Introduction

What is the Book of Zephaniah About?

Read this 4-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read Zephaniah!

Videos

Historical Context

Zephaniah was a contemporary of Jeremiah and likely the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah. His name means “he whom Yahweh hides” or “hidden of Yahweh,” which perhaps references the Lord’s sheltering his people from his wrath. Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah (640–609 BC). Under Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, Judah had fallen into heinous sin. Yet under Josiah they rediscovered the Book of the Law in 622 BC, and the king brought reform as a result.

—Camden Bucey

Source: Content taken from Lamentations, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: A 12-Week Study © 2018 by Camden Bucey. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

From Bibles.net: Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Zephaniah for your good and to lead you into joy.

Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah (640–609 BC), a Judean king who sought to reestablish acceptable worship practices (2 Kings 22:1–23:30). 

The Near East at the Time of Zephaniah

c. 620 BC

Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah, when Egypt, Judah, and Babylonia were eroding the power of Assyria. Shortly after this time the Babylonians would replace the Assyrians as the dominant power in the Near East.

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Books
Message Series

The Lord Will Rejoice Over You by John Piper

In this 36-minute message, Pastor John Piper walks us through the whole book of Zephaniah, leading us to wonder at the exuberant love of God for everyone who trusts in him. You will not only have a better grasp of this minor prophet, but also find refuge and comfort in the message of this book.

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Zephaniah Dictionary

As you read through Zephaniah, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) Bible.

A Hebrew word that means “master.” Baal (plural, Baalim) was the name of many false gods worshiped by the people of Canaan. They thought the Baalim ruled their land, crops, and animals. When the Israelites came to the Promised Land, each area of the land had its own Baal god. Names of places were often combined with the name “Baal” to indicate ownership (Baal-Hermon shows that Hermon belonged to Baal). Eventually, Baal became the name for the chief male god of the Canaanites. They believed that Baal brought the sun and the rain and made the crops grow. The Israelites were often tempted to worship Baal, something God had told them they were never to do.

To set apart something or someone to serve God in a special way.

The most important city of Bible times. Jerusalem was the capital of the united kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. The temple was built in Jerusalem, so many people traveled to the city to worship God. In 587 BC, Jerusalem was captured and mostly destroyed by Babylonian armies. The city was rebuilt when the Jews returned after 70 years of exile in Babylon. Jesus taught in the city of Jerusalem, was crucified outside the city wall, was buried near the city, and then rose again. The first Christian church began in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit came to the believers there.

(1) To loot or rob, especially during a war. (2) The property taken by such looting or robbery.

Among the Jews, a man who offered prayers and sacrifices to God for the people. Priests led the public worship services at the tabernacle and later at the temple. Often the priests also taught the Law of God to the people. The priests of Israel were all descendants of Aaron’s family. All Christians are also priests (see 1 Peter 2:9). We are to help others learn about and worship God.

A small part that is left. In the Old Testament, remnant usually refers to the few Israelite people who remained faithful worshipers of God after their exile in Babylon.

Thinking and doing what is correct (or right) and holy. God is righteous because he does only what is perfect and holy. A person who has accepted Jesus as Savior is looked at by God as being free from the guilt of sin, so God sees that person as being righteous. People who are members of God’s family show their love for him by doing what is correct and holy, living in righteous ways.

A gift or offering given to God. A sacrifice usually involved killing an animal to pay for sin. The New Testament tells us that Jesus died as the once-for-all sacrifice for sinners and that no further sacrifices for sin are necessary.

Anything a person does to show love and respect. Some people worship idols. Some people worship the one true God.

Very great anger.

What the Bible Is All About NIV Henrietta Mears

Dictionary Source

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions

We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?

Insights

The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of Zephaniah.

Zephaniah is calling the people of Judah to repent of their idolatry and their immorality that had become prevalent in the nation, and he exhorts the rebels to hide from God’s wrath by repenting of their sin, and he encourages the remnant (the faithful) to be hopeful for restoration. So he exhorts the rebels to hide from God’s wrath by repenting of their sin, and he encourages the remnant to be hopeful for restoration, that if you’re faithful to the Lord, he will restore you and it will be good… 

Most of the book is about the day of destruction where God proclaims wrath and judgment on all who rejected him for idols, both among the nations and in Judah, the southern kingdom. So that’s Zephaniah 1:2-3:8, the day of destruction, and then Zephaniah 3:9-20 we have the day of restoration, where rather than prophesying wrath and judgment, God promises healing and joy for all who repented and hide themselves in him by faith, both among the nations and also in Judah.

