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A 17th century icon of Zephaniah. Icon of Zephaniah (17th c., North Russia, priv. coll.).jpg
A 17th century icon of Zephaniah.

Zephaniah ( /ˌzɛfəˈn.ə/ , Hebrew : צְפַנְיָה, Modern: Tsfanya, Tiberian: Ṣəp̄anyāh, "Concealed of/is YHWH ") is the name of several people in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish Tanakh; the most prominent one being the prophet who prophesied in the days of Josiah, king of Judah (640–609 BCE) and is attributed a book bearing his name among the Twelve Minor Prophets. [1] His name is commonly transliterated Sophonias in Bibles translated from the Vulgate or Septuagint. The name might mean "YHWH (YH), phonetically (IAH), has concealed", "[he whom] YH has hidden", or "YH lies in wait".


The prophet Zephaniah

An 18th-century Russian icon of the prophet Zephaniah in Kizhi, Karelia Zephaniah.jpg
An 18th-century Russian icon of the prophet Zephaniah in Kizhi, Karelia

The best known Biblical figure bearing the name Zephaniah is the son of Cushi, and great-great grandson of King [2] Hezekiah, ninth in the literary order of the Twelve Minor Prophets. He prophesied in the days of Josiah, ruler of the Kingdom of Judah (640–609 BCE), but before Josiah's reform in 621 BCE, [1] and was contemporary with Jeremiah, with whom he had much in common. The unique source containing the minimal knowledge of his personality and rhetorical and literary qualities is the short, three chapter book of the Old Testament which bears his name. [1] The scene of his activity was the city of Jerusalem, which he seems to know well. [1] The existence of two Zephaniahs linked to the book is considered purely hypothetical. [1]

Date of activity

Under the two preceding kings of Judah, Amon of Judah and Manasseh of Judah, the cult of other deities, especially Baal and Astarte, had developed in Jerusalem, [3] [4] bringing with it elements of alien culture and morals. Josiah, a dedicated reformer, [5] wished to put an end to perceived misuse of the holy places. One of the most zealous champions and advisers of this reform was Zephaniah, and his writing remains one of the most important documents for the understanding of the era of Josiah.

Boldly predicting the destruction of Judah for the evil committed by its occupants, [1] the prophet spoke against the religious and moral corruption, when, in view of the idolatry which had penetrated even into the sanctuary, he warned that God would "destroy out of this place the remnant of Baal, and the names of the idolatrous priests" (Zeph 1:4), and pleaded for a return to the simplicity of their fathers instead of the luxurious foreign clothing which was worn especially in aristocratic circles (1:8).

The age of Zephaniah was also a key historical period, because the lands of Western Asia were overrun by foreigners due to the migration of the Scythians in the last decades of the seventh century BC, and because Jerusalem was only a few decades before its downfall in 586 BC. [6] In light of these events, a message of impending judgment is the primary burden of this figure's preaching (1:7).

The Book of Zephaniah

Zephaniah addressing people (France, 16th century). Sophonie s'adressant au peuple.jpg
Zephaniah addressing people (France, 16th century).

The Book of Zephaniah contains the fundamental ideas of the preaching of Zephaniah. The scheme of the book in its present form is as follows:

  1. Zephaniah 1:2-2:3. Warnings about the "day of the Lord", a Dies irae, dies illa [7] of the Old Testament. The judgment of the Lord will descend on Judah and Jerusalem as a punishment for the awful degeneracy in religious life (1:4-7a); it will extend to all classes of the people (1:7b-13), and will be attended with all the horrors of a frightful catastrophe (1:14-18); therefore, repent and seek the Lord (2:1-3).
  2. Zephaniah 2:4-15. Not only Jerusalem, but the entire world is subject to judgment, including the Philistines, (4-7) Moabites, Ammonites, (8-11) Ethiopians, (12) Assyrians and Ninevites (13-15).
  3. Zephaniah 3:1-8. The Prophet focuses once again on Jerusalem: "Woe to the provoking, and redeemed city ... She hath not hearkened to the voice, neither hath she received discipline." The severest reckoning will be required of the leading classes of the civil community, and of the Prophets and priests as the directors of public worship.
  4. Zephaniah 3:9-20. With a prophetic glance at the Kingdom of God of the future, in which all the world unites and turns to God, the prosperity of the Messianic Kingdom will be enjoyed.
  5. Zephaniah 3:9-20. The last message of Zephaniah also has a Messianic coloring, although not to an extent comparable with that which may be found in the Book of Isaiah.

