God's severe judgment against Judah for divers sins.
Before Christ 612.
I will utterly consume— I am about to take away. Houbigant, to put to death and destroy. This first chapter contains the general threatening against all the people whom the Lord had appointed to the slaughter; against Judah, and against those who leap on the threshold; that is, the Philistines. See 1 Samuel 5:5. In the second chapter he inveighs against Moab, against Ammon, against Cush, against the Phoenicians and Assyrians; and there he foretels the fall of Nineveh, which happened in the year of the world 3378. The third chapter has two parts; the first contains invectives and threatenings against Jerusalem; and the second gives comfortable assurances of a return from the captivity, and of a happy flourishing condition. Calmet.
I will consume, &c.— I will take away; namely, from the land of Judah. Houbigant; who, instead of, And the stumbling-blocks with the wicked, reads, I will bring ruin on the wicked. Others read, The stumbling-blocks of the wicked; whereby must be meant idols and their worshippers.
He hath bid— He hath appointed his guests, that is to say, the Babylonians.
Those that leap on the threshold— Over the threshold. Houbigant. Calmet observes, that this alludes to the custom of the Philistines, when they enter the temple of Dagon; but the author of the Observations is of a different opinion. That notion can have nothing to recommend it, says he, I think, but its being supposed by so old a writer as the Chaldee paraphrast: he is of opinion, that it alludes to the custom of riding into the houses, spoken of in the note on Proverbs 17:19 and he observes, that such as are clothed with strange apparel, Zephaniah 1:8 are words which, in this connection, seem only to mean the rich, who are conscious of such power and influence, as to dare in a time of oppression and danger to avow their riches, and who therefore were not afraid to wear the costly manufactures of strange countries, Ezekiel 27:7 though they were neither magistrates, nor of a royal descent. A great number of attendants is a modern piece of oriental magnificence. It appears to have been so anciently. See Ecclesiastes 5:11. These servants now, it is most certain, frequently attend their master on horseback, richly attired, sometimes to the number of twenty-five or thirty. If they did so anciently, such a number of servants attending great men, (who are represented by this very prophet, ch. Zephaniah 3:3 as at that time, in common, terrible oppressors) may be naturally supposed to ride into the people's houses, and having gained an admission by deceit, to force from them by violence large contributions; for this riding into houses is now practised by the Arabs, and consequently might be practised by others too anciently. It is not now peculiar to the Arabs; for Le Bruyn, after describing the magnificent furniture of several of the Armenian merchants at Julfa, that suburb of Ispahan in which they live, tells us, that the front door of the greatest part of these houses is very small, partly to hinder the Persians from entering into them on horseback, and partly that they may less observe the magnificence within. To which should be added, what he elsewhere observes, that these Armenians are treated with great rigour and insolence by the Persians. If this text refers to a violence of this sort, they are the thresholds of the oppressed over which they leaped; not the thresholds of the oppressive masters, (which some have supposed,) when they returned home loaden with the spoil. See Observations, p. 57.
A cry from the fish-gate— Which was at the entering of the city. Some render the next clause, And a howling from the middle part of the city: but Houbigant renders it, A howling from Misna; or from the second city which Manasseh built.
Maktesh— This may be interpreted, says Houbigant, rock; what follows points out the place of the city where the merchants and silversmiths lived, and which perhaps was so named from a certain rock that was situated there. Instead of, All they that bear silver, Houbigant reads, All they that are loaded with silver.
The men that are settled on their lees— The prophet here describes those men, who, trusting in their riches, paid very little regard to the threats of the prophets, and seemed intirely safe in their own eyes, while they kept their beloved treasures near them.
Of wasteness— Calamity or tumult. Zephaniah 1:17. Their flesh] Their carcases.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have,
1. An account of the inspired penman of this prophesy, Zephaniah, whose ancestors for four generations prior to him are mentioned, probably as men of distinguished note; and some have thought him of the blood-royal, and a descendant from Hezekiah, king of Judah, the same word in the original as Hizkiah. He lived in the best times, even in the reforming reign of Josiah; and yet we find that the people in reality, many of them at least, notwithstanding their apparent change, continued bad, very bad; or they quickly relapsed, and departed from their promising beginnings. Of so short continuance are the effects wrought by the most zealous reformers among a backsliding people. The word of the Lord came to the prophet; for he spake not in his own name, but as the Spirit gave him utterance.
2. The burden of his prophesy is the approaching destruction of the land of Judaea, and all things therein, both man and beast.
