The book of Zephaniah opens with a vision of world disaster. But this book gives a radical call to the community to have a change of heart and warns them of the day of judgment of the Lord.


Through the introductory verses in the book of Zephaniah, we learn that he traces his ancestry back to four generation. His genealogy of four generation, which includes the name of Hezekiah reveals that, he is the only prophet to trace back his lineage back that far. The rabbinic commentators like Ibn Ezra and David Kimchi believed that Hezekiah in the list is most likely King Hezekiah.1

He is also noted as a prophet who concerns himself only with the upper echelons of society and not directly with the average Israelite (1:8-9; 3: 3-4). In this regard he is a city prophet. But he does not allude to the lot of the poor, and focuses more on to the misconduct of the religious and civil leaders.2 His name means, “the lord has hidden”. The prophet placed himself solidly within the Jerusalemite royal establishment and also has some connections with the Deuteronomistic traditions.3


The role of prophet Zephaniah was mainly against the existing popular religion which was a mixture of Yahwistic and Pagan elements. During those days, the worship of Baal and other planetary deities were widespread. The functionaries of the ancient Judean society were an already corrupt system. Here, he announced the nearness of the day of the lord.


The central theme of the book of Zephaniah is the ‘Day of the Lord.' Zephaniah elucidates two major aspects of this central theme, judgment and restoration. His reading of the popular religious attitude includes an awareness of those people whose hearts were stagnant and who thought that YHWH was stagnant too, uninvolved in Judah. The background of Zephaniah’s preaching in 1: 2-3:8 is his announcement of the imminent coming of the day of the Lord, of that time when God will pour out his destroying judgment on all of his enemies, including those among his own people.4 Because of Judah’s idolatry and indifference toward God and because of the pride of the foreign nation, the Lord “will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth” (1:2). Zephaniah also speaks about the Lord’s Sacrificial Feast in the second oracle.

1 C Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Pub, 2007), 196.

2 Thomas Edward McComiskey ed., The Minor Prophets (Michigan: Baker Academic, 1998), 898.

3 R.R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society in Ancient Israel. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980), 280.

4 Elisabeth Achtemeier, Preaching from the Prophet (Michigan: William B Eerdmans, 1998), 97.

Written By: 
Rev. Thomas Rinu Varghese

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