Zephaniah 3:4
Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
3:1-7 The holy God hates sin most in those nearest to him. A sinful state is, and will be, a woful state. Yet they had the tokens of God's presence, and all the advantages of knowing his will, with the strongest reasons to do it; still they persisted in disobedience. Alas, that men often are more active in doing wickedness than believers are in doing good.Her prophets are light - , boiling and bubbling, up, like water boiling over , empty boasters claiming the gift of prophecy, which they have not; "boldly and rashly pouring out what they willed as they willed;" promising good things which shall not be. So they are "her" prophets, to whom they "prophesy smooth things" (see Micah 2:11), "the prophets of this people" not the prophets of God; "treacherous persons" (literally, men of treacheries) wholly given to manifold treacheries against God in whose Name they spake and to the people whom they deceived. Jerome: "They spake as if from the mouth of the Lord and uttered everything against the Lord." "The leaders of the people," those who profess to lead it aright, Isaiah says, "are its misleaders" (Isaiah 9:15 (Isaiah 9:16 in English)). "Thy prophets," Jeremiah says, "have seen vain and foolish things for thee; they have seen for thee false visions and causes of banishment" Lamentations 2:14.

Her priests have polluted her sanctuary - Literally, "holiness," and so holy rites, persons Ezra 8:28, things, places (as the sanctuary), sacrifices. All these they polluted, being themselves polluted; they polluted first themselves, then the holy things which they handled, handling them as they ought not; carelessly and irreverently, not as ordained by God; turning them to their own use and self-indulgence, instead of the glory of God; then they polluted them in the eyes of the people, "making them to abhor the offering of the Lord" 1 Samuel 2:17, since, living scandalously, they themselves regarded the Ministry entrusted to them by God so lightly. Their office was to "put difference between holy and unholy and between clean and unclean, and to teach the children all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by Moses" Leviticus 10:10-11; that they "should sanctify themselves and be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy" (Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:2, etc.). But they on the contrary, God says by Ezekiel, "have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no difference between holy and profane, and have taught none between clean and unclean" Ezekiel 22:26. "Holy" and "unholy" being the contradictory of each other, these changed what God had hallowed into its exact contrary. It was not a mere short-coming, but an annihilation (so to speak), of God's purposes.

Cyril: "The priests of the Church then must keep strict watch, not to profane holy things. There is not one mode only of profaning them, but many and divers. For priests ought to be purified both in soul and body, and to cast aside every form of abominable pleasure. Rather should they be resplendent with zeal in well-doing, remembering what Paul saith, 'walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh' Galatians 5:16."

They have oppressed, done violence, to the law - Openly violating it ; or straining it, or secretly wresting and using its forms to wrong and violence, as in the case of Naboth and of Him, of whom Naboth thus far bore the Image. "'We have a law, and by our law He ought to die' John 19:7. Law exists to restrain human violence; these reversed God's ordinances; violence and law changed places: first, they did violence to the majesty of the law, which was the very voice of God, and then, through profaning it, did violence to man. Forerunners herein of those, who, when Christ came, "transgressed the commandment of God, and made it of none effect by their traditions" Matthew 15:6; omitting also the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy and faith; full of extortion and excess!" Matthew 23:23, Matthew 23:25.

4. light—in whose life and teaching there is no truth, gravity, or steadiness.

treacherous—false to Jehovah, whose prophets they profess to be (Jer 23:32; Eze 22:28).

polluted … sanctuary—by their profane deeds.

Her prophets; by education, profession, and unwarranted practice called so, false prophets; such Zedekiah, and probably Chenaanah, &c., were. Are light; unstable and inconstant, ready to comply with humours which they should have reproved, 1 Kings 22:13.

Treacherous persons; men of treacheries, whatever pleasing temper they seem to be of, yet still they design treachery; the Hebrew seems to run it higher, treacheries in the abstract.

Her priests, of the house of Levi, of the stock of Aaron,

have polluted the sanctuary; bound by office to keep holy the sanctuary, have defiled it, and all that is holy.

