Around the year 630, Zephaniah’s voice breaks the silence of the seventy-year lull during which they had not heard the word of God. Isaiah concluded his mission around 690, and after that the faithful of Judah went through more than fifty years of persecution in the reign of Manasseh.
1When Josiah, son of Ammon, reigned in Judah, the word of Yahweh was addressed to Zephaniah, the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah. He said:
2“I will wipe out everything from the face of the earth. 3I will put an end to humans and animals, to the birds of heaven and the fish of the sea. I will wipe humankind from the face of the earth. 4I will raise my hand to punish Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will bring out of that place all the remnants of Baal with their priests. 5I will also drive away those who kneel on the roofs to worship the stars, those who invoke at the same time Yahweh and Milcom, 6those who have deserted Yahweh and no longer look toward him or consult him.
7Silence before Yahweh! For his day is near: Yahweh has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his invited guests. 8Yahweh says, ‘On the day that sacrifice is made, I will call to account the officials, the king’s sons and all who clothe themselves in foreign fashion. 9I will also give the corresponding punishment to everyone who jumps over the threshold without stepping on it and fills the House of their Lord with the fruits of their crimes and thefts.’
10On that day, a great cry will be heard from the Fish Gate, a wail from the new city and a frightful noise from the nearby hills. 11Wail, inhabitants of the lower district, for all the traders have disappeared, all who counted the silver have perished.
12On that day I will explore Jerusalem with torches, and call to account those who have sunk in their vices and think in their hearts: Well, Yahweh does not do good or evil! 13Their riches will be pillaged, their houses demolished.
You have built houses but will not live in them. You have planted vineyards but you will not taste the wine.”
A day of wrath
•14The great day of the Lord is near,
it already comes.
Its sound is so frightening
that even the valiant cries out in terror.
15It is a day of wrath, anguish and distress;
a day of destruction and devastation,
of gloom and darkness;
it is a day of dark clouds
16and fog when the trumpet sounds
the call for battle,
and the enemy attacks the fortresses
and the high fortified towers.
17I will bring misfortune on these people and they will grope along like the blind. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their remains will lie like dung.
18Neither their gold nor their silver will rescue them when the anger of God burns against them. The land of Judah will be burned in the fire of his zeal when he destroys even the traces of all who dwell in that land.
1Gather together and assemble, O shameless people, 2that you may be scattered by the wind like a heap of straw when the anger of Yahweh comes upon you!
3Seek Yahweh, all you poor of the land who fulfill his commands, do justice and be meek, and perhaps you will find refuge on the day Yahweh comes to judge.
4Gaza shall be a desert, Ashkelon completely destroyed to its very foundation. 5Woe to the nation of the Cherethites on the seacoast, for Yahweh has spoken against it: “O Canaan, land of the Philistines, I will destroy you so that no one will be left in you.”
6The seacoast shall be like pastures where the shepherds and their flocks go and the lambs gather. 7This region will belong to the remnant of the tribe of Judah; there they shall bring their flocks to graze and they will sleep at night in the houses of Ashkelon, when Yahweh their God comes to visit them and bring their captives back.
8Yahweh of Hosts, the God of Israel says, “I have heard the affronts of Moab and the mockery of the Ammonites who insulted my people and extended their boundaries at the expense of my territory.
9Therefore I swear that, as I live, Moab shall become like Sodom, and Ammon like Gomorrah, as desert indeed. The remnant of my people shall plunder them, the survivors of my nation shall receive them as an inheritance. 10This shall be their lot, in payment for their pride, for they insulted the people of the God of Hosts and have enriched themselves at my people’s expense.” 11Yahweh will be inflexible with them when he calls to account all the gods of the earth. 12Then the pagans who live on the islands shall worship him, each in his own land.
