New English Translation
Jerusalem is Corrupt
3 Beware to the filthy,[a] stained city;
the city filled with oppressors![b]
2 She is disobedient;[c]
she has refused correction.[d]
She does not trust the Lord;
she has not sought the advice of[e] her God.
3 Her princes[f] are as fierce as roaring lions;[g]
her rulers[h] are as hungry as wolves in the desert,[i]
who completely devour their prey by morning.[j]
4 Her prophets are proud;[k]
they are deceitful men.
Her priests have defiled what is holy;[l]
they have broken God’s laws.[m]
5 The just Lord resides[n] within her;
he commits no unjust acts.[o]
Every morning he reveals[p] his justice.
At dawn he appears without fail.[q]
Yet the unjust know no shame.
The Lord’s Judgment will Purify
6 “I destroyed[r] nations;
their walled cities[s] are in ruins.
I turned their streets into ruins;
no one passes through them.
Their cities are desolate;[t]
no one lives there.[u]
7 I thought,[v] ‘Certainly you will respect[w] me!
Now you will accept correction!’
If she had done so, her home[x] would not be destroyed[y]
by all the punishments I have threatened.[z]
But they eagerly sinned
in everything they did.[aa]
8 Therefore you must wait patiently[ab] for me,” says the Lord,
“for the day when I attack and take plunder.[ac]
I have decided[ad] to gather nations together
and assemble kingdoms,
so I can pour out my fury on them—
all my raging anger.
For[ae] the whole earth will be consumed
by my fiery anger.
9 Know for sure that I will then enable
the nations to give me acceptable praise.[af]
All of them will invoke the Lord’s name when they pray,[ag]
and will worship him in unison.[ah]
10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia,[ai]
those who pray to me, my dispersed people,[aj]
will bring me tribute.
11 In that day you[ak] will not be ashamed of all your rebelliousness against me,[al]
for then I will remove from your midst those who proudly boast,[am]
and you will never again be arrogant on my holy hill.
12 I will leave in your midst a humble and meek group of people,[an]
and they will find safety in the Lord’s presence.[ao]
13 The Israelites who remain[ap] will not act deceitfully.
They will not lie,
and a deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths.
Indeed, they will graze peacefully like sheep[aq] and lie down;
no one will terrify them.”
14 Shout for joy, Daughter Zion![ar]
Shout out, Israel!
Be happy and boast with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has removed the judgment against you;[as]
he has turned back your enemy.
Israel’s king, the Lord, is in your midst!
You no longer need to fear disaster.
16 On that day they will say[at] to Jerusalem,
“Don’t be afraid, Zion!
Your hands must not be paralyzed from panic![au]
17 The Lord your God is in your midst;
he is a warrior who can deliver.
He takes great delight in you;[av]
he renews you by his love;[aw]
he shouts for joy over you.”[ax]
18 “As for those who grieve because they cannot attend the festivals—
I took them away from you;
they became tribute and were a source of shame to you.[ay]
19 Look, at that time I will deal with those who mistreated you.
I will rescue the lame sheep[az]
and gather together the scattered sheep.
I will take away their humiliation
and make the whole earth admire and respect them.[ba]
20 At that time I will lead you—
at the time I gather you together.[bb]
Be sure of this![bc] I will make all the nations of the earth respect and admire you[bd]
when you see me restore you,”[be] says the Lord.
- Zephaniah 3:1 tn The present translation assumes מֹרְאָה (morʾah) is derived from רֹאִי (roʾi, “excrement”; see Jastrow 1436 s.v. רֳאִי). The following participle, “stained,” supports this interpretation (cf. NEB “filthy and foul”; NRSV “soiled, defiled”). Another option is to derive the form from מָרָה (marah, “to rebel”); in this case the term should be translated “rebellious” (cf. NASB, NIV “rebellious and defiled”). This idea is supported by v. 2. For discussion of the two options, see HALOT 630 s.v. I מרא and J. J. M. Roberts, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (OTL), 206.
- Zephaniah 3:1 sn The following verses show that Jerusalem, personified as a woman (“she”), is the referent.
- Zephaniah 3:2 tn Heb “she has not listened to a voice.” Refusing to listen is equated with disobedience.
- Zephaniah 3:2 tn Heb “she has not received correction.” The Hebrew phrase, when negated, refers elsewhere to rejecting verbal advice (Jer 17:23; 32:33; 35:13) and refusing to learn from experience (Jer 2:30; 5:3).
- Zephaniah 3:2 tn Heb “draw near to.” The translation assumes that the expression “draw near to” refers to seeking God’s will (see 1 Sam 14:36).
