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Zep 2:1-15. Exhortation to Repent before the Chaldean Invaders Come. Doom of Judah's Foes, the Philistines, Moab, Ammon, with Their Idols, and Ethiopia and Assyria.
1. Gather yourselves—to a religious assembly, to avert the judgment by prayers (Joe 2:16) [Grotius]. Or, so as not to be dissipated "as chaff" (Zep 2:2). The Hebrew is akin to a root meaning "chaff." Self-confidence and corrupt desires are the dissipation from which they are exhorted to gather themselves [Calvin]. The foe otherwise, like the wind, will scatter you "as the chaff." Repentance is the gathering of themselves meant.
nation not desired—(Compare 2Ch 21:20), that is, not desirable; unworthy of the grace or favor of God; and yet God so magnifies that grace as to be still solicitous for their safety, though they had destroyed themselves and forfeited all claims on His grace [Calvin]. The Margin from Chaldee Version has, "not desirous," namely of returning to God. Maurer and Gesenius translate, "Not waxing pale," that is, dead to shame. English Version is best.
2. Before the decree bring forth—that is, Before God's decree against you announced by me (Zep 1:1-18) have its fulfilment. As the embryo lies hid in the womb, and then emerges to light in its own due time, so though God for a time hides His vengeance, yet He brings it forth at the proper season.
before the day pass as the chaff—that is, before the day for repentance pass, and with it you, the ungodly, pass away as the chaff (Job 21:18; Ps 1:4). Maurer puts it parenthetically, "the day (that is, time) passes as the chaff (that is, most quickly)." Calvin, "before the decree bring forth" (the predicted vengeance), (then) the chaff (the Jews) shall pass in a day, that is, in a moment, though they thought that it would be long before they could be overthrown. English Version is best; the latter clause being explanatory of the former, and so the before being understood, not expressed.
3. As in Zep 2:1 (compare Note, see on Zep 1:12) he had warned the hardened among the people to humble themselves, so now he admonishes "the meek" to proceed in their right course, that so they may escape the general calamity (Ps 76:9). The meek bow themselves under God's chastisements to God's will, whereas the ungodly become only the more hardened by them.
Seek ye the Lord—in contrast to those that "sought not the Lord" (Zep 1:6). The meek are not to regard what the multitudes do, but seek God at once.
his judgment—that is, law. The true way of "seeking the Lord" is to "work judgment," not merely to be zealous about outward ordinances.
seek meekness—not perversely murmuring against God's dealings, but patiently submitting to them, and composedly waiting for deliverance.
it may be ye shall be hid—(Isa 26:20; Am 5:6). This phrase does not imply doubt of the deliverance of the godly, but expresses the difficulty of it, as well that the ungodly may see the certainty of their doom, as also that the faithful may value the more the grace of God in their case (1Pe 4:17-19) [Calvin]. Compare 2Ki 25:12.
4. For—He makes the punishment awaiting the neighboring states an argument why the ungodly should repent (Zep 2:1) and the godly persevere, namely, that so they may escape from the general calamity.
Gaza shall be forsaken—In the Hebrew there is a play of similar sounds, Gaza Gazubah; Gaza shall be forsaken, as its name implies. So the Hebrew of the next clause, Ekron teeakeer.
Ekron—Four cities of the Philistines are mentioned, whereas five was the normal number of their leading cities. Gath is omitted, being at this time under the Jews' dominion. David had subjugated it (1Ch 18:1). Under Joram the Philistines almost regained it (2Ch 21:16), but Uzziah (2Ch 26:6) and Hezekiah (2Ki 18:8) having conquered them, it remained under the Jews. Am 1:6; Zec 9:5, 6; Jer 25:20, similarly mention only four cities of the Philistines.
6. dwellings and cottages for shepherds—rather, "dwellings with cisterns" (that is, water-tanks dug in the earth) for shepherds. Instead of a thick population and tillage, the region shall become a pasturage for nomad shepherds' flocks. The Hebrew for "dug cisterns," Ceroth, seems a play on sounds, alluding to their name Cherethites (Zep 2:5): Their land shall become what their national name implies, a land of cisterns. Maurer translates, "Feasts for shepherds' (flocks)," that is, one wide pasturage.
7. remnant of … Judah—those of the Jews who shall be left after the coming calamity, and who shall return from exile.
feed thereupon—namely, in the pastures of that seacoast region (Zep 2:6).
visit—in mercy (Ex 4:31).
8. I have heard—A seasonable consolation to Judah when wantonly assailed by Moab and Ammon with impunity: God saith, "I have heard it all, though I might seem to men not to have observed it because I did not immediately inflict punishment."
9. the breeding of nettles—or, the overspreading of nettles, that is, a place overrun with them.
possess them—that is, their land; in retribution for their having occupied Judah's land.
10. (Compare Zep 2:8).
their pride—in antithesis to the meek (Zep 2:3).
gods of the earth—who have their existence only on earth, not in heaven as the true God.
every one from his place—each in his own Gentile home, taught by the Jews in the true religion: not in Jerusalem alone shall men worship God, but everywhere (Ps 68:29, 30; Mal 1:11; Joh 4:21; 1Co 1:2; 1Ti 2:8). It does not mean, as in Isa 2:2; Mic 4:1, 2; Zec 8:22; 14:16 that they shall come from their several places to Jerusalem to worship [Maurer].
all … isles of … heathen—that is, all the maritime regions, especially the west, now being fulfilled in the gathering in of the Gentiles to Messiah.
Ye—literally, "They." The third person expresses estrangement; while doomed before God's tribunal in the second person, they are spoken of in the third as aliens from God.
13. Here he passes suddenly to the north. Nineveh was destroyed by Cyaxares and Nabopolassar, 625 B.C. The Scythian hordes, by an inroad into Media and thence in the southwest of Asia (thought by many to be the forces described by Zephaniah, as the invaders of Judea, rather than the Chaldeans), for a while interrupted Cyaxares' operations; but he finally succeeded. Arbaces and Belesis previously subverted the Assyrian empire under Sardanapalus (that is, Pul?), 877 B.C.
14. flocks—of sheep; answering to "beasts" in the parallel clause. Wide pastures for sheep and haunts for wild beasts shall be where once there was a teeming population (compare Zep 2:6). Maurer, needlessly for the parallelism, makes it "flocks of savage animals."
bittern—(Isa 14:23). Maurer translates, "the hedgehog"; Henderson, "the porcupine."
upper lintels—rather, "the capitals of her columns," namely, in her temples and palaces [Maurer]. Or, "on the pomegranate-like knops at the tops of the houses" [Grotius].
their voice shall sing in the windows—The desert-frequenting birds' "voice in the windows" implies desolation reigning in the upper parts of the palaces, answering to "desolation … in the thresholds," that is, in the lower.
he shall uncover the cedar work—laying the cedar wainscoting on the walls, and beams of the ceiling, bare to wind and rain, the roof being torn off, and the windows and doors broken through. All this is designed as a consolation to the Jews that they may bear their calamities patiently, knowing that God will avenge them.
15. Nothing then seemed more improbable than that the capital of so vast an empire, a city sixty miles in compass, with walls one hundred feet high, and so thick that three chariots could go abreast on them, and with fifteen hundred towers, should be so totally destroyed that its site is with difficulty discovered. Yet so it is, as the prophet foretold.
there is none beside me—This peculiar phrase, expressing self-gratulation as if peerless, is plainly adopted from Isa 47:8. The later prophets, when the spirit of prophecy was on the verge of departing, leaned more on the predictions of their predecessors.