An Interpretation of the English Bible Vol. VIII THE PROPHETS OF THE CHALDEAN PERIOD by B.H. Carroll

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An Interpretation of the English Bible Vol. VIII





an interpretation of the english bible carroll 


























an interpretation of the english bible carroll



The prophet, Zephaniah, is the author, and he says that he was the great-great-grandson of a man named Hezekiah. He traces his genealogy back to the fourth generation, an unusual thing, for it was customary to give only the father’s name, but sometimes they gave the grandfather’s name. Here he styles himself, “The son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah,” and it is altogether probable that he means King Hezekiah who reigned during the time Isaiah prophesied. Thus Zephaniah belonged to the royal family of Israel; a great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah. Such being the case, Zephaniah’s home was in Jerusalem among the nobility and the princes of the city. He was therefore familiar with the life of the princes, their habits, their religion, all of their idolatrous customs, and the fact that he himself was a prince and thus knew the life of the princes royal of Jerusalem, accounts for some expressions which we find in his book.

an interpretation of the english bible carroll

The date of this book was somewhere between 630 and 622 B.C. during the reign of “Josiah the son of Ammon, king of Judah.” It was probably before the discovery of the book of the law in the Temple, its promulgation and enforcement by the hand of the king, and the great reformations instituted by Josiah as a result of finding the book of the law. In this book we find that there were a great many idolatrous customs in Jerusalem among the people, which would hardly be probable after the reformation, which took place in the reign of Josiah. Thus we place it sometime after 630 B.C. and before 621 B.C.

Zephaniah was a contemporary of Jeremiah who began his prophecies about 628 B.C., in the thirteenth year of the reign of King Josiah, and prophesied until about 525 B.C., covering altogether a period of about forty years. Zephaniah was only a young contemporary of Jeremiah, and engaged in preaching and instituting the great moral reforms under Josiah. But Zephaniah makes no reference to Jeremiah.

The occasion of his prophecy was that which gave rise to the prophecies of Jeremiah also, viz: The sins of the people of Jerusalem, their idolatry, their oppression, their commercial greed, and generally, their social and their religious iniquities. It is to rebuke them, to warn the people of the punishment, and to predict the day of Jehovah and the fall of the city and nation that Zephaniah gives his word of prophecy. This punishment comes in the Scythian invasion, that horde of people from the far north which in innumerable multitudes poured down through Central Western Asia, devastating everything they touched – Assyria, Babylonia, Syria, and the kingdoms north thereof, Northern Israel to some extent, and the Philistine plain to the borders of Egypt, where they were bought off by the king of Egypt. That fearful scourge broke over the country in the time of Zephaniah.

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The style of Zephaniah is good, and in some parts excellent. It is not equal to that of Nahum and much inferior to that of Isaiah. It resembles Isaiah in many respects, probably more than any other of the prophets, but he was not the equal of that superb, poetic, and literary genius. There are some words in the book of Zephaniah, say the Hebrew scholars, that are seldom used elsewhere, and some that are used nowhere else, which renders the interpretation difficult. Like Jeremiah, Zephaniah himself seems to put little confidence in the reforms instituted by King Josiah, knowing that those reforms were mainly external, imposed by the royal authority, and that the people’s hearts were not changed. Zephaniah seems to have thought that the reforms that had already been instituted by Josiah were ineffective. They did not touch the heart of the nation. Therefore, he made no mention whatever of them.

In the book of Zephaniah we have the fullest description, up to this time, of the day of Jehovah, that day which the people in Amos’ time were looking for and wished for, but which Amos said was the very opposite of all they expected. It was a day of doom for the nation. Zephaniah gives us a fuller description of it, and we have in his prophecy the merging of prophecy and apocalypse, for there are some passages in Zephaniah descriptive of the day of Jehovah that are almost apocalyptic, as Daniel and Zechariah in the Old Testament, and Revelation in the New Testament.

an interpretation of the english bible carroll

The following is an analysis of the book:

Introduction: Author and date (1:1).

 I. The punishment of Judah and Jerusalem (l:2to2:3).

1. The destruction universal (1:2-6).

2. Jehovah’s sacrifice (1:7-13).

3. The “day of Jehovah” described (1:14-18).

4. Warning and admonition (2:1-3).

II. The punishment of the nations (2:4-15).

1. Philistia doomed (2:4-7).

2. Moab and Ammon doomed (2:8-11).

3. Ethiopia and Assyria doomed (2:12-15).

III. The restoration of the remnant (2:1-20).

1. The incorrigible city (2:1-7).

2. Wrath against the nations (3:8).

3. Salvation of the remnant (3:9-13).

4. Joys of the restoration (3:14-20).

Zephaniah had a wide vision; he seemed to see all the world, and picture the doom that was to come upon all animate creation: “I will utterly consume all things from off the face of the ground, saith Jehovah. I will consume man and beast,” thus coming down to more details, according to the custom of Bible writers, – first, a general statement, then a detailed statement, “I will consume the fowls of heaven and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked. And I will cut off man from off the face of the ground, saith Jehovah.” This is a statement of judgment that is to come and affect all nature and mankind.

Now he comes down to further particulars: “I will stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” They shall be involved in this general universal catastrophe that is to come in the day of Jehovah. Then further particulars: “I will cut off the remnant of Baal,” that is, Baal worship shall be exterminated and even the remnants of it shall be destroyed, “and the name of the Chemarim with the priests.” The Chemarim were a class of priests, who served in a form of idolatry with certain gods. It is supposed by some, with some probability, that the word refers to the black robes which the priests wore in that service. The word “chemarim” comes from a word which means darkness. Our word “chimera” has a similar root.

