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©Michael Player

Chapter 3:1-5 (ESV)

Posted on June 02, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 3:1-5 (ESV) - Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled,
    the oppressing city!
She listens to no voice;
    she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the LORD;
    she does not draw near to her God.

Her officials within her
    are roaring lions;
her judges are evening wolves
    that leave nothing till the morning.
Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men;
her priests profane what is holy;
    they do violence to the law.
The LORD within her is righteous;
    he does no injustice;
every morning he shows forth his justice;
    each dawn he does not fail;
    but the unjust knows no shame.

Question to consider: How do we know Zephaniah  switched from the LORD’s word against Nineveh to His word against Jerusalem?

After going into great detail about the desolation of Nineveh, a great city which would become a lair for the birds and beasts, the LORD without warning pronounces a woe against Jerusalem. At first glance, when the reader sees a description like rebellious, defiled, and oppressing, it’s easy to think the LORD was still talking about the judgment of Nineveh. I believe this was done on purpose so that the reader would understand that in God’s eyes, Jerusalem was as wicked as Nineveh. 

Even if Nineveh may have been more cruel to her enemies, they were a people the LORD described as not knowing their right hand from their left. (Jonah 4:11) Jerusalem listened to no voice, accepted no correction, did not trust in the LORD, and did not draw near to her God. Nineveh may have done violence to her enemies because she was led by demons disguised as gods, but Jerusalem did violence to the Law which was given to them by the one true God who dwelt within her temple.

The true prophets (like Zephaniah) were the voice of the LORD whose correction was not accepted by kings like Manasseh. The ones that the wicked kings called prophets were treacherous because they spoke against the voice of the LORD and proclaimed peace when calamity was coming. They were fickle because they spoke from their own feelings instead of the word of the LORD.

If it wasn’t bad enough that Jerusalem was influenced by false prophets, she was led by officials and judges who were roaring lions and devouring, ravenous wolves who enriched themselves by the people and perverted justice. Rather than being influenced by holy priests who stood as a mediator between the people and the LORD, their priests were profane— they incorporated the symbols and worship of other gods into their work.

By the time the LORD spoke through Ezekiel, the glory of the LORD left the temple, and it was too late to repent even if they were willing. However, at the time Zephaniah gave these words to Josiah, the LORD was still within her, showing forth His justice and calling her back to righteousness. There was still time to repent, and Josiah would spend the rest of his life trying to bring Judah back to the LORD.

Even though the word was spoken against Jerusalem, it could have been spoken against the church today. The world outside of the church is obviously cruel and violent like Nineveh. However, the church has been given the truth of Christ and the full revelation of God in scripture. Yet the most popular church leaders and ministries pervert the word of God and align themselves with the gods of this world. Those who rightly handle the scriptures and proclaim both law and gospel are ignored. Will we accept correction like king Josiah and turn back to the LORD?


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for giving us this word of correction through Zephaniah. May we have ears to hear and a desire to turn back to You. Thank You for sending Christ Jesus who freely gives us Your mercy by faith. May we receive it with joy. Amen.