This chapter and book end with an uplifting message:
Zep 3:14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.
Zep 3:15 The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.
Zep 3:16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.
Zep 3:17 The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
But it doesn’t begin this way. Read what Old John Gill write about these opening lines. And I can’t help reflecting on the Revelation 2 chapter we just read today, and another woman who was mentioned concerning the church:
Rev 2:20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
Rev 2:21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
You can read about that below also. Sorry this gets a bit long. Gill’s commentary is pretty specific. Not likely to be preached this Sunday though.
Zep 3:1 Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!
Zep 3:2 She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.
Zep 3:3 Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.
Zep 3:4 Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.
Zephaniah 3:1 (Gill)
Woe to her that is filthy, and polluted,…. Meaning the city of Jerusalem, and its inhabitants; not as before the Babylonish captivity, but after their return from it, under the second temple, as Abarbinel owns; and even as in the times before and at the coming of Christ, and the preaching of his apostles among them; as the whole series of the prophecy, and the connection of the several parts of it, show; and there are such plain intimations of the conversion of the Gentiles, and of such a happy state of the Jews, in which they shall see evil no more, as can agree with no other times than the times of the Gospel, both the beginning and latter part of them. The character of this city, and its inhabitants, is, that it was “filthy”, and polluted with murders, adulteries, oppression, rapine, and other sins: our Lord often calls them a wicked and an adulterous generation; and yet they pretended to great purity of life and manners; and they were pure in their own eyes, though not washed from their filthiness; they took much pains to make clean the outside of the cup, but within were full of impurity, Mat 23:25. In the margin it is, “woe to her that is gluttonous”. The word is used for the craw or crop of a fowl, Lev 1:16 hence some render it (t) “woe to the craw”; to the city that is all craw, to which Jerusalem is compared for its devouring the wealth and substance of others. The Scribes and Pharisees in Christ’s time are said to devour widows’ houses, Mat 23:14 and this seems to be the sin with which they were defiled, and here charged with. Some think the word signifies one that is publicly, infamous; either made a public example of, or openly exposed, as sometimes filthy harlots are; or rather one “that has made herself infamous” (u); by her sins and vices:
to the oppressing city! that oppressed the poor, the widow, and the fatherless. This may have respect to the inhabitants of Jerusalem stoning the prophets of the Lord sent unto them; to the discouragements they laid the followers of Christ under, by not suffering such to come to hear him that were inclined; threatening to cast them out of their synagogues if they professed him, which passed into a law; and to their killing the Lord of life and glory; and the persecution of his apostles, ministers, and people: see Mat 23:13. Some render it, “to the city a dove” (w); being like a silly dove without heart, as in Hos 7:11. R. Azariah (x) thinks Jerusalem is so called because in its works it was like Babylon, which had for its military sign on its standard a dove; See Gill on Jer 25:38, Jer 46:16, Hos 11:11 but the former sense is best.
(t) הוי מוראה “vae ingluviei”, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (u) ουας τη παραδειγματιζομηνη “vae huic quae infamatur”, L’Empereur Not. in Mosis Kimchii οιδοποζια “ad scientiam”, p. 174. so Drusius and Tarnovius. חעיר היונה πολις η περιστερα, Sept.; “civitas columba”, V. L.; so Syr. Ar. Jarchi, and other Jewish interpreters. (x) Meor Enayin, c. 21. fol. 90. 1.
She obeyed not the voice,…. Of his servants the prophets, as the Targum, by way of explanation, adds, who warned her of her sins and of her ruin. The inhabitants of Jerusalem hearkened not to the voice of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, who gave notice of his coming; nor to the voice of Christ himself, who stretched out his hand all the day to a disobedient and gainsaying people; nor to the voice of his apostles, whose doctrines they contradicted and blasphemed; and put away the word of God from them, thereby judging themselves unworthy of eternal life:
she received not correction; by the rod, by the judgments of God upon her: or “instruction” (y); by the Gospel preached to her inhabitants. So the Targum interprets it,
“she received not doctrine;”
the doctrine of baptism, repentance, and remission of sins, preached by John; but rejected the counsel of God by him against themselves, Luk 7:31 nor the doctrine and instruction of Christ and his apostles, though of more worth than gold and silver; but, on the contrary, slighted and despised it, and rejected it with the utmost contempt:
she trusted not in the Lord; not in the Word of the Lord, as the Targum; the essential Word, Christ Jesus; the Word made flesh, and dwelling among them; they trusted in the law of Moses, and in their obedience to it; in their rites and ceremonies, and in the observance of them, and the traditions of their elders; they trusted in the flesh, in their carnal privileges; in their own legal righteousness, and in themselves, that they were righteous, and despised others; and particularly the righteousness of Christ they submitted not unto; they trusted not in him, nor in that; though they were told, that, if they believed not that he was the Messiah, they should die in their sins:
she drew not near to her God; Immanuel, God manifest in the flesh, who was promised to the Jews, and sent unto them, whom their fathers expected, and whose God he was, and theirs also; being in his human nature of them, and God over all blessed for ever; so far were they from drawing near to him, and embracing, him, that they hid, as it were, their faces from him; they would not come to him for life and light, for grace, righteousness, and salvation; nor even to hear him preach, nor suffer others to do the same; but, as much as in them lay, hindered them from attending his ministry, word, and ordinances. The Targum is,
“she drew not nigh to the worship of her God.”
