What Is the Book of Zephaniah About?

Time: 4 Minutes

Hey Friend!

Our editorial team wrote this book introduction for you. We hope it helps you find your bearings in the Bible story and inspires you to open this book of the Bible!

The Bible is a very complex book. There’s a reason people dedicate their entire lives to trying to understand it.

And yet, when all is said and done, the Bible simply presents us with two choices: Turn to God in faith, repenting of our sins and be saved, or remain in our sins and suffer God’s wrath.

The prophet Zephaniah presents us with this same option (Zephaniah 1:7). He warns us that God’s judgment is coming: “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near” (Zephaniah 1:7). Judgment is certain, so Zephaniah asks us: What will you do?

God’s judgment will be total. God tells Zephaniah he will “utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth . . . I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth” (Zephaniah 1:3). The keen Bible reader will notice the allusions to the worldwide flood in Genesis 6-7, which tells a story of God’s judgment and a reversal of creation. God is saying in Zephaniah that his coming judgment will be so total that it will undo all of creation again. Jerusalem will be like the world at the beginning of creation: “without form and void” (Genesis 1:2).

Zephaniah is one of the few prophets who prophesies to the nations, not just to Israel. Thus, his warning of judgment is for everyone.

For the sinful nations surrounding Israel had declared themselves to be God, setting up their own authority over God: “This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else’” (Zephaniah 2:15). Notice yet another Old Testament allusion here. In Exodus 3:14, God reveals his name to be “I am.” Zephaniah, then, says that these foreign nations, in their pride, have attempted to place themselves above God, taking his name.

And this is the essence of all sin—yours, mine, and these nations. We rebel against God, attempting to set ourselves above him and his authority, though we are his own creation (Romans 1:18-23). This is what kindles God’s rage. And therefore, his judgment is coming.

What will you do?

There is nothing you can do: “For in the fire of [the Lord’s] jealousy all the earth shall be consumed” (Zephaniah 3:8). There is nowhere to hide from God’s all-consuming wrath…

But God, being rich in mercy, offers a way for us to be saved. You’ll notice a significant change in the tone of Zephaniah, transitioning from doom to hope, almost like sunlight breaking through dark clouds. God says in Zephaniah, “For at that time [of judgment] I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9).

Zephaniah explains to us that for some, the “fire” of God’s wrath doesn’t destroy but purifies, making them able to rightly worship God, not setting themselves above God, but being “a people humble and lowly” (Zephaniah 3:12).

Zephaniah prophesies that God will show mercy to some people, not pouring out his wrath on them, but choosing to shape them into new people who can live forever with him.

Zephaniah prophesies that God will show mercy to some people, not pouring out his wrath on them, but choosing to shape them into new people who can live forever with him.

We find out how God has shown this mercy when we open the New Testament.

In Zephaniah we notice two themes—judgment and salvation—which point us to what God has done for us in Jesus. God brought about our salvation through Jesus. In order to save us, Jesus had to bear God’s judgment and wrath for our sins.

As the New Testament teaches us, God’s own Son Jesus Christ stands in our place, taking God’s wrath for our sins upon himself on the cross, so that we may be saved from God’s consuming fire. The “fire” of God’s judgment fell upon Christ. God can purify, save, and provide refuge for all who trust in his Son, Jesus.

God’s judgment is coming—What will you do?

You can turn to Jesus, who took God’s judgment for your sins upon himself, and you can be saved from God’s wrath. Then you will enjoy the greatest blessing possible: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). The Lord can be your God. Will you turn from your sins and be saved from the coming judgment?

Call out to the Lord today, and ask him to grant you his salvation! For, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).