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Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
Exhortation to Repentance in View of the Judgment - Zephaniah 2:1-3:8
Zephaniah, having in the previous chapter predicted the judgment upon the whole world, and Judah especially, as being close at hand, now summons his people to repent, and more especially exhorts the righteous to seek the Lord and strive after righteousness and humility, that they may be hidden in the day of the Lord (Zephaniah 2:1-3). The reason which he gives for this admonition to repentance is twofold: viz., (1) that the Philistians, Moabites, and Ammonites will be cut off, and Israel will take possession of their inheritances (Zephaniah 2:4-10), that all the gods of the earth will be overthrown, and all the islands brought to worship the Lord, since He will smite the Cushites, and destroy proud Asshur and Nineveh (Zephaniah 2:11-15); and (2) that even blood-stained Jerusalem, with its corrupt princes, judges, and prophets, will endure severe punishment. Accordingly, the call to repentance is not simply strengthened by the renewed threat of judgment upon the heathen and the ungodly in Judah, but is rather accounted for by the introduction of the thought, that by means of the judgment the heathen nations are to be brought to acknowledge the name of the Lord, and the rescued remnant of Israel to be prepared for the reception of the promised salvation.
1Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;
Call to conversion. - Zephaniah 2:1. "Gather yourselves together, and gather together, O nation that dost not grow pale. Zephaniah 2:2. Before the decree bring forth (the day passes away like chaff), before the burning wrath of Jehovah come upon you, before the day of Jehovah's wrath come upon you. Zephaniah 2:3. Seek Jehovah, all ye humble of the land, who have wrought His right; seek righteousness, seek humility, perhaps ye will be hidden in the day of Jehovah's wrath." The summons in Zephaniah 2:1 is addressed to the whole of Judah or Israel. The verb qōshēsh, possibly a denom. from qash, signifies to gather stubble (Exodus 5:7, Exodus 5:12), then generally to gather together or collect, e.g., branches of wood (Numbers 15:32-33; 1 Kings 17:10); in the hithpoel, to gather one's self together, applied to that spiritual gathering which leads to self-examination, and is the first condition of conversion. The attempts of Ewald and Hitzig to prove, by means of doubtful etymological combinations from the Arabic, that the word possesses the meanings, to grow pale, or to purify one's self, cannot be sustained. The kal is combined with the hiphil for the purpose of strengthening it, as in Habakkuk 1:5 and Isaiah 29:9. Nikhsâph is the perf. nipahl in pause, and not a participle, partly because of the לא which stands before it (see however Ewald, 286, g), and partly on account of the omission of the article; and nikhsâph is to be taken as a relative, "which does not turn pale." Kâsaph has the meaning "to long," both in the niphal (vid., Genesis 31:30; Psalm 84:3) and kal (cf. Psalm 17:12; Job 14:15). This meaning is retained by many here. Thus Jerome renders it, "gens non amabilis, i.e., non desiderata a Deo;" but this is decidedly unsuitable. Others render it "not possessing strong desire," and appeal to the paraphrase of the Chaldee, "a people not wishing to be converted to the law." This is apparently the view upon which the Alex. version rests: ἔθνος ἀπαίδευτον. But although nikhsâph is used to denote the longing of the soul for fellowship with God in Psalm 84:3, this idea is not to be found in the word itself, but simply in the object connected with it. We therefore prefer to follow Grotius, Gesenius, Ewald, and others, and take the word in its primary sense of turning pale at anything, becoming white with shame (cf. Isaiah 29:22), which is favoured by Zephaniah 3:15. The reason for the appeal is given in Zephaniah 2:2, viz., the near approach of the judgment. The resolution brings forth, when that which is resolved upon is realized (for yâlad in this figurative sense, see Proverbs 27:1). The figure is explained in the second hemistich. The next clause כּמוץ וגו does not depend upon בּטרם, for in that case the verb would stand at the head with Vav cop., but it is a parenthesis inserted to strengthen the admonition: the day comes like chaff, i.e., approaches with the greatest rapidity, like chaff driven by the wind: not "the time passes by like chaff" (Hitzig); for it cannot be shown that yōm was ever used for time in this sense. Yōm is the day of judgment mentioned in Zephaniah 1:7, Zephaniah 1:14-15; and עבר here is not to pass by, but to approach, to come near, as in Nahum 3:19. For the figure of the chaff, see Isaiah 29:5. In the second בּטרם is strengthened by לא; and חרון אף, the burning of wrath in the last clause, is explained by יום אף יי, the day of the revelation of the wrath of God.
2Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger come upon you.
3Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger.
But because the judgment will so speedily burst upon them, all the pious especially - ‛anvē hâ'ârets, the quiet in the land, οι πραεῖς (Amos 2:7; Isaiah 11:4; Psalm 37:11) - are to seek the Lord. The humble (‛ănâvı̄m) are described as those who do Jehovah's right, i.e., who seek diligently to fulfil what Jehovah has prescribed in the law as right. Accordingly, seeking Jehovah is explained as seeking righteousness and humility. The thought is this: they are to strive still more zealously after Jehovah's right, viz., righteousness and humility (cf. Deuteronomy 16:20; Isaiah 51:1, Isaiah 51:7); then will they probably be hidden in the day of wrath, i.e., be pardoned and saved (cf. Amos 5:15). This admonition is now still further enforced from Zephaniah 2:4 onwards by the announcement of the coming of judgment upon all the heathen, that the kingdom of God may attain completion.
4For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.
Destruction of the Philistines. - Zephaniah 2:4. "For Gaza will be forgotten, and Ashkelon become a desert; Ashdod, they drive it out in broad day, and Ekron will be ploughed out. Zephaniah 2:5. Woe upon the inhabitants of the tract by the sea, the nation of the Cretans! The word of Jehovah upon you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines! I destroy thee, so that not an inhabitant remains. Zephaniah 2:6. And the tract by the sea becomes pastures for shepherds' caves, and for folds of sheep. Zephaniah 2:7. And a tract will be for the remnant of the house of Judah; upon them will they feed: in the houses of Ashkelon they encamp in the evening; for Jehovah their God will visit them, and turn their captivity." The fourth verse, which is closely connected by kı̄ (for) with the exhortation to repentance, serves as an introduction to the threat of judgment commencing with hōi in Zephaniah 2:5. As the mentioning of the names of the four Philistian capitals (see at Joshua 13:3) is simply an individualizing periphrasis for the Philistian territory and people, so the land and people of Philistia are mentioned primarily for the purpose of individualizing, as being the representatives of the heathen world by which Judah was surrounded; and it is not till afterwards, in the further development of the threat, that the enumeration of certain near and remote heathen nations is appended, to express more clearly the idea of the heathen world as a whole. Of the names of the Philistian cities Zephaniah makes use of two, ‛Azzâh and ‛Eqrōn, as a play upon words, to express by means of paronomasia the fate awaiting them. ‛azzâh, Gaza, will be ‛azûbhâh, forsaken, desolate. ‛Eqrōn, Ekron, will be tē‛âqēr, rooted up, torn out of its soil, destroyed. To the other two he announces their fate in literal terms, the shemâmâh threatened against Ashkelon corresponding to the ‛ăzūbhâh, and the gârēsh predicated of Ashdod preparing the way for Ekron's tē‛âqēr. בּצּהרים at noon, i.e., in broad day, might signify, when used as an antithesis to night, "with open violence" (Jerome, Kimchi); but inasmuch as the expulsion of inhabitants is not effected by thieves in the night, the time of noon is more probably to be understood, as v. Clln and Rosenmller suppose, as denoting the time of day at which men generally rest in hot countries (2 Samuel 4:5), in the sense of unexpected, unsuspected expulsion; and this is favoured by Jeremiah 15:8, where the devastation at noon is described as a sudden invasion. The omission of Gath may be explained in the same manner as in Amos 1:6-8, from the fact that the parallelism of the clauses only allowed the names of four cities to be given; and this number was amply sufficient to individualize the whole, just as Zephaniah, when enumerating the heathen nations, restricts the number to four, according to the four quarters of the globe: viz., the Philistines in the west (Zephaniah 2:5-7); the Moabites and Ammonites comprised in one in the east (Zephaniah 2:8-10); the Cushites in the south (Zephaniah 