(y) מוסר “institutionem”, Drusius, Tarnovius.
Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee,…. By way of complaint; so the Arabic version renders it, “I have a certain complaint against thee”. The impartiality of Christ may be observed in taking notice of the bad deeds, as well as of the good ones of his people, and his tenderness in representing them as few; and these things he had against them not in a judicial way to their condemnation, but in a providential way, in order to chastise them for them, for their good; and they are as follow:
because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel; or “thy wife Jezebel”, as the Complutensian edition and Syriac version read; the name of King Ahab’s wife, who seduced him, in the Hebrew language is “Izebel”, but is read by the Septuagint in 1Ki 16:31, Jezebel, as here; and by Josephus (a) Jezabela; she had her name from זבל, “Zebel”, “dung”, to which Elijah has reference in 2Ki 9:37; the Ethiopic version calls her “Elzabel”. By her is meant the apostate church of Rome, comparable to Jezebel, the wife of Ahab; as she was the daughter of an Heathen, so is Rome Papal the daughter of Rome Pagan; and as she was the wife of Ahab, and therefore a queen, so the whore of Babylon calls herself; and as Jezebel was famous for her paintings, so the church of Rome for her pretensions to religion and holiness, and for the gaudiness of her worship; and as she was remarkable for her idolatry, whoredoms, witchcrafts, and cruel persecution of the prophets of the Lord, and for murder, and innocent blood she shed; so the church of Rome, for her idolatrous worship of images, for her whoredoms, both in a literal and spiritual sense, and for the witchcrafts, magic, and devilish arts many of her popes have been addicted to, and especially for her barbarities and cruelties exercised upon the true professors of Christ, and for the blood of the martyrs, with which she has been drunk; and as Jezebel stirred up Ahab against good and faithful men, is has this church stirred up the secular powers, emperors, kings, and princes, against the true followers of Christ: and the end of both of them is much alike; as scarce anything was left of Jezebel, so Babylon the great, the mother of harlots, shall be cast into the sea, and be found no more at all: compare 2Ki 9:7 with Rev 17:1,
which calleth herself a prophetess; as perhaps Jezebel might do, since she was such a favourer of the prophets of Baal, and so familiarly conversed with them, and kept them, even a hundred of them, at her table: and certain it is, that the antitype of her pretends to an infallible interpretation of the Scriptures, and to have a bulk of unwritten traditions; and which interpretations and traditions are to be regarded as an infallible rule of faith and practice. Now what is complained of in the true members and followers of Christ is, that they suffered this woman
to teach; when it was insufferable for a woman to teach, and especially such a strumpet:
and to seduce my servants to commit fornication; to deceive such who called themselves the servants of Christ, and draw them into the commission of spiritual fornication, which is idolatry; as the idolatrous worship of the Mass, and of images and saints departed:
and to eat things sacrificed unto idols; as Balaam, or the pope, before had done, Rev 2:14. This may have respect to the latter part of this period, when the eyes of many began to be opened to see these false doctrines and idolatrous practices, and yet had not courage enough to oppose them as they should,
(a) Antiqu. l. 8. c. 13. sect. 1. 4, 7.
And I gave her space to repent of her fornication,…. Of idolatry. This may have respect to the time of the witnesses, the Waldenses, and others, who bore a testimony against the Romish idolatry, and reproved for it, and denounced the judgment of God in case of impenitence; and as these things were repeated time after time, this may be called a space given to repent in; just as Jezebel had a space given her to repent in, from the time that Elijah declared the word of the Lord, that the dogs should eat her: so the Jews (b) say of the old world, that God gave them זמן לשוב, “space to repent”, but they repented not, as here:
and she repented not; see Rev 9:20; for the time for, and means leading to repentance may be given, yet if the grace of repentance itself is not given, men, either particular persons, or whole bodies of men, will never repent of their sins. The Alexandrian copy, Complutensian, Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, read, “and she would not repent”,
(b) Juchasin, fol. 7. 1.