Bible Query from


Q: In Zeph, what is an outline of the book?
A: Looking at five different Christian sources, and combining the common elements, here is an outline:
1:1-3 Destruction of everything
1:4-13 Judgment of Judah
1:14-2:3 The Day of the Lord
2:4-15 Judgment on other nations
3:1-7/8 Judgment on Jerusalem
3:8/9-20 God's Restoration

Q: In Zeph 1:1, who was Zephaniah?
A: Since the name Hezekiah is not qualified, this most likely means Zephaniah was the great grandson of Hezekiah the king on his father's side, and thus distantly related to the current King Josiah.

Q: In Zeph 1:1, why is Zephaniah the only prophet with his ancestry listed?
A: The fathers of other prophets generally were given, but generally not their ancestors. Zephaniah was descended from King Hezekiah, and perhaps this was mentioned to remind the people of King Hezekiah's reforms.
Both Hezekiah and Josiah were godly kings, but there were no godly kings between them. See the Believers Bible Commentary p.1147, the New Geneva Study Bible p.1451, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1523-1524 for more info.

Q: In Zeph 1:1, was Zephaniah a priest?
A: No. Since he was the grandson of King Hezekiah, and the kings were from the tribe of Judah, Hezekiah was from Judah. The priests were all from the tribe of Levi. One did not have to be a priest or minister to proclaim the word of God, either then or today.

Q: In Zeph 1:1, when was Zephaniah written?
A: From Zephaniah 2:13, all agree it written before the Assyrians were defeated, which was around 612 B.C. Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.658 suggests that it was written prior to Josiah's reforms in 621 B.C. Both the Believers Bible Commentary p.1147 and the New Geneva Study Bible p.1451 say it is unclear whether it was before or after Josiah's reforms.

Q: In Zeph 1:2, since God would consume all on the land, including specifically men and animals, how come some things, including men and animals, are left in Palestine?
A: This refers to the wanton destruction of the land, as well as the people, by the Babylonian army. It does not say the destruction was permanent.
Furthermore, many prophecies have a dual fulfillment, and this could also refer to the future destruction of the earth.

Q: In Zeph 1:2-3, when will God consume the animals?
A: In two ways. At the end, God will sweep the earth clean at the end. In addition, the Babylonian invasion would be like a "broom" that sweeps the land of Judah.

Q: In Zeph 1:2-3, what is curious about the order of the animals here?
A: As The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1525 says, these are exactly in the reverse order mentioned in Creation in Genesis 1:20-26.

Q: In Zeph 1:4 (KJV), what are "Chemarims"?
A: Jay P. Green's Literal Translation translates this "idol-worshippers". The NIV translates this as "pagan".

Q: In Zeph 1:4, why did God cut off the worship of Baal?
A: The Lord despises the worship of idol gods. Since this is the case, it does not make much sense for believers to have any idols in their homes.

Q: In Zeph 1:5, who was Malcom/Milcom?
A: This was another name for the idol Molech. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.705 mentions that Molech was an Ammonite god worshipped with human sacrifice. Molech might be the same as the idol Muluk worshipped at Mari around 1700 B.C..

Q: In Zeph 1:7, who are God's guests for a sacrifice?
A: Three points to consider in the answer.
1. Zephaniah 1:7 could refer to the Great Supper of the Lamb mentioned in Revelation 19, or it could be the time of judgment of Judah prior to that, or it could be a dual reference. Nahum 1:3-5 is a second example of a dual reference. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1525 for more on the view that both are "two parts of one grand event".
2. When an earthly king had a triumphal procession there were guests who were happy to be there and "guests" who were prisoners and not at all happy to be there. The question boils down to which type of guests is intended.
3. Willing guests view: At the supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19, the guests are believers. In Zephaniah 1:7, the New Geneva Study Bible believes these might be the nations who are judging Israel or else believers. The Believer's Bible Commentary p.1149 and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1526 believe these are the nations judging Judah.

