Zephaniah: Prophet of Josiah's Reformation
The word of the LORD 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.
Zephaniah 1:1 (Spoke 14, Cycle 2)
to Josiah (Horne, 1909)
If ever there were a wonder to
behold in the structure of Scripture, it
is the alignment of the little Book of Zephaniah with the record of King Josiah in 2 Chronicles.
The image shows a traditional rendition of
Zephaniah preaching to Josiah when the king was still a youth,
probably about sixteen years old. He was the last great King of Judah, having instituted widespread
reformations to destroy any "remnant of Baal" (Zeph 1:4) and false worship from his kingdom.
His reign began when he was a mere eight years old. The first record of him acting as king came eight
years later when he had a profound spiritual awakening, presumably under the preaching Zephaniah,
that set him on fire for the Lord:
For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to
seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and
Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images.
And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them,
he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces,
and made dust of them, and strewed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them.
2 Chronicles 34:3ff (Spoke 14, Cycle 1)
This record of Josiah's early inclination towards the Lord is a key detail in the story of
his life. It also is unique to 2 Chronicles; the parallel record in 2 Kings omits it. Furthermore,
it is based on the KeyWord na'ar (young) which God placed in one of His Alphabetic Verses:
- AV Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old;
yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
The reformation of Josiah's heart, which led to the reformation of his kingdom, is well expressed in
another Nun Alphabetic Verse:
- AV Psalm 119:112 I have inclined (natah) mine heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end.
Though the KeyWord natah appears in many Books to describe God stretching forth His hand,
the exact spelling used in AV Psalm 119:112 – (natithi) – appears once
and only once
in the Minor Prophets; in the opening passage of Zephaniah:
I will also stretch out (natithi) mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants
of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims [false priests]
with the priests; And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and
that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham. And them that are turned back from the LORD; and those
that have not sought the LORD, nor enquired for him.
Zephaniah 1:4ff (Spoke 14, Cycle 2)
Zephaniah's prophecy reads like a detailed checklist describing the task God had set before Josiah.
He raised him up to cast down the works of his exceedingly wicked grandfather, Manasseh, whose iniquity knew no end:
For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up
altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.
And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he caused his
children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used
enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in
the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in
the house of God ...
2 Chronicles 33:3ff (Spoke 14, Cycle 1)
The specific elements condemned in Zephaniah's prophecy – worship of Baal and the host of heaven – were
institutionalized at the time Josiah was born. Iniquity was boundless, the false priests had placed their
idols in the Lord's very own House to pollute it! And though Josiah cleansed the Temple, it was not long
after his death that the wickedness returned. God memorialized this crime in a KeyLink between the first
two Books of Spoke 14 based on the simple set (priests, polluted) [Verify] in the KJV:
This inveterate wickedness persisted no matter how many prophets and reforming kings God raised up.
It finally brought down His judgment upon Judah in the form of the Babylonian Exile, which Zephaniah prophesied
with great specificity and finality.
The reference to Manasseh's father Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 33:3 above points back to
his reformation that was essentially identical to Josiah's, enacted about a century earlier.
It also links to Zephaniah's prophecy in many ways. For example, consider Hezekiah's speech to the
Levites when he cleansed the House of the Lord:
And said unto them, Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of
the LORD God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place. For our fathers
have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD our God, and have forsaken him,
and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and turned their backs.
2 Chronicles 29:6 (Spoke 14, Cycle 1)
As might be guessed by the reference to the Levites [see
Priestly History of the Faithful Kingdom of Judah],
this record is unique to 2 Chronicles. It is omitted in 2 Kings, though the general outline
of his reign is recorded there. The last highlighted phrase forms a KeyLink to Zephaniah 1:6.
It should be compared with 2 Chronicles 15:1ff quoted on page 272 [of the Bible Wheel book].