Tsephanyah - Tsephanyah - Zephaniah Chapter 3

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Tsephanyah - Zephaniah


Chapter Three -

With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

“A prayer of Dovid – David - … Teach me, Thy way,  that I may walk in Thy truth; unite my heart to fear Thy Name. I will praise Thee, O  my Elohim, with all my heart: and I will glorify Thy Name for evermore” Tehillim - Psalms 86:1 & 11-12 (JPS).

I believe this is where we really should be at as Torah keeping Jews, thus let us ask the question, do we really measure up to this beautiful exclamation by King Dovid? We need to remember that our beloved Creator, blessed be He, sees all, knows all our thoughts, thus we simply cannot hide in any shape or form, thus at Yom Kippur we should pour out our hearts  and repent of all our wrong doings. But should we really just wait until that one day a year, I feel it should be done the very minute we know we have wronged, for He has already seen it! The sad truth is that the world is in turmoil, and surely none of us could say otherwise, for being very honest things have never been worse in a general tense as I will sadly must describe.

I am beginning with a rather sad thought, for the tragic truth is if we take a really good look at today’s world we will realise that the vast majority of this world is in a severe crisis! The truth is that the world in general has become a most sinful, if not a very evil world. All we have to do is just look at the news and we know what we will hear and see, for it will cover all the worst that is happening in our city, country and throughout the globe, for evil seems to be the way of life for so many and it is not just adults but now it is also the very young ones who are driving cars like idiots, and killing their own friends, robbing as well as murdering people.

WE should ask ourselves, “What is the real problem with human nature today”. The sad truth people these days are filled with the - I - Me, and Myself. They have become individuals that are filled with kind inclinations of the self, lust and need of self-gratification and somehow they do not care if they have to hurt others, and even if they have to kill. We need to realise beloved evil has in general become a deity of the earth and that is why sin rules the globe, and that is why we see murders on a daily basis, and what is so sad as I have already said, so many who do the killing are also among the younger generation these days. I am sure most of us are aware that there seems to be an epidemic of rape, and wife abuse these days and sadly I know for a fact that it is happening right in our very own Jewish community! The most horrid and wicked things are occurring these days at a speed so fast that the law simply cannot keep up with it!

I am so sorry that I am painting such a shocking, but sadly a very truthful picture of this world, but what is so sad, what I am telling you what I have been saying also includes ‘Eretz Yisrael’! And that is one of the great tragedies, for what should Yisrael really be according to the Torah? - “A Holy Nation”, but tragically Yisrael is so far from being that, for sadly it is no more than a badly run ‘secular state’ and it is very far from the land we read about in prophecy, and certainly not the restored land which was spoken of in the Tanakh, for it has turned the wrong way in many more ways than one!

“… ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” Shemot - Exodus 19:6 (Jewish Publication Society - JPS version of the Torah).

As I said, sadly, Yisrael is just like any other secular nation, where these days anything seems to be legal and everything is tolerated. Yisrael is considered to be one of the most liberal states in the world, for same-sex sexual activity was legalized way back in 1988. Same sex marriages has long been legalised and they can even adopt babies.

So, if we love our Elohim, blessed be He, how would He see this, and do you think He would bless the land, or would He prefer to destroy it? Well punishment will come for all those who will not repent, but the day must come when not just Eretz Yisrael and its people will have to change their ways and they will have to … “Return unto Me”.

“From the days of your fathers ye have turned aside from Mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, saith  of hosts” Malochi - Malachi 3:7 (JPS version of the Tanakh).

“Yisrael’s Passing Crisis”

Considering the above sad situation of what is going on in the world and Yisrael, we are now going to look at a study I have entitled “Yisrael’s Passing Crisis,” which is based on what Tsephanyah has given us in this third chapter of his sefer.

But I would like to commence at the beginning, for unlike most other prophets, Tsephanyah provided us with a great detail of his mishpocha’s (family’s) background. In fact, in the first verse of the book, he provided details of his families four generations.

The Book of Tsephanyah commences with my favourite Ivrit words (Ha) “” - which translates as (The) Word (of) .”

“The word of  which came unto Tsephanyah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah” Tsephanyah - Zephaniah 1:1 (JPS version of the Tanakh).

