Zephaniah 1:14
The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hastens greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
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Zephaniah 1:14-16. The great day of the Lord is near — The time of God’s executing his terrible judgments is nigh at hand. Even the voice, &c. —

The word even is not in the Hebrew. This latter part of the sentence may, it seems, be better rendered thus: The voice of the day of the Lord is bitter, and it vehemently resoundeth there. Or, Then the mighty man crieth out. The general sense is, that great noise, or distraction, should attend the taking of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. That day is a day of wrath, &c. — That time will be a time of executing wrath. A day of wasteness and desolation — Hebrew, שׁאה ומשׁואה, of tumult and devastation. A day of darkness and gloominess, &c. — Of perplexity, terror, and dismay. A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities — A day of attacking and taking fortified cities and strong holds, the attacks on which were used to be made by the sound of trumpets; and probably trumpets sounded all the time of the attack, as also when an entrance was gained into them.1:14-18 This warning of approaching destruction, is enough to make the sinners in Zion tremble; it refers to the great day of the Lord, the day in which he will show himself by taking vengeance on them. This day of the Lord is very near; it is a day of God's wrath, wrath to the utmost. It will be a day of trouble and distress to sinners. Let them not be laid asleep by the patience of God. What is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? And what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Let us flee from the wrath to come, and choose the good part that shall never be taken from us; then we shall be prepared for every event; nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.The great Day of the Lord is near - The prophet again expands the words of Joel, accumulating words expressive of the terrors of that Day, showing that though "the great and very terrible Day of the Lord" Joel 2:31, (Joel had said) "a day of darkness and gloominess, of clouds and of thick darkness" Joel 2:2, "which was then coming and nigh at hand" Joel 2:1, had come and was gone, it was only a forerunner of others; none of them final; but each, because it "was" a judgment and an instance of the justice of God, an earnest and forerunner of other judgments to the end. Again, "a great Day of the Lord was near." This Day had itself, so to speak, many hours and divisions of the day. But each hour tolleth the same knell of approaching doom. Each calamity in the miserable reigns of the sons of Josiah was one stroke in the passing-bell, until the de struction of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans, for the time closed it.

The judgment was complete. The completeness of that excision made it the more an image of every other like day until the final destruction of all which, although around or near to Christ, shall in the Great Day be found not to be His, but to have rejected Him. Jerome: "Truly was vengeance required, 'from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, whom they slew between the temple and the altar' Matthew 23:35, and at last when they said of the Son of God, "His blood be upon us and upon our children" Matthew 27:25, they experienced a bitter day, because they had provoked the Lord to bitterness; a Day, appointed by the Lord, in which not the weak only but the mighty shall be bowed down, and wrath shall come upon them to the end. For often before they endured the wrath of the Lord, but that wrath was not to the uttermost. What need now to describe how great calamities they endured in both captivities, and how they who rejected the light of the Lord, walked in darkness and thick darkness, and they who would not hear the trumpet of the solemn feast-days, heard the shout of the enemy.

But of the "fenced cities" and "lofty corner-towers" of Judaea, which are until now destroyed even to the ground, the eyes, I deem, can judge better than the ears. We especially, now living in that province, can see, can prove what is written. We scarcely discern slight traces of ruins of what once were great cities. At Shiloh, where was the tabernacle and ark of the testament of the Lord, scarcely the foundations of the altar are shown. Rama and Bethoron and the other noble cities built by Solomon, are shown to be little villages. Let us read Joseplius and the prophecy of Zephaniah; we shall see his history before our eyes. And this must be said not only of the captivity, but even to the present day. The treacherous farmers, having slain the servants, and, at last, the Son of God, are prevented from entering Jerusalem, except to wail, and they purchase at a price leave to weep the ruin of their city, so that they who once bought the Blood of Christ, buy their tears; not even their tears are costless.

