Zephaniah 3:9
For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call on the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.
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Zephaniah 3:9. For then — Or, afterward, as the particle אזseems to signify here, will I turn, or restore, to the people a pure language — I will turn them from their idolatries, and other wickedness, (see Zephaniah 3:13,) to glorify me with one mind and one mouth. The same thing is expressed by speaking the language of Canaan, Isaiah 19:18. This promise seems primarily to respect the Jewish captives in Babylon, and to imply that God would, by the captivity, and other methods of his providence, so reform them and wean them from their idolatries and other sins, that they should, upon their return to their own land, all join together to glorify him with one mind and one mouth, and serve him alone in sincerity and truth. And this was accordingly, in a great measure, accomplished. For they never after their restoration worshipped different gods, as they had done before; but all joined, as well those of the ten tribes that returned, as those of Judah and Benjamin, in the worship of Jehovah alone; nor did the nation in general ever afterward fall into gross idolatry. And it is not to be doubted that their morals in general were much more pure when they returned from Babylon, than at the time they were carried thither. It is, however, generally supposed by commentators, that the full accomplishment of this promise is reserved for the latter days, after the conversion of the Jews, and the coming in of the fulness of the Gentiles, when there shall be one Lord, and his name one, Zechariah 14:9. Accordingly the word rendered people in the first clause is in the plural, עמים, peoples, I will restore to the peoples a pure language: an expression which could hardly be intended of the Jews only, but seems evidently to include the Gentiles also. To serve him with one consent — Hebrew, with one shoulder; that is, unanimously, and with joint endeavours. The metaphor is taken from beasts drawing together in one yoke, or men setting their shoulders together to one burden.3:8-13 The preaching of the gospel is predicted, when vengeance would be executed on the Jewish nation. The purifying doctrines of the gospel, or the pure language of the grace of the Lord, would teach men to use the language of humility, repentance, and faith. Purity and piety in common conversation is good. The pure and happy state of the church in the latter days seems intended. The Lord will shut out boasting, and leave men nothing to glory in, save the Lord Jesus, as made of God to them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Humiliation for sin, and obligations to the Redeemer, will make true believers upright and sincere, whatever may be the case among mere professors.For then - In the order of God's mercies. The deliverance from Babylon was the forerunner of that of the Gospel, which was its object. The spread of the Gospel then is spoken of in the connection of God's Providence and plan, and time is overlooked. Its blessings are spoken of, as "then" given when the earnest was given, and the people, from whom according to the flesh Christ was to be born, were placed anew in the land where He was to be born. Lap.: "The prophet springs, as is his wont, to Christ and the time of the new law." And in Christ, the End of the Law, the prophet ends.

I will turn - Contrary to what they had before, "to the people," literally, "peoples," the nations of the earth, "a pure language," literally, "a purified lip." It is a real conversion, as was said of Saul at the beginning 1 Samuel 10:9; "God" (literally) "turned to him another heart." Before the dispersion of Babel the world was "of one lip," but that, impure, for it was in rebellion against God. Now it shall be again of "one lip;" and that, "purified." The purity is of faith and of life, "that they way call upon the Name of the Lord," not as heretofore on idols, but that every tongue should confess the one true God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, in Whose Name they are baptized. This is purity of faith. To "call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus" Acts 22:16; Romans 10:13 is the very title of Christian worship; "all that called upon the Name" of Jesus, the very title of Christians Acts 9:14, Acts 9:21; 1 Corinthians 1:2. "To serve Him with one consent," literally, "with one shoulder," evenly, steadfastly, "not unequally yoked," but all with united strength, bearing Christ's "easy yoke" and "one another's burdens, fulfilling the law of Christ." This is purity of life. The fruit of the lips is the "sacrifice of praise" Hebrews 13:15.

