Route 66 - Stop 36: Zephaniah

Audio File: 
Dr. Rich McCarrell
Sunday, November 13, 2016


Very clearly, the “Day of the Lord.” This phrase occurs many times in the prophets, and it can be    understood in two main ways. 1) It often refers to a present time of judgment, such as the locust plague that Joel recorded or the impending invasion of the land of Assyria or Babylon. 2) It also though may be speaking of the time in the future when God will deal in judgment and then ultimate blessing. This future time is also called “the tribulation” and “the kingdom.” The awesome descriptions that appear in Zephaniah make it necessary to conclude that it is referring in the main theme to some future time. As we read through Zephaniah, we understand why, in Daniel 12 and Matthew 24 we read of this period of judgment as a period that has no equal. The secondary theme would speak to a present time of judgment. So putting both of these thoughts together, we would sum up the theme as being the day of the Lord as prefigured by the Babylonian invasion.



Again, we refer to the very descriptive first verse and note that it was “in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah.” Josiah reigned from 639 to 608 B.C. This book was probably  written before the great reformation, which was completed in the 18th year of Josiah’s reign (2 Chron. 34:8). We draw that conclusion because the conditions which Zephaniah addresses in this book reflect the sins occurring in Judah in the decade before Josiah brought great reform. Those reforms occurred around 621 B.C. So the logical approximate date of the writing of this book would be around 630 B.C. We also would note that these were the last years of the southern kingdom and probably Jeremiah the prophet was active during this general period as well.



The prophet Zephaniah – “He who Jehovah has hidden.” It is to be noted here that Zephaniah gives to us the best lineage of any of the prophets. His four generation genealogy, going back to Hezekiah, found in 1:1 is unprecedented in the prophets. The Hezekiah listed in v. 1 may well be King Hezekiah, and this would of course make Zephaniah the great, great grandson of  Hezekiah. This would make Zephaniah of royal descent.



Judah and Jerusalem (1:4). As this book was written after the northern kingdom had already been carried away into captivity by Assyria, there are also warnings to various Gentile nations surrounding Israel (chapter 2).



Zephaniah’s purpose was to warn Judah of the coming judgment and also to comfort the faithfull remnant. As a member of the royal family, he was endeavoring to be a dominant influence on the young kings so that they would reverse the apostasy of his father & grandfather. The purpose of his message was to focus on Jerusalem. He addressed a people who had misplaced their religious loyalties. The gods of Canaan, Assyria and Amon were being worshipped, but the true and living Lord was being neglected. Some concluded that the Lord was no longer active in their history, but to this, Zephaniah responded with the strongest development of the theme of “the day of the Lord” to be found anywhere in the prophets. Zephaniah was saying to these people, terrible punishment is coming, but after the return of the faithful, Jerusalem will have a glorious end.


Key Verses      1:7 -- “the day of the Lord” and 1:12



Key Words     

Day of the Lord – 20 times

Desolation – 7 times

Remnant – 4 times



1. Judgment on Judah foreshadows “the great day of the Lord”  (1:1-2:3)

2. Judgment on neighboring nations and on Jerusalem foreshadows the final judgment of all nations (2:4-3:8)

3. The final, glorious restoration of Israel after all of the judgments are past (3:9-20) *Note especially verses 14-17 – let us continue to pray for the “true” peace of Jerusalem that will come in this day when they embrace their Messiah as truly King of kings and Lord of lords.


Point of Explanation:  

As you read Scripture both in the Old and New Testament keep three days separate. These do not refer to a 24 hour day but to a period of time. If when you see these days in Scripture, you keep them separate, you will understand prophecy much better.


* Day of Christ

   - Limited application

   - Day of Rapture

   - Phil. 1:6, 1:10, 2:16


* Day of the Lord

   - Broadest sense

   - Transition from Rapture through the Millennial Reign

   - I Thess. 5:2, II Thess. 2:2


* Day of God

   - Limited application

   - End of the world as we know it – “culmination of the ages”

   - II Peter 3:12


“Judgment is the central theme of Zephaniah. The immediate fulfillment occurred when Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar captured Judah. The ultimate fulfillment will yet occur in the day of the Lord during the coming tribulation years. The book closes with the glorious description of the future millennium, also an aspect of the Day of the Lord.”

(Ryrie Study Bible)