You may see on the day that Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by the Romans, a people in mourning come, decrepit old women and old men, in aged and ragged wretchedness, showing in their bodies and in their guise the wrath of the Lord. The hapless crowd is gathered, and amid the gleaming of the Cross of Christ, and the radiant glory of His Resurrection, the standard also of the Cross shining from Mount Olivet, you may see the people, piteous but unpitied, bewail the ruins of their temple, tears still on their cheeks, their arms livid and their hair disheveled, and the soldier asketh a guerdon, that they may be allowed to weep longer. And doth any, when he seeth this, doubt of the "day of trouble and distress, the day of darkness and gloominess, the day of clouds and thick darkness, the day of the trumpet and alarm?" For they have also trumpets in their sorrow, and, according to the prophecy, the voice of "the solemn feast-day is turned into mourning." They wail over the ashes of the sanctuary and the altar destroyed, and over cities once fenced, and over the high towers of the temple, from which they once cast headlong James the brother of the Lord."

But referring the Day of the Lord to the end of the world or the close of the life of each, it too is near; near, the prophet adds to impress the more its nearness, for it is at hand to each; and when eternity shall come, all time shall seem like a moment, "A thousand years, when past, are like a watch in the night" Psalm 90:4; one fourth part of one night.

And hasteth greatly - For time whirls on more rapidly to each, year by year, and when God's judgments draw near, the tokens of them thicken, and troubles sweep one over the other, events jostle against each other. The voice of the day of the Lord. That Day, when it cometh, shall leave no one in doubt what it meaneth; it shall give no uncertain sound, but shall, trumpet-tongued, proclaim the holiness and justice of Almighty God; its voice shall be the Voice of Christ, which "all that are in the graves shall hear and come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation" John 5:28-29.

"The mighty men shall cry there bitterly, for "bitter is the remembrance of death to a man that liveth at rest in his possessions, unto the man that hath nothing to vex him, and that hath prosperity in all things" (Ecclesiasticus 41:1); and, "There is no mighty man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death; and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it" Ecclesiastes 8:8. Rather, wrath shall come upon "the kings" of the earth, "and the great men and the rich men and the mighty men, and" they shall will to "hide" themselves "from the Face of Him that sitteth on the Throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great Day of His wrath is come: and who shall be able to stand?" Revelation 6:15-17.

The mighty men shall cry there bitterly - The prophet has spoken of time, "the day of the Lord." He points out the more vividly the unseen sight and place, "there;" so David says, "There they feared a fear" Psalm 14:5. He sees the place; he hears the bitter cry. So near is it in fact; so close the connection of cause and effect, of sin and punishment. There shall be a great and bitter cry, when there shall be no place for repentance. It shall be a mighty cry, but mighty in the bitterness of its distress. "Mighty men shall be mightily tormented" (Wisd. 6:6), that is, those who have been mighty against God, weak against Satan, and shall have used their might in his service.

14. voice of … day of … Lord—that is, Jehovah ushering in that day with a roar of vengeance against the guilty (Jer 25:30; Am 1:2). They who will not now heed (Zep 1:12) His voice by His prophets, must heed it when uttered by the avenging foe.

mighty … shall cry … bitterly—in hopeless despair; the might on which Jerusalem now prides itself, shall then fail utterly.

The great day; not the day of general judgment, but the day in which the great God will bring his great armies against Judah and Jerusalem, and do great things by those armies.

Of the Lord; appointed, foretold, and now actually brought on them by the Lord.

It is near; very near; it is doubled to show the nearness of it, and to assure us it is so.

And hasteth greatly; your enemies’ eagerness for the prey, your sins and security, and the Lord’s justly provoked anger, hasten this day.

The voice; it is within hearing, the sound of it is in mine ears, methinks you might hear it also.

The mighty man, the valiant and stout-hearted among the Jews, they who should support others, shall be really to sink themselves, and as much need a cordial themselves.

Shall cry there bitterly; their courage broken, they shall cry out most vehemently, or like hopeless women. The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly,.... Not the day of judgment, but the day of God's vengeance upon the Jews, which yet bore some resemblance to that day of the Lord, and it may be therefore so called; as the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans had some likeness to it, and therefore the signs of the one and of the other are given together by our Lord in Matthew 24:1 and this was a day in which he would do great things, by the Chaldeans, and against the Jews; and this is represented as very "near"; and repeated again for the confirmation of it, and to arouse the thoughtless and careless about it, and who put away this evil day far from them; yea, it is said to make great haste, and to fly away swiftly, even faster than time usually does; though in common it has wings ascribed unto it:

