“That terrible day of the LORD is near.… A day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom” (1:14–15). Zephaniah’s words send a chill through the soul. Will God’s wrath spell the end to everything? Zephaniah’s prophecy portrays the coming judgment, but it also presents God’s promise that his faithful people will one day enjoy a world of everlasting righteousness and joy.
Zephaniah, like Habakkuk, lived in changing times (see Habakkuk Introduction, “Setting,” p. 1502). Toward the end of Assyrian king Ashurbanipal’s last military campaigns, King Amon apparently led Judah to participate in the widespread anti-Assyrian uprising that took place in many of the western countries of the Near East. Since Ashurbanipal moved swiftly to quell defectors, Judah’s leaders assassinated Amon (in about 640 BC) and replaced him with his son Josiah.
Josiah was only eight years old when he became king of Judah. He enjoyed a long reign (640–609 BC) as a righteous king. In the eighteenth year of his reign, while repairs were being made to the Temple, a scroll of the Book of the Law was found (2 Kgs 22:8; 2 Chr 34:14–15). After hearing the law read to him, King Josiah led his people in renewal and reform, reinstating biblical religious observances (2 Kgs 23:1–25; 2 Chr 34:29–35:19).
Before this pivotal event, the kingdom of Judah largely followed the idolatrous practices of Manasseh and Amon. Judah’s people were so devoted to apostasy that it ultimately brought about their doom (2 Kgs 21:10–25; 2 Chr 33:17, 21–24).
New Living Translation Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), Zep.