Have done violence to the law; wresting it by perverse interpretation to what sense best serveth a corrupt mind. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons,.... The false prophets, as the Targum and Kimchi explain it: these seem to design the lawyers spoken of in the New Testament, whose business it was to interpret the law to the people; these were "light" men, good for nothing, of no worth and value; light in knowledge, as Kimchi gives the sense of the word; men of no brains; empty headed men, that had no substantial knowledge; giddy, unstable, and inconstant, and compliant with the humours and vices of the people; men of no gravity in their countenance, speech, and conversation. Schultens (a), from the use of the word in the Arabic language, renders it "proud", as these men were, proud boasters; for, though they had but a superficial knowledge of things, they boasted of much, and carried it with a haughty and insolent air to the common people: and they were "treacherous" to God, and to his truths, and to the souls of men, and took away the key of knowledge from them; and particularly were so to Christ, of whom they were the betrayers and murderers, delivering him up into the hands of the Gentiles to be scourged and crucified, Matthew 20:18,

her priests have polluted the sanctuary; the temple; by selling, or suffering to be sold in it, various things, whereby it became a den of thieves, which once was called a house of prayer, Matthew 21:12 and also our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the sanctuary or temple was a type, by denying, blaspheming, and reproaching him, and by shedding his blood:

they have done violence to the law; by not teaching it as they should; and by their false glosses, senses, and interpretations of it; and by the traditions of the elders they preferred unto it, and whereby they made it void; see Matthew 5:1 and Matthew 15:1.

(a) Animadv. Philol. in Job, p. 144.

Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. Her prophets are light] Both the idea and the expression find a parallel in Jeremiah 23:32, “I am against them that prophesy false dreams, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness” (R.V. vain boasting); cf. Lamentations 2:14; Ezekiel 22:28. The figure expressed by “light” is that of the boiling over of water (Genesis 49:4; Jdg 9:4), and the word characterizes the prophets as vapourers, extravagant and arrogant in their own imaginations and conceits, their minds lacking the restraint of the word of God under which the true prophets spoke.

treacherous persons] lit. men of treacheries, or, perfidiousnesses. The precise sense is not clear. The verb to deal treacherously is often used of falsehood or perfidy toward God; Jeremiah 3:20, “as a wife dealeth treacherously against her husband so have ye dealt treacherously against me O house of Israel;” Hosea 6:7. The idea, however, that the prophets dealt unfaithfully with God in giving out the imaginations of their own heart as His word to men (Hitzig), is rather strained. In the ethical writings of the Old Testament, such as the Proverbs, “treacherous dealer” is often parallel to “wicked” (Proverbs 2:22; Proverbs 11:6; Proverbs 21:18; cf. Habakkuk 1:13), and means one who acts untruly or wrongfully in regard to moral law. Jeremiah frequently taxes the prophets of his day with immoral conduct (Jeremiah 23:14, Jeremiah 29:23).

have polluted the sanctuary] Rather: have profaned that which is holy. Ezekiel 22:26 offers a complete parallel: “Her priests have done violence to my law, and have profaned mine holy things; they have put no difference between the holy and profane, between the clean and the unclean.” The last words explain at least one way of doing “violence” or wrong to the law. Jeremiah 2:8 makes similar charges against the various official classes.Verse 4. - Her prophets. These are the false prophets, who have no true mission from God (comp. Micah 2:11; Micah 3:5). Light; either, frivolous or empty boasters. The word means properly, "boiling over," like water. Vulgate, vesani; Septuagint, πνευματοφόροι, which means, probably, not "inspired by an (evil) spirit," but "carried away by the wind," "light" (comp. Matthew 11:7). Treacherous persons; literally, men of treacheries, who uttered their own fancies as if they were commissioned by God, and so really opposed him whom they professed to represent (Jeremiah 23:32). Her priests have polluted the sanctuary (what is holy). Not the temple only, but all that has to do with God's service, worship, rites, sacrifices; they make no distinction between what is sacred and what is profane (Ezekiel 22:26). They have done violence to the Law. Chiefly, doubtless, by distorting its meaning, and neither observing it themselves nor teaching others to keep it. The confident expectation rises in Micah 7:11 ff. into an assurance of the promise; the words of the prophet in the name of the church rising into an address to Zion, confirm its hope by the promise of the restoration of Zion, and the entrance of crowds of people into the city of God. Micah 7:11. "A day to build thy walls (cometh); in that day will the ordinance be far away. Micah 7:12. In that day will they come to thee from Asshur and the cities of Egypt, and from Egypt to the river, and (to) sea from sea, and (from) mountain to mountain. Micah 7:13. And the earth will become a desert because of its inhabitants, for the fruit of their doings." Micah 7:11 consists of two clauses; for we may easily supply to yōm "is" or "will be" equals come. The daughter Zion is addressed (cf. Micah 4:8) not as a church, but as a city, as the centre and representative of the kingdom of God. As such, she is compared to a vineyard, as in Isaiah 5:1-7; Isaiah 27:2-4; Psalm 80:9-10. The word gâdēr, which is generally used for the hedge or wall around a vineyard, points to this (see Isaiah 5:5; Numbers 22:24; Ecclesiastes 10:8). יון ההוּא is an adverbial accusative; in that day will חק be far away. The meaning of this word is very difficult to find, and can hardly be settled with any certainty. The explanation of chōq, as signifying the law imposed upon Israel by the heathen oppressors (Chald., Hengstenberg, etc.), cannot be sustained, as this meaning cannot be established from Psalm 104:20, and is not suggested by the context. So, again, the explanation, "On that day will the goal set (for Israel), or the boundary fixed (for it), be a far distant one (i.e., then will the boundaries of the land of Israel lie in the far distance, or be advanced to the remotest distance:" Hitzig, Caspari, and others), introduces a meaning into the words which they do not possess. Even if chōq does denote a fixed point or a limit of either space or time, it never signifies the boundary of a nation; and râchaq, to be far off, is not equivalent to being advanced to a great distance. Chōq is apparently used here for the ordinance or limit which God has appointed to separate Israel from the nations; not a land-boundary, but the law of Israel's separation from the nations.