The name Tsephanyah has a wonderful meaning for it means; “ has treasured,” or “ protects.” It was a well-chosen name for that time. There is no doubt that this prophet may not rival some of the great prophets like Yeshayahu - Isaiah in sublimity, nor did he match the eloquence and imaginative powers of Hoshea - Hosea, yet he was a prophet who yielded to no one as we will soon see by the impressive and forceful manner in which he delivers Elohim’s Word blessed be He, combined with a powerful warning. A warning, that speaks of a cloud of retribution that would soon burst a deluge of fire and blood. His style alternates between stern denunciation and then one of soothing comfort. The vigour and clarity of his diction compensate for what Tsephanyah may lack in charm and deep insight into human nature.

Sadly, Tsephanyah faced what was at large a corrupt and sadly a nation, the nation of Yehuda - Judah, who did not worship our beloved Elohim, the very people who are identified by Elohim as “My people” and we need to remember that this is a title the people of Israel never sought. However, at that time the majority of Yehuda continued to live in sin, thus the Almighty had to act on His Word, for  Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is not a respecter of persons, be they chosen or not. Thus, Elohim must and will punish the children of disobedience, according to His Word!

It would be the “Day of .” Tsephanyah at all times rightly sought to inspire fear of that coming day into the hearts of his hearers and constantly appeals for true repentance,” in Hebrew the word is “Te’Shuva,” which means to “Return” to Elohim, in order for them to be redeemed, restored and be made whole once again!

Tsephanyah points out that through this judgement, mercy will come to those whom Elohim truly intends to deliver. Those with genuine Te’Shuva - Repentant Hearts, will sing praises unto the just and loving Elohim, the Elohim of Avraham, Yitzchak - Isaac and Ya’akov - Jacob, who dwells in their midst. Elohim, blessed be He, at ALL times has a redemptive plan for His people. Even as His people were taken captive and suffered persecution in Assyria, Medo-Persia as well as during the past 2,000 or so years, His redemptive plan was, and is always in operation.

The redemptive plan proves that the dispersion and persecution of Israel is, a “Passing Crisis,” for the time will come that Israel will once again … “shall take refuge in the Name of ” Tsephanyah 3:12 (JPS).

Now let us take a closer look at chapter three of Tsephanyah, as it contains some very powerful teaching on the subject of Israel’s crisis. As we study the teaching, we will realise that this chapter is divided into three distinct divisions.

1.      Judgement of the Corrupt City - Verses 1 to 8.

2.      Promised Blessings in Salvation – verses 9 to 13.

3.      That Salvation demands Praise and Worship – verses 14 to 20.

Let us now read and consider Tsephanyah chapter 3, verses 1 to 8 of chapter 3 (JPS).

Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!  She hearkened not to the voice, she received not correction; she trusted not in , she drew not near to her Elohim. Her princes in the midst of her are roaring lions; her judges are wolves of the desert, they leave not a bone for the morrow. Her prophets are wanton and treacherous persons; her priests have profaned that which is holy, they have done violence to the law.  who is righteous is in the midst of her, He will not do unrighteousness; every morning doth He bring His right to light, it faileth not; but the unrighteous knoweth no shame. I have cut off nations, their corners are desolate; I have made their streets waste, so that none passeth by; their cities are destroyed, so that there is no man, so that there is no inhabitant. I said: 'Surely thou wilt fear Me, thou wilt receive correction; so her dwelling shall not be cut off, despite all that I have visited upon her'; but they betimes corrupted all their doings. Therefore wait ye for Me, saith , until the day that I rise up to the prey; for My determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them Mine indignation, even all My fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy” Tsephanyah 3:1-8 (JPS).

As we can obviously see there is so much teaching in here, especially in verse 1. This verse contains three very powerful words that have very special meanings. Sadly, we do not generally are taught this kind of in shul, although I did give this study way back in the early 198o’s and I have been asked to repeat it on various occasions, especially in and around Europe but it is not a message I would share on a Shabbat of course, simply not suitable! But I pray that by placing it online it can be shared with one and all!

Let us commence with the Hebrew word for “filthy” which is  - “Morah” which is also translated as “rebellious.” What Tsephanyah was saying is this …

“B’nei Yisrael were rebellious against  Elohim and are behaving in a vile and an abhorrent manner.” (Paraphrased).

Next comes the word “polluted” that in Hebrew is  Ga’al” that also means, “defiled” or “stained.” This same word is found in Yeshayahu - Isaiah chapter 59 Verse 3. For your hands are defiled (Ga’al) with blood.”

Thus we have read that Yehuda - Judah was “filthy” in rebellion and “polluted” or “defiled”, with their “hands stained with blood”. The truth is that Elohim’s chosen people at large had once again turned their backs on their Creator and were guilty of making sacrifices to pagan deities. Poor Jerusalem, the City of Peace in Tsephanyah’s day’s was now sadly called …  - “the oppressing city.” 

