We are all probably familiar with the stereotypical “doom and gloom” or “hellfire and brimstone” preachers. They often deliver a very one-sided view of God’s judgment, one that emphasizes God’s wrath, anger, and holiness and not his grace, mercy, and salvation. When properly understood though, God’s judgment and salvation go hand-in-hand. Some would even say God’s judgment is the very means by which he saves. Let’s learn more about God’s purpose in judgment in Zephaniah with these notes from the Amplified Study Bible.

God’s Messenger of Judgment and Salvation

Zephaniah was a contemporary of Jeremiah and prophesied during the reign of the godly King Josiah. In the first verse of the book that bears his name, we learn that he was also a descendant of the godly King Hezekiah.

The word of the Lord which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

Zephaniah 1:1

Interesting note: Zephaniah means “hidden in the Lord,” a name that relates to the principal message the prophet presented (2:3). The names of the prophets were often significantly associated with the message that God gave them to present to the people.

God’s Message of Judgment

Zephaniah’s message began with an announcement of an imminent and universal judgment, one that finds a more specific application to Judah and the surrounding nations.

I will completely consume and sweep away all things from the face of the earth [in judgment],” says the LORD.”

Zephaniah 1:2

I will also stretch out My hand [in judgment] against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

Zephaniah 1:4

4 For [this is the fate of the Philistines:] Gaza will be abandoned and Ashkelon a desolation; [The people of] Ashdod will be driven out at noon [in broad daylight] and Ekron will be uprooted and destroyed. 5 Woe (judgment is coming) to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites [in Philistia]! The word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; I will destroy you so that no inhabitant will be left.”

Zephaniah 2:4-5

Interesting note: Gaza . . . Ashkelon . . . Ashdod . . . Ekron. The focus of the book moves from the description of divine judgment on Judah and Jerusalem to a description of divine judgment on the surrounding nations. The judgment begins with the nation to the west, Philistia, and its major cities.

14 The great [judgment] day of the LORD is near, near and coming very quickly. Listen! The [voice of the] day of the LORD! The warrior cries out bitterly [unable to fight or to flee]. 15 That day is a day of [the outpouring of the] wrath [of God], a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 a day of trumpet and the battle cry [of invaders] against the fortified cities and against the high corner towers (battlements).”

Zephaniah 1:14-16

God’s Purpose in Judgment

What we don’t properly understand is that judgment should lead us to a restoration or improvement in a relationship. The announcement of judgment never occurs without grace being far behind. We live with the tension of knowing God’s judgment hangs over us while at the same time knowing that forgiveness is readily available to us too. Such is the message of Zephaniah.

Judgment implies a necessary purification process. You can’t get the impurities out without first identifying their presence. We want to think of ourselves as pure without going through any process of purification. We want grace without judgment, but it doesn’t work that way. Judgment reflects the true state of our being, namely that we are sinful and in need of grace. Often the only way to understand our reality is to go through a judgment process.

Once the judgment is accepted and the proper response is made, we fully experience God’s grace. The Lord deals with our enemies (3:15). He quiets us with His love (3:17). He removes our burdens (3:18). God stands ready to gather us back to Himself (3:19). He restores our fortunes (3:20).

The commonly held thought that the writings of the Old Testament prophets are all gloom and doom is actually myth and misnomer. There’s always hope and renewal in the prophetic message. There are always opportunities for repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. God’s judgment is in fact good for us because the sin in our lives needs to be brought to light in order for us to be restored to full fellowship with God.

God’s Words of Hope, Promise, and Salvation

15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, even the LORD [Himself], is in your midst; You will no longer fear disaster. 16 In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: ‘Do not be afraid, O Zion; do not let your hands fall limp. 17 ‘The LORD your God is in your midst, a Warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with joy; He will be quiet in His love [making no mention of your past sins], He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

18 I will gather those [Israelites in captivity] who grieve about the appointed feasts—They came from you, [O Zion]; on whom the reproach [of exile] is a burden. 19 ‘Behold, at that time I am going to deal with all your oppressors; I will save the lame and gather the scattered, and I will turn their shame into praise and renown in every land [where they have suffered]. 20 ‘At that time I will bring you in, yes, at the time I gather you together; For I will make you a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes [and freedom] before your eyes,’ says the LORD.”

Zephaniah 3:15–20

Interesting note: I will make you a name and a praise. Ordinarily Scripture speaks of the praise that should be brought to God. Here we find the praise that God will bring to His people. Says the LORD. This is a solemn vow of God to do what He has promised. Zephaniah begins and ends with the strong assertion that the Lord is speaking. The implication is clear: “Listen and live!” The warning of judgment is a call to salvation.

The Amplified Study Bible

The Amplified Study Bible includes the Amplified Bible and thousands of notes to help you grasp the meaning of God’s Word. Amplification within the English text is indicated by parentheses, brackets, and italicized conjunctions. These features define names, places, or words; expand upon the depth of meaning in the original languages; clarify words or concepts; expand on teachings or principles; or supply information for the reader to grasp the context of the passage. Learn more by following the link below to our store.


  1. Hi,

    Greetings. Thank you so much. Thanks be unto God for His mercy endureth forever.

    Pastor Nemesio Remocaldo

    • Brad Hoffman Reply

      Hi Pastor Nemesio! Yes! Praise the Lord for His steadfast love! May He supply you with all you need to continue serving Him faithfully.

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