2:11, Zephaniah 2:12); and Asshur, with Nineveh, in the north (north-east), (Zephaniah 2:13-15). The woe with which the threat is commenced in Zephaniah 2:5 applies to the whole land and people of the Philistines. Chebhel, the measure, then the tract of land measured out or apportioned (see at Deuteronomy 3:4; Deuteronomy 32:9, etc.). The tract of the sea is the tract of land by the Mediterranean Sea which was occupied by the Philistines (chebhel hayyâm equals 'erets Pelishtı̄m). Zephaniah calls the inhabitants gōi Kerēthı̄m, nation of the Cretans, from the name of one branch of the Philistian people which was settled in the south-west of Philistia, for the purpose of representing them as a people devoted to kârath, or extermination. The origin of this name, which is selected both here and in Ezekiel 25:16 with a play upon the appellative signification, is involved in obscurity; for, as we have already observed at 1 Samuel 30:14, there is no valid authority for the derivation which is now current, viz., from the island of Crete (see Stark, Gaza, pp. 66 and 99ff.). דּבר יי עליכם forms an independent sentence: The word of the Lord cometh over you. The nature of that word is described in the next sentence: I will destroy thee. The name Kena‛an is used in the more limited sense of Philistia, and is chosen to indicate that Philistia is to share the lot of Canaan, and lose its inhabitants by extermination.
5Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.
6And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks.
The tract of land thus depopulated is to be turned into "pastures (nevōth, the construct state plural of nâveh) of the excavation of shepherds," i.e., where shepherds will make excavations or dig themselves huts under the ground as a protection from the sun. This is the simplest explanation of the variously interpreted kerōth (as an inf. of kârâh, to dig), and can be grammatically sustained. The digging of the shepherds stands for the excavations which they make. Bochart (Hieroz. i. p. 519, ed. Ros.) has already given this explanation: "Caulae s. caulis repletus erit effossionis pastorum, i.e., caulae a pastoribus effossae in cryptis subterraneis ad vitandum solis aestum." On the other hand, the derivation from the noun kērâh, in the sense of cistern, cannot be sustained; and there is no proof of it in the fact that kârâh is applied to the digging of wells. Still less is it possible to maintain the derivation from יכר (Arab. wkr), by which Ewald would support the meaning nests for kērōth, i.e., "the small houses or carts of the shepherds." And Hitzig's alteration of the text into כּרת equals כּרים, pastures, so as to obtain the tautology "meadows of the pastures," is perfectly unwarranted. The word chebhel is construed in Zephaniah 2:6 as a feminine ad sensum, with a retrospective allusion to 'erets Pelishtı̄m; whereas in Zephaniah 2:7 it is construed, as it is everywhere else, as a masculine. Moreover, the noun chebhel, which occurs in this verse without the article, is not the subject; for, if it were, it would at least have had the article. It is rather a predicate, and the subject must be supplied from Zephaniah 2:6 : "The Philistian tract of land by the sea will become a tract of land or possession for the remnant of the house of Judah, the portion of the people of God rescued from the judgment. Upon them, viz., these pastures, will they feed." The plural עליהם does not stand for the neuter, but is occasioned by a retrospective glance at נות רעים. The subject is, those that are left of the house of Judah. They will there feed their flocks, and lie down in the huts of Ashkelon. For the prophet adds by way of explanation, Jehovah their God will visit them. Pâqad, to visit in a good sense, i.e., to take them under His care, as is almost always the meaning when it is construed with an accusative of the person. It is only in Psalm 59:6 that it is used with an acc. pers. instead of with על, in the sense of to chastise or punish. שׁוּב שׁבוּת as in Hosea 6:11 and Amos 9:14. The keri שׁבית has arisen from a misinterpretation. On the fulfilment, see what follows.
