads, “Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know? The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.”

Reply: Any thinking person with some degree of conscience should put two and two together to know he is doing wrong and have a foreboding sense about sin, even if he is not too religious. But those of this class were hardened and confident in their sin.

Zeph. 1:13 Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.

Verse 13 shows the suddenness of the trouble, the invasion, especially when combined with verses 10 and 18 about the cries and the howling and the fact that God would make “a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.” There is similar wording in Amos 5:11 and Micah 6:15, although the time frame is a little different. The people were enriching themselves with their gain, but all their stored-up goods, crops, and houses were in vain because the enemy would take them as booty and spoil.

Comment: Deuteronomy 28:30 lists this punishment as one of the curses, so if the Israelites had really studied their Hebrew scrolls, they would have realized how many times their prophets were echoing the words of Moses.

Reply: Yes, they should have taken the experiences as signs of ill favor from God. If obedient, they would prosper temporally and be increased with goods and defeat their enemies.

Comment: The Kingdom promises are the opposite. “And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands” (Isa. 65:21,22).

Zeph. 1:14 The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.

Q: Does verse 14 start a series of verses that, along with the type, have a little more emphasis on the spiritual end-of-the-age picture?

A: The Pastor discussed the Book of Zephaniah that way in a late chapter in the First Volume and, in fact, treated Zephaniah almost wholly from that standpoint, but certain statements in this first chapter could only apply to the type. However, there is the suggestion of the antitype at the end of the Gospel Age. The trouble of 606 BC, in which the city and the Temple were destroyed, was devastating from Judah’s standpoint. To the people, it was the day of God’s wrath, but behind the type are spiritual overtones. Writers have suggested that the trouble back there at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar was like nearby hills with a big, ominous mountain way off in the distance, the mountain being the greater antitypical fulfillment yet future. The Pastor zeroed in on the coming trouble. As we proceed, we will try to show how to equate both fulfillments.

“The great day of the LORD is near.” Zephaniah was saying that his predictions would not happen tomorrow but that they were near. The trouble was only about 50 years away, so it was as if the sound was already approaching.

“The mighty man shall cry there bitterly.” The warriors would try to defend Jerusalem and Judah, but upon seeing the enemy, they would feel drained because of being so vastly outnumbered. They would be completely disheartened and drained of any former confidence of their ability to thwart the impending disaster. The primary application was the coming doom of Jerusalem in 606 BC, but when we spiritualize the picture, we see the coming doom of Christendom, the false Jerusalem.

Q: Does this prophecy of Zephaniah relate in the type to Ezekiel’s lying 40 days on his side (Ezek. 4:6)?

A: Yes, the 40 days were specifically for Judah and Jerusalem. However, Ezekiel was in captivity in Babylon by the river Chebar, and Zephaniah was a prophet in the days of Josiah in Judah, as was Jeremiah. Part of Ezekiel’s prophecy overlapped the period of Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. Habakkuk was another contemporary prophet, but we do not know just when. It is important to realize that there is a carefully considered purpose to the sequential arrangement of the books of the Bible. The order is Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, who were all contemporaries, even though nothing in the first two books indicates a definite date. Only by analyzing Nahum and Habakkuk do we get the gist of a time frame from clues in certain verses. Of the major prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were contemporaries. In summary—and roughly speaking—five prophets preached contemporaneously: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. The ministries of Jeremiah and Ezekiel covered 40 or 50 years, and we estimate the length of Zephaniah’s ministry as 53 years.

Zeph. 1:15 That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

Paraphrased with a punctuation change, verse 15 states, “That day is a day of wrath: of trouble  and distress, of ruin and desolation, of darkness and gloominess, of clouds and thick darkness.” When this verse is read alone, we would say it is a picture of the great Time of Trouble. The wording “a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” reminds us of Joel 2:2 and Zechariah 14:6,7. The destruction in 606 BC was devastating to Judah, yet it is only a mini-picture when compared to the trouble at the end of this age.