This law will be far away, i.e., will be removed or set aside (yirach is only chosen for the sake of the assonance with chōq), inasmuch as numerous crowds, as is added in Micah 7:12 by way of explanation, will then stream to Zion, or come to the people of God, out of all lands (cf. Micah 4:1-2). For this is what Micah 7:12 refers to, and not the return to Zion of the Israelites who have been scattered in the heathen lands. יבוא (impersonal), one comes, they come: not "return," ישׁוּב, which must have been the expression used if the return of the Israelites out of their captivity had been meant. The heathen who cherish a desire for the God of Zion and His law (Micah 4:2) will come to Israel; not to Israel as still living in their midst (Caspari), but to the Israel that has already returned, and whose walls have been rebuilt (Micah 7:11). The building of the walls of Zion involves the gathering together of the dispersed nation, or rather presupposes it. Heathen will come "from Asshur and the cities of Egypt," i.e., from the two mightiest empires in the time of the prophet. Mâtsōr, the poetical name of Egypt, as in Isaiah 19:6; Isaiah 37:25; and "cities of Egypt," because that land or kingdom was especially rich in cities. The further definitions individualize the idea of the totality of the lands and provinces, the correlative members being transposed and incomplete in the last two sentences, so that the preposition עד must be supplied to וים, and the preposition מן to ההר. From Egypt to the river (Euphrates) includes the lands lying between these two terminal points; and in the expressions, "sea from sea, and mountain to mountain," seas and mountains are mentioned in the most general manner, as the boundaries of lands and nations; so that we have not to think of any particular seas and mountains, say the Western (or Mediterranean) Sea, and the Eastern (the Dead or the Galilean) Sea, as being the western and eastern boundaries of Palestine, and of Lebanon and Sinai as the northern and southern boundaries, but must adhere firmly to the general character of the expression: "from one sea and one mountain to another sea and mountain," i.e., from every land situated between seas and mountains, that is to say, from all the lands and provinces of the earth. The coming out of all lands is not to be understood as denoting simply passing visits to Canaan or Zion, but as coming to connect themselves with the people of God, to be received into fellowship with them. There is a parallel to this promise in the promise contained in Isaiah 19:18-25, that in the Messianic times Egypt and Asshur will turn to Jehovah. This takes place because the earth will become a desert, on account of the evil deeds of its inhabitants. Whilst Zion is rebuilt, and the people of God are multiplied, by the addition of the godly Gentiles out of all the countries of the earth, the judgment falls upon the sinful world. This statement of Micah 7:13 is simply attached to what precedes it by והיתה, in order to complete the promise of the restoration of Zion, by adding the fate which will befal the earth (i.e., the earth outside Canaan); but it actually contains the motive for the coming of the crowds to Zion. הארץ cannot be the land of Israel (Canaan) here, in support of which appeal has been made to Leviticus 26:33 and Isaiah 1:7; for the context neither leads to any such limitation as that הארץ could be taken in the sense of ארצכן (in Leviticus and Isaiah), nor allows of our thinking of the devastation of Canaan. When the day shall have come for the building of the walls of Zion, the land of Israel will not become a desert then; but, on the contrary, the devastation will cease. If the devastation of Canaan were intended here, we should have either to take והיתה as a pluperfect, in violation of the rules of the language, or arbitrarily to interpolate "previously," as Hitzig proposes. על ישׁביה is defined more precisely by מפּרי מעלליהם. The doings are of course evil ones, and the deeds themselves are the fruit (cf. Isaiah 3:10).

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