even the voice of the day of the Lord; in which the Lord's voice will be heard; not his voice of grace and mercy, as in the day of salvation; but of wrath and vengeance, which will be terrible; hence it follows:

the mighty men shall cry there bitterly; not the voice of the mighty men besieging the city, making a hideous noise to animate the soldiers in making the assault, as some; but the mighty men within the city of Jerusalem besieged, who, when they see the city broken up, would be in the utmost terror, and cry bitterly, like women and children, being quite dismayed and dispirited; even the men of war upon the walls, and in the garrisons, with their officers and generals; and if this would be the case with them, how must it be thought to be with others, the weak and timorous?

The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: {k} the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.

(k) They that trusted in their own strength and condemned the Prophets of God.

14. The great day of the Lord is near] The day is called “great and terrible,” Joel 2:31; Malachi 4:5, and is always represented as near, Isaiah 13:6; Joel 2:1; Joel 2:11 (see notes on Zephaniah 1:7).

Even the voice of the day] Rather as an exclamation: hark! the day of the Lord! or, the sound of the day of the Lord!

shall cry there bitterly] lit. crieth out there—the scene being before the prophet’s view. It is not necessary to take there in a temporal sense, then, a meaning not quite certain even in Proverbs 8:27 (cf. Jdg 5:11; Hosea 10:9; Psalm 14:5; Psalm 66:6; Psalm 133:3). As to the idea expressed comp. Isaiah 13:7-8, “all hands shall be feeble and every heart of man shall melt; and they shall be dismayed.” Jeremiah 30:5-7. With “crieth out bitterly” cf. Isaiah 33:7, “the ambassadors of peace weep bitterly.”

