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The word of the L ord that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi son of Gedaliah son of Amariah son of Hezekiah, in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah.


The Coming Judgment on Judah


I will utterly sweep away everything

from the face of the earth, says the L ord.


I will sweep away humans and animals;

I will sweep away the birds of the air

and the fish of the sea.

I will make the wicked stumble.

I will cut off humanity

from the face of the earth, says the L ord.


I will stretch out my hand against Judah,

and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;

and I will cut off from this place every remnant of Baal

and the name of the idolatrous priests;


those who bow down on the roofs

to the host of the heavens;

those who bow down and swear to the L ord,

but also swear by Milcom;


those who have turned back from following the L ord,

who have not sought the L ord or inquired of him.



Be silent before the Lord G od!

For the day of the L ord is at hand;

the L ord has prepared a sacrifice,

he has consecrated his guests.


And on the day of the L ord’s sacrifice

I will punish the officials and the king’s sons

and all who dress themselves in foreign attire.


On that day I will punish

all who leap over the threshold,

who fill their master’s house

with violence and fraud.



On that day, says the L ord,

a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate,

a wail from the Second Quarter,

a loud crash from the hills.


The inhabitants of the Mortar wail,

for all the traders have perished;

all who weigh out silver are cut off.


At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,

and I will punish the people

who rest complacently on their dregs,

those who say in their hearts,

“The L ord will not do good,

nor will he do harm.”


Their wealth shall be plundered,

and their houses laid waste.

Though they build houses,

they shall not inhabit them;

though they plant vineyards,

they shall not drink wine from them.


The Great Day of the L ord


The great day of the L ord is near,

near and hastening fast;

the sound of the day of the L ord is bitter,

the warrior cries aloud there.


That day will be a day of wrath,

a day of distress and anguish,

a day of ruin and devastation,

a day of darkness and gloom,

a day of clouds and thick darkness,


a day of trumpet blast and battle cry

against the fortified cities

and against the lofty battlements.



I will bring such distress upon people

that they shall walk like the blind;

because they have sinned against the L ord,

their blood shall be poured out like dust,

and their flesh like dung.


Neither their silver nor their gold

will be able to save them

on the day of the L ord’s wrath;

in the fire of his passion

the whole earth shall be consumed;

for a full, a terrible end

he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.


The Prophet explains still more clearly why he directed his discourse in the last verse against the beasts of the earth and the birds of heaven, even for this end—that the Jews might understand that God was angry with them. I will stretch forth, he says, my hand on Judah and on Jerusalem. God, then, by executing his vengeance on animals, intended to exhibit to the Jews, as in a picture, the dreadfulness of his wrath, which yet they despised and regarded as nothing. The stretching forth of God’s hand I have elsewhere explained; and it means even this—that he stretches forth his hand when he acts in an unusual manner, and employs means beyond what is common. We indeed know that God has no hands, and we also know that he performs all things by his command alone: but as everything seen in the world is called the work of his hands, so he is said to stretch forth his hand when he mentions a work that is remarkable and worthy of being remembered. In a like manner, when I intend to do some slight work, I only move my hand; but when I have some difficult work to do, I prepare myself more carefully, and also stretch forth my arms. This metaphor, then, is intended only for this purpose, to render men more attentive to God’s works, when he is set forth as stretching forth his hand.

But he says, on Judah and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The kingdom of Israel had now been abolished, and the ten tribes had been led into exile; and a few only of the lowest and the poorest remained. The Jews thought themselves safe for ever, because they had escaped that calamity. This is the reason why the Prophet declares that God’s judgment was impending not only over the kingdom of Judah, but also over the holy city, which thought itself exempt from all such evil, because there were the sacrifices performed, and there was the royal city, and, in short, because God had testified that his habitation was to be there for ever. Since, then, by this vain confidence the inhabitants of Jerusalem deceived themselves and others, Zephaniah specifically addresses them. And as he had before spoken of the wicked, he intended here, no doubt, sharply to reprove the Jews, as though he said by way of anticipation, There is no reason for you to enquire who are the wicked; for ye yourselves are they, even ye who are the holy people of God and God’s chosen inheritance, ye who are the race of Abraham, who flatter yourselves so much on account of your excellency; ye are the wicked, who have not hitherto ceased to provoke the vengeance of God. And at the same time he shows, as it were by the finger, some of their sins, though he mentions others afterwards: but he speaks now of their superstitions.

