Outline of Zephaniah
1. Superscription (Zephaniah 1:1)
The book begins in classic prophetic style: the word of the Lord comes to Zephaniah.
2. Destruction-Total Destruction! (Zephaniah 1:2-18)
No limit is placed on the judgment to come. There are named guilty parties, but all addressees are to be silent. No exit from the destruction is offered. The reader/hearer gets the sense that creation itself is reversed (see also Prophet who condemned Judah’s infidelity to God, warned of Babylonian conquest, and promised a new covenant More 4:23-25). The overall structure–judgment, oracles, promises–is also a familiar one.
3. Perhaps (Zephaniah 2:1-3)
The day of the Lord’s wrath is coming. That cannot be stopped. Seeking the Lord is, as always, the proper thing to do, but it does not guarantee deliverance. The destruction is so extensive that anything more than a “perhaps” would be an evasion of the severity of the announced judgment.
4. Against the Nations (Zephaniah 2:4-15)
The nations that belittle the destruction that occurs on the Day of the Lord, taunt the judged Judeans, and boast of their own strength will also face the judgment of God. These “oracles against the nations” are a familiar form of prophetic speech. They function to spell out one more dimension of the comprehensive, even global, judgment announced in the first chapter and offer the first glimpses of the restoration of the judged people of God.
5. Judgment and the Formation of a Remnant (Zephaniah 3:1-13)
Additional statements of judgment are announced and also recast as part of the purification of people. The judgment casts away the shame of rebellion and makes way for the establishment of a faithful people who constantly seek refuge in the Lord.
6. From Redemption to Doxology is an expression of praise. Psalms of praise, such as Psalms 149 and 150, are doxological in nature; Paul concludes his letter to the Romans with a doxology. Christians sing a doxology whenever they praise the Triune God: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow….” More (Zephaniah 3:14-20)
God enters into the midst of the restored people to cancel the judgment, calm their fear, lead their rejoicing, and complete their restoration.