Zephaniah was a seventh century prophet who was active during the time of King Josiah of Judah (640-609 BCE). Scholars think this book is a collection of independent oracles. Recall that during Josiah’s reign the Assyrian Empire collapsed after a century of rule. Josiah instituted religious reforms part of which was the cessation of worship of Canaanite and Assyrian gods. 2 Kings 16-23 tell about this time in history.
You will notice as we read that Zephaniah accepts the existence of other gods. This reflects older polytheistic ideas, but the book also anticipates monotheism. Zephaniah believes that the God of Israel created heaven and earth and was in control of the nations.
The book has three main sections. Chapter 1-2:3 concerns the destruction of Jerusalem because of its religious syncretism. Chapter 2:4-14 contain oracles against other nations. Chapter 3 ultimately promises comfort and consolation.
An Outline of Zephaniah
I Superscription 1:1
II. 1:2-2:3 Judgment on Jerusalem
1. Reversal of Creation 1:2-6
2. The Day of Yahweh 1:7-18
3. Call to Repentance 2:1-3
III. 2:4-15 Oracles Against the Nations
1. Philistia 1:4-7
2. Moab and Ammon 2:8-10
3. Assyria and the Gods of the Nations 2:11-15
IV 3:1-20 Jerusalem’s Response
1. Yahweh’s Decision 3:1-13
2. Yahweh is King 3:14-20
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol 7, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 2001.
Hicks, R. Lansing, Walter Brueggemann, “Zephaniah” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Metzger,Bruce M.;Murphy,Roland E., eds. (New York:Oxford University Press) 1994.
O’Dell, Margaret S. “Zephaniah” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
O’Brien, Julia M. “Zpehaniah” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.