In Christianity

He is commemorated with the other minor prophets in the calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 31. On the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar and in the Roman Martyrology, he is commemorated on December 3.

His book is an inspiration for the hymn, Dies irae .

Other Zephaniahs in the Bible

Other individuals named Zephaniah include:

  1. The son of Maaseiah, the "second priest" in the reign of Zedekiah, often mentioned in Jeremiah as having been sent from the king to inquire (Jer. 21:1) regarding the coming woes which he had denounced, and to entreat the prophet's intercession that the judgment threatened might be averted (Jer 29:25, 26, 29; 37:3; 52:24). He, along with some other captive Jews, was put to death by Nebuchadnezzar II "at Riblah in the land of Hamath" (2 Kings 25:21).
  2. A Kohathite ancestor of the prophet Samuel (1 Chr 6:36).
  3. The father of Josiah, the kohen (priest) who dwelt in Jerusalem when Darius I issued the decree that the temple should be rebuilt ... (Zech 6:10).

See also

Related Research Articles

Book of Jeremiah Book of the Bible

The Book of Jeremiah is the second of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, and the second of the Prophets in the Christian Old Testament. The superscription at chapter Jeremiah 1:1–3 identifies the book as "the words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah". Of all the prophets, Jeremiah comes through most clearly as a person, ruminating to his scribe Baruch about his role as a servant of God with little good news for his audience. His book is intended as a message to the Jews in exile in Babylon, explaining the disaster of exile as God's response to Israel's pagan worship: the people, says Jeremiah, are like an unfaithful wife and rebellious children, their infidelity and rebelliousness made judgment inevitable, although restoration and a new covenant are foreshadowed. Authentic oracles of Jeremiah are probably to be found in the poetic sections of chapters 1 –25, but the book as a whole has been heavily edited and added to by the prophet's followers and later generations of Deuteronomists. It has come down in two distinct though related versions, one in Hebrew, the other known from a Greek translation. The date of the two can be suggested by the fact that the Greek shows concerns typical of the early Persian period, while the Masoretic shows perspectives which, although known in the Persian period, did not reach their realisation until the 2nd century BCE.

Book of Isaiah Book of the Bible

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Books of Kings Books of the Bible

The Book of Kings is a book in the Hebrew Bible and two books in the Christian Old Testament. It concludes the Deuteronomistic history, a history of Israel also including the books of Joshua and Judges and the Books of Samuel.

Book of Ezekiel Book of the Bible

The Book of Ezekiel is the third of the Latter Prophets in the Tanakh and one of the major prophetic books in the Old Testament, following Isaiah and Jeremiah. According to the book itself, it records six visions of the prophet Ezekiel, exiled in Babylon, during the 22 years from 593 to 571 BC, although it is the product of a long and complex history and does not necessarily preserve the very words of the prophet.

Book of Micah Book in the Hebrew Bible

The Book of Micah is the sixth of the twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Ostensibly, it records the sayings of Micah, whose name is Mikayahu, meaning "Who is like Yahweh?", an 8th-century BCE prophet from the village of Moresheth in Judah.

Book of Malachi

The Book of Malachi is the last book of the Neviim contained in the Tanakh, canonically the last of the Twelve Minor Prophets. In the Christian ordering, the grouping of the Prophetic Books is the last section of the Old Testament, making Malachi the last book before The New Testament.

