THE BOOK OF ZEPHANIAH
Zephaniah’s prophecy of judgment on Judah and Jerusalem emphasizes, perhaps more than any other prophecy, the devastation and death that divine judgment will bring. Described as the day of the Lord, the day of judgment is pictured as a time of darkness, of anguish and distress, of destruction and plunder of cities, and of threat to all life, human and animal alike. The major sins motivating this judgment, in Zephaniah’s view, are Judah’s worship of other deities (1:4–9) and its unjust and abusive leadership (3:1–4).
The title of the prophecy informs us that the ministry of Zephaniah took place during the reign of Josiah (640–609 B.C.), not long before the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. The protest against the worship of false gods and the condemnation of foreign practices (1:8–9) may indicate that Zephaniah spoke during the height of Assyrian influence in the early years of Josiah’s reign, before Josiah launched the religious reforms praised by Israel’s historians (2 Kgs 22:1–23:30). If so, the prophecy of Zephaniah would be contemporary with the early prophecy of Jeremiah, with which it shares both language and ideas.
Following are the book’s four sections:
I. The Day of the Lord: Judgment on Judah (1:2–2:3)
II. Judgment on the Nations (2:4–15)
III. Jerusalem Reproached (3:1–7)
IV. The Nations Punished and Jerusalem Restored (3:8–20)