1:1 The word of Yahweh that was addressed to Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah.


Prelude: judgement on all creation

1:2 I mean to sweep away everything off the face of the earth – it is Yahweh who speaks.

1:3 I mean to sweep away men and beasts, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, I mean to send the wicked staggering, and wipe man off the face of the earth – it is Yahweh who speaks.

Against the worship of alien gods

1:4 I am going to raise my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and from this place I will wipe out Baal, to the very last vestige of him, even to the name of his spurious priests,

1:5 those who prostrate themselves on the roofs before the array of heaven, those who prostrate themselves before Yahweh but swear by Milcom,[*a]

1:6 those who turn aside from Yahweh, who do not seek Yahweh, who will not bother with him.

1:7 Silence before the Lord Yahweh! For the day of Yahweh is near. Yes, Yahweh has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests.

Against the dignitaries of the court[*b]

1:8 On the day of Yahweh’s sacrifice, I will punish the ministers, the royal princes, and all those who dress themselves in foreign style.

1:9 On that day I mean to punish all those who are near the throne, those who fill the palace of their lord with violence and deceit.

Against the merchants of Jerusalem

1:10 On that day – it is Yahweh who speaks – a shout will be raised from the Fish Gate, from the new town, howls, from the hills, a great uproar.

1:11 Men of the Mortar, howl! For the whole brood of Canaan[*c] has been destroyed, the weighers of silver are all wiped out.

Against unbelievers

1:12 When that time comes I will search Jerusalem by torchlight, and punish the men who are stagnating on their lees, those who say in their hearts, ‘Yahweh has no power for good or for evil’.

1:13 Then their wealth will be given up to looting, their households to plundering. They built houses, did they? They will not live in them. They planted vineyards, did they? They will not drink their wine.

The day of Yahweh

1:14 The great day of Yahweh is near, near, and coming with all speed. How bitter the sound of the day of Yahweh, the day when the warrior shouts his cry of war.

1:15 A day of wrath, that day, a day of distress and agony, a day of ruin and of devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of cloud and blackness,

1:16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against fortified town and high corner-tower.

1:17 I am going to bring such distress on men that they will grope like the blind (because they have sinned against Yahweh); their blood will be scattered like dust, their corpses like dung.

1:18 Neither their silver nor their gold will have any power to save them. On the day of the anger of Yahweh, in the fire of his jealousy, all the earth will be consumed. For he means to destroy, yes, to make an end of all the inhabitants of the earth.


Conclusion: a call to conversion

2:1 ………………. nation without desire,

2:2 before you are driven like chaff that is blown away in a day, before there descends on you the fierce anger of Yahweh (before there descends on you the day of the anger of Yahweh).

2:3 Seek Yahweh, all you, the humble of the earth, who obey his commands. Seek integrity, seek humility: you may perhaps find shelter on the day of the anger of Yahweh.


The enemy to the west: the Philistines

2:4 Yes, Gaza is going to be reduced to desert, Ashkelon to waste. Ashdod will be stormed in broad daylight, and Ekron rooted out.

2:5 Woe to the members of the Confederacy of the Sea, to the nation of the Cherethites! This is the word of Yahweh against you: I mean to bring you down, land of the Philistines, I am going to ruin you, empty you of inhabitants;

2:6 and you will be reduced to pasture land, to grazing grounds for the shepherds, to folds for the sheep.

2:7 It will be included in the property of the remnant of the House of Judah; they will lead flocks there to pasture; among the houses of Ashkelon they will rest at evening; for Yahweh their God is going to deal kindly with them and restore their fortunes.

The enemies to the east: Moab and Ammon

2:8 I have heard the taunts of Moab and the insults of the sons of Ammon as they laughed at my people, and boasted of their own domains.

2:9 For this, as I live – it is Yahweh Sabaoth who speaks, the God of Israel – Moab shall become like Sodom and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah: a realm of nettles, a heap of salt, a desolation for ever. What is left of my people will plunder them, those of my nation who survive will take their heritage.

2:10 This will be the price of their pride, of their taunts, of their boasts against the people of Yahweh Sabaoth.

2:11 Full of terror will Yahweh be for them. When he has utterly destroyed all the gods of the earth, the nations will prostrate themselves before him, each on its own soil, all the islands of the nations.

The enemy to the south: Ethiopia[*a]

2:12 And as for you, Ethiopians: They will be run through with my sword.

The enemy to the north: Assyria

2:13 He is going to raise his hand against the north and bring Assyria down in ruins; he will make Nineveh a waste, dry as the desert.

2:14 In the middle of her the flocks will rest; all the beasts of the valley, even the pelican and the heron will roost round her cornices at night; the owl will hoot at the window and the raven croak on the doorstep. …………………..

2:15 Is this the joyful city, so confident on her throne, who said in her heart, ‘Here am I, with none to equal me’? What a ruin she is now, a lair for beasts! All those who pass by her whistle and shake their fists.



Against the leaders of the people

3:1 Trouble is coming to the rebellious, the defiled, the tyrannical city!

3:2 She would never listen to the call, would never learn the lesson; she has never trusted in Yahweh, never drawn near to her God.

3:3 The leaders she harbours are roaring lions, her judges, wolves at evening that have had nothing to gnaw that morning;

3:4 her prophets are braggarts, they are impostors; her priests profane the holy things, they do violence to the Law.

3:5 Yahweh is in her, he is just and honourable; he never does wrong; morning by morning he makes his law known, each dawn unfailingly; he knows no injustice.

The pagans punished

3:6 I have wiped out nations, their corner-towers lie in ruins; I have emptied their streets, no one walks there; their towns have been sacked: no one left there, no more inhabitants.

3:7 ‘At least,’ I used to say ‘you will fear me now, you will learn the lesson; she cannot lose sight of the many times I have punished her.’ But no, it only made them more anxious to see that all they did was corrupt.

3:8 Therefore, expect me – it is Yahweh who speaks – on the day I stand up to make my accusation; for I am determined to gather the nations, to assemble the kingdoms, and to pour out my fury on you, the whole heat of my anger.


Conversion of the pagans

3:9 Yes, I will then give the peoples lips that are clean, so that all may invoke the name of Yahweh and serve him under the same yoke.

3:10 From beyond the banks of the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants will bring me offerings.

The humble remnant of Israel

3:11 When that day comes you need feel no shame for all the misdeeds you have committed against me, for I will remove your proud boasters from your midst; and you will cease to strut on my holy mountain.

3:12 In your midst I will leave a humble and lowly people,

3:13 and those who are left in Israel will seek refuge in the name of Yahweh. They will do no wrong, will tell no lies; and the perjured tongue will no longer be found in their mouths. But they will be able to graze and rest with no one to disturb them.

Psalms of joy in Zion

3:14 Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!

3:15 Yahweh has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away. Yahweh, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.

3:16 When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp.

3:17 Yahweh your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you

3:18 as on a day of festival.

Return of the exiles

I have taken away your misfortune, no longer need you bear the disgrace of it.

3:19 I am taking action here and now against your oppressors. When that time comes I will rescue the lame, and gather the strays, and I will win them praise and renown when I restore their fortunes.

3:20 When that times comes, I will be your guide, when that time comes, I will gather you in; I will give you praise and renown among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes under your own eyes, says Yahweh.


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