Historical Background to the Message


Zephaniah prophesied "in the days of Josiah" (Zeph. 1:1). According to the accepted dating, this was approximately B.C. 641-610. It was a period of international stress and turmoil that

culminated in the doom of Nineveh which the prophet predicted (Zeph. 2:13).

Asia was invaded by the Scythians. They appeared suddenly from the north, from behind the long mountain barrier formed by the Himalaya, Caucasus, Taurus and Haemus mountain ranges, fierce, uncivilised and uncouth, to fall upon the sophisticated peoples of the south, menacing Assyria, Babylon, Syria, and Egypt.

One division swept south along the coastal plains of Palestine towards Egypt, penetrating Philistia to the southern border of Palestine. They were met and stopped by Psammetichus of Egypt after sacking the Temple of Astarte at Ascalon (Herod. 1; 105).They left one permanent trace of their passage as they scoured through the plain of Esdraelon, for the city of Bethshan on its eastern extremity received from them the name Scythopolis that it subsequently bore.

The Scythians were bribed by the Egyptians to turn back northwards, which they did, ravaging the countryside, burning and plundering as they went. They returned along the plain of Esdraelon, by-passing most of Judah so that it escaped the devastation

that most of the other nations felt from the depredations of these barbarians. Within ten years they had retired behind their mountain barrier, disappearing like an evil apparition leaving an Assyria seriously weakened by the attack.

When the Scythians retired, the world breathed with relief, but it was soon convulsed by war again. With the death of Ashurbanipal, the sudden and rapid collapse of Assyria began.

To the north-east, Cyaxeres came to power in Media, and uniting all Asia beyond the Halys, marched against Nineveh. In the southeast of Mesopotamia, Nabopolassar (approx. B.C. 625) founded the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

The sudden appearance of the wild, barbaric Scythians delayed the death of Assyria. When they had disappeared, the attack was renewed. The Medes and Babylonians bore down upon the Assyrians on two fronts, north and south, and the brutal Empire was crushed as in a vice. The great city fortress of Asshur on the Tigris fell in 614. It was the last stronghold protecting Nineveh which was now open to the enemy. Cyaxeres was the first to enter the city with his army, and Nabopolasser met him in the ruins of the city.

By mutual agreement they dividedup the Assyrian Empire and the world. Cyaxeres lay claim to the 13 north and north-east; Nabopolasser to the south and south-west. This brought Syria and Palestine under the shadow of Babylonian invasion, and plans were made to acquire this territory.

Bro HP Mansfield, The Christadelphian Expositor

1 The word of Yahweh which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.


His name means Yahweh has hidden; and if it were asked, what has He hidden? the answer would be, His face from His people. The prophet's name therefore is a caption to his message.

His genealogy suggests that he was of royal descent; and he states that he ministered in the

"days of Josiah." That is all that we know of Zephaniah. His brief message having been given, he apparently retired into obscurity until death claimed him.

"Cushi" — His name means "black.

Gedaliah" — His name means "Yah is great."

"Amariah" — His name means "Yah has spoken."

"Hizkiah"—A variation of Hezekiah,

signifying "Yah is strength."

Commencing from Hezekiah, from whom the genealogy is traced:

Yahweh is strength, Yah has spoken, Yah is great, blackness (has come to His people), Yah has hidden (his face)

The Christadelphian Expositor