7And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.
8I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border.
The judgment upon Joab and Ammon. - Zephaniah 2:8. "I have heard the abuse of Moab, and the revilings of the sons of Ammon, who have abused my nation, and boasted against its boundary. Zephaniah 2:9. Therefore, as I live, is the saying of Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Yea, Moab shall become like Sodom, and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrha, an inheritance of nettles and salt-pits, and desert for ever. The remnant of my nation will plunder them, the residue of my nation will inherit them. Zephaniah 2:10. Such to them for their pride, that they have despised and boasted against the nation of Jehovah of hosts." The threat now turns from the Philistines in the west to the two tribes to the east, viz., the Moabites and Ammonites, who were descended from Lot, and therefore blood-relations, and who manifested hostility to Israel on every possible occasion. Even in the time of Moses, the Moabitish king Balak sought to destroy Israel by means of Balaam's curses (Numbers 22), for which the Moabites were threatened with extermination (Numbers 24:17). In the time of the judges they both attempted to oppress Israel (Judges 3:12. and Judges 10:7.; cf. 1 Samuel 11:1-5 and 2 Samuel 10-12), for which they were severely punished by Saul and David (1 Samuel 14:47, and 2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Samuel 12:30-31). The reproach of Moab and the revilings of the Ammonites, which Jehovah had heard, cannot be taken, as Jerome, Rashi, and others suppose, as referring to the hostilities of those tribes towards the Judaeans during the Chaldaean catastrophe; nor restricted, as v. Clln imagines, to the reproaches heaped upon the ten tribes when they were carried away by the Assyrians, since nothing is know of any such reproaches. The charge refers to the hostile attitude assumed by both tribes at all times towards the nation of God, which they manifested both in word and deed, as often as the latter was brought into trouble and distress. Compare Jeremiah 48:26-27; and for giddēph, to revile or blaspheme by actions, Numbers 15:30; Ezekiel 20:27; also for the fact itself, the remarks on Amos 1:13-2:3. יגדּילוּ על גב, they did great things against their (the Israelites') border (the suffix in gebhūlâm, their border, refers to ‛ammı̄, my people). This great doing consisted in their proudly violating the boundary of Israel, and endeavouring to seize upon Israelitish territory (cf. Amos 1:13). Pride and haughtiness, or high-minded self-exaltation above Israel as the nation of God, is charged against the Moabites and Ammonites by Isaiah and Jeremiah also, as a leading feature in their character (cf. Isaiah 16:6; Isaiah 25:11; Jeremiah 48:29-30). Moab and Ammon are to be utterly exterminated in consequence. The threat of punishment is announced in Zephaniah 2:8 as irrevocable by a solemn oath. It shall happen to them as to Sodom and Gomorrha. This simile was rendered a very natural one by the situation of the two lands in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea. It affirms the utter destruction of the two tribes, as the appositional description shows. Their land is to become the possession of nettles, i.e., a place where nettles grow. Mimshâq, hap leg., from the root mâshaq, which was not used, but from which mesheq in Genesis 15:2 is derived. Chârūl: the stinging nettle (see at Job 30:7), which only flourishes in waste places. Mikhrēh melach: a place of salt-pits, like the southern coast of the Dead Sea, which abounds in rock-salt, and to which there is an allusion in the threat of Moses in Deuteronomy 29:22. "A desert for ever:" the emphasis lies upon ‛ad ‛ōlâm (for ever) here. The people, however, i.e., the Moabites and Ammonites themselves, will be taken by the people of Jehovah, and be made their possession. The suffixes attached to יבזּוּם and ינחלוּם can only refer to the people of Moab and Ammon, because a land turned into an eternal desert and salt-steppe would not be adapted for a nachălâh (possession) for the people of God. The meaning is not, they will be their heirs through the medium of plunder, but they will make them into their own property, or slaves (cf. Isaiah 14:2; Isaiah 61:5). גּויי is גּוי with the suffix of the first person, only one of the two י being written. In Zephaniah 2:10 the threat concludes with a repetition of the statement of the guilt which is followed by such a judgment.
