Erich Lessing

An Ammonite king. This small statue was excavated on the ancient citadel of Amman, Jordan. An inscription on the base identifies the figure as “Yahah-azar, son of Zakir, son of Shanib.” The grandfather, Shanib, is probably the Ammonite king “Sanipu” listed on an inscription of the Assyrian emperor Tiglath-pileser III (744–727 B.C.E.). The grandson may have reigned around the time of Josiah and Zephaniah, in the seventh century B.C.E.

The latter two chapters of Zephaniah’s brief book are filled with dire predictions about the Ammonites, Philistines, Moabites, Assyrians and Ethiopians. This section is generally described as a typical prophetic oracle against all the nations who will be gathered together at the end of time. But Zephaniah’s list is too brief to be comprehensive, and the few peoples mentioned are all particular enemies of Josiah. The region of Ammon, for example, had been under Israel’s control in the days of David and Solomon but was now a prosperous vassal of the Assyrian Empire. Thus, Zephaniah expresses hope that Ammon will now be “like Gomorrah … a waste forever” (Zephaniah 2:9).