Zephaniah – Chapters 1-3 – Minor Prophets By Rabbi Gail Diamond

Chapters 1 and 2

1) Reading Exercise

  1. Read Zephaniahs genealogy. Zephaniah is the only prophet whose genealogy goes back four generations. Why do you think this is? For background on King Hezekiah, see II Kings 20. For background on King Josiah, see II Kings 22:1-23:30.
  2. Scholars have wondered whether Zephaniah wrote before the religious reform instituted by King Josiah in 622 BCE or after. As you read Zephaniah, consider this question. Which do you think is correct?

2) In chapter 1, Zephaniah describes G-d’s plan to sweep away everything. What is G-d angry about according to Zephaniah?

3) Chapter 1, Verse 7 and following, talks about the “day of the Lord”. What are the characteristics of the day according to Zephaniah? Compare Isaiah 13:6,9 and Amos 5:18,20, Obadiah 15, Malachi 3:23. Is Zephaniah’s vision of this day similar to or different from these other prophets?

4) Chapter 1:13 contains very similar language to Deuteronomy 28:30 & 39. What do you make of this similarity and connection?

5) Chapter 2:4-15 are oracles against other nations. Where are these other nations? Why do you think they were chosen or singled out?

6) How would you characterize Zephaniah’s language? Does it remind you of other Biblical poetry? What kind of imagery does Zephaniah use?

7) The prophecy of Zephaniah is dire. Is there any hope in the first two chapters? Do any verses offer a promise of better times?

Video Conclusion to Chapters 1 and 2

part 1

Part 2

Chapter 3

1) Read all of chapter 3 for an overview before considering each verse. Chapter 3 has been broken up into three sections (by J. Roberts) verses 1-8, verses 9-13, and verses 14-20. Would you divide the chapter this way or differently? How would you characterize each of the sections?

2) What city is the prophet talking about in verses 1-4? How can we identify who Zephaniah is prophesying against?

3) What do verses 12-13 say about who will be saved after the G-ds judgment? Compare here Micah 5:6-7

4) Verses 15 & 17 use the expression, the Lord is in your midst. What does this expression mean to you? What Biblical images does it resonate with for you? What do you think it means that verse 15 refers to Hashem as melech Yisrael

5) Compare verse 17 to Deuteronomy 30:9, and Deuteronomy 30 in general. Is this the same kind of vision of the future? What is similar or different in Zephaniah?

6) As you read the last verses of Zephaniah and consider his prophecy as a whole, what do you think about his vision of the future? How do you think it would have been heard in the time of King Josiah and before the Babylonian conquest? How would it have been heard by the people in the time of the return and the second Temple?

7) What do you think Zephaniah can teach us for our time? What has been your response to reading his prophecy?

Video Conclusion for Chapter 3