Introduction to Zephaniah


Author and Date

Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah (640–609 B.C.), a Judean king who sought to reestablish acceptable worship practices (2 Kings 22:1–23:30).


The theme of Zephaniah is the approaching “day of the Lord.” This “day” is one of judgment against those who sin against God, and one of blessing for those who follow him.

Purpose and Background

In spite of having seen the destruction and exile of Israel (the northern kingdom), Judah (the southern kingdom) refuses to keep its covenant obligations to God. If Judah repents and abandons its evil ways, “perhaps” God will forgive (2:3). Regardless, God’s judgment will lead to renewal for Judah and other peoples (3:9–20).

The book declares judgment on many nations, all of which opposed God through opposition to his people. The last nation warned is Judah herself (3:1–7). God is displeased with those who claimed to be his own people.

Key Themes

  1. God will judge the whole earth (1:2–3, 17–18; 3:8), including Judah (1:4–16; 3:1–7) and her pagan neighbors (2:4–15) alike.
  2. God will bless his people when they return to their covenant relationship with him (3:11–20).
  3. God extends blessing and grace to all peoples and nations (3:9–10).
  4. Judgment and blessing occur both in the near future for the prophet and his audience (1:4–18; 2:3) and also in the more distant future (3:8–9, 11, 13–17).
  5. There is no such thing as a second-generation child of God. Every generation must accept God’s covenant, rather than relying on the faith of a previous generation.


  1. Heading (1:1)
  2. Judgment Coming against Judah (1:2–6)
  3. The Day of the Lord (1:7–3:20)
    1. Day of sacrifice and punishment (1:7–9)
    2. The coming wrath (1:10–18)
    3. Repentance is still possible (2:1–3)
    4. Nations warned (2:4–3:8)
    5. Anticipation of hope (3:9–20)

The Near East at the Time of Zephaniah

c. 620 B.C.

Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah, when Egypt, Judah, and Babylonia were eroding the power of Assyria. Shortly after this time the Babylonians would replace the Assyrians as the dominant power in the Near East.

The Near East at the Time of Zephaniah