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Exposition of the Old and New Testament, by John Gill, [1746-63], at

Zephaniah Introduction


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This book in some Hebrew copies is called "Sepher Zephaniah", the Book of Zephaniah. Its title, in the Vulgate Latin version, is, the Prophecy of Zephaniah; and, in the Syriac version, the Prophecy of the Prophet Zephaniah; and so the Arabic version calls him a prophet; and he is the last of the minor prophets that prophesied before the Babylonish captivity. The time of his prophesying, as well as his, parentage, are expressed Zep 1:1, and therefore need not be inquired into; only the sad mistake of Hobbes (a) may be observed, who makes him to be the most ancient of the prophets, and to be contemporary with Amaziah and Uzziah, kings of Judah, when he is expressly said to prophesy in the days of Josiah. Pseudo-Epiphanius (b) calls him a prophet of Sarabatha, of a mountain of that name, and says he was of the tribe of Simeon; and in this Isidore (c) agrees with him; and both affirm that he died and was buried in his own native place; but the author of the Cippi Hebraici (d) says he was buried at Geba, in Mount Lebanon, in the midst of a cave shut up, where his school continues; and from which place the clouds never depart, and where also are flowing fountains. His name, according to Jerom, signifies either "the Lord's watch tower", or "watchman"; or else "the secret of the Lord"; or, "his hidden one"; deriving his name, either from hpu, which signifies to "look out", as a watchman from his tower; or from Npu, "to hide"; which latter derivation is best; and some interpret it "a revealer of the secrets", or "hidden things, of the Lord"; and take it to be much the same with Zaphnathpaaneah, the name given to Joseph by Pharaoh, Gen 41:45, and is of the same signification: but Hillerus (e) interprets the name of Zephaniah, "the Lord hid himself"; which agrees with the times in which he lived. That this prophecy was wrote by himself, there need be no doubt of; nor of the authenticity of it, being always received by the Jewish synagogue as authentic; and as it appears to be from its style and manner of composition; from the subject matter of it agreeing with other parts of Scripture, especially with Jeremiah and Ezekiel; and from the accomplishment of various prophecies in it. There are indeed some spurious things which have been ascribed to him, as the "analepsis" or assumption of Zephaniah the prophet, and the prophecy of Zephaniah, consisting of six hundred verses; but these are apocryphal, and have no likeness to this prophecy; in which he foretells the destruction of the Jews by the Chaldeans for their sins, which he inveighs against, and calls them to repentance for them, as also the ruin of many other nations, all which came to pass; as well as he prophesies of the calling of the Gentiles, and the conversion of the Jews, and of the comfortable state of the church in Gospel times, and especially in the latter day.

(a) Leviathan, c. 33. (b) De Prophet. Vita & Interitu, c. 19. (c) De Vita & Morte Sanct. c. 48. (d) P. 50. Ed. Hottinger. (e) Onomastic. Sacr. p. 471, 952.

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