God gave back one pure language, when, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, the Author of purity, came down in fiery tongues upon the Apostles, teaching them and guiding them "into the whole truth" John 16:13, and to "speak to every one in his own tongue, wherein he was born, the wonderful works of God" Acts 2:8, Acts 2:11. Thenceforth there was to be a higher unity than that of outward language. For speech is not the outer sound, but the thoughts which it conveys and embodies. The inward thought is the soul of the words. The outward confusion of Babel was to hinder oneness in evil and a worse confusion. At Pentecost, the unity restored was oneness of soul and heart, wrought by One Spirit, whose gift is the one Faith and the one Hope of our calling, in the One Lord, in whom we are one, grafted into the one body, by our baptism Ephesians 4:3-6. The Church, then created, is the One Holy Universal Church diffused throughout all the world, everywhere with one rule of Faith, "the Faith once for all delivered unto the saints," confessing one God, the Trinity in Unity, and serving Him in the one law of the Gospel with one consent.

Christians, as Christians, speak the same language of Faith, and from all quarters of the world, one language of praise goes up to the One God and Father of all. : "God divided the tongues at Babel, lest, understanding one another, they should form a destructive unity. Through proud men tongues were divided; through humble Apostles tongues were gathered in one. The spirit of pride dispersed tongues; the Holy Spirit gathered tongues in one. For when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, they spake with the tongues of all, were understood by all; the dispersed tongues were gathered into one. So then, if they are yet angry and Gentiles, it is better for them to have their tongues divided. If they wish for one tongue, let them come to the Church, for in diversity of the tongues of the flesh, there is one tongue in the Faith of the heart." In whatever degree the oneness is impaired within the Church, while there is yet one faith of the creeds, He alone can restore it and 'turn to her a purified language,' who first gave it to those who waited for Him. Both praise and service are perfected above, where the Blessed, with one loud voice, 'shall cry, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the Throne and unto the Lamb; blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be unto our God forever and ever' Revelation 7:10, Revelation 7:12. And they who 'have come out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb," shall be 'before the Throne of God and serve Him day and night in His Temple' Revelation 7:14-15."

9. For—The blessed things promised in this and Zep 3:10 are the immediate results of the punishment inflicted on the nations, mentioned in Zep 3:8 (compare Zep 3:19).

turn to the people a pure language—that is, changing their impure language I will give to them again a pure language (literally, "lip"). Compare for this Hebrew idiom, 1Sa 10:9, Margin. The confusion of languages was of the penalty sin, probably idolatry at Babel (Ge 11:1-6, Margin, where also "lip" expresses language, and perhaps also religion; Zep 3:4, "a tower whose top may reach unto heaven," or rather, points to heaven, namely, dedicated to the heavens idolized, or Bel); certainly, of rebellion against God's will. An earnest of the removal of this penalty was the gift of tongues on Pentecost (Ac 2:6-13). The full restoration of the earth's unity of language and of worship is yet future, and is connected with the restoration of the Jews, to be followed by the conversion of the world. Compare Isa 19:18; Zec 14:9; Ro 15:6, "with one mind and one mouth glorify God." The Gentiles' lips have been rendered impure through being the instruments of calling on idols and dishonoring God (compare Ps 16:4; Ho 2:17). Whether Hebrew shall be the one universal language or not, the God of the Hebrews shall be the one only object of worship. Until the Holy Ghost purify the lips, we cannot rightly call upon God (Isa 6:5-7).

serve him with one consent—literally, "shoulder" or "back"; metaphor from a yoke, or burden, borne between two (Nu 13:23); helping one another with conjoint effort. If one of the two bearers of a burden, laid on both conjointly, give way, the burden must fall to the earth [Calvin]. Christ's rule is called a burden (Mt 11:30; Ac 15:28; Re 2:24; compare 2Co 6:14 for the same image).

For then, or, then,

afterwards, i.e. when my judgments have been executed, and have cut off the wicked,

will I turn to the people a pure language; I will give them a pure way of worshipping me, in prayer, praises, and the issue of a purified heart, Ezekiel 11:17-20 36:26.

Call upon the name of the Lord; perform all religions service, all religion being expressed thus by calling on the name of the Lord.

