The prophet Zephaniah was not afraid to speak truth to those in power, which is especially remarkable, considering his royal pedigree. Other prophets had introduced themselves by identifying their fathers and perhaps even their grandfathers (for example, Zechariah 1:1).
Zephaniah, however, felt the need to trace four generations of ancestors in his introduction—and for good reason, too. Zephaniah’s reat-great-grandfather was Hezekiah, one of Judah’s most celebrated kings. Hezekiah was judged to be uniquely devoted to God. According to the writer of 2 Kings,
“There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him” (2 Kings 18:5).
It is no wonder that Zephaniah identified himself with Hezekiah—it was a powerful means of establishing his credibility.
It also connected him very closely to his audience. Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah, great-grandson of Hezekiah and the last good king of Judah.
In other words, Zephaniah and Josiah were relatives. This fact made Zephaniah’s prophecy against Judah and “the king’s sons” in particular even more daring ( Zephaniah 1:4–8).
Zephaniah described an imminent judgment, which he called the “day of the LORD” ( for example, Zephaniah 1:14). It was to be a day on which nothing could save the people of Judah—or “all who live in the earth,” for that matter ( Zephaniah 1:18).
But Zephaniah also spoke of hope—of a day when the people’s lips would be purified and they would once again call on God ( Zephaniah 3:9). By this time, Jerusalem’s fate had been sealed, but perhaps Zephaniah took heart at Josiah’s reforms and was able to foresee a day when God would once again take “great delight” in His people (Zephaniah 3:17).
Zephaniah’s name means either “the LORD has treasured” or “the LORD has hidden,” leading some scholars to suggest that Zephaniah may have been born during the reign of Hezekiah’s son Manasseh. Manasseh was said to have shed an unthinkable amount of innocent blood (2 Kings 21:16).