Napsal(a) New Christian Bible Study Staff and Rev. Julian Duckworth
Zephaniah’s prophecy is said to have taken place in the days of Josiah, the king of Judah. Josiah was a good king, walking in the all ways of the Lord, but both his sons were evil. He was the last king of Judah before Nebuchadnezzar's army conquered Jerusalem, and took many of the Jews captive to exile in Babylon for 70 years. (See the last four chapters of 2 Kings for Josiah’s story.)
The first chapter of the book of Zephaniah, in Zephaniah 1:1-3, begins with a prophecy that God will consume all things. We know that this isn't literally what was going to happen; consuming is not something that God does. Instead, it's something we do to ourselves when we depend only on our understanding of truth and ignore what is said in the Word. It means the perishing of our understanding of that truth.
The people who lived at that time were becoming totally external; there was no more affection for truths. Random thoughts about truths were gone, even the most outward truths of the stories were not considered worthy of thought, and any difficult truths were ignored. The church was becoming only a matter of rote external motions.
In Zephaniah 1:4-6, Baal, the stars and moon and sun, and Malcam, are false gods. Again it seems as though the Lord will punish Judah, but actually, by having “turned back from following the Lord,” the people of Judah has turned to false gods have no real power.
In Zephaniah 1:7-8, nevertheless the lord will have mercy on those that turn back to Him and can sit at His feast. But as in the parable of the wedding supper, (Matthew 22:11-13) only those who have the right clothing are welcome. Why this rule?
Garments mean evident truths that a person “wears”. Princes and kings mean ruling truths or falsities that a person believes and uses to guide ones actions. When these are not from the Lord’s Word they lead one astray.
In Zephaniah 1:9-11, the text refers to areas of Jerusalem, where of all places God’s Word should be revered and believed and used to gain wisdom. Yet even there, there is mourning and wailing.
Maktesh means a mortar for grinding flour, and so perhaps a neighborhood of bakers. Merchants are traders, and are used to mean those who trade news of truths that they have heard. The whole idea here is that known truths are being defiled in the very place they should be honored.
In Zephaniah 1:12, 13, the idea has come about that either there is no God or that He doesn’t care. The houses and vineyards, the truths they live with and the new truths that they can drink in are gone, there is no more truth in the church.
In Zephaniah 1:14-17, there first is a prophecy of the Lord’s coming, “The great day of the Lord is near”.
We need to realize that words in the story that regard quickness or haste mostly mean sureness and importance. God doesn’t have a calendar; all time is the present with Him.
Then comes the reaction for those who have falsified His truth and turned away from his commandments -- ignored Him. They will be judged, and they won’t be happy about it.
In Zephaniah 1:18, the “truth” they honor -- the silver -- will be seen to have no value, and the appearance of good they put on -- the gold -- to be only paint.