—Garrett Kell

Source: Garrett Kell, quoted from his message, “Introduction and Zephaniah 1:1-18” on the book of Zephaniah from his course Study Zephaniah. This video originally appeared here at The Gospel Coalition.

So the main point of Zephaniah’s prophecy is to call everyone who reads it to a deep humility, which frees a person to seek refuge in God, which in turn produces a righteous life. 

—John Piper  

Source: By John Piper. © Desiring God Foundation. Source: desiringGod.org.

The prophecies of Zephaniah were delivered to the Jews during the reign of Josiah. The promised judgment would come upon Judah in 587 BC. It came again in AD 70 when Jerusalem was attacked and the temple destroyed. While the prophecies delivered through Zephaniah have reference to both of these historical events, the prophet introduces a judgment that expands to include the entire world (Zephaniah 3:8, 10). This is the final judgment still to come. It brings into view the judgment of Noah’s day, when God judged the entire world for sin (Genesis 6:17–18). The Lord promised never again to destroy the world by water, but a judgment is coming in which the earth will be destroyed by fire (Malachi 3–4; Matthew 24:3–44; 2 Peter 3:10).

—Camden Bucey

Source: Content taken from Lamentations, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: A 12-Week Study © 2018 by Camden Bucey. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

This passage makes clear that God is the one who saves (Zephaniah 3:17). Salvation is based not on works of the law or human merit but on God’s grace (Romans 4:1–5; 9:16; Galatians 2:15–16; Titus 3:4–6). Clearly, mankind has not merited salvation. All humans have transgressed the law of the Lord and deserve his wrath and curse. Despite this, God saves those who look to him in faith and repentance.

—Camden Bucey

Source: Content taken from Lamentations, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: A 12-Week Study © 2018 by Camden Bucey. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The prophet concluded with the wonderful promises of Israel’s future restoration and of the happy state of the purified people of God in the latter days. The redeemed remnant—cleansed, humbled, trusting, and rejoicing with their offerings—will return to Zion. They will be established in their land, and God will be with them (see Zephaniah 3:15, 17). Zion will then be a delight among nations and a blessing to the whole earth, as was foretold in the promise God originally made to Abraham (see Genesis 12:1-3). The rejoicing of Zephaniah 3:14-20 must refer to something besides the day when the remnant will return after the captivity of Babylon. Judah’s worst judgment followed that return. She has seen little but misery ever since. Neither did anything like this occur at Christ’s first coming. It must refer to the day when the Lord himself shall sit on the throne of David, when his people shall be gathered from the four corners of the earth (see Zephaniah 3:19). This prophecy will be blessedly fulfilled in the kingdom age, when Christ comes to this earth to reign in power and great glory.  

—Henrietta Mears  

Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

God’s holiness and justice will be a fierce and terrifying reality on the day of the Lord. Yet those who trust in God’s merciful way of salvation by grace through his own Son, Jesus, are given the confidence that their judgment day has already taken place—on the day when Jesus died on the cross. Jesus himself endured “a day of distress and anguish” in our place (Zephaniah 1:15 ESV; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). Be at peace. In Christ, sinners are forgiven and secure. 

—Crossway 

Source: Content taken from the Gospel Transformation Bible. This article first appeared on Crossway.org; used with permission.

But the most amazing promise of all is in Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love (or better: he will be silent, i.e., make no accusations, in his love), he will exult over you with loud singing (or: a shout of joy)” (RSV). Jesus said, “There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7 RSV). And Zephaniah tells us that when all those repentant, humble, lowly sinners gather before God—what will he do? Will he look down with disapproval, and glower at our guilt, and frown with malevolence? Will he ignore us and look over our heads in sublime indifference? Will he grieve that his flock is so shabby? NO! “He will rejoice over you with gladness . . . He will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5 RSV).

—John Piper

Source: By John Piper. © Desiring God Foundation. Source: desiringGod.org.

Zephaniah Playlist

Discover music inspired by the message and content of the book of Zephaniah.

Mighty To Save
by Michael W. Smith | Praise & Worship
He Will Rejoice
by Grace Pres Band | Contemporary
Mighty To Save (Zephaniah 3:17)
by Seeds Family Worship | Folk
The Great Day
by Michael W. Smith feat. Darlene Zschech | Contemporary
Christ the Lord is With Me
by Steffany Gretzinger feat. Amanda Lindsey Cook and Wonder Grace Gretzinger | Contemporary 
More Songs