When we look at the spiritual picture, we have to carefully delete certain verses that apply only to the type and that will not have a fulfillment in the near future. For instance, verse 2 states, “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.” Verse 3 says, “I will consume man and beast; … I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.” And verse 18 mentions, “The whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.” In 606 BC, these things literally happened. The land was laid waste with no inhabitants, but this will not happen in the future. These verses were addressed to Israel, to the Jew, whereas a Holy Remnant will be specially saved and brought through Jacob’s Trouble. As said in the Book of Jeremiah, “For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee [Israel]” (Jer. 30:11). The point is that some things which literally occurred in the past will not occur in the future. Similarly, in regard to the prophecies against Babylon in Jeremiah 50 and 51, some verses literally happened in the type that will not have a future application. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we have to modify some statements as having only an application in 606 BC, and other statements have a double fulfillment.

Zeph. 1:16 A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.

Zeph. 1:17 And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.

Zeph. 1:18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.

Verse 16 applied literally in the type, whereas the antitype is spiritually “a day of the [seventh] trumpet.” Based on other Scriptures, we can say that verse 16 has a double fulfillment because some of the companion Scriptures are only symbolic. Thus there is justification to quote certain verses (or portions of verses) from this first chapter of Zephaniah as being also applicable at the end of the Gospel Age. For example, verse 18 reads, “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath.” As shown in other Scriptures, money will become worthless and meaningless, with buyer and seller alike being affected. Crops will not be grown even for personal use, for they would just be stolen. People will not go through sweat and toil only to lose the produce at the time of its maturity.

While not every wicked person will die in the coming Time of Trouble, the Scriptures do say that the brunt of the trouble will be on the heads of the wicked. The trouble will be chiefly directed against those who have oppressed and taken advantage of others. The poor will rise up against the rich. Waves of anarchistic masses will overflow the earth (stabilized society), so the latter verses of this first chapter have a twofold fulfillment—606 BC and the near future. “The whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his [God’s] jealousy.” Zephaniah 3:8, which has a spiritual fulfillment, is worded similarly and thus is very pertinent to the end of the age.

“For my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.” A large portion of the third chapter pertains to the end of the Gospel Age—in fact, so much so that it is like a different segment of the book. Chapters 1 and 2 have a double back and forth literal and spiritual significance. The primary emphasis is on the literal with a secondary spiritual application in some cases. Chapter 3 is primarily spiritual. With regard to the fire in verse 18, God mentioned His wrath in the Book of Ezekiel. When the enemy comes down at the time of Jacob’s Trouble, God’s fury will rise up into His face, and He will destroy the forces of Gog and Magog. “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face” (Ezek. 38:18). In that case, God will be delivering the Holy Remnant. Here in Zephaniah, God said He would take away from Israel the people, the Temple, and their city, and that is what happened in 606 BC. God made “a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.”

Q: Will we be going into more detail on the spiritual application?

A: The Pastor covered the antitype in the First Volume. The type, the literal application, must be studied in order to accurately discriminate between that which is literal and that which is spiritual. For example, Bro. Russell mentioned Papacy and its strange apparel, and of course the kings would be the civil governments. In studying the Minor Prophets, we try to consider the prophet and his message to his people. Then we can generalize the spiritual lessons.

The following are broad guidelines for studying the Book of Zephaniah:

1. Chapter 1 gives the background for the trouble that came especially on Judah in 606 BC. The bulk of chapter 1 is against natural Judah, but there are innuendos regarding Christendom.

2. Chapter 2 speaks of other nations that also received judgments.

3. Chapter 3 shows that the entire world will experience judgment in the coming great Time of Trouble. The principles for this judgment are laid down in chapter 1. As one proceeds through the Book of Zephaniah, it is like shifting gears and going more and more toward the spiritual application. Chapter 3 has a special end-of-the-age emphasis, with the spiritual being primary and the literal, the natural, being secondary.

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