Book of Zephaniah Book of the Bible

The Book of Zephaniah is the ninth of the Twelve Minor Prophets, preceded by the Book of Habakkuk and followed by the Book of Haggai. Zephaniah means "Yahweh has hidden/protected," or "Yahweh hides". Zephaniah is also a male given name.

Hezekiah King of Judah

Hezekiah, or Ezekias, was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the son of Ahaz and the 13th king of Judah. He is considered a very righteous king in both the Second Book of Kings and the Second Book of Chronicles. He is also one of the more prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Bible and is one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. "No king of Judah, among either his predecessors or his successors, could ... be compared to him", according to 2 Kings 18:5. Edwin Thiele concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC.

Isaiah Israelite prophet

Isaiah was the 8th-century BC Israelite prophet after whom the Book of Isaiah is named.

Jeremiah Biblical prophet

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Twelve Minor Prophets Book or collection of books in the Bible

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Manasseh of Judah

Manasseh was the fourteenth king of the Kingdom of Judah. He was the oldest of the sons of Hezekiah and his mother Hephzibah. He became king at the age of 12 and reigned for 55 years.

Josiah Sixteenth king of Judah

Josiah or Yoshiyahu was the sixteenth king of Judah who, according to the Hebrew Bible, instituted major religious reforms. Josiah is credited by most biblical scholars with having established or compiled important Hebrew scriptures during the "Deuteronomic reform" which probably occurred during his rule. Josiah became king of the Kingdom of Judah at the age of eight, after the assassination of his father, King Amon. Josiah reigned for thirty-one years, from 641/640 to 610/609 BCE.

Matthew 1:10 The tenth verse of the first chapter in the Gospel of Matthew

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Richard Elliott Friedman is a biblical scholar and the Ann and Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia.

Zephaniah 1

Zephaniah 1 is the first chapter of the Book of Zephaniah in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book contains the prophecies attributed to the prophet Zephaniah, and is a part of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets. This chapter contains a call to penitence and oracles against nations, the editorial superscription and the exposition about the day of Yahweh's judgment against the Kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem.

Micah 1

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Yahwism Worship of Yahweh in the Levant during the Iron Age

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2 Kings 22

2 Kings 22 is the twenty-second chapter of the second part of the Books of Kings in the Hebrew Bible or the Second Book of Kings in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is a compilation of various annals recording the acts of the kings of Israel and Judah by a Deuteronomic compiler in the seventh century BCE, with a supplement added in the sixth century BCE. This chapter records the events during the reign of Josiah, the king of Judah, especially the discovery of the Book of the Law (Torah) during the renovation of the Temple in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 33

2 Chronicles 33 is the thirty-third chapter of the Second Book of Chronicles the Old Testament of the Christian Bible or of the second part of the Books of Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible. The book is compiled from older sources by an unknown person or group, designated by modern scholars as "the Chronicler", and had the final shape established in late fifth or fourth century BCE. This chapter belongs to the section focusing on the kingdom of Judah until its destruction by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar and the beginning of restoration under Cyrus the Great of Persia. It contains the regnal accounts of Manasseh and Amon, the kings of Judah.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Mason, Rex (2007). "35. Zephaniah". In Barton, John; Muddiman, John (eds.). The Oxford Bible Commentary (first (paperback) ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 604–607. ISBN   978-0199277186 . Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  2. The Interpreter's Bible, Volume VI, p. 1014
  3. ANE History: The End of Judah Copyright © Quartz Hill School of Theology
  4. "2 Kings 21 - The Wicked Reigns of Manasseh and Amon".
  5. "The Religious Reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah" at the Biblical Archaeology Society Online Archive
  6. "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Sophonias (Zephaniah)".
  7. "That day of wrath, that dreadful day," as described in Nelson's Compact Illustrated Bible Dictionary, pp. 283, 283, Thomas Nelson Publishers (1964). Pre-ISBN book, only later (1978) edition found in WorldCat, ISBN   978-0-8407-5636-7.