‘’God’s judgment begins in the house of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17), which explains why Zephaniah started with the people of Judah; but now he explains how the day of the Lord will affect the Gentile nations surrounding Judah. Though they were never given God’s law as were the Jews (Ps.147:19-20), the Gentiles are still responsible before God; for God has revealed Himself to them in creation and conscience (Rom.1:18ff.). Furthermore, these nations had not always treated the Jews kindly and now the time had arrived for God to judge them. The nations named may represent all the Gentiles, since these nations correspond to the four points of the compass: Assyria (north), Cush (south), Moab and Ammon (east), and Philistia (west). During the great day of the Lord, all the nations of the earth will taste the judgment of God.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (Old Testament), p.1484.
Wiersbe also says: ‘’…God’s promise to Abraham still stands: Those who bless Israel, God will bless; those who curse Israel, God will curse (Gen.12:1-3). The nations that have sinned against God by mistreating the Jews can expect Him to judge them.’’
Assyria comes last in the list in chapter 2. (Before the Assyrians, mention is made of the ‘’Cushites’’ in verse 12. They lived in the southern part of Egypt and Sudan. They ruled Egypt for many years, so it’s likely that the Egyptians were included in this judgment.)
The Assyrians are a prime example of pride going before a fall. If people set themselves up as if they were God (or gods) they will be brought down (15). Those who follow Jesus will want to copy His humble example. If you lift yourself up (as the Assyrians did) God will pull you down. But if you humble yourself, as Jesus did, God will lift you up. There is also a dangerous complacency that goes hand in hand with pride. The people of Nineveh thought their city was impregnable: ‘’This is the carefree city that lived in safety.’’
Until the rise of Babylon, the Assyrians were the superpower in the world. They were a ruthless people, infamous for their pride and terrible cruelty to enemies. You may recall that there was a remarkable ‘revival’ in Nineveh, following the preaching of Jonah. But then successive generations fell back into their old ways, and Nineveh was destroyed in 612 B.C. Within a few years the once mighty Assyrian empire disappeared from the face of the earth, and Zephaniah saw it coming.
‘’The ghost town of a city, the haunt of wild animals, Nineveh will become home to raccoons and coyotes – they’ll bed down in its ruins. Owls will hoot in the windows, ravens will croak in the doorways – all that fancy woodwork now a perch for birds. Can this be the famous Fun City that had it made, That boasted, ‘’I’m the Number-One City! I’m King of the Mountain!’’ So why is the place deserted, a lair for wild animals? Passersby hardly give it a look; they dismiss it with a gesture.’’ The Message.
There is no city in the world today that should not look and learn. Pride, arrogance, complacency, and persistence in sin still bring human greatness down to the ground.
Prayer: Lord God, I tremble at your Word and honour your Name. May all the peoples of the world turn to you while there is still time.