[1.] I will consume and cut off man from off the land, saith the Lord; even the good men that yet remain will be involved in the national calamity. But the wicked are especially intended: against them the Lord will stretch out his hand, in wrath to smite and consume them from the earth, with their stumbling-blocks, those hated idols, which constituted their mortal sin. I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place; those who, notwithstanding all Josiah's care, still continued the worship of Baal: and the name of the Chemarims with the priests. The Chemarims were idolatrous priests, as the word is translated, Exodus 23:5 so called either from the black garments that they wore, or from their faces blackened with the smoke of the fires where they sacrificed. These should be cut off, yea, their very name buried in oblivion, or mentioned with detestation. And those who on house-tops worship the host of heaven shall share the same fate; with all those who swear by the Lord, or to the Lord and Melchom, or Moloch, seeking to reconcile the inconsistent services of both, and pretending to worship them together, irreconcileable as that must for ever be: and them that are turned back from the Lord, apostates from the profession which they once made: and those that have not sought the Lord, nor inquired for him, careless and prayerless sinners, who never troubled themselves about God, his worship, or service; these will he destroy together. Note; (1.) The prayerless soul is a lost soul. (2.) They who seek to reconcile their religion with the ways of the world, and would serve God and Mammon together, just go so far as the devil desires. If they swear by Melchom, conform to the maxims, customs, or vanities of the world, they may serve God in form as much as they please, but they will be numbered with the transgressors.
[2.] I will consume the beasts, the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea; being designed for man's comfort, they are involved in his punishment, when by sin he forfeits all his mercies.
2nd, The day of vengeance approaches, and the nation, as a sacrifice to divine justice, is ready to be offered up; and the Lord hath bid his guests, the Babylonians, or the fowls of the heaven, to feed upon the carcases of the slain.
1. Those are described who are devoted to destruction.
[1.] The princes, and the king's children; for judgment begins with the highest: and all such as are clothed with strange apparel; either the vestments in which they worshipped their idols; or they affected in their dress to imitate their heathen neighbours in finery and extravagance, and their clothes proclaimed their pride and the vanity of their hearts.
[2.] The oppressors, who leap on the threshold, who daringly thrust themselves in at their neighbour's door, and seize what comes to hand; filling their master's houses with violence and deceit; who set them on this wickedness, and protect them from justice and punishment.
[3.] The rich merchants, and all they that bear silver, having plenty of money to trade, and buy and sell, and get gain.
[4.] All that are settled on their lees; living in pleasure, affluence, ease, and carnal security; and this begetting infidelity; that say in their heart, though, like many other practical atheists, they dare not openly avow their sentiments, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil; denying his providential government of the world; and that neither his service would be attended with reward, nor sin with any punishment; leaving him out of their sight, and intimating, in fact, that there was no God. And as it is so much for their interest that there should be none, sensualists would fain persuade themselves that there is none: but such as these God will assuredly detect and punish. I will search Jerusalem with candles, that none may be able to hide themselves; and punish them with judgments from which none shall be able to escape. Note; Many are driven to the dreadful and deceitful refuge of infidelity, that they may silence conscience thereby, and enjoy their guilty pleasures undisturbed.
2. Their cry will be terrible when the stroke of vengeance descends. In that day, saith the Lord, there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish-gate, of the miserable inhabitants flying before their Chaldean pursuers; and a great crushing from the hills; either of the enemy shouting and rushing on to the slaughter, or of the houses of the nobles, built on the highest part of Zion and Moriah, now plundered and beat to the ground. Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, a street of Jerusalem into which the enemy broke; or it is put for the whole body of the people, howling over their desolations; Their merchants are cut down, and their substance is become a spoil to the Chaldeans: yea, their goods are become a booty; and their houses, which they built, flattering themselves with a long abode in them, are become a desolation; and the vineyards that they planted, afford their produce not to them, but to their conquerors.
3. The prophet with all others who are like him are commanded to hold their peace at the presence of the Lord God, not daring to dispute against his righteous judgments, nor suffered to open their mouths to pray for a people devoted to destruction.
3rdly, If any thing can alarm the sinners in Zion, the prophet's awful warnings must surely do it.
1. The great day of the Lord, when he will take vengeance on the Jews by the sword of the Babylonians, is near; it is near, and hasteth greatly; but a moment remains to fly from this devouring fire. It is madness for the sinner to slumber, whose damnation slumbereth not.
2. This will be a day of terror and dismay. The voice of the day of the Lord will strike a panic into the boldest; the mighty men shall cry there bitterly, quite dispirited, and wringing their hands when they should grasp the sword. That day is a day of wrath; of the wrath of God, and of the fury of the Chaldeans, his instruments of vengeance: a day of trouble and distress to the miserable inhabitants; of wasteness and desolation to the whole land, to Jerusalem, the temple, and all the cities thereof: a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, without a gleam of hope, and big with despair: A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers, spreading horror and dismay on every side. And I will bring distress upon men, perplexed, and not knowing which way to turn; that they shall walk like blind men, rushing upon their own ruin.
3. Destruction universal and unavoidable will ensue. Their blood shall be poured out as dust, so profusely, so disregarded; and their flesh as the dung; their carcases left unburied on the earth. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath; for in that day they profit not: but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy; so furious that nothing can stay the raging flames: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land, and leave them neither root nor branch. Note; It is a fearful thing indeed to fall into the hands of a jealous God.
4. Sin, sin, that accursed thing, is the cause of all this misery. Because they have sinned against the Lord; this is the provocation, and the sting of every affliction: it is this which puts the worm that never dies into the conscience, and kindles the flames which never can be quenched. O sin, sin, what hast thou done!