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©Laura Haverkamp

Chapter 1:2-6 (ESV)

Posted on May 25, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 1:2-6 (ESV) - “I will utterly sweep away everything
    from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.
“I will sweep away man and beast;
    I will sweep away the birds of the heavens
    and the fish of the sea,
and the rubble with the wicked.
    I will cut off mankind
    from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.
“I will stretch out my hand against Judah
    and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
    and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
those who bow down on the roofs
    to the host of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to the LORD
    and yet swear by Milcom,
those who have turned back from following the LORD,
    who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him.”

Question to consider: What was the God-given role of the prophets in scripture?

In yesterday’s study, I put forth the idea that if Zephaniah was indeed a descendant of the same Hezekiah who begot Josiah’s grandfather, Manasseh, he may have been the spiritual influence on Josiah to undo all of the wickedness his father and grandfather had done. When the LORD granted the people of Israel a human king, He gave them prophets to help them rule according to the Law.

The wicked kings of Israel often turned to false prophets and marginalized or persecuted the ones sent by the LORD because they desired those who were willing to scratch their itching ears— tell them what they wanted to hear rather than the truth. The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah was terrifying. He was about to decimate the entirety of the land. 

What the ESV translates as “the face of the earth” could also be translated as “the face of the land”. It’s possible that the reference was the final judgment of the whole world at the end of time, but the context of this passage appears to be God’s judgment against Israel which would eventually come by the Babylonians after Josiah was no longer king. As we read in Habakkuk, the land at that time would become desolate in order that it may have its rest for seventy years. The language of sweeping away the birds of the air and fish of the sea could possibly be hyperbole to emphasize the totality of the judgment.

The LORD would cut off mankind from the land and sweep away the rubble (stumbling blocks/idols) with them. If you went through my study of Ezekiel, we spent several chapters learning about the idols that had invaded the land, the city, and the temple. The LORD had enough when they encroached upon the holy place.

In case there was any confusion about what the LORD meant, He emphasized that He would stretch out His hand against Judah and Jerusalem and destroy all that was associated with Baal. The promise of God for Israel if they had kept His commandments was that their children would be gathered together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. The language of the LORD’s outstretched arm was reserved for His enemies.

I’m sure as a young man Josiah was educated in the history of Israel and what God did to their enemies. Knowing that Judah had now become the enemy of God must have been terrifying. Repentance is more than just recognizing sin but changing our minds about it and turning back to the LORD. Josiah demonstrated repentance by turning Israel back to the LORD and tearing down the remnants of Baal and Asherah so the LORD would not have to do it. As we learned from Jonah, God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Through his actions, Josiah pushed off the judgment of Israel for a generation.


Dear heavenly Father, we recognize that we live in a wicked generation which has foolishly turned to idolatry and human philosophies. We appeal to Your grace and mercy now as we seek to be Your prophets throughout the earth proclaiming Your Law and Gospel. Amen.