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Zephaniah 2

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The Prophet Warns the People

2:1 Bunch yourselves together like straw, 1  you undesirable 2  nation,

2:2 before God’s decree becomes reality 3  and the day of opportunity disappears like windblown chaff, 4 

before the Lord’s raging anger 5  overtakes 6  you –

before the day of the Lord’s angry judgment overtakes you!

2:3 Seek the Lord’s favor, 7  all you humble people 8  of the land who have obeyed his commands! 9 

Strive to do what is right! 10  Strive to be humble! 11 

Maybe you will be protected 12  on the day of the Lord’s angry judgment.

Judgment on Surrounding Nations

2:4 Indeed, 13  Gaza will be deserted 14 

and Ashkelon will become a heap of ruins. 15 

Invaders will drive away the people of Ashdod by noon, 16 

and Ekron will be overthrown. 17 

2:5 Those who live by the sea, the people who came from Crete, 18  are as good as dead. 19 

The Lord has decreed your downfall, 20  Canaan, land of the Philistines:

“I will destroy everyone who lives there!” 21 

2:6 The seacoast 22  will be used as pasture lands 23  by the shepherds

and as pens for their flocks.

2:7 Those who are left from the kingdom of Judah 24  will take possession of it. 25 

By the sea 26  they 27  will graze,

in the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down in the evening,

for the Lord their God will intervene for them 28  and restore their prosperity. 29 

2:8 “I have heard Moab’s taunts

and the Ammonites’ insults.

They 30  taunted my people

and verbally harassed those living in Judah. 31 

2:9 Therefore, as surely as I live,” says the Lord who commands armies, the God of Israel,

“be certain that Moab will become like Sodom

and the Ammonites like Gomorrah.

They will be overrun by weeds, 32 

filled with salt pits, 33 

and permanently desolate.

Those of my people who are left 34  will plunder their belongings; 35 

those who are left in Judah 36  will take possession of their land.”

2:10 This is how they will be repaid for their arrogance, 37 

for they taunted and verbally harassed 38  the people of the Lord who commands armies.

2:11 The Lord will terrify them, 39 

for 40  he will weaken 41  all the gods of the earth.

All the distant nations will worship the Lord in their own lands. 42 

2:12 “You 43  Ethiopians 44  will also die by my sword!” 45 

2:13 The Lord 46  will attack the north 47 

and destroy Assyria.

He will make Nineveh a heap of ruins;

it will be as barren 48  as the desert.

2:14 Flocks and herds 49  will lie down in the middle of it,

as well as every kind of wild animal. 50 

Owls 51  will sleep in the tops of its support pillars;

they will hoot through the windows. 52 

Rubble will cover the thresholds; 53 

even the cedar work 54  will be exposed to the elements. 55 

2:15 This is how the once-proud city will end up 56 

the city that was so secure. 57 

She thought to herself, 58  “I am unique! No one can compare to me!” 59 

What a heap of ruins she has become, a place where wild animals live!

Everyone who passes by her taunts her 60  and shakes his fist. 61 

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1 tn The Hebrew text combines a Hitpolel imperative of קָשַׁשׁ (qashash) with a Qal imperative of the same root. Elsewhere this root appears in the polel stem with the meaning “gather stubble.” Zephaniah’s command is ironic, implying the people are like stubble or straw. As such, they are vulnerable to the Lord’s fiery judgment that will quickly consume them (see 1:18). See Adele Berlin, Zephaniah (AB 25A), 96.

2 tn Some relate this word to an Aramaic cognate meaning “to be ashamed.” With the negative particle it would then mean “unashamed” (cf. NIV “shameful”; NRSV “shameless”). However, elsewhere in biblical Hebrew the verb means “to desire,” or with the negative particle “undesirable.” Cf. also NEB “unruly.”

3 tn Heb “before the giving birth of a decree.” For various alternative readings, see J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 187-88.

4 tn The second half of the line reads literally, “like chaff it passes by a day.” The translation above assumes the “day” is the brief time God is giving the nation to repent. The comparison of this quickly passing opportunity to chaff is consistent with the straw imagery of v. 1.

5 tn Heb “the fury of the anger of the Lord.” The synonyms are combined to emphasize the extreme degree of the Lord’s anger.

6 tn Heb “comes upon.” This phrase occurs twice in this verse.