Now, I would like to provide some very special teachings which you will generally not have ever heard.

It is related to that word  - Ga’al, which we have we know means “defiled” or “polluted,” however this word has another meaning in Ivrit.

In Shemos - Exodus chapter 6, the word  - “Ga’al” is also used, however in this chapter it is translated in a completely different way for there it is “deliver” see the “Stone Edition and the JPS Version.

“I am , and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will  deliver you from their bondage” Shemos - Exodus chapter 6: 6 (JPS).

In fact it is that in this chapter that the word “Ga’al” appears for the very first time in the Word of Elohim. Thus, we may ask, why then is “Ga’al not translated in Tsephanyah” as “delivered” or “redeemed” but rather as something completely opposite such as “polluted or defiled.” The question is how can this be?

Let me now show you the connection, the fact is this to correctly understand the word redeemed, we have to realise that to be “redeemed,” we have to be “covered” or “surrounded” with a protective care. When the word “Ga’al” is used in the correct tense, we were redeemed with a total covering of protection of  Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, and we were indeed saved from the evil Egyptian’s and all the armies that desired our elimination whilst we were in the Wilderness. Elohim, blessed be He surrounded us with His love and care and kept us safe!

However, when this same word is used in the negative tense it represents a covering of evil. Thus, it is either a covering of good or a covering of evil as it is in Tsephanyah. Sadly, the Judeans who had gone astray living in Jerusalem tragically had their hands “polluted,” or “stained,” and “covered” in blood, said  Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, through His prophet Tsephanyah.

But now we come to the concluding word of verse 1, “the oppressing.” In Hebrew, it is “HaYonah.” This word is a rather strange one, for it also translates as “the Dove.”

Thus, in a sense we see Jerusalem, the city of Elohim likened to a senseless dove, or we could well say a pigeon really, flying aimlessly around in some thoughtless pursuit of its own desires or wickedness.

Wickedness and fleshly desires of its inhabitants turned Jerusalem into what was already described as an “oppressing city.” Judah, the people of Elohim should have known better for in their midst stood the mighty Temple of our Heavenly Creator who had rescued B’Nei Yisrael out of Egypt with great signs and wonders. In addition, all nations round-a-bout them tended to fear that great and a powerful building of the Mighty Elohim of the Hebrews, but sadly those same people of Yisrael had now gone astray from Elohim at large, who had saved us time and time again!

However, praise be to Elohim, even during times of great sin and evil, there were always a remnant that remained faithful, one being the faithful prophet, Tsephanyah. Thus, Elohim sent him to proclaim His Word and he did so without fear.

 Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, declared in verse 6 that He has “cut off nations” because of their horrendous sins, and that their “cities were made desolate, without inhabitants.” Now you would think that no stronger warning could have been given to Judah. Thus, then in verse 7 the Almighty says, “Surely you will fear Me, you will receive instruction.” - “Instruction” in Hebrew is “Mu’sar,” also means “rebuke” - “harsh correction” or “chastisement.”

The question is did the people heed to this powerful warning? Sadly, the answer is, Not in any way whatsoever, for Judah simply continued living in their sinful ways, and Elohim, blessed be He, according to His Word had to correct them as he had already stated in Vayikra - Leviticus 26 and Davarim - Deuteronomy 28. However, even when He speaks of punishment, there is always a redemptive element.

“And they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, in their treachery which they committed against Me, and also that they have walked contrary unto Me. I also will walk contrary unto them, and bring them into the land of their enemies; if then perchance their uncircumcised heart be humbled, and they then be paid the punishment of their iniquity; then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land … And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break My covenant with them; for I am  their Elohim. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their Elohim: I am the ” Vayikra - Leviticus 26:40-42, 44-45 (JPS).

Whilst Elohim must pour out His indignation, upon those that have turned away from Him, there is this promise, if Israel, or anyone for that matter, will only “return unto Him, He will return unto them.”

“For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of , to serve Him with one consent. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia shall they bring My suppliants, even the daughter of My dispersed, as Mine offering. In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against Me; for then I will take away out of the midst of thee thy proudly exulting ones, and thou shalt no more be haughty in My holy mountain. And I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall take refuge in the name of . The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” Tsephanyah 3:9-13 (JPS).

Verse 9 states, “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language.” “A pure language” is better translated as “a pure lip.” Human lips in that day will not be contaminated by the mention of idolatrous deities, instead Israel will once again mention and call upon the precious Name of  with one accord” for Elohim is not finished with B’Nei Yisrael!

