Zephaniah 2:4–15 (NKJV)
Judgment against Judah’s neighbors is the major motif of this section. Philistia on the west, Moab and Ammon on the east, Ethiopia or Egypt on the south, and Assyria to the north will all experience the judgment of Yahweh. Even though Judah’s near neighbors were infringing on her borders, she (Judah) would eventually dispossess them.
Ralph L. Smith, Micah–Malachi, vol. 32, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 135–136.
4 For Gaza shall be forsaken,
And Ashkelon desolate;
They shall drive out Ashdod at noonday,
And Ekron shall be uprooted.
5 Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast,
The nation of the Cherethites!
The word of the Lord is against you,
O Canaan, land of the Philistines:
“I will destroy you;
So there shall be no inhabitant.”
6 The seacoast shall be pastures,
With shelters for shepherds and folds for flocks.
7 The coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah;
They shall feed their flocks there;
In the houses of Ashkelon they shall lie down at evening.
For the Lord their God will intervene for them,
And return their captives.
These initial statements of judgment against the nations gives pointed details about their destruction: forsaken, desolate, uprooted, destroyed, pastureland, etc. God is determined to wipe out the power of each nation.
8 “I have heard the reproach of Moab,
And the insults of the people of Ammon,
With which they have reproached My people,
And made arrogant threats against their borders.
9 Therefore, as I live,”
Says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,
“Surely Moab shall be like Sodom,
And the people of Ammon like Gomorrah—
Overrun with weeds and saltpits,
And a perpetual desolation.
The residue of My people shall plunder them,
And the remnant of My people shall possess them.”
10 This they shall have for their pride,
Because they have reproached and made arrogant threats
Against the people of the Lord of hosts.
11 The Lord will be awesome to them,
For He will reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth;
People shall worship Him,
Each one from his place,
Indeed all the shores of the nations.
The Lord goes further here, denouncing the reproach, insults, and threats the nations made against His people. Even the remnant (residue) of Judah will plunder them for their pride, and the Lord will be awesome (fearful) to them.
12 “You Ethiopians also,
You shall be slain by My sword.”
13 And He will stretch out His hand against the north,
And make Nineveh a desolation,
As dry as the wilderness.
14 The herds shall lie down in her midst,
Every beast of the nation.
Both the pelican and the bittern
Shall lodge on the capitals of her pillars;
Their voice shall sing in the windows;
Desolation shall be at the threshold;
For He will lay bare the cedar work.
15 This is the rejoicing city
That dwelt securely,
That said in her heart,
“I am it, and there is none besides me.”
How has she become a desolation,
A place for beasts to lie down!
Everyone who passes by her
Shall hiss and shake his fist.
Yahweh again promises desolation, as animals will live in the cities, buildings, and houses of the foreign nations. The glory of their pillars and cedar work will be turned over to wildlife. Their false sense of security will end with their own derision by all who will pass by.
Two things to think about here: the reward of the wicked and the vengeance of the Lord. While we live in a different era of God’s dealing with men, we cannot ignore the fact of God’s sovereignty. When evil nations, people, or even individuals oppress others, disobey God’s laws, and attack God’s people, eventual retribution will come! And, if God’s people will repent and seek His face, God will exact vengeance of some sort upon their enemies. Do not lose heart, do not believe you have been forgotten. God is still on the wall, watching over your soul.