7 tn Heb “seek the Lord,” but “favor” seems to be implied from the final line of the verse.

8 tn Or “poor.” The precise referent of this Hebrew term is unclear. The word may refer to the economically poor or to the spiritually humble.

9 tn The present translation assumes the Hebrew term מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat) here refers to God’s covenantal requirements and is a synonym for the Law. The word can mean “justice” and could refer more specifically to the principles of justice contained in the Law. In this case the phrase could be translated, “who have promoted the justice God demands.”

10 tn Heb “Seek what is right.”

11 tn Heb “Seek humility.”

12 tn Heb “hidden.” Cf. NEB “it may be that you will find shelter”; NRSV “perhaps you may be hidden.”

13 tn Or “for” (KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV).

14 tn There is a sound play here in the Hebrew text: the name Gaza (עַזָּה, ’azzah) sounds like the word translated “deserted” (עֲזוּבָה, ’azuvah).

15 tn Or “a desolate place.”

16 tn Heb “[As for] Ashdod, at noon they will drive her away.”

sn The reference to noon may suggest a sudden, quick defeat (see Jer 6:4; 15:8).

17 tn Heb “uprooted.” There is a sound play here in the Hebrew text: the name “Ekron” (עֶקְרוֹן, ’eqron) sounds like the word translated “uprooted” (תֵּעָקֵר, teaqer).

18 tn Heb “Kerethites,” a people settled alongside the Philistines in the coastal areas of southern Palestine (cf. 1 Sam 30:14; Ezek 25:16). They originally came from the island of Crete.

19 tn Heb “Woe, inhabitants of the coast of the sea, nation of Kerethites.” The Hebrew term הוֹי (hoy, “ah, woe”), is used to mourn the dead and express outwardly one’s sorrow (see 1 Kgs 13:30; Jer 22:18; 34:5). By using it here the prophet mourns in advance the downfall of the Philistines, thereby emphasizing the certainty of their demise (“as good as dead”). Some argue the word does not have its earlier connotation here and is simply an attention-getting interjection, equivalent to “Hey!”

20 tn Heb “the word of the Lord is against you.”

21 tn Heb “I will destroy you so there is no inhabitant [remaining].”

22 tn The NIV here supplies the phrase “where the Kerethites dwell” (“Kerethites” is translated in v. 5 as “the people who came from Crete”) as an interpretive gloss, but this phrase is not in the MT. The NAB likewise reads “the coastland of the Cretans,” supplying “Cretans” here.

23 tn The Hebrew phrase here is נְוֹת כְּרֹת (nÿvot kÿrot). The first word is probably a plural form of נָוָה (navah, “pasture”). The meaning of the second word is unclear. It may be a synonym of the preceding word (cf. NRSV “pastures, meadows for shepherds”); there is a word כַּר (kar, “pasture”) in biblical Hebrew, but elsewhere it forms its plural with a masculine ending. Some have suggested the meaning “wells” or “caves” used as shelters (cf. NEB “shepherds’ huts”); in this case, one might translate, “The seacoast will be used for pasturelands; for shepherds’ wells/caves.”

24 tn Heb “the remnant of the house of Judah.”

25 tn Or “the coast will belong to the remnant of the house of Judah.”

26 tc Heb “on them,” but the antecedent of the masculine pronoun is unclear. It may refer back to the “pasture lands,” though that noun is feminine. It is preferable to emend the text from עֲלֵיהֶם (’alehem) to עַל־הַיָּם (’al-hayyam, “by the sea”) an emendation that assumes a misdivision and transposition of letters in the MT (cf. NEB “They shall pasture their flocks by the sea”). See J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 192.

27 tn The referent of the pronominal subject (“they”) is unclear. It may refer (1) to the shepherds (in which case the first verb should be translated, “pasture their sheep,” cf. NEB), or (2) to the Judahites occupying the area, who are being compared to sheep (cf. NIV, “there they will find pasture”).

28 tn Or “will care for them.”

29 tn Traditionally, “restore their captivity,” i.e., bring back their captives, but it is more likely the expression means “restore their fortunes” in a more general sense (cf. NEB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

30 tn Heb “who.” A new sentence was begun here in the translation for stylistic reasons.

31 tn Heb “and they made great [their mouth?] against their territory.” Other possible translation options include (1) “they enlarged their own territory” (cf. NEB) and (2) “they bragged about [the size] of their own territory.”

