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During the early seventh century b.c., Judah is a tiny nation controlled by the Assyrian Empire and bullied by her neighbors. Under former Kings Manasseh and Amon, Judah lost all international power and fell into such hedonism that prophets such as Zephaniah are forced to hide themselves. No one in Judah is safe as Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Egypt (ruled by an Ethiopian dynasty), and Assyria continue seizing land God promised to the Israelites centuries earlier (Genesis 15:18–21). God has frequently used those foreign nations to discipline His children; but they, too, worship other gods and have overstepped the boundaries He set for them. The destruction of these foreign oppressors promises Judah not only revenge but the restoration of the inheritance promised to her people so long ago.

As for the Philistine cities off to the west—Gaza will be deserted,
    Ashkelon will be left in ashes and ruins,
Ashdod will be scattered to the winds at noon,
    and Ekron will be pulled up by its roots.
Too bad for their citizens who live along the seacoast,
    those people who migrated from Crete;[a]
This message from the Eternal One is for you too.

Eternal One: O Canaan, land of the Philistines,
        I will destroy you and wipe you from the face of the earth.

Their valuable coastlands will become pastures for our sheep,
    meadows[b] for our shepherds, and pens for our flocks.

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  1. 2:5 Hebrew, Cherethites
  2. 2:6 Meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.