Notice is here given to Judah and Jerusalem that God is coming forth against them, and will be with them shortly; his presence, as a just avenger, his day, the day of his judgment and his wrath, are not far off, Zeph. 1:7. Those that improve not the presence of God with them as a Father, but sin away that presence, may expect his presence with them as a Judge, to call them to an account for the contempt put upon his grace. The day of the Lord will come. Men have their day now, when they take a liberty to do what they please; but God’s day is at hand; it is here called his sacrifice, a sacrifice of his preparing, for the punishing of presumptuous sinners is a sacrifice to the justice of God, some reparation to his injured honour. Those that brought their offerings to other gods were themselves justly made victims to the true God. On a day of sacrifice great slaughter was made; so shall there be in Jerusalem; men shall be killed up as fast as lambs for the altar, with as little regret, with as much pleasure: The slain of the Lord shall be many. On a day of sacrifice great feasts were made upon the sacrifices; so the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem shall be feasted upon by their enemies the Chaldeans; these are the guests God has prepared and invited to come and glut themselves—their revenge with slaughter and their covetousness with plunder. Now observe,
I. Who those are that are marked to be sacrificed, that shall be visited and punished in this day of reckoning, and what it is they shall be called to an account for. 1. The royal family, because of the dignity of their place, shall be first reckoned with for their pride, and vanity, and affectation (Zeph. 1:8): I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, who think themselves accountable to God, and that, high as they are, he is above them. They shall be punished, and all such as, like them, are clothed with strange apparel, such as, in contempt of their own country (where, probably, it was the custom to go in a very plain dress, as became the seed of Jacob that plain man), affected to appear in the fashion of other nations and introduced their modes in apparel, studying to resemble those from whom God had appointed them, even in their clothes, industriously to distinguish themselves. The princes and the king’s children scorned to wear any home-made stuffs, though God had provided them fine linen and silks (Ezek. 16:10), but they must send abroad to strange countries for their clothes, which would not please unless they were far-fetched and dear-bought; and even those of inferior rank affected to imitate the princes and the king’s children. Pride in apparel is displeasing to God, and a symptom of the degeneracy of a people. 2. The noblemen, and their stewards and servants, come next to be reckoned with (Zeph. 1:9): In the same day will I punish those that leap on the threshold, a phrase, no doubt, well understood then, and which probably signified the invading of their neighbour’s rights. Entering their houses by force and violence, and seizing their possessions, they leap on the threshold, as much as to say that the house is their own and they will keep their hold of it; and, accordingly, they make all in it their own that they can lay their hands on, and so fill their masters’ houses with goods gotten by violence and deceit and with all the guilt thereby contracted. Nor shall it suffice them to say that the ill-gotten gains were not for themselves but for their masters, and that what they did was by their order; for the obligations we lie under to keep God’s commandments are prior and superior to the obligations we lie under to serve the interests of any master on earth. 3. The trading people, and the rich merchants, are next called to account. Iniquity is found in their end of the town, among the inhabitants of Maktesh, a low part of Jerusalem, deep like a mortar (for so the word signifies); the goldsmiths lived there (Neh. 3:32) and the merchants; and they are now cut down (they are broken, and have shut up their shops, and become bankrupts); nay, All those that bear silver are cut off, in the first place, by the invaders, for the sake of the silver they carry, which is so far from being a protection to them that it will expose and betray them. The conquerors aimed at the wealthy men, and carried them off first, while the poor of the land escaped. Or it may be meant of a general decay of trade, which was a preface and introduction to the general destruction of the land. It is the token of a declining state when great dealers are cut down, and great bankers are cut off and become bankrupts, who cannot fall alone, but with themselves ruin many. 4. All the secure and careless people, the sons of pleasure, that live a loose idle life, are next reckoned with (Zeph. 1:12); they come from all parts of the country, to take up their quarters in the head-quarters of the kingdom, where they take private lodgings, and indulge themselves in ease and luxury; but God will find them out, and punish them: At that time I will search Jerusalem with candles, to discover them, that they may be brought out to condign punishment. This intimates that they conceal themselves, as being either ashamed of the sin or afraid of the punishment of it; when the judgments of God are abroad they hope to escape by absconding and getting out of the way, but God will search Jerusalem, as search is made for a malefactor in disguise, that is harboured by his accomplices. God’s hand will find out all his enemies, wherever they lie hid, and will punish not only the secret idolaters, but the secret epicures and profane; and those are the persons that are here described, and marks are given by which they will be discovered when strict search is made for them. (1.) Their dispositions are sensual: They are settled on their lees, intoxicated with their pleasures, strengthening themselves in their wealth and wickedness; they are secure and easy, and, because they have had no changes, they fear none, as Moab, Jer. 48:11. They have not been emptied from vessel to vessel. They fill themselves with wine and strong drink, and banish all thought, saying, To-morrow shall be as this day, Isa. 56:12. Their being settled on their lees signifies the same with being enclosed in their own fat, Ps. 17:10. (2.) Their notions are atheistical. They could not live such loose lives but that they say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil; that is, He will do nothing. They deny his providential government of the world: “What good and evil there is in the world comes by the wheel of fortune, and not by the disposal of a wise and supreme director.” They deny his moral government, and his dispensing rewards and punishments: “The Lord will not do good to those that serve him, nor do evil to those that rebel against him; and therefore there is nothing got by religion, nor lost by sin.” This was the effect of their sensuality; if they were not drowned in sense, they could not be thus senseless, nor could they be so stupid if they had not stupefied themselves with the love of pleasure. It was also the cause of their sensuality; men would not make a god of their belly if they had not at first become so vain, so vile, in their imaginations, as to think the God that made them altogether such a one as themselves. But God will punish them; their end is destruction, Phil. 3:19.
II. What the destruction will be with which God will punish these sinners, and what course he will take with them. 1. He will silence them (Zeph. 1:7): Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord. He will force them to hold their peace, will strike them dumb with horror and amazement. They shall be speechless. All the excuses of their sin, and exceptions against the sentence, will be overruled, and they shall not have a word to say for themselves. 2. He will sacrifice them, for it is the day of the Lord’s sacrifice (Zeph. 1:8); he will give them into the hands of their enemies, and glorify himself thereby. 3. He will fill both city and country with lamentation (Zeph. 1:10): In that day there shall be a noise of a cry from the fish-gate, so called because near either to the fish-ponds or to the fish-market. It belonged to the city of David (2 Chron. 33:14; Neh. 3:3); perhaps the same with that which is called the first gate (Zech. 14:10), and, if so, it will explain what follows here, And a howling from the second, that is, the second gate, which was next to that fish-gate. The alarm shall go round the walls of Jerusalem from gate to gate; and there shall be a great crashing from the hills, a mighty noise from the mountains round about Jerusalem, from the acclamations of the victorious invaders, or from the lamentations of the timorous invaded, or from both. The inhabitants of the city, even of the closest safest part of the city, shall howl (Zeph. 1:11), so clamorous shall the grief be. 4. They shall be stripped of all they have; it shall be a prey to the enemy (Zeph. 1:13): Their household goods, and shop-goods, shall become a booty, and a rich booty they shall be; their houses shall be levelled with the ground and be a desolation; those of them that have built new houses shall not inherit them, but the invaders shall get and keep possession of them. And the vineyards they have planted they shall not drink the wine of, but, instead of having it for the relief of their friends that faint among them, they shall part with it for the animating of their foes that fight against them, Deut. 28:30.