For other reasons, see my recently published commentary in the Hermeneia series, Zephaniah: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003).


See Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, “How Hosea Transformed the Lord of the Realm into a Temperamental Spouse,” BR, February 2004.



That it is thought to be typical is also a common scholarly error. I do not believe this tripartite pattern is to be found in the other major prophetic books. But that is too large a topic to be treated here. See my recently published Zephaniah: A Commentary, ed. Paul Hanson, Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003).


See Antony F. Campbell and Mark A. O’Brien, Sources of the Pentateuch: Texts, Introductions, Annotations (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), pp. 95–96.


This interpretation is underscored by Zephaniah’s inclusion in his list of those who will be destroyed by God, “those who cause the wicked to stumble” (and not simply “the wicked” as the NRSV, quoted here, has it).

The text is a difficult one. The Hebrew word wehamakshelot, “and those who cause (the wicked) to stumble,” is formulated as a feminine participle. The feminine formulation is not well understood; perhaps the prophet condemns a class of women, for example, cultic prostitutes, who have played some role in the matter. Because of the difficulties with the term, many interpreters have sought to emend the text to something that appears to make more sense in the context, for example, “and I will make the wicked stumble,” or the like (so NRSV).

The Greek Septuagint and the Old Latin text of Zephaniah 1:3 simply eliminate the phrase altogether. Many scholars therefore conclude that the phrase is a gloss that was only introduced into the text at a much later time. Such a decision would therefore eliminate the focus on the wicked in this passage and leave it as a general portrayal of the destruction of creation. This of course lends itself easily to an eschatological scenario that calls for the end of all creation.

But the phrase does appear in the Syriac Peshitta, the Aramaic Targum and the Latin Vulgate. The Peshitta and the Vulgate are particularly noteworthy since both are dependent in part on the Septuagint. Also there is plenty of room to include this passage in a lacuna of the Naḥal Hever Greek manuscript of the Twelve Prophets found in the Judean Desert.

Based upon the readings of these manuscripts, we must conclude that the phrase is in fact original to Zephaniah and that it expresses not an eschatological scenario of the end of creation, but a typical use of mythological language concerning the state of creation to focus the prophet’s concerns with those very real human parties who are to be condemned.


See especially Seymour Gitin, “Ekron of the Philistines, Part II: Olive-Oil Suppliers to the World,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1990, pp. 32–42, 59.


While Zephaniah 3:1–8 condemns Jerusalem, this is actually a continuation of the condemnation of Assyria that focuses on its capital, Nineveh.


For discussion of the marriage metaphor in prophetic literature, see now Gerlinde Baumann, Love and Violence: Marriage as Metaphor for the Relationship Between YHWH and Israel in the Prophetic Books (Collegeville: Liturgical, 2003).


See Pierre Benoit, Jozef T. Milik, and Roland de Vaux, Les Grottes de Murabb’at, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 2 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961).


For treatment of this passage, see Tammi J. Schneider, Judges, Berit Olam (Collegeville: Liturgical, 2000), p. 211.


See Yitzchak Sefati, Love Songs in Sumerian Literature, Bar Ilan Studies in Near Eastern Language and Culture (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan Univ. Press, 1998), pp. 90–92, 232. I am indebted to Dr. Wayne Horowitz, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for references to the Sumerian Love Songs and the Harab myth noted.


Text from Sefati, Love Songs, Dumuzi-Inanna Song/Tablet P, side ii, lines 22–28.


Text from Sefati, Love Songs, Dumuzi-Inanna Song/Tablet P, side ii, lines 29–30.


See Thorkild Jacobsen, The Harab Myth, Sources from the Ancient Near East 2:101 (Malibu: Undena, 1984) p. 7; see also Wayne Horowitz, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1998), pp. 145–146.