“And so all Israel will be saved.” Beloved, this does not mean that every single Jewish person will be saved, no certainly not, but as the Word clearly states in Tsephanyah 3:13 - “She’e’rith Yisroel,” a “remnant of Israel.” Thus, the faithful of the House of Israel

“Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When Elohim turneth the captivity of His people, let Ya’aqov - Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad” Tehillim - Psalms 14:7 & 53:7 (JPS).

We now come to the last seven verses of this chapter and considering the state  Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, has found His people in, here we discover that He proves His never-ending love of His people. And even now, when His secular people are back in the state of Israel living a life much the same as was written in the Tsephanyah, Elohim is still in “the midst of them” sustaining both His people and His land.

“Sing, O daughter of Zion, shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy; The King of Israel, even , is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not fear evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: ‘Fear thou not; O Zion, let not thy hands be slack.  thy Elohim is in the midst of thee, a Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over thee with joy, He will be silent in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.’ I will gather them that are far from the appointed season, who are of thee, that hast borne the burden of reproach. Behold, at that time I will deal with all them that afflict thee; and I will save her that is lame, and gather her that was driven away; and I will make them to be a praise and a name, whose shame hath been in all the earth. At that time will I bring you in, and at that time will I gather you; for I will make you to be a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I turn your captivity before your eyes, saith Tsephanyah 3:14-20 (JPS).

We may ask ourselves, “Who really won the Six-Day War? Was it the mighty army of Israel? Or was it the mighty hand of Elohim?” Humanly speaking Israel was totally outnumbered and outgunned, thus they should have lost the battle and had all Israeli’s forced from the land and driven into the sea, as proclaimed by the Arab Nations at that time. But  Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, had already declared in His Word that;

“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn” Yeshayahu - Isaiah 54:17 (JPS).

Even though his people were not living within the way of the Torah, but Elohim is always in control of His land and allowed things to happen when it was right, and when the enemy was evil he would save B’Nei Yisrael! But as I made clear at the beginning, the current State of Israel is NOT the completed nor the intended nation of Israel of  Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, for it is a terribly sinful nation and sadly they are far removed from being Torah abiding. But the time will come that He will make the name of Yisrael, “for I will make you to be a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth” verse 20. However there is still much to happen before that!

It is my one prayer that we all get back to the one and only Torah, and it was written in the Five Books of Moshe, yes there are 613 Mitzvot given. Although not all are relevant to each and every one of us, because we are not all priests, farmers, also many mitzvot with specific duties are assigned for certain persons, etc. But there are all those which are far more general and we should uphold those, and NOT those FAKE rabbinic manmade ones! In fact they have almost destroyed the Torah of Elohim, for they are really part of an evil plot.

Like I have already indicated, the crisis is NOT over as yet. It is now our responsibility to share our faith, and read our weekly parashat with your loved ones and share it with whom-ever has an interest, and who knows you might even start a home group. You do not have to be a rabbi to read and to talk about our beloved Torah! But always say the Berachot before and after!

Before the Reading:

Ba’ra’chu  Et  HaSHEM  Ham’vo’rach.

Bless HaSHEM who is to blessed.

Baruch  HaSHEM  Ham’vo’rach  Le’olam  Va’ed

Blessed be HaSHEM, who is to be blessed forever and ever.

Ba’ruch  Ata  HaSHEM  Elo’hey’nu  Me’lech  Ha’olam  A’sher  Ba’char Ba’nu  Mi’kol  Ha’a’mim  Ve’na’tan  La’nu  Et  Tora’to. Baruch Ata HaSHEM No’ten  Ha’Torah.

Blessed are You, O HaSHEM our G-d, King of the universe, who has chosen us out of all the people and have given us your blessed Torah, and the Tanakh. Blessed are You HaSHEM, Giver of the Torah and Tanakh.

After the Reading:

Ba’ruch  Ata  HaSHEM  Elo’hey’nu  Me’lech  Ha’olam  A’sher  Na’tan  La’nu  Torat  E’met  Ve’chai’yeh  O’lam  Na’ta  Be’to’che’nu.  Baruch Ata HaSHEM No’ten  Ha’torah.

Blessed are You, O HaSHEM our G-d, King of the universe, who has given us Your Word of truth, and have planted everlasting life in our midst.

Blessed are You HaSHEM, Giver of the Torah and Tanakh.

Always remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page: “The More Torah, the More Life”, for  Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.


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