In our study of Zephaniah chapter two, we look at the judgment of the nations surrounding Israel. In chapter one, we saw how God judged his people because of his love and jealousy for them. Now, God's focus shifts to their neighbors and how they treated his people.
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Gather together, gather yourselves, nation devoid of shame; before the decree takes effect, and the day comes when one passes like chaff; before ADONAI's fierce anger comes on you, before the day of ADONAI's anger comes on you.
The Hebrew word that is translated here as gather together actually refers to a person that gathered sticks for a fire on Shabbat and, here, it is used to emphasize the fact that there is a judgement coming to the nations. God is calling the people to act now before the decree of judgement is issued. The reference to chaff speaks of the separation at the time of harvest and we see that those who have a covenant relationship with God are to be separated from those that don't before the judgement. We see that the word before is used three times in this passage as God calls the people to act before the judgement and we are reminded that the number three is associated with the earthly display of God's will for man. In this, we see that God does not want the people to face his wrath.
Seek ADONAI, all you humble in the land, you who exercise his justice; seek righteousness, seek humility - you might be hidden on the day of ADONAI's anger.
We see a call for the humble to seek God and humility is necessary for people to be in a spiritual condition to trust in God. We see that it is then that we are spared the anger of God.
For 'Azah will be abandoned, Ashkelon will be desolate, they will evacuate Ashdod at noon, and 'Ekron will be uprooted. Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the K'reti! The word of ADONAI is against you, Kena'an, land of the P'lishtim: "I will destroy you; no one will be left."
The judgment of Israel's neighbors begins in the west with the Kerethites who were people that came from the island of Crete and settled along the coast of Israel. The term "Philistines" actually means immigrants and the area that is mentioned would be what is called the "Gaza Strip" or "Palestine" today. We must remember that the term "Palestine" originated with the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 A.D. The Old Testament refers to the southwestern coastal area of Israel to be occupied by Philistines "Pelesheth" in Hebrew. We see five places mentioned and the judgement has already taken place on four out of the five places with Gaza being the only one where it is yet to be fulfilled.
The seacoast will be reduced to pastures, meadows for shepherds, pens for sheep; and the coast will belong to the remnant of the house of Y'hudah. They will pasture their flocks there and in the evening lie down in the houses of Ashkelon. For ADONAI their God will remember them and restore their fortunes.
All the talk of a two state solution and a Palestinian state goes against the words of God. As we see here, the area that is talked about has been given to the "remnant of the house of Judah" and nobody can bargain it away. God says that he will care for his people there and it speaks of the security there for God's people as the passage speaks of the pens for sheep.
"I have heard the insults of Mo'av and the taunts of the people of 'Amon, how they reviled my people and boasted of expanding their territory.
The judgment heads to the east as the modern country of Jordan is described. These people were judged because of the way that they treated God's people. The same thing is going to happen again as all nations will turn against Jerusalem.
Therefore, as I live," says ADONAI-Tzva'ot, the God of Isra'el, "Mo'av will become like S'dom and the people of 'Amon like 'Amora, a land covered with nettles and salt pits, desolate forever. The remnant of my people will plunder them, the survivors in my nation will inherit them."
We see that God's judgment declares that he is alive and it includes giving the land to his people. We should take note here of the fact that their words and their threats against Israel were the basis for this judgment. Today, there are many countries that are taunting and threatening Israel and we can be sure that God is taking notice just as he has with Jordan.
This is what they will earn for their pride, for having reviled and boasted against the people of ADONAI-Tzva'ot. ADONAI will be fearsome against them, for he will make all the earth's gods waste away. Then all the coasts and islands of the nations will worship him, each from its place.
When people insult God's people they are, in fact, insulting God and we see here that he will judge all nations for such behavior. The passage speaks to the coming time when all of the false gods will be gone and all men will worship the one true God.
"You too, Ethiopians, will be put to death by my sword."
Now, the judgment turns to the south and Ethiopia/Africa. Although we do not see a specific charge here, we see that they will be judged according to God's sword which is his word.
He will stretch out his hand against the north; he will destroy Ashur; he will make Ninveh desolate, as dry as the desert. Herds will lie down in it, and all kinds of wild animals too - jackdaws and owls will roost on her columns, voices screeching in the windows, desolation on the doorsteps, for its cedarwork is stripped bare. This is the city, once so joyful, whose people felt themselves secure, who used to say to herself, "I am [the greatest]! I have no rival." What a ruin she has become a place for wild animals to lie down! Everyone passing by her hisses and shakes his fist!
Finally, God's judgment turns to the north. This passage speaks to the fate of Nineveh which was the heart of the Assyrian empire. Today, the city is still nothing more than ruins across the river from the Iraqi city of Mosul. This passage is also a warning to the modern land of Syria that they (and all others who reject Yeshua Messiah) will be judged. This country harbors many who wish to harm Israel (God's people) and they, too, will be judged on how they treat his people.