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Zephaniah 1:4-13

Context

1:4 “I will attack 1  Judah

and all who live in Jerusalem. 2 

I will remove 3  from this place every trace of Baal worship, 4 

as well as the very memory 5  of the pagan priests. 6 

1:5 I will remove 7  those who worship the stars in the sky from their rooftops, 8 

those who swear allegiance to the Lord 9  while taking oaths in the name of 10  their ‘king,’ 11 

1:6 and those who turn their backs on 12  the Lord

and do not want the Lord’s help or guidance.” 13 

1:7 Be silent before the Lord God, 14 

for the Lord’s day of judgment 15  is almost here. 16 

The Lord has prepared a sacrificial meal; 17 

he has ritually purified 18  his guests.

1:8 “On the day of the Lord’s sacrificial meal,

I will punish the princes 19  and the king’s sons,

and all who wear foreign styles of clothing. 20 

1:9 On that day I will punish all who leap over the threshold, 21 

who fill the house of their master 22  with wealth taken by violence and deceit. 23 

1:10 On that day,” says the Lord,

“a loud cry will go up 24  from the Fish Gate, 25 

wailing from the city’s newer district, 26 

and a loud crash 27  from the hills.

1:11 Wail, you who live in the market district, 28 

for all the merchants 29  will disappear 30 

and those who count money 31  will be removed. 32 

1:12 At that time I will search through Jerusalem with lamps.

I will punish the people who are entrenched in their sin, 33 

those who think to themselves, 34 

‘The Lord neither rewards nor punishes.’ 35 

1:13 Their wealth will be stolen

and their houses ruined!

They will not live in the houses they have built,

nor will they drink the wine from the vineyards they have planted.

1 tn Heb “I will stretch out my hand against,” is an idiom for hostile action.

2 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

3 tn Heb “cut off.”

4 tn Heb “the remnant of Baal.”

5 tn Heb “name.” Here the “name” is figurative for the memory of those who bear it.

6 tc Heb “of the pagan priests and priests.” The first word (כְּמָרִים, kÿmarim) refers to idolatrous priests in its two other appearances in the OT (2 Kgs 23:5, Hos 10:5), while the second word (כֹּהֲנִים, kohanim) is the normal term for “priest” and is used of both legitimate and illegitimate priests in the OT. It is likely that the second term, which is omitted in the LXX, is a later scribal addition to the Hebrew text, defining the extremely rare word that precedes (see J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah [OTL], 167-68; cf. also NEB, NRSV). Some argue that both words are original; among the modern English versions that include both are NASB and NIV. Possibly the first word refers to outright pagan priests, while the second has in view once-legitimate priests of the Lord who had drifted into idolatrous practices. Another option is found in Adele Berlin, who translates, “the idolatrous priests among the priests,” understanding the second word as giving the general category of which the idolatrous priests are a part (Zephaniah [AB 25A], 75).

7 tn The words “I will remove” are repeated from v. 4b for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text vv. 4b-6 contain a long list of objects for the verb “I will remove” in v. 4b. In the present translation a new sentence was begun at the beginning of v. 5 in keeping with the tendency of contemporary English to use shorter sentences.

8 tn Heb “those who worship on their roofs the host of heaven.” The “host of heaven” included the sun, moon, planets, and stars, all of which were deified in the ancient Near East.

9 tc The MT reads, “those who worship, those who swear allegiance to the Lord.” The original form of the LXX omits the phrase “those who worship”; it may have been accidentally repeated from the preceding line. J. J. M. Roberts prefers to delete as secondary the phrase “those who swear allegiance” (J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah [OTL], 168).

10 tn Heb “those who swear by.”

11 tn The referent of “their king” is unclear. It may refer sarcastically to a pagan god (perhaps Baal) worshiped by the people. Some English versions (cf. NEB, NASB, NRSV) prefer to emend the text to “Milcom,” the name of an Ammonite god (following some LXX mss, Syriac, and Vulgate) or “Molech,” a god to whom the Israelites offered their children (cf. NIV, NLT). For a discussion of the options, see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah (AB 25A), 75-77.