The fulfilment or realization of the threat pronounced upon Philistia, Moab, and Ammon, we have not to look for in the particular historical occurrences through which these tribes were conquered and subjugated by the Chaldaeans, and to some extent by the Jews after the captivity, until they eventually vanished from the stage of history, and their lands became desolate, as they still are. These events can only come into consideration as preliminary stages of the fulfilment, which Zephaniah completely passes by, since he only views the judgment in its ultimate fulfilment. We are precluded, moreover, from taking the words as relating to that event by the circumstance, that neither Philistia on the one hand, nor Moabites and Ammonites on the other, were ever taken permanent possession of by the Jews; and still less were they ever taken by Judah, as the nation of God, for His own property. Judah is not to enter into such possession as this till the Lord turns the captivity of Judah (Zephaniah 2:7); that is to say, not immediately after the return from the Babylonish captivity, but when the dispersion of Israel among the Gentiles, which lasts till this day, shall come to an end, and Israel, through its conversion to Christ, be reinstated in the privileges of the people of God. It follows from this, that the fulfilment is still in the future, and that it will be accomplished not literally, but spiritually, in the utter destruction of the nations referred to as heathen nations, and opponents of the kingdom of God, and in the incorporation of those who are converted to the living God at the time of the judgment, into the citizenship of the spiritual Israel. Until the eventual restoration of Israel, Philistia will remain an uninhabited shepherds' pasture, and the land of the Moabites and Ammonites the possession of nettles, a place of salt-pits and a desert; just as the land of Israel will for the very same time be trodden down by the Gentiles. The curse resting upon these lands will not be entirely removed till the completion of the kingdom of God on earth. This view is proved to be correct by the contents of Zephaniah 2:11, with which the prophet passes to the announcement of the judgment upon the nations of the south and north.
9Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.
10This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts.
11The LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen.
"Fearful is Jehovah over them, for He destroyeth all the gods of the earth; that all the islands of the nations, every one from its place, may worship Him." Whilst עליהם refers to what precedes, the next clause in the reason assigned points to the announcement of judgment upon the remaining nations of the earth in Zephaniah 2:12.; so that Zephaniah 2:11 cannot be taken either as the conclusion of the previous threat, or as the commencement of the following one, but leads from the one to the other. Jehovah is terrible when He reveals Himself in the majesty of Judge of the world. The suffix appended to עליהם does not refer to עם יהוה, but to the להם in Zephaniah 2:10, answering to the Moabites and Ammonites. Jehovah proves Himself terrible to these, because He has resolved to destroy all the gods of the earth. Râzâh, to make lean; hence to cause to vanish, to destroy. He causes the gods to vanish, by destroying the nations and kingdoms who relied upon these gods. He thereby reveals the nothingness of the gods, and brings the nations to acknowledge His sole deity (Micah 5:12). The fall of the false gods impels to the worship of the one true God. וישׁתּחווּ לו is the consequence, the fruit, and the effect of Jehovah's proving Himself terrible to the nations and their gods. איּי הגּוים, islands of the Gentiles, is an epithet taken from the islands and coastlands of Europe, to denote the whole of the heathen world (see at Isaiah 41:1). The distributive עישׁ ממּקומו refers to haggōyı̄m as the principal idea, though not in the sense of "every nation," but in that of every individual belonging to the nations. Mimmeqōmō, coming from his place: the meaning is not that the nations will worship Jehovah at their own place, in their own lands, in contradistinction to Micah 4:1; Zechariah 14:16, and other passages, where the nations go on pilgrimage to Mount Zion (Hitzig); but their going to Jerusalem is implied in the min (from), though it is not brought prominently out, as being unessential to the thought. With regard to the fulfilment, Bucer has correctly observed, that "the worship of Jehovah on the part of the heathen is not secured without sanguinary wars, that the type may not be taken for the fact itself, and the shadow for the body .... But the true completion of the whole in the kingdom of Christ takes place here in spirit and in faith, whilst in the future age it will be consummated in all its reality and in full fruition." Theodoret, on the other hand, is too one-sided in his view, and thinks only of the conversion of the heathen through the preaching of the gospel. "This prophecy," he says, "has received its true fulfilment through the holy apostles, and the saints who have followed them; ... and this takes place, not by the law, but by the teaching of the gospel."
12Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword.
After this statement of the aim of the judgments of God, Zephaniah mentions two other powerful heathen nations as examples, to prove that the whole of the heathen world will succumb to the judgment. Zephaniah 2:12. "Ye Cushites also, slain of my sword are they. Zephaniah 2:13. And let him stretch out his hand toward the south, and destroy Asshur; and make Nineveh a barren waste, a dry place, like the desert. Zephaniah 2:14. And herds lie down in the midst of it, all kinds of beasts in crowds: pelicans also and hedgehogs will lodge on their knobs; the voice of the singer in the window; heaps upon the threshold: for their cedar-work hath He made bare. Zephaniah 2:15. This the city, the exulting one, the safely dwelling one, which said in her heart, I, and no more: how has she become a desolation, a lair of beasts! Every one that passeth by it will hiss, swing his hand." As a representative of the heathen dwelling in the south, Zephaniah does not mention Edom, which bordered upon Judah, or the neighbouring land of Egypt, but the remote Ethiopia, the furthest kingdom or people in the south that was known to the Hebrews. The Ethiopians will be slain of the sword of Jehovah. המּה does not take the place of the copula between the subject and predicate, any more than הוּא in Isaiah 37:16 and Ezra 5:11 (to which Hitzig appeals in support of this usage: see Delitzsch, on the other hand, in his Comm. on Isaiah, l.c.), but is a predicate. The prophecy passes suddenly from the form of address (in the second person) adopted in the opening clause, to a statement concerning the Cushites (in the third person). For similar instances of sudden transition, see Zephaniah 3:18; Zechariah 3:8; Ezekiel 28:22.
(Note: Calvin correctly says: "The prophet commences by driving them, in the second person, to the tribunal of God, and then adds in the third person, 'They will be,' etc.")
חללי חרבּי is a reminiscence from Isaiah 66:16 : slain by Jehovah with the sword. Zephaniah says nothing further concerning this distant nation, which had not come into any hostile collision with Judah in his day; and only mentions it to exemplify the thought that all the heathen will come under the judgment. The fulfilment commenced with the judgment upon Egypt through the Chaldaeans, as is evident from Ezekiel 30:4, Ezekiel 30:9, as compared with Josephus, Ant. x. 11, and continues till the conversion of that people to the Lord, the commencement of which is recorded in Acts 8:27-38. The prophet dwells longer upon the heathen power of the north, the Assyrian kingdom with its capital Nineveh, because Assyria was then the imperial power, which was seeking to destroy the kingdom of God in Judah. This explains the fact that the prophet expresses the announcement of the destruction of this power in the form of a wish, as the use of the contracted forms yēt and yâsēm clearly shows. For it is evident that Ewald is wrong in supposing that ויט stands for ויּט, or should be so pointed, inasmuch as the historical tense, "there He stretched out His hand," would be perfectly out of place. נטה יד (to stretch out a hand), as in Zephaniah 1:4. ‛al tsâphōn, over (or against) the north. The reference is to Assyria with the capital Nineveh. It is true that this kingdom was not to the north, but to the north-east, of Judah; but inasmuch as the Assyrian armies invaded Palestine from the north, it is regarded by the prophets as situated in the north. On Nineveh itself, see at Jonah 1:2 (p. 263); and on the destruction of this city and the fall of the Assyrian empire, at Nahum 3:19 (p. 379). Lishmâmâh is strengthened by the apposition tsiyyâh kammidbâr.
