The “minor prophets” had one or a few things in common. One of these is that they had visions or saw things. Not all of them did, but most had visions. The prophets’ names also have meanings, and when we understand the meaning of their names, this usually has a link with their messages. The other thing in common is that the prophets spoke to the hearts of the nation of Israel, the tribe of Judah, and pleased with them to repent. Their messages were usually messages of judgement, but with a view to God restoring the nation of Israel and the reign of Christ in the Millennium.
We come to the book of Zephaniah. The name means “treasured (protected or hidden) of God”. Now Zephaniah did not have a vision, but the word of the Lord came to him. For those prophets who did not have visions, the word of God coming to them is sufficient that God had called them to speak to His people. This prophet prophesied in the days of Josiah, the last godly king of Judah. In the book of Zephaniah, the coming of the Lord is imminent, whereas in Habakkuk, the believer can cling to the promises of God. Therefore, the believer can then wait for the coming of the Lord, as stressed out in Zephaniah.
Zephaniah prophesied in about 630 BC, and therefore would have been at the time of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Habakkuk. It is also worthwhile to look at these “minor prophets” and see when they prophesied, and who their contemporaries were, in terms of other prophets, and kings of Israel and Judah. Zephaniah therefore is the last of the prophets before the captivity of Judah to Babylon.
We see Christ in Zephaniah 1:3 with Matthew 13:41, and again in chapter 1:15 with Matthew 24:29. Both passages about the Day of the Lord are associated with the coming of Christ. Then we have the wonderful promises of chapter 3:9-20, that Christ will gather His people and reign in victory, speaking of His appearing on earth. Read chapter 3:15, “Jehovah hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy; the King of Israel, Jehovah, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not see evil anymore.”
Zephaniah spoke much about the day of the Lord, which is not the time of the then imminent destruction of Jerusalem but the time of the Messiah’s reign which is still to come. This day will start with the Messiah’s appearing to judge the nations and will include the following time of the millennial reign of peace. It is called “day of the Lord” in the New Testament (2 Thess. 2:1).
This book can be divided into three parts, as there are three chapters.
- Chapter 1 describes the day of the Lord as a day of wrath, of trouble and distress. This will be judgement over the world, especially over the ungodly people of Judah.
- Chapter 2 shows how the prophet exhorts the nation to repent and to seek the Lord, so that they might be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger. Then he announced that the day is surely coming upon all the nations, and that the isles of the nations will not escape. Therefore, the chapter is mainly about God’s judgement over the neighbouring nations of Judah.
- Chapter 3 speaks about how the Lord will deal in judgment also with the ungodly among the nation of Israel. He announces His purpose concerning the nations with the expectation that the godly remnant among the people of Judah will fear Him then and receive instruction and wait for Him. This chapter is about Jerusalem’s actual sin and future blessing.
This outline is adapted from Arend Remmers and Arno Gaebelein’s notes and outlines of the book of Zephaniah. The full outline and notes from the above authors are available on www.biblecentre.org, a website highly recommended and full of rich resources.