Zephaniah 1:18 The Fire of His Jealousy
This prophet, a great-great grandson of King Hezekiah, was probably an encouragement to his royal cousin Josiah in ministering during the period of the latter’s reforms, perhaps being a help to him as a young boy in his early days of kingship. We have come now chronologically to the last of the pre-exilic prophets and it is the last time in our Old Testament that we shall hear such ringing denunciations of Judah’s sins, the last three books all being the works of the prophets of the restoration.
Josiah had vainly sought to bring his people to reformation if not revival after the discovery of the book of the law in the temple during renovation (II Kings 22) but the wickedness of his grandfather Manasseh was too great, totally exhausting Jehovah’s patience, as it were, bringing now His judgement in the form of the Babylonian Captivity (23:26&27).
It had been probably close to 200 years since the prophet Joel had preached coming judgement to the southern kingdom as one of the earliest of the so-called minor prophets and it was back in the days of his ancestor Hezekiah, that Micah had pronounced the doom of Jerusalem (3:12) but now, as they say, we are coming down to the wire, and in 20 years Assyria, Egypt and all Israel including the seemingly invincible city of Jerusalem would be "under the heel of Babylon" (Halley).
This coming day described in verse 14 of course relates primarily to the days of Zephaniah but sounds like it comes right out of the book of Revelation, a time it certainly foreshadows.
Men "settled on their lees" is a metaphor describing indifference and literally spoke of the crust that gathered at the bottom of the undisturbed wine casks – these people don’t take God seriously. They can’t believe that He would allow His holy city to be taken. These are very soon to experience "his riddance" as they are devoured "by the fire of His jealousy." Lookout, here He comes!
Zephaniah 2:13 He Will Destroy Assyria
You are all over the place in your thinking– pull yourself together– repent– call for a gathering, desire what is right (v.1). Before God’s decree comes forth and blows you away in His fierce anger (v.2).
It would be seen that the humble attitude of a remnant would be acknowledged by Jehovah (v.3), so accordingly it came to pass the meek and despised "poor of the land" were "left" by the Babylonian guard amidst the general overthrow and captivity of the Jewish nation, "to be wine-dressers and husbandmen" (II Kings 25:12 –J.F.B.).
The rest of the chapter unloads God’s judgement upon all of the nations with which Israel (Judah) was currently involved who, along with them, would be swept up by the Babylonians as they rose to world domination.
From verse 13 to the end of the chapter the destruction of Assyria and its chief city of Nineveh is the subject as once again and for the last time we are reminded of the phenomenal overthrow of this nation by the Babylonians.
Andre’ Parrot, Nineveh and the Old Testament, curator-in-chief of the French National Museums, 1955 edition, published by the Philosophical Library, Inc. on page 71 says "It is hard to understand why the fall of Assyria was so complete and so rapid. Never had the empire been so great or seemed so mighty." We do not find it hard to understand. Zephaniah says, "This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am and there is none beside me." The fact is Jehovah said in Isaiah 45, "I am God and there is none else" 6 times. "The virgin daughter of Zion despised and laughed" at the Assyrian armies (Isa.37:22) and God miraculously defended Jerusalem for David’s sake (v.35).
Zephaniah 3:17 In the Midst of Thee
This being the very last writings before the restoration has a wonderful theme for its ending. In the last verse the word captivity is actually plural in the Hebrew "to express the captivities of different ages of their history" (J.F.B.).
Leading up to this closing thought occurs some of the most beautiful language of the Bible. After a final blast against Jerusalem in verses 1-4, the focus is changed abruptly and I think the key might be the repeated words "in the midst" for certainly the basis for all our blessings as Christians, as pictured here, is the fact that Jehovah God is in our midst as the Spirit of Christ, like the Shekinah Glory in the midst of Israel’s camp (Exodus 40:38 and Numbers 5:3).
Verse 5 begins this paean of praise with the statement of Jehovah’s righteousness, "the just LORD is in the midst." Every morning we know His mercy because of His righteous judgement at Calvary. "He faileth not" (Lam.3:22).
He will gather the nations in judgement and pour upon them His indignation. Who can abide the fire of His jealousy?
As joyous as would be the restoration of the Jews after the captivity, it is nothing when compared with the joy of the kingdom! Sing, shout, be glad, "rejoice with all the heart", the King of Israel even the LORD, is in the midst of thee (Rev.21:3).
Only after the final judgement could it really be said, "thou shalt not see evil any more" (v.15).
Now comes the grand finale. The fireworks of glory "thy God in the midst of thee is mighty. He will rejoice over thee with joy" even "with singing." What will be the theme of His song? He will rest from His works of love. Hallelujah!