12 tn Heb “turn back from [following] after.”

13 tn Heb “who do not seek the Lord and do not inquire of him.” The present translation assumes the first verb refers to praying for divine help and the second to seeking his revealed will through an oracle. Note the usage of the two verbs in 2 Chr 20:3-4.

14 tn Heb “Lord Lord.” The phrase אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה (adonai yÿhvih) is customarily rendered by Jewish tradition as “Lord God.”

15 tn Heb “the day of the Lord.”

sn The origin of the concept of “the day of the Lord” is uncertain. It may have originated in the ancient Near Eastern idea of the sovereign’s day of conquest, where a king would boast that he had concluded an entire military campaign in a single day (see D. Stuart, “The Sovereign’s Day of Conquest,” BASOR 221 [1976]: 159-64). In the OT the expression is applied to several acts of divine judgment, some historical and others still future (see A. J. Everson, “The Days of Yahweh,” JBL 93 [1974]: 329-37). In the OT the phrase first appears in Amos (assuming that Amos predates Joel and Obadiah), where it seems to refer to a belief on the part of the northern kingdom that God would intervene on Israel’s behalf and judge the nation’s enemies. Amos affirms that the Lord’s day of judgment is indeed approaching, but he declares that it will be a day of disaster, not deliverance, for Israel. Here in Zephaniah, the “day of the Lord” includes God’s coming judgment of Judah, as well as a more universal outpouring of divine anger.

16 tn Or “near.”

17 tn Heb “a sacrifice.” This same word also occurs in the following verse.

sn Because a sacrificial meal presupposes the slaughter of animals, it is used here as a metaphor of the bloody judgment to come.

18 tn Or “consecrated” (ASV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

19 tn Or “officials” (NRSV, TEV); NLT “leaders.”

20 sn The very dress of the royal court, foreign styles of clothing, revealed the degree to which Judah had assimilated foreign customs.

21 sn The point of the statement all who hop over the threshold is unclear. A ritual or superstition associated with the Philistine god Dagon may be in view (see 1 Sam 5:5).

22 tn The referent of “their master” is unclear. The king or a pagan god may be in view.

23 tn Heb “who fill…with violence and deceit.” The expression “violence and deceit” refers metonymically to the wealth taken by oppressive measures.

24 tn The words “will go up” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

25 sn The Fish Gate was located on Jerusalem’s north side (cf. 2 Chr 33:14; Neh 3:3; 12:39).

26 tn Heb “from the second area.” This may refer to an area northwest of the temple where the rich lived (see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah [AB 25A], 86; cf. NASB, NRSV “the Second Quarter”; NIV “the New Quarter”).

27 tn Heb “great breaking.”

28 tn Heb “in the Mortar.” The Hebrew term מַכְתֵּשׁ (makhtesh, “mortar”) is apparently here the name of a low-lying area where economic activity took place.

29 tn Or perhaps “Canaanites.” Cf. BDB 489 s.v. I and II כְּנַעֲנִי. Translators have rendered the term either as “the merchant people” (KJV, NKJV), “the traders” (NRSV), “merchants” (NEB, NIV), or, alternatively, “the people of Canaan” (NASB).

30 tn Or “be destroyed.”

31 tn Heb “weigh out silver.”

32 tn Heb “be cut off.” In the Hebrew text of v. 11b the perfect verbal forms emphasize the certainty of the judgment, speaking of it as if it were already accomplished.

33 tn Heb “who thicken on their sediment.” The imagery comes from wine making, where the wine, if allowed to remain on the sediment too long, will thicken into syrup. The image suggests that the people described here were complacent in their sinful behavior and interpreted the delay in judgment as divine apathy.

34 tn Heb “who say in their hearts.”

35 tn Heb “The Lord does not do good nor does he do evil.”



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