Zephaniah prophesied early in Josiah’s reign. A second cousin of the king, Zephaniah courageously denounced the pagan court. He condemned princes and priests, prophets and judges, for a litany of sins: Rebelliousness. Tyranny. Arrogance. Self-righteousness. Lack of trust in the Lord. Distance from God. Insolence and treachery. Profaning the holy. Violating the law of God.
Zephaniah predicted a dark Day of the Lord ushering in catastrophe for all. He may have been a strong influence in the young king’s public conversion in 633 and purge of pagan worship beginning in 629.
Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., compares and contrasts Zephaniah with earlier prophets (Collegeville Commentary, page 525):
- Like Isaiah, he appears to be of urban background, evidencing little knowledge of the desert (Amos) or the agricultural landscape (Hosea).
- Unlike Hosea and Micah, there is little perception of the anguish of God.
- His book presents no vignettes of the wealthy, as in Amos, or of the poor, as in Micah. He pays little attention to social injustice.
- Like Amos and First Isaiah, he focuses upon sin, chastisement, and the remnant that will remain after the Day of the Lord.
But I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD—
the remnant of Israel.
They shall do no wrong and speak no lies;
Nor shall there be found in their mouths
a deceitful tongue;
They shall pasture and lie down
with none to disturb them. (Zephaniah 3:12-13)