from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 66

Zephaniah: A New Horror of Evil

Historical Study


Zephaniah is described as the descendant of Hizkiah. It is supposed that this Hizkiah is the same Hezekiah, king of Judah. There is no proof of it. The signification of the names, however, is the same. Our prophet lived in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, thus between the years 640 and 609 B.C. This is very shortly before the fall of Jerusalem - 587 B.C. - in the midst of the saddest days in the kingdom. A stream of sunlight burst through the clouds at the time of the reformation in Josiah's reign. (2 Kings 22:23) But the clouds closed in again, and grew denser and denser until the storm burst forth in all its fury, and devastated the land. Manasseh and Anion the predecessors of Josiah, were two of the most wicked kings of Judah. (2 Kings 21) These were very dark times, in which Zephaniah lived. The day of judgment is near at hand.

"That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness (Zeph. 1:15) This is the dominant note of the prophet’s message. "Dies irae, dies illa." Yet it closes with the promise of a bright future for the Lord’s people.

The prophecy of Zephaniah is somewhat difficult to follow in the letter. Yet the general outline is comparatively clear. It opens with an announcement of a general judgment. (Zeph. 1:1-3) It then turns to the particular judgment awaiting Judah and Jerusalem. (Verses 4-6) The heathen are invited to be present at the sacrifice prepared by the Lord on the day of judgment. (Verse 7) In the day of that sacrifice the Lord will punish princes, and all addicted to practices of corruption and intrigue. (Verses 8, 9) Then will there be great wailing in Jerusalem for her merchants are cut off. (Verses 10, 11) Then also the Lord will search the city and punish those immersed in irreligious indifference. (Verses 12, 13) That day will be a day of darkness and terror. (Verses 14, 18) The prophet calls for repentance (Zeph. 2:1-3), that the people may thus escape the doom which threatens the nations—Philistia, Moab and Ammon, Ethiopia and Assyria. (Verses 4-15) Again, he turns to the sins of Jerusalem: her impurity, disobedience, and distrust. (Zeph. 3:1-2) All her leaders—her princes, judges, prophets and priests—have turned aside from the path of justice, and do wrong shamelessly. (Verses 3-5) And she refuses to take warning from the sad end of neighboring nations. (Verses 6, 7) A judgment awaits all the kingdoms of the earth. (Verse 8) Then a new church will be established with the remnant, which shall become "a praise among all people of the earth" (Verses 9-20)

Spiritual Study


The outstanding feature of this prophecy is the terrible judgment awaiting the church at its end, and the new church here to be built up out of the remnant. It is the vastation or consummation of the old, and the establishment of the new. (A. 411) This subject has been quite frequently before us now. The description of the end always precedes mention of the new beginning. The darkness deepens before the light appears. Hence the picture of the end becomes more gloomy as prophecy advances, even as evil became more pronounced in the kingdom of Judah as its doom approached. It all depicts the growing consciousness of the evil hidden within sin. At first, evil appears simple and harmless. But as its nature is laid bare in the light of the Divine truth it is seen to be more full of depravity. All that is within must be fully vastated or removed before a person comes into full possession of remains. (A. 19) Remains consist of the things of innocence, and love, and mercy implanted in the soul of every person during infancy, childhood, and youth. (A. 561, 1906) Without these impressions made within the soul, people could not be saved (Isa. 1:9) The tenderest and most precious are the earliest impressions. As the world becomes more present to the growing child, the heavenly qualities that find their way inward are of a lower order. When the world exercises full sway over the youth, then all heavenly impressions are lost sight of. Yet they remain. Yea, they are continually being awakened and brought to consciousness by the angels. Then if we desire to consciously possess these heavenly qualities, we require to sacrifice that which is purely selfish and worldly. The removal of this evil to gain good is vastation for those who become angels. (A. 2959, 7984) This process of vastation or desolation is the subject treated of by Zephaniah in the first part of his prophecy. The recovery of remains is pictured in the latter part. Vastation always precedes the restoration of remains. In other words, it is impossible to regain heaven except through temptation and judgment. And the more latent remains a person desires to recover, the severer the trials. Our prophet presents a dreadful picture of the judgment - the day of wrath—and a correspondingly beautiful picture of restoration. The name Zephaniah means "what Jehovah hath hidden," and the prophecy seems to suggest the severe trial endured to reveal the remains which the Lord has hidden away in the interior, and restore them to life. "Sing, O daughter of Zion: shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. Jehovah hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, Jehovah, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more." (Zeph. 3:14-15)

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