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I said, ‘Surely you will fear me;
you will accept correction, so that her dwelling place
will not be completely cut off
because of all that I have visited upon her.’
But they rose early
and corrupted all that they did. Bible

“because of all.” The exact meaning of this phrase in Zephaniah 3:7 and the proper way to translate the sentence is unclear, which can be seen by the many different ways it has been translated in the English versions. However, the basic meaning of the text is quite clear. As God said in Zephaniah 3:6, nations had been destroyed because of sin against God and humanity, and the Judeans also knew Israel had been destroyed by Assyria for her sin, and now Judah was in danger of being destroyed. But because of the disasters of the past, God thought, “Surely you [Judah] will fear me; you will accept correction” so that you will not be completely destroyed. But alas! The Judeans rejected God’s reproof and “rose up early” (i.e., they committed themselves) to corrupt themselves in everything they did. We know from history that as a result Judah and Jerusalem were destroyed.

We should pay attention to the fact that God, the Creator of the heavens, earth, and humans, sets the standards of what is “corrupt” and what is not. If you took a pole of all the people in Judea in Zephaniah’s day, no doubt many of them would say the way they lived was “normal,” “fine,” and “a matter of personal choice.” But people do not get to dictate what is right and what is not; God does. The Psalmist correctly states: “The earth is Yahweh's, and all it contains; the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps. 24:1). God set standards for godly human behavior, and people ignore and defy those standards to their peril.

“But they rose early.” This is an idiom for being eager or excited to do something, thus the translations such as the NRSV: “But they were the more eager to make all their deeds corrupt.” But God shows how much He loved the people and “rose early” to guide and correct them (cp. Jer. 7:13, 25; 11:7; 25:3; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 35:14-15; 44:4).

“corrupted all that they did.” Some 800 years earlier Moses had foretold that the Israelites would become corrupt. Here in Zephaniah that has occurred and Yahweh says that they corrupted “all” that they did.


Commentary for: Zephaniah 3:7