Zephaniah [Zĕpha nī'ah]—jehovah is darkness or god hides.
1. A son of Cushi, who prophesied in the days of Josiah (Zeph. 1:1). The prophet Zephaniah gives us a most minute account of his genealogy—a rare thing for a prophet! Possibly he pursued this course for two reasons:
To distinguish himself from three others of the same name, mentioned below.
To point out his relation to the great monarch, Hezekiah. The Hizkiah of Zephaniah 1:1 is identical with King Hezekiah. Zephaniah was therefore of royal descent.
The prophecy of Zephaniah, ninth among the Minor Prophets, is one of reproof and judgment. George Adam Smith said of it, “No hotter book lies in all the Old Testament.” What a graphic picture of Judah’s spiritual pride this prophet of judgment paints! Worshippers of God were found sprawled on their housetops worshiping the moon and stars (Zeph. 1:4, 5). The spirit of practical atheism had possessed the people (Zeph. 1:12), and their religious leaders had lost their moral seriousness (Zeph. 3:4).
Zephaniah sees no way out of such departure from God but judgment, so he announces the day of the Lord, denounces idolaters, waverers and apostates and pronounces doom on wrongdoers (Zeph. 1:7, 8). Much that he predicted has been partially fulfilled, but ultimate fulfillment is still future.
The Lord is “in the midst” for judgment (Zeph. 1-3:8).
The Lord is “in the midst” for salvation (Zeph. 3:9-20).
The present value of the Book of Zephaniah must not be lost sight of. We have:
I. The revelation of social and moral conditions.
II. An earnest moral tone and deep sense of sin.
III. The disciplinary value of suffering (Zeph. 3:7, 11, 13).
IV. The comforting doctrine of Providence.
V. Are we God’s Zephaniahs—His sheltered ones (Ps. 17:8; 27:5, 7)?
Other men with the name of Zephaniah are:
2. A Levite of the family of Kohath and of the house of Izhar, who is mentioned among the ancestors of Heman the singer (1 Chron. 6:36-38).
3. A priest, the son of Maaseiah, who ministered in Jerusalem in the reign of King Hezekiah and the prophet Jeremiah. This Zephaniah had the oversight of the Temple and was put to death at Riblah (2 Kings 25:18-30; Jer. 21:1; 29:25-29; 37:3; 52:24-29).
4. The father of one Josiah who lived in the day of Zerubbabel and the prophet Zechariah, and into whose house in Jerusalem the messenger from the Jews went (Zech. 6:10-14).