Nineveh is not only to become a steppe, in which herds feed (Isaiah 27:10), but a dry, desolate waste, where only desert animals will make their home. Tsiyyâh, the dry, arid land - the barren, sandy desert (cf. Isaiah 35:1). בּתוכהּ, in the midst of the city which has become a desert, there lie flocks, not of sheep and goats (צאן, Zephaniah 2:6; cf. Isaiah 13:20), but כּל־חיתו־גוי , literally of all the animals of the (or a) nation. The meaning can only be, "all kinds of animals in crowds or in a mass." גּוי is used here for the mass of animals, just as it is in Joel 1:6 for the multitude of locusts, and as עם is in Proverbs 30:35-36 for the ant-people; and the genitive is to be taken as in apposition. Every other explanation is exposed to much greater objections and difficulties. For the form חיתו, see at Genesis 1:24. Pelicans and hedgehogs will make their homes in the remains of the ruined buildings (see at Isaiah 34:11, on which passage Zephaniah rests his description). בּכפתּריה, upon the knobs of the pillars left standing when the palaces were destroyed (kaphtōr; see at Amos 9:1). The reference to the pelican, a marsh bird, is not opposed to the tsiyyâh of Zephaniah 2:13, since Nineveh stood by the side of streams, the waters of which formed marshes after the destruction of the city. קול ישׁורר cannot be rendered "a voice sings," for shōrēr, to sing, is not used for tuning or resounding; but yeshōrēr is to be taken relatively, and as subordinate to קול, the voice of him that sings will be heard in the window. Jerome gives it correctly: vox canentis in fenestra. There is no necessity to think of the cry of the owl or hawk in particular, but simply of birds generally, which make their singing heard in the windows of the ruins. The sketching of the picture of the destruction passes from the general appearance of the city to the separate ruins, coming down from the lofty knobs of the pillars to the windows, and from these to the thresholds of the ruins of the houses. Upon the thresholds there is chōrebh, devastation ( equals rubbish), and no longer a living being. This is perfectly appropriate, so that there is no necessity to give the word an arbitrary interpretation, or to alter the text, so as to get the meaning a raven or a crow. The description closes with the explanatory sentence: "for He has laid bare the cedar-work," i.e., has so destroyed the palaces and state buildings, that the costly panelling of the walls is exposed. 'Arzâh is a collective, from 'erez, the cedar-work, and there is no ground for any such alteration of the text as Ewald and Hitzig suggest, in order to obtain the trivial meaning "hews or hacks in pieces," or the cold expression, "He destroys, lays bare." In Zephaniah 2:15 the picture is rounded off. "This is the city," i.e., this is what happens to the exulting city. עלּיזה, exulting, applied to the joyful tumult caused by the men - a favourite word with Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 22:2; Isaiah 23:7; Isaiah 24:8; Isaiah 32:13). The following predicates from היּושׁבת to עוד are borrowed from the description of Babel in Isaiah 47:8, and express the security and self-deification of the mighty imperial city. The Yod in 'aphsı̄ is not paragogical, but a pronoun in the first person; at the same time, 'ephes is not a preposition, "beside me," since in that case the negation "not one" could not be omitted, but "the non-existence," so that אפסי equals איני, I am absolutely no further (see at Isaiah 47:8). But how has this self-deifying pride been put to shame! איך, an expression of amazement at the tragical turn in her fate. The city filled with the joyful exulting of human beings has become the lair of wild beasts, and every one that passes by expresses his malicious delight in its ruin. Shâraq, to hiss, a common manifestation of scorn (cf. Micah 6:16; Jeremiah 19:8). היניע יד, to swing the hand, embodying the thought, "Away with her, she has richly deserved her fate."
13And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness.
14And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work.
15This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.