- Zephaniah 3:3 tn Or “officials.”
- Zephaniah 3:3 tn Heb “her princes in her midst are roaring lions.” The metaphor has been translated as a simile (“as fierce as”) for clarity.
- Zephaniah 3:3 tn Traditionally “judges.”
- Zephaniah 3:3 tn Heb “her judges [are] wolves of the evening,” that is, wolves that prowl at night. The translation assumes an emendation to עֲרָבָה (ʿaravah, “desert”). For a discussion of this and other options, see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah (AB 25A), 128. The metaphor has been translated as a simile (“as hungry as”) for clarity.
- Zephaniah 3:3 tn Heb “they do not gnaw [a bone] at morning.” The precise meaning of the line is unclear. The statement may mean these wolves devour their prey so completely that not even a bone is left to gnaw by the time morning arrives. For a discussion of this and other options, see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah (AB 25A), 129.
- Zephaniah 3:4 sn Applied to prophets, the word פֹּחֲזִים (pokhazim, “proud”) probably refers to their audacity in passing off their own words as genuine prophecies from the Lord (see Jer 23:32).
- Zephaniah 3:4 tn Or “defiled the temple.”sn These priests defiled what is holy by not observing the proper distinctions between what is ritually clean and unclean (see Ezek 22:26).
- Zephaniah 3:4 tn Heb “they treated [the] law violently.”
- Zephaniah 3:5 tn The word “resides” is supplied for clarification.
- Zephaniah 3:5 tn Or “he does no injustice.”
- Zephaniah 3:5 tn Heb “gives”; or “dispenses.”
- Zephaniah 3:5 tn Heb “at the light he is not missing.” Note that NASB (which capitalizes pronouns referring to Deity) has divided the lines differently: “Every morning He brings His justice to light; // He does not fail.”
- Zephaniah 3:6 tn Heb “cut off.”
- Zephaniah 3:6 tn Heb “corner towers”; NEB, NRSV “battlements.”
- Zephaniah 3:6 tn This Hebrew verb (צָדָה, tsadah) occurs only here in the OT, but its meaning is established from the context and from an Aramaic cognate.
- Zephaniah 3:6 tn Heb “so that there is no man, without inhabitant.”
- Zephaniah 3:7 tn Heb “said.”
- Zephaniah 3:7 tn Or “fear.” The second person verb form (“you will respect”) is feminine singular, indicating that personified Jerusalem is addressed. sn God’s judgment of the nations (v. 6) was an object lesson for Israel’s benefit.
- Zephaniah 3:7 tn Or “dwelling place.”
- Zephaniah 3:7 tn Heb “cut off.”
- Zephaniah 3:7 tn Heb “all which I have punished her.” The precise meaning of this statement and its relationship to what precedes are unclear.
- Zephaniah 3:7 tn Heb “But they got up early, they made corrupt all their actions.” The phrase “they got up early” probably refers to their eagerness to engage in sinful activities.
- Zephaniah 3:8 tn The second person verb form (“you must wait patiently”) is masculine plural, indicating that a group is being addressed. Perhaps the humble individuals addressed earlier (see 2:3) are in view. Because of Jerusalem’s sin, they must patiently wait for judgment to pass before their vindication arrives.
- Zephaniah 3:8 tn Heb “when I arise for plunder.” The present translation takes עַד (ʿad) as “plunder.” Some, following the LXX, repoint the term עֵד (ʿed) and translate, “as a witness” (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV). In this case the Lord uses a legal metaphor to picture himself as testifying against his enemies. Adele Berlin takes לְעַד (leʿad) in a temporal sense (“forever”) and translates “once and for all” (Zephaniah [AB 25A], 133).
- Zephaniah 3:8 tn Heb “for my decision is.”
- Zephaniah 3:8 tn Or “certainly.”
- Zephaniah 3:9 tn Heb “Certainly [or perhaps, “For”] then I will restore to the nations a pure lip.” sn I will then enable the nations to give me acceptable praise. This apparently refers to a time when the nations will reject their false idol-gods and offer genuine praise to the one true God.
- Zephaniah 3:9 tn Heb “so that all of them will call on the name of the Lord.”
- Zephaniah 3:9 tn Heb “so that [they] will serve him [with] one shoulder.”
- Zephaniah 3:10 tn Or “Nubia”; Heb “Cush.” “Cush” is traditionally assumed to refer to the region south of Egypt, i.e., Nubia or northern Sudan, referred to as “Ethiopia” by classical authors (not the more recent Abyssinia).