I will cut off, he says, the remnants of Baal and the name of Chamerim. The severity of the Prophet may seem here again to be excessive, for being so incensed against superstitions which had been abolished by the great zeal and singular diligence of the king; but, as we have already intimated, he regarded not so much the king as the people. For though they dared not openly to adulterate God’s worship, they yet cherished those corruptions at home to which they had before been accustomed, as we see to be done at this day. For when it is not allowed to worship idols, many mutter their prayers in secret and invoke their idols: and, in short, they are restrained only by the fear of men from manifesting their own impiety; and in the meantime, they retain before God the same abominations. So it was in the time of Josiah; the people were wedded to their corruptions, and this we may easily conclude from the words of Zephaniah: for the remnants of Baal were not seen in the temple, nor in the streets, nor in their chapels, nor in the high places; but their hidden impiety is here discovered by the Spirit of God; and no doubt their sin was the more heinous and less excusable, because the people refused to follow their pious leader. It was indeed the most abominable ingratitude; for when they saw that the right worship was restored to them, they preferred to remain fixed in their own filth, rather than to return to God, even when they had liberty to do so, and also when that pious king extended his hand to them.

As to the word כמרים, chemarim, it designated either the worshipers of Baal or some such men as our monks at this day: and they are supposed by some to have been thus called, because they were clothed in black vestments; while others think that they derived this name from their fervor, because they were madly devoted to their superstitions, or because they had marks on their foreheads, or because they imposed, as is commonly the case, on the simple by the ardor of their zeal. The name is also found in 2 Kings 23:1 in the account given of Josiah: for it is said there, that the כמרים, chemarim, were taken away, together with other abominations of superstition. But as Zephaniah connects priests with them, it is probable that they were a kind of people like the monks, who did not themselves offer sacrifices, but were a sort of attendants, who undertook vows and offered prayers in the name of the whole people. For what some think, that they were thus called because they burnt incense, appears not to me probable; for then they must have been priests. They were then inferior to the sacrificers, and occupying a station between them and the people, like the monks and hermits of this day, who deceive foolish men by their sanctity. Such, then, were the Chemarim. 7070     The word is found in two other places, 2 Kings 23:5, and Hosea 10:5. In the latter text the priests of the calf of Bethaven are thus called; in the former, they are said to be those who “burnt incense in the high places.” From this fact, Parkhurst concludes, that they were called scorched, as the word means, by their fumigating fires.
   The “priests” mentioned here were the sacrifices, while the “Chemarim” were the incense-burners. There were “altars” (not an altar) reared for Baal in the temple; one, as it seems, for sacrifices, and the other for incense. See 2 Kings 21:3. In 2 Chronicles 34:4, 5, the priests and sacrificers are alone mentioned; but in 2 Kings 23:5, where the same things are recorded, the Chemarim and incense are alone named. The Prophet in this passage mentions both.

   Some, as Cocceius and Henderson, have been disposed to think that the unfaithful priests of the true God are here meant. But the other view is more consistent with the whole passage. If we retain not the original word, we may thus render the line,—

   The name of the incense-burners with the priests;

   That is, those who burnt incense and those who offered sacrifices to Baal.—Ed.

But as Josiah could not attain his object, so as immediately to cleanse the land from these pollutions, we need not wonder that at this day we are not able immediately to remove superstitions from the world: but let us in the meantime ever proceed in our course. Let those endued with authority, who bear the sword, that is, all magistrates, perform their office with greater diligence, inasmuch as they see how difficult and protracted is the contest with the ministers of idolatry. Let also the ministers of the gospel earnestly cry against idolatry, and all ungodly ceremonies, and not desist. Though they may not effect as much as they wish, yet let them follow the example of Josiah. If God should in the meantime thunder from heaven, let them not be discouraged, but, on the contrary, know that their labor is approved by him, and never doubt of their own safety; for though all were destroyed, their godly efforts would not be in vain, nor fail of a reward before God. Thus, then, ought all God’s servants to animate themselves, each in his particular sphere and vocation, whenever they have to contend with superstitions, and with such corruptions as vitiate and adulterate the pure worship of God.

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