32 tn The Hebrew text reads מִמְשַׁק חָרוּל (mimshaq kharul, “[?] of weeds”). The meaning of the first word is unknown. The present translation (“They will be overrun by weeds”) is speculative, based on the general sense of the context. For a defense of “overrun” on linguistic grounds, see R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (WEC), 347. Cf. NEB “a pile of weeds”; NIV “a place of weeds”; NRSV “a land possessed by nettles.”

33 tn The Hebrew text reads וּמִכְרֵה־מֶלַח (umikhreh-melakh, “and a [?] of salt”). The meaning of the first word is unclear, though “pit” (NASB, NIV, NRSV; NKJV “saltpit”), “mine,” and “heap” (cf. NEB “a rotting heap of saltwort”) are all options. The words “filled with” are supplied for clarification.

34 tn Or “The remnant of my people.”

35 tn Heb “them.” The actual object of the plundering, “their belongings,” has been specified in the translation for clarity.

36 tn Heb “[the] nation.” For clarity the “nation” has been specified as “Judah” in the translation.

37 tn Heb “this is for them in place of their arrogance.”

38 tn Heb “made great [their mouth?] against” (cf. the last phrase of v. 8).

39 tn Heb “will be awesome over [or, “against”] them.”

40 tn Or “certainly.”

41 tn The meaning of this rare Hebrew word is unclear. If the meaning is indeed “weaken,” then this line may be referring to the reduction of these gods’ territory through conquest (see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah [AB 25A], 110-11). Cf. NEB “reduce to beggary”; NASB “starve”; NIV “when he destroys”; NRSV “shrivel.”

42 tn Heb “and all the coastlands of the nations will worship [or, “bow down”] to him, each from his own place.”

43 sn Though there is no formal introduction, these words are apparently spoken by the Lord (note my sword).

44 tn Heb “Cushites.” This is traditionally assumed to refer to people from the region south of Egypt, i.e., Nubia or northern Sudan, referred to as “Ethiopia” by classical authors (not the more recent Abyssinia).

45 tn Heb “Also you Cushites, who lie dead by my sword.”

46 tn Heb “He”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

47 tn Heb “he will stretch out his hand against the north.”

48 tn Or “dry.”

49 tn Heb “flocks.” The Hebrew word can refer to both flocks of sheep and herds of cattle.

50 tn Heb “[and] all the wild animals of a nation.” How גוֹי (goy, “nation”) relates to what precedes is unclear. It may be a corruption of another word. See J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 193.

51 tn The Hebrew text reads here גַּם־קָאַת גַּם־קִפֹּד (gam-qaat gam-qippod). The term קָאַת refers to some type of bird (see Lev 11:18; Deut 14:17) that was typically found near ruins (Isa 34:11); one of the most common translations is “owl” (cf. NEB “horned owl”; NIV, NRSV “desert owl”; contra NASB “pelican”). The term קִפֹּד may also refer to a type of bird (cf. NEB “ruffed bustard”; NIV, NRSV “screech owl”). Some suggest a rodent may be in view (cf. NASB “hedgehog”); this is not unreasonable, for a rodent or some other small animal would be able to sleep in the tops of pillars which would be lying in the ruins of the fallen buildings.

52 tn Heb “a sound will sing in the window.” If some type of owl is in view, “hoot” is a more appropriate translation (cf. NEB, NRSV).

53 tn Heb “rubble [will be] on the threshold.” “Rubble” translates the Hebrew word חֹרֶב (khorev, “desolation”). Some emend to עֹרֵב (’orev, “raven”) following the LXX and Vulgate; Adele Berlin translates, “A voice shall shriek from the window – a raven at the sill” (Zephaniah [AB 25A], 104).

54 tn The meaning of the Hebrew word translated “cedar work” (so NASB, NRSV) is unclear; NIV has “the beams of cedar.”

55 tn Heb “one will expose.” The subject is probably indefinite, though one could translate, “for he [i.e., God] will lay bare.”

56 tn Heb “this is the proud city.”

57 tn Heb “the one that lived securely.”

58 tn Heb “the one who says in her heart.”

59 tn Heb “I [am], and besides me there is no other.”

60 tn Heb “hisses”; or “whistles.”

61 sn Hissing (or whistling) and shaking the fist were apparently ways of taunting a defeated foe or an object of derision in the culture of the time.



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