To serve him, the Lord their God, not idols, with one consent; with one heart, and according to his own law and will; with one

shoulder shall they bear the yoke of the law, alluding to porters that join shoulder to shoulder in carrying great burdens. For then will I turn to the people a pure language,.... That is, at or about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; when the Jews, both in their own land, and in the Gentile world, would have the Gospel first preached to them, but would reject it; upon which the apostles and first ministers of the word would turn to the Gentiles, as the Lord commanded them; when he would turn or change his speech and language towards them, and their speech and language towards him would be turned and changed also: for the words may be taken either way; either of God's speech to the Gentiles, which is his Gospel sent unto them; as it was quickly after Christ's resurrection from the dead, and the rejection of it by the Jews; for many hundred years the Lord took no notice of them; winked at the times of their ignorance; sent no prophet to them, nor any message by anyone to instruct them; yea, he spake roughly to them, in a providential way; in the way of his judgments; particularly they raging and imagining vain things against his Messiah, he spake to them in his wrath, and vexed them in his sore displeasure; see Acts 17:30 but now he alters the tone of his voice, changes his language, and sends his Gospel to them; which is a "language" of love, grace, and mercy; of peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation; encouraging souls to believe in Christ for those things: and this is a "pure" speech or language; a pure doctrine, fetched out of the sacred Scriptures; free from the dross of error; unmixed, consistent, and all of a piece; and which has a tendency to promote purity of heart, life, and conversation: or, is a "choice speech" (h); as some render it; it speaks of choice things, more valuable than gold and silver, pearls, and precious stones; the doctrines of it being an inestimable treasure, the unsearchable riches of Christ; and this, by the commission of Christ, upon his resurrection from the dead, was ordered to be spoke unto all nations, Matthew 28:19 or this may respect the different language spoken by the converted Gentiles, when the Gospel should come with power to them; who should speak, as all converted persons do, a different language than they spake before; instead of swearing and cursing, lying, filthy, and frothy speaking, now they speak the language of repentance towards God, confessing their sins, and praying for the pardon of them; the language of faith in Christ, first in a more weak and feeble manner, then with more strength and assurance, believing their interest in him, and in the everlasting love of God, and the covenant of grace; the language of love to Christ, his people, truths, and ordinances; a soul abasing, Christ exalting, and free grace magnifying language; the language of praise and gratitude for mercies received, temporal and spiritual; and especially for Christ, and grace and glory by him: they then speak the language of gracious experience to one another; and in the language of the Scriptures, in the taught words of the Holy Ghost; and, in common conversation, their language is pure, and free from that corruption and vitiosity it was before tainted with: this arises from pureness of heart; from a rich experience of the grace of God; from the teachings of the Spirit of God; and which betrays a man, and shows that he has been with Jesus; this is the language of Canaan, Isaiah 19:18,

that they may all call upon the name of the Lord; which sometimes takes in the whole worship and service of God; but, since that is later expressed, it rather intends, in particular, prayer to God; for which men are fitted and qualified, by having a pure language turned to them; or through the Gospel coming with power on them; and by virtue of efficacious grace converting them, and causing them to speak differently from what they did before; and then it is their voice is heard in prayer to God; and which is delightful and pleasant to him, Acts 9:11 and this is the case of "all" such that have this pure language; there is not a prayerless soul among them: it follows,

to serve him with one consent; or, "with one shoulder" (i); the allusion is, either to bearers of burdens, that join together in carrying any burden, who put shoulder to shoulder as they carry it; or else to oxen drawing in a yoke, who are yoked together shoulder by shoulder; hence the Septuagint version renders it "under one yoke": in which it is followed by the Syriac and Arabic versions. The phrase signifies, that the Gentiles having the Gospel brought to them, and they called by it, and all speaking the same language, should join in fellowship with one another, and sing the praises of God together; agree in prayer to ask of God the same things; stand fast in the faith of the Gospel, and strive for it, being of the same mind; meet constantly together to carry on the several branches of religious worship, and promote the Redeemer's interest; all drawing the same way, like a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots; having one heart, and one way given them to fear the Lord; and so, with one mind and one mouth, glorify God; so Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it with one heart and one mind. This passage is applied to the times of the Messiah by the Jews, ancient and modern (k).

