The judgment of God against Judah’s infidelity and exploitation is so extensive that all of creationCreation, in biblical terms, is the universe as we know or perceive it. Genesis says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In the book of Revelation (which speaks of end times) the author declares that God created all things and... More is swept up into the devastation.
The core of the judgment announced in the first chapter is directed against JudahJudah was the name of Jacob's fourth son and one of the 12 tribes. More and Jerusalem (1:4). The Day of the LordThe Day of the Lord, in prophetic writing, is the day of judgment when God will intervene directly in world affairs. As described in Zephaniah, for instance, God will sweep everything away. In Matthew's gospel God is described as gathering the elect on the day... More will not, in this case, be a day of deliverance from idolatrous nations that threaten Judah’s existence. Rather, it will be a day of distress and trouble directed particularly against the idolatry internal to Judah and Jerusalem. Where there was not overt rebellion against God, there was indifference to God. The people did not inquire of or seek God (1:6). Their economic pursuits (1:11-12) did not consider God as an agent in their affairs. Neither their wealth (1:13) nor their fortifications (1:16) will be able to shield them from the judgment of God on the day that is approaching. God’s searching out for destruction (1:12) will remove all forms of protection.
Once such force is unleashed, there is nothing to contain it. Zephaniah extends the description of destruction to the entire world. Creation itself is reversed and the scope is like that of the floodThe flood refers to the catastrophic deluge in Genesis. In the biblical account Noah, his family, and selected beasts survive the flood in an ark; thereafter they received a rainbow in the sky as a sign of God's promise. Many other cultures also have flood... More in Noah’s day (1:2-3, 18b). The broad scope of the upheaval can be set against the disintegration of the Assyrian empire from 626 (successful rebellion in Babylon) to 612 B.C.E. (the fallThe fall refers specifically to the disobedience of Adam and Eve when they listened to Satan rather than adhering to God's command not to eat the fruit from the tree. When people act contrary to God's will, they are said to fall from from grace... More of Nineveh). Zephaniah, like AmosProphet to the northern kingdom who condemned Israel's oppression of the poor, calling for justice to "roll down like waters." More 1-2 (in the case of Israel, the northern kingdomThe Northern Kingdom consisted of ten of the twelve tribes of Israel and lasted for 200 years until it was destroyed by Assyria in 721 B.C.E. In the northern kingdom the kings were evil. Prophets like Elijah and Amos railed against them and their evildoing. More), would then be moving from judgment against others-which would be thought to advantage Judah, the southern kingdom-to judgment against Judah itself. An alternate reading would be to understand the destruction from the inside out. The scope of the judgment against Judah and Jerusalem, Zephaniah’s own place of residence, is so thorough that it is, in effect, the collapse of the world. There is no place in the world to go to escape. The move against Judah and Jerusalem has global ramifications. It is not surprising, then, to find oracles against the nations in chapter 2 or to find that the nations have some role in the transformation described at the end of chapter 3. The events in Judah and Jerusalem have implications, both negative and positive, for the whole world.