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1. Warning of Coming Destruction

The word of the Lord which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah. 2I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the Lord. 3I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the Lord. 4I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests; 5And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham; 6And them that are turned back from the Lord; and those that have not sought the Lord, nor enquired for him. 7Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests. 8And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. 9In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit. 10And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills. 11Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off. 12And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil. 13Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof. 14The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. 15That 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, 16A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. 17And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. 18Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.

The Prophet confirms here what he has previously taught, when he bids all to be silent before God; for this mode of speaking is the same as though he had said, that he did not terrify the Jews in vain, but seriously set before them God’s judgment, which they would find by experience to be even more than terrible. He also records some of their sins, that the Jews might know that he did not threaten them for nothing, but that there were just causes why God declared that he would punish them. This is the substance of the whole.

Let us first see what the Prophet means by the word, silence. Something has been said of this on the second chapter of Habakkuk. We said then that by silence is meant submission; and to make the thing more clear, we said that we were to notice the contrast between the silence to which men calmly submit, and the contumacy, which is ever clamorous: for when men seek to be wise of themselves, and acquiesce not in God’s word, it is then said, that they are not silent, for they refuse to give a hearing to his word; and when men give loose reins to their own will, they observe no bounds. Until God then obtains authority in the world, all places are full of clamor, and the whole life of men is in a state of confusion, for they run to and fro in their wanderings; and there is no restraint where God is not heard. It is for the same reason that the Prophet now demands silence: but the expression is accommodated to the subject which he handles. To be silent at the presence of God, it is true, is to submit to God’s authority; but the connection is to be considered; for Zephaniah saw then that God’s judgment was despised and regarded as nothing; and he intimates here that God had so spoken, that the execution was nigh at hand. Hence he says, Be silent, 7373     The word is [הט], and is evidently an interjection enjoining silence, Hush! or, Silence!
   7. Silence at the presence of the Lord Jehovah!
For nigh is the day of Jehovah,
For prepared hath Jehovah a sacrifice,
Selected hath he his guests!

   The passage is remarkably forcible and striking. Jehovah was coming, and everything was prepared, and all were to be silent. And then follows what is no less striking and expressive,—

   8. And it shall be in the day of Jehovah’s sacrifice,
That I will visit the princes and the king’s sons,
And all who wear foreign apparel.
9. I will also visit, in that day,
Every one who leaps on the threshold,
Who fill the house of their master
By plunder and by fraud.

   There is in the last line a metonymy; the act is put for what was acquired by it: they filled the house of their master by spoils gained by plunder or violence, and by fraud or cheating.—Ed.
that is, Know ye, that I have not spoken merely for the purpose of terrifying you; but as God is prepared to execute vengeance, of this he now reminds you, that if there be any hope of repentance, ye may in time seek to return into favor with him; if not, that ye may be without excuse.

We now then understand why the Prophet bids them to be silent before the Lord Jehovah: and the context is a confirmation of the same view; for the reason is added, Because the day of Jehovah is nigh. For profane men ever promise to themselves some respite, and think that they gain much by delay: the Prophet, on the contrary, does now expose to scorn this self-security, and says, that the day of Jehovah was nigh at hand. It is then the same thing as though he had said, that his judgment ought to have been quickly anticipated, and even with fear and trembling.

He afterwards employs a metaphor to set forth what he taught,—that God had prepared a sacrifice, yea, that he had already appointed and set apart his guests. By the word, sacrifice, the Prophet reminded them, that the punishment of which he had spoken would be just, and that the glory of God would thereby shine forth. We indeed know how ready the world is to make complaints; when it is pressed by God’s hand, it expostulates on account of too much rigor; and many in an open manner give utterance to their blasphemies. As then they own not God’s justice in his punishment, the Prophet calls it a sacrifice; and sacrifices, we know, are evidences of divine worship, and he who offers a sacrifice to God, owns him to be just. So also by this kind of speaking Zephaniah intimates that God would not act a cruel part in cutting off the city Jerusalem and its inhabitants; for this would be a sacrifice, according to the language often employed by the Prophets, and especially by Isaiah, who says of Bozrah, ‘A sacrifice is prepared in Bozrah,’ Isaiah 34:6;) and who says also of Jerusalem itself, ‘Oh! Ariel! Ariel!’ Isaiah 29:1, where Jerusalem itself is represented as the altar; as though he had said, In all the streets, in the open places, there shall be altars to me; for I will collect together great masses of men, whom I shall slay as a sacrifice to me. For all who were not willing to render worship to God, and who did not freely offer themselves as spiritual victims to him, were to be drawn to the slaughter, and were at the same time called sacrifices. So the executions on the gallows, when the wicked suffer, may be said to be sacrifices to God: for the Lord arms the magistrate with the sword to restrain wickedness, that the wicked may not have such liberty as to banish all equity from the world. The cities also, which, being forcibly taken, are subject to a slaughter, and the fields, where armies are slain, become altars, for God makes the rebellious a sacrifice, because they refuse willingly to offer themselves.

So also in this place the Prophet says, Jehovah has prepared for himself a sacrifice,—Where? At Jerusalem, through the whole city, as it has appeared from the quotation from Isaiah; for as they had not rightly sacrificed to God on Mount Sion, but vitiated his whole worship, God himself declares, that he would become a priest, that he might slay, as he thought right, those beasts, who had obstinately refused his yoke: And he has prepared his guests. But I cannot finish today.


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