“The threat of my sword also hangs over you, Ethiopians.” 13Yahweh will raise his hand against the north and reduce Assyria to ruins. 14He will leave Nineveh in utter desolation, barren as the desert. Herds of all kinds of animals shall find shelter in her, and even the pelican and the heron shall dwell in her ruins; the owl shall hoot from the window and the raven from the threshold.
15The cedar has been uprooted! So will be the end of the happy city that felt secure in her own power and said to herself: I and no one but I. Why is it now a heap of ruins where animals take shelter? Everyone who passes by her hisses, making signs with the hand.
1Woe to the rebellious, the defiled, the city that oppresses. 2She did not pay attention to the call nor accept the correction; she did not trust Yahweh nor did she approach her God. 3Her kings are like roaring lions, her rulers like evening wolves that do not leave even a bone for the next day. 4Her prophets are blabbermouths and treacherous people; her priests defile whatever is sacred with no respect for the Law.
5However, Yahweh the Just One is in her midst; he never commits injustice. Every morning he says what must be done; but the unjust do not even feel ashamed.
6I have wiped out the nations, demolished their watchtowers, left their streets abandoned, and no one walks in them; their cities have been leveled, and no one lives there.
7I thought: “If you took into account my correction” I said: “she will not forget my threats.” But you were eager to behave still more corruptly.
8Therefore, wait for me, says Yahweh, for the day when I come to accuse, when I have the nations gathered and the kingdoms assembled to vent my wrath on you with all the fury of my anger. Then the fire of my jealous wrath will burn the whole land.
9At that time I will give truthful lips to the pagan nations that all of them may call on the name of Yahweh and serve him with the same zeal. 10From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia they will bring offerings to me.
God in the midst of the meek
•11On that day you will no longer be ashamed of all your deeds when you were unfaithful to me; I will have removed from your midst the conceited and arrogant and my holy mountain will no longer be for you a pretext for boasting.
12I will leave within you a poor and meek people who seek refuge in God. 13The remnant of Israel will not act unjustly nor will they speak falsely, nor will deceitful words be found in their mouths. They will eat and rest with none to threaten them.
14Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion; rejoice, O people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!
15Yahweh has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. Yahweh, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune.
16On that day they will say to Jerusalem: Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, 17for Yahweh your God is within you, Yahweh, saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for he has revived his love. For you he will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the feast.
18I will drive away the evil I warned you about, and you will no longer be shamed.
19On that day I will face your oppressors; I will save the lame sheep and bring the lost back into the fold. I will give them renown and honor in all the lands where humiliation was your lot.
20On that day I will be good to you and gather you to make you famous and honorable among all the peoples of the earth, when I bring back the captives before your eyes,—this is Yahweh’s word.
• 1.14 Zephaniah presents the day of Yahweh in a threatening way. The Jews maintained that the coming of Yahweh would be a liberation for the chosen people. This would allow them to continue to live without justice or faith. The prophet knows that Yahweh will achieve his own designs; his salvation is not what the indifferent imagine it to be and it will begin with the destruction of the unconverted.
• 3.11 This is the first vision of God’s people, a poor and meek people (v. 12).
The destruction on the Day of Yahweh has left a Remnant in Zion. This is the first time that those who wait for God are called poor. It is not mainly a question of being economically poor, but rather of having the attitude of those who have nothing and are open to receive everything from God. The word poverty formerly implied failure; now it will be the condition needed to seek God. After that time, the “poor of Yahweh” will mean all those in Israel who hope to find Yahweh. The Gospel, especially the Gospel of Luke, will proclaim the happiness of the poor (see Lk 6:20).
Yahweh will be in Jerusalem to share his happiness with them. The Holy God suddenly shows that he is like a young man in love who is not concerned about social considerations.
Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion; Yahweh, the King of Israel, is with you; do not fear any misfortune. In the Gospel of Luke, the same words are addressed to Mary at the Annunciation: “Rejoice, the Lord is with you. Do not fear, Mary, you will bear the Savior” (Lk 1:28).