Zephaniah 3


‘Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD, she does not draw near to her God. Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law. The LORD within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame. ‘I have destroyed nations; their strongholds are demolished. I have left their streets deserted, with no one passing through. Their cities are laid waste; they are deserted and empty. Of Jerusalem I thought, ‘Surely you will fear me and accept correction!’ Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed, nor all my punishments come upon her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did.’ Zephaniah 3:1-7


Zephaniah now turns his attention to Jerusalem, especially those who live in the city who were the evil civil and religious leaders. The city has defied the Lord, it hasn’t obeyed the Lord or drawn near to Him. They just did their own thing and created their own standards which resulted in the poor being oppressed.

Zephaniah describes the officials as ‘lions’ preying on the poor for financial gain and the rulers were likes ‘wolves’, the wolf, after killing its prey, will leave enough meat for it to chew on the remains during the next day until nightfall, the time for another kill.

They are audacious and do violence to the Law which means the priests couldn’t see the difference between something which was holy and something which was defiled, Mark 7:1-9. The priests had two basic functions, serving in the temple and instructing in the law. They were unconcerned about the law and they didn’t serve, as they should have done.

It appears that those who should have known better knew no shame, all they were interested in was themselves and satisfying their own desires. The good news was that God is righteous and He was working among them so that He could bring justice to those who were being mistreated, Hosea 4:6.

God’s laws of nature come to light every morning without fail, but Jerusalem failed to be obedient to her Creator. They had forgotten all about God and His laws. They should have feared the Lord, and kept His laws, after all, He’s been working in and through them as a nation for years reminding them of who He is and what He desires. God gave them chance after chance to repent and turn to Him, but they refused to obey, 2 Kings 18:13-19:37.

Judah will be punished because they were rebellious, the city was defiled ceremonially and there was no obedience. She totally ignored God’s judgment upon the other nations, which should have gotten their attention. God did everything He could to get His message across, Judah was supposed to learn from the fall of Jerusalem by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. but instead, the people went into being corrupt.

‘Therefore, wait for me,’ declares the LORD, ‘for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them—all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger. ‘Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder. From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshippers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings. On that day you, Jerusalem, will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from you your arrogant boasters. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the LORD. They will do no wrong; they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down, and no one will make them afraid.’ Zephaniah 3:8-13

Zephaniah asks God’s people to be patient because God will at some point in the not too distant future, bring judgment on all those nations who made them suffer, Isaiah 66:6 / Jeremiah 25:31-33 / Ezekiel 38-39 / Joel 3:11-16 / Micah 7:7-9.

The day is coming when God’s people will be cleansed in their speech, no more speaking about idols in any shape or form, Isaiah 6:5-7. When idolatry is driven out of their hearts, they could become pure and be one with the Lord again, fully obeying and trusting Him.

Because Zephaniah mentions Cush which is Ethiopia, some exiles would return to Jerusalem from there, but he seems to be looking further into the future, not just the destruction of Jerusalem but the return of the exiles after captivity in 536 B.C. Ezra / Nehemiah.

It’s without any doubt that those who would return from captivity would be very humble, they would no longer rely on themselves but on God. Any who return who are still filled with themselves will be dealt with by God. The good news is that those who do humble themselves will be blessed as they trust and rest in the Lord.

‘Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, ‘Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.’ ‘I will remove from you all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals, which is a burden and reproach for you. At that time, I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honour in every land where they have suffered shame. At that time, I will gather you; at that time, I will bring you home. I will give you honour and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,’ says the LORD.’ Zephaniah 3:14-20

Here God gives a promise of redemption, and Judah will be given a remnant, to show God’s faithfulness. Although Jerusalem was going to be destroyed, God was going to bring back a remnant to the land after their captivity. God once again would be their God and they will be His people and live among them.

All those judgments which God proclaimed against all those who were unrighteous in Judah, wouldn’t be held against them in the future. God would cleanse them and forgive them, Isaiah 40:2 / 1 John 1:9.

The greatest enemy of God’s people in Old and New Testament times remains the same today, and that is sin, but under this new covenant God will forget and forgive, Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Their hands wouldn’t hang limp anymore because God is going to be among them, this itself would help them to be strong and make God rejoice. God will gather those who mourn over the criticism of His people, He will deal with those who afflicted His people and gather those who have been driven out and give them honour and praise, Romans 1:16.

When we take the verses before, along with these verses, we notice seven amazing promises of God concerning His people.

1. They will have pure speech. Zephaniah 3:9.

2. They will serve the Lord everywhere. Zephaniah 3:10-11.

3. They will be a humble people, a trusting people. Zephaniah 3:12.

4. They will be an honest people. Zephaniah 3:13-14.

5. Their enemies will be taken care of. Zephaniah 3:15 / Zephaniah 3:19.

6. God will glory again. Zephaniah 3:17.

7. The remnant will be brought home. Zephaniah 3:20.


Patience is a lesson we all must learn, especially when it comes to being patient with God. As Christians we want things sorted now, we want answers to our prayers as soon as possible but we need to learn that God has His own timetable, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and we need to trust that He knows what is best for us, Romans 8:28.

If anyone wants to be purified and cleansed of their sins, they must obey the Gospel, the salvation of our souls ought to be in the front of all of our minds. There are things that the Bible tells us that we must do in order to be saved.

We must hear God’s Word, Romans 10:17, we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, John 3:36, we must confess His name before men, Romans 10:9-10, we must repent of whatever sin that is in our lives, Luke 13:3, and we must be baptised for the forgiveness of our sins, Acts 2:38.


Zephaniah is basically declaring that judgment is coming, but the good news is that blessings will follow for those who obey God’s warning to repent.

Today as Christians we enjoy God’s blessing in His spiritual kingdom, Hebrews 12:22-24 but there are even more blessings to enjoy in the future, Revelation 21:1-22:5.

The question we need to ask ourselves is simply this, are we willing to remain faithful to God and His Word, until He delivers us from this earth to take us to heaven?

‘Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.’ Revelation 2:10