Zephaniah – Chapter 1

Not Looking Forward to This

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d spoke to Tzefanya (Zephaniah), a descendant of Chizkiyahu (the righteous King Hezekiah), during the reign of Yoshiyahu (Josiah, a king who repented and became righteous). G-d said that He would eradicate the inhabitants of Israel, from man and beast to fish and fowl. (This is an overstatement for emphasis; they were not completely destroyed, but they were seriously reduced.) G-d will exile those people who are not killed. He will destroy the idols of the land and there will be no trace of Baal worship left in Judah or Jerusalem. G-d will do away with the idolatrous priests, those who worship both Him and others, and those who refuse to seek Him or follow His word. The day is near – it will be like a slaughter for a feast and the invading armies are like the invited guests.

On the day when G-d punishes people for their actions, He will punish the officers of the land for oppressing the people and worshipping idols. They went so far as to jump over the threshold of the temple of Dagon where the idol was felled way back in I Samuel chapter 5. When G-d acts, there will be a cry from the gate of Jerusalem called the fish gate and mourning from the next gate (the fowl gate, Rashi says). Woe to Tiberias because the people who inhabit the land they inherited from the Canaanites have been cut off, because their deeds now resemble those of the Canaanites.

G-d will scrutinize the people’s deeds, as if searching with candles and He will pay back those complacent people who claim that He neither rewards nor punishes deeds. Their wealth will be worthless and their houses will be empty. They won’t get to enjoy their homes and crops. This day is rapidly approaching; mighty men will cry out in pain. It will be a day of darkness and gloom when the enemies press their attack. The people will have no idea how to end their troubles. Their lives will be worth nothing and easily cast aside; their corpses will be piled in heaps like dung. Their money and power won’t save them from this onslaught. G-d’s anger will make a sudden end of things.

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