Zephaniah 3:1-5

Zephaniah 3:1 (KJB)

Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!


The Lord had stated that he was going to destroy the pagan nations which surrounded Judah to the point they would never rise again.  Now in verse 1 the Lord returns to Jerusalem and pronounces a woe upon the city.  A woe means there is judgment coming.  The word “filthy” carries with it the meaning of “to rebel” which it did when it started going apostate.  The word “polluted” carries with it the idea of “stain” which means the city is stained with all possible sins and crimes.  The word “oppressing” carries with it the meaning of “vex, do violence or destroy” which it did to its own inhabitants as many were oppressed by the leaders and had turned to worship false gods.


Zephaniah 3:2 (KJB)

She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.


We know the city in view is Jerusalem because it speaks of “her God.”  She had become a rebellious city since she would not receive any correction.  She had received correction through the prophets which were sent to her and those priests who were still faithful.  They had put their confidence in neighboring countries like the strength of Egypt and in false gods instead of their God who brought them out of Egypt.  Isaiah 31:1 (KJV) Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!  Unlike the times of the judges when Israel fell into sin and were taken captive, they would turn to the Lord but not here.  Instead they just kept looking to the false gods and would not draw near to the Lord in the times of affliction and adversity.


Zephaniah 3:3 (KJB)

Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.


The rulers had become as fierce as roaring lions which means they had become like the pagan nations whose rulers were evil, mean, and cruel to the people and did not rule them with a scintilla of compassion.  The judges representing the law and the courts had become like the wolves who forage for their evening meals.  They had perverted the law and accepted bribes.  Amos 5:12 (KJV) For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.  Amos prophesied against the judges of the law who accepted bribes and those who could not afford them paid the penalty of their crimes.  Gnawing not the bones till tomorrow means that these judges and princes would devour everything as fast as they could.  They would be swift to accept bribes and quick to condemn the poor.


Zephaniah 3:4 (KJB)

Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.


The prophets were light in that they brought no messages of truth, instead they were disrespectful and undisciplined making light or amusement where there should be seriousness.  They were also treacherous which is unfaithful or deceitful and did not bring any edifying messages but said what the people wanted to hear.  Like the Joel Osteen type preachers we have today who tell the people what they want to hear for big donations.  The temple was to be a place of holiness unto the Lord but they defiled it by allowing worship of false gods to occur.  Ezekiel prophesied against this situation.  Ezekiel 22:26 (KJV) Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.  They had also done violence to the law by bringing intentional false interpretations and twisting the meanings of the law to their own benefit and to the benefit of those who wanted their ears tickled.


Zephaniah 3:5 (KJB)

The just LORD is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.


They had forgotten one major thing that the Lord was in the midst and he saw every vile thing that they did in the sanctuary and heard every evil misinterpretation of the law and the Lord is holy and will not do anything iniquitous but the false gods in the midst of Judah had allowed all kinds of debauchery and sin.  God was present with them every single day and had seen the corruptions they were bringing on the people and he did not fail to see or hear one item that was being spoken or anything that was done in the name of a false god.  The wicked judges, princes, and priests had continued to be depraved and they felt not a bit of shame for what they were doing because sin blinds, it also blinds the doers.  Jeremiah cried out against that also.  Jeremiah 3:3 (KJV) Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed. Jeremiah states that they suffered natural calamities of no latter rain or showers for their crops which would mean crop failures and financial ruin.