The Prophet Zephaniah

Today, I would like to begin to work through a series on the book of Zephaniah. I developed an appreciation for this book while taking a class on the Minor Prophets in seminary. I will not look at the book in a verse by verse manner. I will look at the book through the lens of rhetorical structure. This will be a fascinating perspective of the book.

Zephaniah means ‘the Lord conceals’, ‘the Lord protects’ or, possibly, ‘God of darkness’. The superscription of the book is lengthier than most and contains two features. The name Cushi, Zephaniah¢â‚¬â„¢s father, means ¢â‚¬ËœEthiopian¢â‚¬â„¢. In a society where genealogy was considered extremely important because of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants, the author may have felt compelled to establish his Hebrew lineage. In fact, this lineage is traced back to Hezekiah, who was king of Judah. The author of Zephaniah does not shrink from condemning the Cushites or Ethiopians. Chapter 2:12 contains a succinct but unequivocal message: ¢â‚¬Å“You also, O Ethiopians, / Shall be killed by my sword.¢â‚¬ Zephaniah¢â‚¬â„¢s family connection with King Hezekiah may have also legitimized his harsh indictment of the royal city in 3:1-7.

The author, Zephaniah, traces his ancestry back four generations.

1. Son of Cushi
2. Son of Gedaliah
3. Son of Amariah
4. Son of Hezekiah, (possibly the famous Judean king [c. 716-687 B.C.])

Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. King Josiah ruled over Judah from approximately 640-609 BC. Some scholars believe that the picture of Jerusalem which Zephaniah gives indicates that he was active prior to the religious reforms of King Josiah which are described in 2 Kings 23. These reforms took place in 622 BC. Scholars also cite the reference to ¢â‚¬Å“the officials and the king¢â‚¬â„¢s sons . . .¢â‚¬ in 1:8 as evidence that the kingdom was still ruled by a regent for Josiah. The portrait of foreign nations in chapter 2 also indicates the late seventh century. Zephaniah was probably the first prophet following the prophecies of Isaiah and the violent reign of Manasseh. Both Zephaniah and Jeremiah urged King Josiah to enact religious reforms, which he eventually did. Zephaniah would have been the first prophet to Judah in the 60 years since Isaiah.

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