Q: In Zeph 1:9 (KJV), what is the significance of "leaping on the threshold"?
A: This refers to the pagan practice of not stepping on the threshold out of reverence for the idol Dagon, as mentioned in 1 Samuel 5:5. The Philistines, Babylonians, and Phoenicians, as well as some idolatrous Israelites worshipped Dagon. The Lord did not want them holding other gods in respect. See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1527 for more info.

Q: In Zeph 1:11 (KJV), what is Maktesh?
A: There are four translations of this Hebrew word.
1. The KJV, NKJV, and Green's Literal Translation simply transliterate this as "Maktesh".
2. The Septuagint simply translates this as "city", probably because they did not know what it was.
3. The NRSV translates this as "Mortar" because "Matktesh" literally means "mortar". It was called this because the Maktesh district was mortar-shaped. The NIV also calls this "Mortar" in the footnote.
4. The NIV translates this a "market district" because the Maktesh was the section of Jerusalem where foreign merchants gathered. Many silver shops were there.
See the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1070-1071 for more info.

Q: In Zeph 1:12, why does it seem that sometimes God will not do good or evil?
A: Sometimes God wants to see what we will do. God cannot judge a person's actions if they have no opportunity to do good or evil.

Q: In Zeph 1:14-18, should people look forward to the day of the Lord?
A: Ungodly people definitely should not. Godly people should look forward to their redemption, however, realizing that like birth, a painful time comes before the joy.

Q: In Zeph 2:4, what is poetic about these words?
A: There are two plays on words here. In Hebrew The word for "Gaza" sound similar to the word for "abandoned", and the word for "Ekron" sounds similar to the word for "uprooted:. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.7 p.553 for more info.

Q: In Zeph 2:5, since the land of the Philistines will have no inhabitants, why does it have inhabitants today?
A: There are no Philistine inhabitants today. In fact, there is no Philistia today, as the people living in the Gaza strip are Palestinians, not related to Philistines.

Q: In Zeph 2:9, how come there were Moabites and Ammonites after the exile?
A: This verse did not say when the Moabites and Ammonites would be come extinct, only that they would. In fact, Nabateans (around 325 B.C.) and other Arabs later came and settled in these lands of modern-day Jordan. The Nabateans also conquered the east part of Edom. According to the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.41-42, the Ammonites were finally conquered by Judas Maccabeus in 1 Maccabees 5:6.
The land also became desolate, in that it is dry desert today where it used to simply be arid range.

Q: In Zeph 2:11, why does everyone who dwells on the earth not worship God?
A: They do not now, but when Christ comes again and removes the unbelievers, all will worship God during the millennium in Revelation 20:4-5, and also on the new earth in Revelation 21:1-3.

Q: In Zeph 2:12, how are "Ethiopians slain by my sword"?
A: While this could refer solely to the land of Ethiopia, it is more likely that it refers to Egypt as well, since they were one kingdom just prior to the Assyrian invasion. Egypt was under the control of Ethiopia from about 728 B.C. to the conquest of Egypt by Esarhaddon of Assyria in 671 B.C. The Ethiopians tried to revolt around 664 B.C. but were defeated. Zephaniah wrote around 630 to 612 B.C.
See Pharaohs and Kings : A Biblical Quest p.22-23 for more info.

Q: In Zeph 3:1-2 what is the relationship between being an oppressor, not accepting correction, and not trusting in the Lord?
A: These were three sins of Jerusalem in Zephaniah. Verses 3-4 explain in more detail. People can oppress for at least three reasons: they are arrogant, they do not want to be under someone, and they are fearful that if they stop they will be oppressed, as they have oppressed others.

Q: In Zeph 3:8-13, is there any evidence this section had a different author than the rest of Zephaniah?
A: No. This claim was made solely on the fact that Zephaniah 3:8-13 was a message of hope, while the rest speaks of judgment. See When Critics Ask p.317 for more info.

Q: In Zeph 3:9 what does this means?
A: This means to purify the lips of the people. It is not referring to a particular language, such as Greek or Hebrew, but rather to using proper godly speech in any language.
However, 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.354 has the view that this prophesies a universal language for all people.

Q: In Zeph 3:13-16, has this prophecy of Jerusalem come true yet?
A: No, it has not. It will come true in the Millennium in Revelation 20:4-5, and when the New Jerusalem comes down in Revelation 21:2.

