Intro: If I claimed to be a prophet, what would you expect me to know? I suppose you would expect me to know what
was coming. The prophet Zephaniah speaks often about what was coming for the nation of Judah. Zeph 1:14 - The
great day of the Lord is near; It is near and hastens quickly. The message of Zephaniah concerns the coming of the
“day of the Lord“. As we study his prophecy we will come to see that this day was and is a day of judgment against sin.
It is a day that will come and Zephaniah helps us to appreciate its purpose and power. This morning we begin with an
introduction and overview of the man, Zephaniah and his book.
I. Zephaniah, the Prophet. We know nothing at all of the personal life of Zephaniah except that which is contained in
his own writing.
A. Zephaniah 1:1 The word of the Lord which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of
Amariah, the son of Hezekiah..” . the prophet introduces his message by giving his personal linage to the fourth
generation. Zephaniah was great-great grandson of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Unlike some other prophets, he is from
royal lineage, and this may be why he chooses to tell us this. Coming from Hezekiah’s family may have given
Zephaniah more credibility, and may have associated him with the reform efforts of Josiah, Hezekiah’s grandson, who
ruled Judah during Zephaniah’s ministry.
1. His reference to Jerusalem as “this place” in 1:4, suggests that it was his hometown, but nothing is known
of his occupation.
2. The name “Zephaniah” has been variously defines, but seems to mean “Jehovah hides”, or “Jehovah has
hidden”. Although the Bible does not indicate any significance to his name, some suggest that he may have been born
during the “dark” years of Manasseh’s reign over Judah, when God had hidden His face from His people. His name
certainly stood in ironic contrast to the full revelation of God’s coming judgment against Judah fond in his words; In this
book, very little of what is to come is hidden by God.
B. Date: It is not difficult to historically place Zephaniah. 1:1 - in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
Josiah began rulong over Judah when he was eight years old about 640 B.C. He was killed at Megiddo by Necho,
Pharaoh of Egypt about 610 B.C. The conditions which the prophet describes in Judah seem to indicate the prophecy
came before Josiah began a number of religious and spiritual reforms in the eighteenth year of his reign. In Chapter 2:
13-15 Zephaniah foretells the fall of the great Assyrian capital of Ninevah, which took in 612 B.C. Therefore Zephaniah’
s work falls before 612 and after the beginning of Josiah’s reign in 640. Many place his work around 625-635 B.C.
Zephaniah and Jeremiah may have begun their work in the same year.
II. Background to His Prophecy: What conditions prompted Zephaniah’s message? A few observations to consider:
A. The spiritual Impact of unrighteous leaders: Judah had been polluted through the heinous sin of Manasseh
(Hezekiah’s son). It is doubtful there was any king more wicked than Manasseh. For 55 years he attempted to undo all
the good that Hezekiah accomplished for God’s people: 2 Kings 21:3-6 A God of holiness could not ignore this
1. 2 Kings 21:9-13. Who can measure the damage done by leaders (among God’s church) who practice sin,
and encourage others to sin?
2. Too little; Too Late: Manessah’s grandson was Josiah, who is mentioned in the opening words of
Zephaniah. When he came to the throne he brought spiritual reform to Judah by tearing down the places of idol
worship and restoring the true worship of Jehovah. But was this enough to turn things around? A hundred years had
passed since the northern kingdom of Israel had been swept away by the powerful Assyrians, in fulfillment of the
prophecy of Amos. Although the southern kingdom of Judah had seen some serious reform under Hezekiah and
Josiah, the nation failed to faithfully keep the covenant law of God, and their time was running out. It was too little, too
late for the nation itself. Zeph 1:4-6
a. “She has not received correction” – Zephaniah brings a scathing rebuke against Jerusalem and the
ungodly leaders (princes, priests, judges, false prophets) who have left a legacy of unrighteousness that God can no
longer endure. Zeph 3:1-5. Zephaniah continues making God’s point in v. 6-7
b. Judah should have learned from the fall of its sister nation, Israel. Jerusalem was not paying attention,
not willing to receive the correction of the prophets. God’s judgment does not come before His compassion and
correction. But if we do not pay attention to His words, judgment will prevail.
III. The Day of the Lord: The center of Zephaniah’s prophecy is the coming “great day of the Lord“. He is not the first
prophet to mention such a day.
• Amos – Amos 5:18-20
• Isaiah – Isa 13:9-11
• Jeremiah - Jer 46:10
• Joel – Joel 2:1-2 v. 11-For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?
• Notice that other prophets described it as a day of darkness and inescapable punishment for sin. Barnes
makes the point that God allows man to chose his own way, and thus there are the days of men, characterized by sin.
But eventually God judges their conduct and sin in HIS day – the day of the Lord.
A. How does Zephaniah describe this day?
* 1:14 - It is imminent: Zephaniah tells Judah that the day of the Lord is near. Their time was up.
* 1:15 - It is a day of trouble and distress: The prophet’s description points to a time when one is hemmed
in by God’s anger (wrath) against their sin. There is no worse day for the unredeemed sinner than the day of the Lord.
No one can postpone or avoid that day.
* 1:17 – It is a day of justice: “because they have sinned against God” – Those who suffer the impact of
this day are getting what they deserve. There is purpose and full disclosure in God’s judgment against sin. He does
not and will not leave us ignorant of WHY we are experiencing these things. This is connecterd with the full
appreciation of His identity and His holiness: Rev 1:7
* 1:18 – It is inescapable – Their silver and gold cannot help them in that day. They cannot escape what
is happening to him. They are like blind men, unable to help themselves (v. 17)
Conclusion: Please note that in these words Zephaniah is speaking directly to Judah about the coming destruction of
their nation and city by the Babylonians beginning in 606 B.C., culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
But both the terminology and character of that day is applicable to a day of the Lord that is yet to come for us.
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church he assumed they knew about the day of the Lord. It was just as
Zephaniah had described earlier (inescapable day of trouble). But for those in Christ (sons of day, not darkness) it
was not a day to be feared. 1 Thess 5:1-6
9When Peter spoke about that day he pointed out the implication that all were to see: 2 Peter 3:10 - How close is the
day of the Lord? Although we cannot know the time when Jesus will return, the writer of Hebrews tells us …”it is
appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”. It is as close as death.