Submitted by admin on Mon, 2014-01-06 12:57.

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For about six decades before Zephaniah began his service as YHWH’s prophet, the majority of the Israelites in the kingdom of Judah engaged in abominable idolatrous practices and in other ways made themselves guilty of seriously transgressing God’s commands. Especially during the reign of Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh and on account of his corrupt influence, the people generally acted worse than the Canaanites. (2 Kings 21:2-16) Manasseh’s successor, his son Amon, persisted in following a God-dishonoring course. After the assassination of Amon, the eight-year-old son Josiah became king. (2 Kings 21:19-24; 22:1)

During Josiah’s reign, Zephaniah started to proclaim the messages that had been divinely revealed to him. Josiah, at the age of 15 or 16 in the eighth year of his reign, began earnestly seeking to do God’s will and about four years later set out to destroy appendages of idolatry in the capital city Jerusalem and throughout his entire realm. (2 Chronicles 34:3-7) The campaign to root out idolatry continued in the eighteenth year of his rule. (2 Kings 23:1-14; 2 Chronicles 34:8, 29-33) Therefore, it may rightly be concluded that Zephaniah commenced prophesying early during Josiah’s reign or at a time idolatry continued to be openly practiced in the kingdom of Judah. (Zephaniah 1:4, 5)

Although not specifically stated in the biblical account, Zephaniah’s prophesying and that of Jeremiah who was called to be a prophet in the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign must have encouraged the young king to prove himself to be a devoted servant of YHWH. (Jeremiah 1:1, 2) Zephaniah’s ancestry is traced back to Hezekiah, doubtless the most illustrious member in the genealogical line. (Zephaniah 1:1) This suggests that Zephaniah may well have been a descendant of King Hezekiah and, as such, may have had ready access to Josiah and, therefore, would also have been familiar with the sins of members of the royal household. (Zephaniah 1:8)