14–18. The terrors of the Day of the Lord

The day of the Lord is described as a day of battle and assault upon the fenced cities, but also as a day of darkness and supernatural terrors. In Arabic the term “day” often means “battle-day,” as the “day of Bedr,” and this may have been its original application in Hebrew; cf. Isaiah 9:4, “in the day of Midian.” The day of the Lord is the day of His self-revelation to judge evil and bring His work of redemption among men to completion. On the one side His revelation of Himself fills men with terror and anguish, on the other side it is the cause of universal gladness, for the oppressions under which the world groaned come to an end and the reign of God begins: “The Lord is King! let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of the isles be glad … for he cometh to rule the earth; he shall rule the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity” (Psalm 97:1; Psalm 98:9). Sometimes the terrors of the day of the Lord are represented as due to His manifestation of Himself and the convulsions of nature that accompany His appearing, “when he arises to shake terribly the earth” (Isaiah 2:10-22); at other times, besides the supernatural gloom and terrors that surround Him when He appears, He is represented as using some terrible distant nation as the instrument by which He executes His judgment (Isaiah 13, and the present passage). The judgment of the day of the Lord is a judgment on the known world, on Israel and the historical nations lying within its horizon, and the nation that executes the judgment is some fierce and wild people emerging from the dark places of the earth lying beyond the confines of the known world. There is thus a certain inconsistency in the representation: though the judgment be universal the nation that executes it does not come within its scope.Verses 14-18. - § 5. To arouse the self-confident sinners, the prophet here enlarges upon the near approach and terrible nature of this coming judgment. Verse 14. - Having signified the victims of the judgment, Zephaniah recurs to what he had said in ver. 7, and enforces upon his hearers its near approach. The great day of the Lord (Joel 2:1, 11). Even the voice of the day of the Lord. The day is so close at hand, that the sound of its coming can be heard. Some translate, "Hark! the day of Jehovah." The mighty man shall cry (crieth) there bitterly. There, on the battlefield, the hero is panic-stricken, and cries out for fear. The Greek and Latin Versions connect "bitter" with the former clause. Thus the Vulgate, Vox dies Domini amara; Septuagint, Φωνὴ ἡμέρας Κυρίου πικρὰ καὶ σκληρὰ τέτακται, "The voice of the day of the Lord is made bitter and harsh." Micah 6:3-5 open the suit. Micah 6:3. "My people! what have I done unto thee, and with what have I wearied thee? Answer me. Micah 6:4. Yea, I have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, redeemed thee out of the slave-house, and sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Micah 6:5. My people! remember now what Balak the king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim to Gilga; that thou mayest discern the righteous acts of Jehovah." The Lord opens the contest with the question, what He has done to the nation, that it has become tired of Him. The question is founded upon the fact that Israel has fallen away from its God, or broken the covenant. This is not distinctly stated, indeed; but it is clearly implied in the expression הלאתיך, What have I done, that thou hast become weary of me? לאה, in the hiphil, to make a person weary, more particularly to weary the patience of a person, either by demands of too great severity (Isaiah 43:23), or by failing to perform one's promises (Jeremiah 2:31). ענה בי, answer against me, i.e., accuse me. God has done His people no harm, but has only conferred benefits upon them. Of these He mentions in Micah 6:4 the bringing up out of Egypt and the guidance through the Arabian desert, as being the greatest manifestations of divine grace, to which Israel owes its exaltation into a free and independent nation (cf. Amos 2:10 and Jeremiah 2:6). The kı̄ (for) may be explained from the unexpressed answer to the questions in Micah 6:3 : "Nothing that could cause dissatisfaction with me;" for I have done nothing but confer benefits upon thee. To set forth the leading up out of Egypt as such a benefit, it is described as redemption out of the house of bondage, after Exodus 20:2. Moreover, the Lord had given His people prophets, men entrusted with His counsels and enlightened by His Spirit, as leaders into the promised land: viz., Moses, with whom He talked mouth to mouth, as a friend to his friend (Numbers 12:8); and Aaron, who was not only able as high priest to ascertain the counsel and will of the Lord for the sake of the congregation, by means of the "light and right," but who also, along with Moses, represented the nation before God (Numbers 12:6; Numbers 14:5, Numbers 14:26; Numbers 16:20; Numbers 20:7 ff., and 29). Miriam, the sister of the two, is also mentioned along with them, inasmuch as she too was a prophetess (Exodus 15:20). In Micah 6:5 God also reminds them of the other great display of grace, viz., the frustration of the plan formed by the Moabitish king Balak to destroy Israel by means of the curses of Balaam (Numbers 22-24). יעץ refers to the plan which Balak concocted with the elders of Midian (Numbers 22:3 ff.); and ענה, Balaam's answering, to the sayings which this soothsayer was compelled by divine constraint to utter against his will, whereby, as Moses says in Deuteronomy 23:5-6, the Lord turned the intended curse into a blessing. The words "from Shittim (Israel's last place of encampment beyond Jordan, in the steppes of Moab; see at Numbers 22:1 and Numbers 25:1) to Gilgal" (the first place of encampment in the land of Canaan; see at Joshua 4:19-20, and Joshua 5:9) do not depend upon זכר־נא, adding a new feature to what has been mentioned already, in the sense of "think of all that took place from Shittim to Gilgal," in which case זכר־נא would have to be repeated in thought; but they are really attached to the clause וּמה עבה וגו, and indicate the result, or the confirmation of Balaam's answer. The period of Israel's journeying from Shittim to Gilgal embraces not only Balak's advice and Balaam's answer, by which the plan invented for the destruction of Israel was frustrated, but also the defeat of the Midianites, who attempted to destroy Israel by seducing it to idolatry, the miraculous crossing of the Jordan, the entrance into the promised land, and the circumcision at Gilgal, by which the generation that had grown up in the desert was received into the covenant with Jehovah, and the whole nation reinstated in its normal relation to its God. Through these acts the Lord had actually put to shame the counsel of Balak, and confirmed the fact that Balaam's answer was inspired by God.

(Note: With this view, which has already been suggested by Hengstenberg, the objections offered by Ewald, Hitzig, and others, to the genuineness of the words "from Shittim to Gilgal," the worthlessness of which has been demonstrated by Caspari, fall to the ground.)

By these divine acts Israel was to discern the tsidqōth Yehōvâh; i.e., not the mercies of Jehovah, for tsedâqâh does not mean mercy, but "the righteous acts of Jehovah," as in Judges 5:11 and 1 Samuel 12:7. This term is applied to those miraculous displays of divine omnipotence in and upon Israel, for the fulfilment of His counsel of salvation, which, as being emanations of the divine covenant faithfulness, attested the righteousness of Jehovah.

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