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Zephaniah 1:15, 16

15. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

15. Dies excandescentiae, dies ille, dies angustiae et afflictionis, dies tumultus, et vastationis, dies tumultus et vastationis, dies tenebrarum et caliginis, dies nubis et nebulae;

16. A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.

16. Dies tubae et clangoris super urbes munitas, et super arces excelsas.

 

The Prophet shows here how foolish they were who extenuated God’s vengeance, as hypocrites and all wicked men are wont to do. Hence he accuses the Jews of madness, that they thought that the way of reconciliation would be easy to them, when they had by their perverseness provoked God to come against them as an armed enemy. For though the ungodly do not promise to themselves anything of God’s favor, yet they entertain vain imaginations, as though he might with no trouble be pacified: they do not think that he will be propitious to them, and yet in the meantime they deride his vengeance. Against this kind of senselessness the Prophet now inveighs. We have stated in other places, that these kinds of figurative expressions were intended solely for this end—to constrain men to entertain some fear, for they willfully deluded themselves: for the Prophets had to do, partly with open despisers of God, and partly with his masked worshipers, whose holiness was hypocrisy.

This, then, was the reason why he said, that that day would be a day of wrath, and also a day of distress and of affliction, 8383     The original words are similar in sound and meaning; the first, [צרה], comes from a verb which means to inclose, to confine, to straiten, and it may be rendered, narrowness, confinement, straitness, distress. The other, [מצוקה], is oppression, as the verb means to press down, to press close. of tumult and desolation, 8484     Waste or confusion is, [משואה ,שאה], derived from the same root, may be rendered desolation. The two next words, “darkness” and “thick darkness,” occur in Joel 2:2. In the same passage we have also “the day of cloudiness and of entire darkness,” literally, bare or naked darkness; for the word is, [ערפל], derived, as I conceive, from [ער], bare, and [אפל], thick darkness. There is a gradation in the words used in each line; the second word is stronger than the first.—Ed. of darkness and of thick darkness, of clouds and of mist. In short, he intended to remove from the Jews that confidence with which they flattered themselves, yea, the confidence which they derived from their contempt of God: for the flesh is secure, while it has coverts, where it may withdraw itself from the presence of God. True confidence cannot exceed moderation, that is, the confidence that is founded on God’s word, for thus men come nigh to God: but the flesh wishes for no other rest but in the forgetfulness of God. And we have already seen in the Prophet Amos, (Amos 5:18,) why the day of Jehovah is painted as being so dreadful; he had, as I have said, to contend with hypocrites, who made an improper use of God’s name, and at the same time slumbered in gross insensibility. Hence Amos said, It will be a day, not of light, but of darkness; not of joy, but of sorrow. Why then do ye anxiously expect the day of the Lord? For the Jews, glorying in being the chosen people of God, and trusting only in their false title of adoption, thought that everything was lawful for them, as though God had renounced his own authority. And thus hypocrites ever flatter themselves, as though they held God bound to them. Our Prophet does not, as Amos, distinctly express these sentiments, yet the meaning of the words is the same, and that is, that when God ascends his tribunal, there is no hope for pardon. He at the same time cuts off from them all their vain confidences; for though God excludes all escapes, yet hypocrites look here and there, before and behind, to the right hand and to the left.

The Prophet therefore intimates, that there would be everywhere darkness and thick darkness, clouds and mists, affliction and distress,—Why? because it would be the day of wrath; for God, after having borne patiently a long time with the Jews, and seen that they perversely abused his patience, would at length put forth his power. And that they might not set up their own strongholds against God, he says, that war was proclaimed against the fortified cities and high citadels. We hence see that he deprives the Jews of all help, in order that they might understand that they were to perish, except they repented, and thus return into favor with God. It shall then be a day of the trumpet and of shouting, 8585     Rather “acclamation,” the triumphant voice of conquerors. As an attempt to preserve the distinctive character of each word in this singular passage, I offer the following version—
   15. A day of extreme wrath shall be that day,
A day of distress and oppression,
A day of waste and of desolation,
A day of darkness and of thick darkness,
A day of cloudiness and of entire darkness;

   16. A day of the trumpet and of acclamation
Over the cities that are inclosed,
And over the towers which are lofty.

   The word [עברה], “extreme wrath,” means such wrath as passes over all bounds—overflowing wrath. We are obliged to use the word darkness three times for lack of suitable terms. The first is the common darkness of the night, the second is a grosser darkness, and the third is complete darkness. The words “gloominess” and “obscurity,” used by Newcome and Henderson, are not sufficiently strong, and convey not the meaning.—Ed.
—How? on all fortified cities. For the Jews, as it is usually done, compared the strength of their enemies with their own. It was not their purpose to go forth beyond their own borders: and they thought that they would be able to resist, and be sufficiently fortified, if any foreign enemy invaded them. The Prophet laughs to scorn this notion, for God had declared war against their fortified cities. It follows —


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