(h) "labium electum", Pagninus, Drusius. (i) "humero uno", V. L. Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius. (k) Zohar in Gen. fol. 74. 1. Maimon. Hilchot Melachim, c. 11. sect. 5. Aben Ezra in Psal. cxlix. 7.

For {g} then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.

(g) Lest any should then think that God's glory should have perished when Judah was destroyed, he shows that he will proclaim his grace through all the world.

9. For then … people a pure language] the peoples a pure lip. The term lip often means “language” (Genesis 11:1), but here it seems rather to denote the organ of speech. Comp. Isaiah 6:5; Isaiah 6:7, “I am a man of unclean lips … lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity shall depart.” The construction is condensed, and the meaning is, then will I turn to the peoples their lip into a pure lip. Their lips were unclean either generally from their inward sinfulness or especially from their taking the names of their false gods upon them (Psalm 16:4; Hosea 2:19). With purified lips they shall fitly call upon the name of the Lord.

serve him with one consent] lit. with one shoulder, or, back. The Sept., under one yoke, probably rightly interprets the figure, which is that of animals labouring together with a single yoke laid over their shoulders in common. On the general sense comp. Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19-20.

9–13. The conversion of the nations and of Israel

Though Zephaniah 3:8 describes the universal judgment, it is closely connected with Zephaniah 3:9-13. The judgment is not an end in itself; the conversion of the nations follows upon the revelation of Jehovah in judgment (ch. Zephaniah 2:11; cf. Isaiah 66:18-19). Zephaniah 3:9-10 speak of the nations, Zephaniah 3:11-13 of Israel.Verses 9-20. - Part III. PROMISE OF THE CONVERSION OF THE WORLD AND THE HAPPINESS OF ISRAEL. Verses 9, 10. - § 1. The heathen shall be converted, and shall help in the restoration of Israel. Verse 9. - Will I turn to the people (peoples) a pure language (lip). When his judgments have done their work, God will bring the heathen to the knowledge of him. He will purify their lips, which have been polluted with the names of idols and the worship offered to false gods (Psalm 16:4; Hosea 2:17); the confusion of Babel shall be done away, and all shall speak the language of faith in one God. This, of course, points to Messianic times. For "pure lip," the Vulgate has, labium electum; the LXX., by a mistake of a letter (bhedurah for bherurah), γλῶσσαν εἰς γενεὰν αὐτῆς (so. γῆς), "a tongue for her generation." With one consent; literally, with one shoulder; ὑπὸ ζυγὸν ἕνα, "under one yoke" (Septuagint); humero uno (Vulgate). The metaphor implies that all will help to carry the same burden, and to accomplish the same work, bearing the gospel throughout the world, and being all of one mind in the service of Jehovah (Jeremiah 32:39; Isaiah 19:23, 24; Revelation 11:15). The promise of salvation impels the congregation to pray that it may be granted (Micah 7:14); whereupon the Lord assures it that His covenant mercies shall be renewed, and promises the thorough humiliation of the hostile nations of the world (Micah 7:15-17). Micah 7:14. "Feed thy people with thy staff, the sheep of thine inheritance, dwelling apart, in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of the olden time." The question in dispute among commentators, whether this prayer is addressed to the Lord by the prophet on behalf of the nation, or whether the prophet is still speaking in the name of the believing church, is decided in favour of the latter by the answer addressed to the church in Micah 7:15. The Lord is addressed as the shepherd of Israel, the title by which Jacob addressed Him in Genesis 49:24 (cf. Psalm 80:2; Psalm 23:1 ff.). The prayer is related to the promise in Micah 5:3 ff., viz., that the ruler coming forth out of Bethlehem will feed in the strength of Jehovah, and involves the prayer for the sending of this ruler. "With this staff," i.e., the shepherd's staff (cf. Leviticus 27:32; Psalm 23:4), is added pictorially; and as a support to the prayer, it designates the people as the sheep of Jehovah's inheritance. צאן נחלה, instead of עם נחלה, which occurs more frequently, is occasioned by the figure of the shepherd. As the sheep need the protection of the shepherd, lest they should perish, so Israel needs the guidance of its God, that it may not be destroyed by its foes. The following apposition שׁכני לבדד determines the manner of