Q: In Zeph 3:15, when will Jerusalem never again fear any harm?
A: The last verses of the minor prophets speak of God's future judgment and/or the Millennium, and Zephaniah is no exception. This speaks of the time after the tribulation, after God assembles all the nations and comes in power in Zephaniah 3:8. However, Jews would be able to know that until God has cleared away all their enemies (in Zephaniah 3:15), then they can fear disaster no more.

Q: In Zeph 3:19, what does it mean by the lame and outcast/driven away?
A: Some animals were considered so inferior that it was not desired to keep them in the herd. If they were not even worth killing for food (due to size or fear of disease), the shepherds could only drive them away. Here God is promising that no matter how worthless they might feel, at that time God will bring them to His herd. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.376 for more info.

Q: In Zeph, what are some of the earliest manuscripts that still exist today?
A: Dead Sea scrolls (c.1 B.C.): There are 2 copies of Zephaniah among the Dead Sea scrolls. They are labeled 4Q77 (=4AQIIb) and 4Q78 (4QXIIc). There is a commentary on Zephaniah called 1Q15 (=1QpZeph) (The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated p.468).
4Q77 contains Zephaniah 1:1-2; 2:13-15; 3:19-20
4Q78 contains Zephaniah 2:15; 3:1-2.
Nahal Hever is a cave near Engedi, that has a fragment of the minor prophets in Greek (8 Hev XIIgr). According to Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.34, it was written between 50 B.C. and 50 A.D.. It was hidden during the Bar Kokhba revolt against Rome. It is a revision of the Septuagint, made in Judea, and almost identical to the Masoretic text. 8 Hev XIIgr contains Zephaniah 1:1-6,13-18; 2:9-10; 3:6-7
The wadi Murabb'at scroll (Mur XII) is from c.132 A.D. It contains Zephaniah 1:1,11-18; 2:1-15; 3:1-6,8-20 plus other minor prophets.
Overall, preserved in the Dead Sea scrolls, Nahal Hever and wadi Murabb'at are the following verses of Zephaniah: 1:1-6; 13-18; 2:9-10, 13-15; 3:1-2,6-7, 19-20. In other words, they contain at least parts of every verse of Zephaniah except 1:7-12; 2:1-8; 11-12; 3:3-5; 8-18. See The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls for more details.
Christian Bible manuscripts, from about 350 A.D., contain the Old Testament, including Zephaniah. Two of these are Vaticanus (325-250 A.D.) and Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.), where the books of the twelve Minor Prophets were placed before Isaiah. Zephaniah is complete in both Vaticanus and Alexandrinus.
Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.) also has the entire book of Zephaniah. It starts on the same page as Habakkuk ends. It ends on at the end of a page, and the next page is where Haggai starts.

Q: Which early writers referred to Zephaniah?
A: Pre-Nicene writers who referenced or alluded to verses in Zephaniah are:
Epistle of Barnabas (100-150 A.D.) ch.11 p.144 alludes to Zephaniah 3:19 as "the prophet says".
Melito of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.) (Implied) mentions the "Old Testament" and lists the books. He does not list the twelve minor prophets individually, but calls them The Twelve. Fragment 4 from the Book of Extracts vol.8 p.759
Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.) quotes Zephaniah 1:18 as "the Spirit prophesies by Zephaniah" p.269
Origen (225-254 A.D.) quotes Zephaniah 3:7-13 as "the following passage from Zephaniah" p.667
Treatise Against Novatian (c.248-258 A.D.) p.259 quotes Zephaniah 1:1,2,3 from the Septuagint.
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.) quotes from "Zephaniah" in Treatise 12 the third book 61 p.550.
After Nicea (325 A.D.)
Athanasius of Alexandria
(367 A.D.) (Implied because mentions the twelve prophets) "There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; ... then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book...." Athanasius Easter Letter 39 ch.4 p.552.
Ephraem the Syrian (350-378 A.D.)
Cyril of Jerusalem (c.349-385 A.D.)
Jerome (373-420 A.D.) discusses the books of the Old Testament. He specifically discusses Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch, Job, Jesus son of Nave [Joshua], Judges, Ruth, Samuel Kings (2 books), twelve prophets, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai,, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Letter 53 ch.7-8 p.99-101.
Augustine of Hippo (388-430 A.D.) mentions Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk in The City of God book 17 ch.31 p.377
The semi-Pelagian John Cassian (419-430 A.D.)
Among heretics and spurious books
The Pelagian heretic Theodore of Mopsuestia (392-423/429 A.D.)