- Zephaniah 3:10 tn Heb “those who pray to me, the daughter of my dispersed ones.” The meaning of the phrase is unclear. For a discussion of various options see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah (AB 25A), 134-35.sn It is not certain if those who pray to me refers to the converted nations or to God’s exiled covenant people.
- Zephaniah 3:11 sn The second person verbs and pronouns are feminine singular, indicating that personified Jerusalem is addressed here.
- Zephaniah 3:11 tn Heb “In that day you will not be ashamed because of all your actions, [in] which you rebelled against me.”
- Zephaniah 3:11 tn Heb “the arrogant ones of your pride.”
- Zephaniah 3:12 tn Heb “needy and poor people.” The terms often refer to a socioeconomic group, but here they may refer to those who are humble in a spiritual sense.
- Zephaniah 3:12 tn Heb “and they will take refuge in the name of the Lord.” sn Safety in the Lord’s presence. From the time the Lord introduced his special covenant name (Yahweh) to Moses, it served as a reminder of his protective presence as Israel’s faithful deliverer.
- Zephaniah 3:13 tn Or “the remnant of Israel.”
- Zephaniah 3:13 tn The words “peacefully like sheep” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
- Zephaniah 3:14 sn This phrase is used as an epithet for the city and the nation. “Daughter” may seem extraneous in English but consciously joins the various epithets and metaphors of Israel and Jerusalem as a woman, a device used to evoke sympathy from the reader.
- Zephaniah 3:15 tn Heb “your judgments,” that is, “the judgments directed against you.” The translation reflects the implications of the parallelism.
- Zephaniah 3:16 tn Heb “it will be said.” The passive construction has been translated as active for stylistic reasons.
- Zephaniah 3:16 tn Heb “your hands must not go limp.”
- Zephaniah 3:17 tn Heb “he rejoices over you with jubilation.” The term שִׂמְכָּה (simkah) can mean joy or the expression of joy. In light of the last line of the verse, this line may imply shouts of joy.
- Zephaniah 3:17 tc The MT reads, “he remains silent in his love,” a Hiphil form of the stative verb חָרַשׁ (kharash, “to be silent, deaf”). But this does not make sense in light of the expressions of joy in the preceding and following lines. All other cases of the Hiphil of this verb mean to act silently, maintain silence, or the like. This is normal for stative verbs in the Hiphil, where they often mean to behave with the attribute expressed by the root. Some commentators appeal to Job 11:3 as a possible causative use, “Should your boasting silence men?” But in fact the verse should be understood as “should men remain silent at your boasts?” The LXX reads “he will renew you with his love,” implying יְחַדֵּשׁ (yekhaddesh), a Piel from the root חָדַשׁ (khadash, “to make new, restore”). This assumes the confusion of ד (dalet) and ר (resh) in the MT. The direct object “you” should be understood either through ellipsis or by possible haplography, with the כ (kaf) having been dropped before the similar looking ב (bet) beginning the next word. Renewal is a fitting concept after judgment (cf. Lam 5:21).
- Zephaniah 3:17 tn Heb “he rejoices over you with a shout of joy.”
- Zephaniah 3:18 tn Heb “The ones grieving from an assembly I gathered from you they were, tribute upon her, a reproach.” Any translation of this difficult verse must be provisional at best. The present translation assumes three things: (1) The preposition מִן (min) prefixed to “assembly” is causal (the individuals are sorrowing because of the assemblies or festivals they are no longer able to hold). (2) מַשְׂאֵת (masʾet) means “tribute” and refers to the exiled people being treated as the spoils of warfare (see R. D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah [WEC], 385-86). (3) The third feminine singular suffix refers to personified Jerusalem, which is addressed earlier in the verse (the pronominal suffix in “from you” is second feminine singular). For other interpretive options see Adele Berlin, Zephaniah (AB 25A), 146.
- Zephaniah 3:19 tn The word “sheep” is supplied for clarification. As in Mic 4:6-7, the exiles are here pictured as injured and scattered sheep whom the divine shepherd rescues from danger.
- Zephaniah 3:19 tn Heb “I will make them into praise and a name, in all the earth, their shame.” The present translation assumes that “their shame” specifies “them” and that “name” stands here for a good reputation.
- Zephaniah 3:20 tn In this line the second person pronoun is masculine plural, indicating that the exiles are addressed.
- Zephaniah 3:20 tn Or “for.”
- Zephaniah 3:20 tn Heb “I will make you into a name and praise among all the peoples of the earth.” Here the word “name” carries the nuance of “good reputation.”
- Zephaniah 3:20 tn Heb “when I restore your fortunes to your eyes.” See the note on the phrase “restore them” in 2:7.