the feeding more precisely; so that we may resolve it into the clause, "so that thy people may dwell apart." The words contain an allusion to Numbers 23:9, where Balaam describes Israel as a people separated from the rest of the nations; and to Deuteronomy 33:28, where Moses congratulates it, because it dwells in safety and alone (bâdâd, separate), under the protection of its God, in a land full of corn, new wine, etc. The church asks for the fulfilment of this blessing from Jehovah its shepherd, that it may dwell separate from the nations of the world, so that they may not be able to do it any harm; and that "in the wood in the midst of Carmel," that promontory abounding in wood and pasture land (laetis pascuis abundat: Jerome on Amos 1:2). The wood is thought of here as shutting off the flock from the world without, withdrawing it from its sight, and affording it security; and the fact that dangerous wild beasts have their home in the forest (Jeremiah 5:6; Psalm 80:14) is overlooked here, because Israel is protected from them by its own shepherd. ירעוּ, which follows, is not future, but optative, corresponding to the imperative רעה. Gilead and Bashan are also named as portions of the land that were rich in pasture (cf. Numbers 32:1 ff.), namely, of the land to the east of the Jordan, Carmel belonging to the western portion of Canaan. These three portions individualize the whole of the territory which Israel received for its inheritance, and not merely the territory of the kingdom of the ten tribes. The simple reason why no districts in the kingdom of Judah are mentioned, is that Judah possessed no woody districts abounding in grass and pasture resembling those named. Moreover, the prayer refers to the whole of Israel, or rather to the remnant of the whole nation that has been rescued from the judgment, and which will form an undivided flock under the Messiah (cf. Micah 5:2; Isaiah 11:13; Ezekiel 37:15 ff.). ימי עולם, "the days of old," are the times of Moses and Joshua, when the Lord brought Israel with His mighty arm into the possession of the promised land. The Lord answers this prayer, by promising, according to His abundant goodness, more than the church has asked. Micah 7:15. "As in the days of thy going out of the land of Egypt will I cause it to see wonders. Micah 7:16. Nations will see it, and be ashamed of all their strength: they will lay the hand upon the mouth, their ears will become deaf. Micah 7:17. They will lick dust like the snake, like the reptiles of the earth they come trembling out of their castles: they will go trembling to Jehovah our God, and before thee will they fear." The wonders (niphlâ'ōth; cf. Exodus 3:20; Exodus 15:11; Psalm 78:11) with which the Lord formerly smote Egypt, to redeem His people out of the bondage of that kingdom of the world, will the Lord renew for His people. In צאתך the nation is addressed, whilst the suffix of the third pers. attached to אראנּוּ points back to עמּך in Micah 7:14. The miraculous deeds will make such an impression, that the heathen nations who see them will stand ashamed, dumb and deaf with alarm and horror. Ashamed of all their strength, i.e., because all their strength becomes impotence before the mighty acts of the Almighty God. Laying the hand upon the mouth is a gesture expressive of reverential silence from astonishment and admiration (cf. Judges 18:19; Job 21:5, etc.). Their ears shall become deaf "from the thunder of His mighty acts, Job 26:14, the qōl hâmōn of Isaiah 33:8" (Hitzig). With this description of the impression made by the wonderful works of God, the words of God pass imperceptibly into words of the prophet, who carries out the divine answer still further in an explanatory form, as we may see from Isaiah 33:17. The heathen will submit themselves to Jehovah in the humblest fear. This is stated in Micah 7:17. Licking the dust like the serpent contains an allusion to Genesis 3:14 (cf. Psalm 72:9 and Isaiah 49:23). זחלי ארץ, earth-creepers, i.e., snakes, recals the זחלי עפר of Deuteronomy 32:24. Like snakes, when they are driven out of their hiding-place, or when charmers make them come out of their holes, so will the nations come trembling out of their castles (misgerōth as in Psalm 18:46), and tremble to Jehovah, i.e., flee to Him with trembling, as alone able to grant help (see Hosea 3:5), and fear before thee. With ממּךּ the prayer passes into an address to Jehovah, to attach to this the praise of God with which he closes his book.
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