4For Gaza shall be deserted, and Ashkelon shall become a desolation; Ashdod’s people shall be driven out at noon, and Ekron shall be uprooted. 5Woe to you inhabitants of the sea coast, you nation of the Cherethites! The word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you until no inhabitant is left. 6And you, O sea coast, shall be pastures, with meadows for shepherds and folds for flocks. 7The sea coast shall become the possession of the remnant of the house of Judah, on which they shall graze, and in the houses of Ashkelon they shall lie down at evening. For the LORD their God will be mindful of them and restore their fortunes.
The Story: The word “for” that begins verse 4 signals that Zephaniah is now going to provide reasons for the people to seek the Lord, seek righteousness, and seek humility (v. 3). This reasoning takes the form of describing the judgment that will befall the nations roundabout Judah as well as the hope that lay beyond judgment for the righteous remnant. The prophet begins by looking west to the land of the Philistines. The Philistines were organized not as a centralized nation but as a band of five city-states. Four are mentioned here, with the fifth (Gath) probably having been destroyed by this time. The Philistines had long been a thorn in the flesh for the Israelites, but judgment was coming upon them. Zephaniah paints a picture of devastation and desolation in which the Philistine cities would be depopulated and so utterly destroyed that they would become pastures and meadows. Picture shepherds one day grazing sheep in pastures where once the skyscrapers of New York City stood, and you get the picture. But the message of judgment against the Philistines is also a message of hope for Judah. It is “the remnant of the house of Judah” that will be living in the land and shepherding sheep there. Even when Yahweh brings judgment upon His people for their covenant unfaithfulness, He does not forget His covenant promises to them: “For the LORD their God will be mindful of them and restore their fortunes.” In the coming Babylonian captivity, the faithful remnant was called to continue in faith and obedience motivated by hope for the blessings that lay on the other side of judgment.
The Structure: Beginning in verse 4, Zephaniah stands as it were in Jerusalem and looks out to the four points of the compass announcing coming judgment in every direction. He looks west (vv. 4-7), east (vv. 8-11), south (v. 12), and north (vv. 13-15). By covering all four points of the compass, Zephaniah is reiterating what chapter 1 revealed about the universal character of the Day of the Lord.
Zephaniah sought to motivate Judah to faithfulness by pointing them to hope beyond judgment. Read Romans 8:18 and give thanks to the Lord for the hope of glory that can sustain you through hard times.
For more insight to the prophet Micah, order the book, The Minor Prophets, Vol. 2: Micah-Malachi, by James Montgomery Boice, from our online store.
The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.