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Zephaniah 1:11

11. Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.

11. Ululate habitatores loci concavi; quia exterminatus est populos mercatorum, excisi sunt omnes onusti pecunia.


The Prophet addresses the merchants here who inhabited the middle part of the city, and hence thought themselves farther off from all danger and trouble. As then they were concealed as it were in their hiding-places, they thought that no danger was nigh them; and thus security blinded them the more. After having spoken of the king’s palace and of the princes and their servants, Zephaniah now turns his discourse to the merchants.

And he calls them the inhabitants of the hollow place, מכתש, mecatesh. The verb כתש, catash, means to be hollow; hence the Hebrews call a hollow place מכתש, mecatesh. So Solomon calls a mortar by this name, because it is hollow: 7979     This original meaning of the word is much more probable than what lexicographers generally give. The braying or pounding is evidently derived from the noun, and the noun from the form of the mortar. Most agree that the word here means the lower part of the city—the hollow, from the circumstance of being surrounded by hills. The “hills” were those on which a part of the city was built, such as Zion, Moriah and Ophal.—Ed. and we learn also from other parts of scripture that the word means sometimes either a cavern or some low place. But we know that merchants have for the most part their streets on level ground, and it is for their advantage, as they have goods to carry. It may then have been, that at Jerusalem there was a large company of merchants in that part of the city, which was in its situation low. But they who regard it as a proper name, bring nothing either of reason or probability to confirm their opinion: and it is also evident from the context that merchants are here addressed, for cut off, he says, is the mercantile people. The word כנען, canon, means a merchant. Some think that the Jews are here, as often elsewhere, called Canaan, because they were become degenerate, and more like the Canaanites than the holy fathers, from whom they descended. 8080     This opinion has been entertained, because the Jews are so called in Hosea 12:8. That the word means a trader or merchant is evident from Job 41:6, (in the Hebrew Bibles, 40:30;) Isaiah 23:8; Ezekiel 17:4. In the last passage it is rendered “traffic” in our version; and it may be so rendered here—“all the people of traffic,” or of trade. The version of Newcome is, “all the trafficking people.” The verse may be thus literally rendered,—
   Howl ye, the inhabitants of the lower part,
For reduced to silence have been all the people of trade,
Cut off have been all the laden with silver.

   They are called to howl, as though their calamity had already taken place, a mode of speaking often used by the Prophets. That the event was future is clear from the context, especially from the next verse. “Reduced to silence”—[נדמה], is literally the meaning, not “destroyed;” and appropriate is the term, as people of trade create much bustle and noise. “The laden with silver,” may be rendered, as Newcome does, “the bearers of silver:” and silver is here for money.—Ed.
But the Prophet speaks here no doubt of merchants, for an explanation immediately follows, all who are laden with money. And he says that merchants were laden with money, because they would not transact business without making payments and counting money, and also, because merchants for the most part engrossed by their gainful arts a great portion of the wealth of the world.

We now then understand what the Prophet means: He threatens howling to the merchants, who were concealed in their hidden places, for they occupied that part of the city, as I have already said, which was below the hills; and he then makes use of the word כנען, canon, a trafficker; and lastly he speaks of their wealth, as it is probable that they became rich through frauds and most dishonest means, and shows that their money would be useless to them, for they would find in it no defense, when the Lord extended his hand to punish them. It now follows—

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