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Zephaniah 2:1-3

Context
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.

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.”



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