Q: In Zeph, what are some of the translation differences between the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint?
A: Some one once said the Septuagint translation of Zephaniah was good but not outstanding, sort of like a fourth year language student. Focusing on chapter 1, the first alternative is the Masoretic text, the second is the Septuagint, unless otherwise noted.
Zeph 1:2 "I will completely snatch away all" vs. "Let there be an utter cutting off"
Zeph 1:3 "stumbling blocks / heaps of rubble" (Masoretic text) vs. (absent) (Septuagint)
Zeph 1:3 "snatch" vs. "be cut off" 2 times
Zeph 1:4 "remnant of Baal" vs. "name of Baal"
Zeph 1:4 "idolatrous/pagan [and the] priests" vs. "names of the priests" (Septuagint)
Zeph 1:5 "bow" vs. "worship
Zeph 1:5 "Malcom" (Masoretic) vs. "Milcom" (Spetuagint, Syriac, Vulgate)
Zeph 1:6 "draw back" vs. "turn aside"
Zeph 1:7 "be silent" vs. "fear"
Zeph 1:7 "called ones" vs. "guests"
Zeph 1:8 "visit" vs. "openly take vengeance"
Zeph 1:9 "those who leap on the threshold" vs. "porches"
Zeph 1:9 "violence" vs. "ungodliness"
Zeph 1:10 "fish gate" vs. "gate of men slaying"
Zeph 1:11 "Maktesh" vs. "they that"
Zeph 1:11 "those carrying silvers" vs. "those exalted by silver"
Zeph 1:12 "settled on their lees" vs. "despised the things committed to them"
Zeph 1:14 "the mighty man shall cry out bitterly there" vs. "is made bitter and harsh."
Zeph 1:15 "darkness and gloom" vs. "gloom and darkness"
Zeph 2:2 "before a decree is born, like chaff a day is passed away" vs. "before you (plural) become as the flower that passes away," (Septuagint)
Zeph 2:14 "nation" vs. "wild animal" (targum), vs. "wild beasts" (Septuagint)
Zeph 2:14 "a voice hoots" vs. "the owl croaks"
Zeph 2:14 "the desolation croaks" vs. "the raven croaks"
Zeph 3:4 "oppressive (Masoretic) vs. "dove" (Septuagint, Theodore of Mopsuestia Commentary on Zephaniah ch.3 p.300)
Zeph 3:7 "Surely it" vs. "Surely the city"
Zeph 3:7 "its dwelling will not be cut off" vs. "it will not lose sight" (Septuagint, Syriac)
Zeph 3:8 "rise up to plunder" (Masoretic) vs. "stand up to witness/testify" (Septuagint and Syriac) vs. "the day of My revelation for judgment" (Targum) vs. "for the day of My resurrection that is to come" (Vulgate) (The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.8 p.559 says in Hebrew the consonants for "plunder" and "witness" are the same. The original Hebrew did not have vowels.)
Zeph 3:15 "see disaster no more" (Hebrew manuscripts) vs. "fear no more" (Septuagint, Bg. (=1524-1525 edition of the Hebrew Old Testament published by Daniel Bomberg), Masoretic, Vulgate)
Zeph 3:17 "he will be silent in his love" vs. "he will renew you in his love" (Septuagint, Syriac)
Zeph 3:18 "I will remove from you" vs. "I will gather your afflicted ones." (Septuagint)
Bibliography for this question: the Hebrew translation is from Jay P. Green's Literal Translation and the Septuagint rendering is from Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton's translation of The Septuagint : Greek and English. The Expositor's Bible Commentary and the footnotes in the NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV Bibles also were used.

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