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Then he goes on in verse 5: “And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops,” a form of star worship or sun worship, imported from Babylonia or Assyria, and was practiced by the people upon their housetops right in the city of Jerusalem. “Them that worship, that swear to the Lord and that swear by Malcam,” or, by their king, who, like the people that were imported into Samaria after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, served Jehovah and served their own gods also. They had a sort of mixed worship, combining the worship of Jehovah with the worship of other gods, and there seems to have been that class in Jerusalem at this time who swore by Jehovah and by their king, or Malcam, or their Molech; we cannot be sure of the exact reference. ‘Then he comes down to another class: “And them that are turned back from following Jehovah,” the backsliders. And the last class he mentions is those that had not sought Jehovah nor inquired after him, the indifferent, the irreligious, godless ones. Thus he describes all the classes of sinners – the indifferent. the irreligious, the backsliders, the worldly members that arc saved, yet trying to follow God and follow the world, the idolaters, and then the priests that in their black robes served the various gods.

Jehovah commands them to hold their peace at the appearance of Jehovah God, “for the day of Jehovah is at hand; for Jehovah hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath consecrated his guests.” He means that the destruction of Jerusalem and of Judah will be Jehovah’s sacrifice in the day of Jehovah. And he goes on in verse 8, thus: “In that day of the Lord’s sacrifice I will punish the princes (for they were the chief sinners in Jerusalem) and the king’s sons,” not particularly the king’s sons nor the king. Josiah is on the throne, the best king Israel ever had. He is only a young man, and Zephaniah had no word against him; he was irreproachable and unblameable. But the king’s sons, the members of the royal family, not Josiah’s sons, (he was too young to have any sons grown up) but the immediate members of the royal family; the king’s sons are among the first to receive the punishment that comes when the day of Jehovah appears.

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“And he will punish all such as are clothed with foreign apparel.” The young nobles of the city who sent for their robes to foreign countries, perhaps to Babylon, where they made the finest garments in all the world, as the society ladies today send to Paris for their best hats and dresses. The princes and the nobles of Jerusalem sent to foreign lands for their garments; Zephaniah condemns that thing.

In verse 9, he has a striking reference: “In that day I will punish all those that leap over the threshold, that fill their master’s house with violence and deceit.” “Leap over the threshold” is an obscure expression. There are two interpretations. One is that it refers to a superstitious custom of people who would not step upon the threshold of the house, but who would leap over the threshold into the house without stepping thereon, on account of a superstitious custom that arose because Dagon, the god of the Philistines, fell over the doorstep of the house, when the ark was taken in the days of Samuel.

The other, and I think the better interpretation, is that it refers to these young and rapacious princes who did not scruple to break the laws and customs, and even the sanctity of the threshold; who leaped over into houses and robbed them either by stealth or in a legal fashion, for there is such a thing as legal robbery. Unscrupulous men, who cared nothing for the sacredness of the threshold, but leaped over. trampling under foot all the sacred rights of the house and home and hospitality in their greed for gold. They “filled their master’s houses with violence and deceit” as a result of leaping over the threshold in their rapacity.

an interpretation of the english bible carroll

Now he goes on to describe the calamity that shall befall Israel, and the outcry: “a noise from the fish gate,” which was probably in the northeastern corner of Jerusalem, the most convenient gate to the Jordan Valley and to the Sea of Galilee from which they brought their fish to Jerusalem; “and a howling from the second quarter,” or a howling from the Mishneh, probably from “the new city,” the second part of the city, the new part where Hulda, the prophetess, lived, as we find in the book of Kings in connection with the discovery of the law. “And a great crashing from the hills,” that surround Jerusalem and upon which it is situated. Then he said, “Howl, ye inhabitants of Makesh” (or the mortar), and it probably refers to the valley that runs through the center of Jerusalem, called the Tyrolean Valley, between Zion, on one side, and Moriah on the other. “For all the people of Canaan are undone,” or perhaps, “the merchant people” are undone, for the word “merchant” comes from the same root as the word “Canaan.” A Canaanite was a merchantman, a trafficker. “All they that bear silver are cut off.”

The next two verses give a description of how the calamity comes upon the city: “It shall come to pass,” he says, “that I will search Jerusalem with candles,” or lamps, to find out just what the people are doing, to search out every individual, “and I will punish the men that are settled on their lees.” This is a figure taken from their custom of making wine. The wine when fresh and new was placed in vessels, and very soon there would gather in the bottom a thick sediment, and after that gathered for a little time, they would pour off the wine into another vessel and thus keep it fresh. If they allowed it to remain in the first vessel, it would soon become putrid and muddy, thick and unfit for use.

In this figure he describes the people as at ease and with plenty. It had been some fifteen or twenty years since the reign of Manasseh when they had the hard time, when Jerusalem was red with blood. Since then they had become somewhat wealthy; they had settled down and were taking it easy; they had wealth and prosperity and somewhat of luxury. Zephaniah says, the people thus settled down like wine, upon their lees, and had become thick and muddy, and their brain had become clouded and sluggish and their religious life dull and heavy; they were troubled with inertia. That frequently happens today with well-to-do people, in comfortable circumstances, who have this world’s goods, and have to some extent settled down on their lees and are taking it easy; churches that have fine houses, a fine preacher, and a fine choir, all their debts paid, sometimes settle down on their lees. The result is that church gets thick, muddy, inert, sluggish, stupid, and becomes putrescent and unfit for use. If we become respectable and comfortably situated, we settle down in self-satisfaction, congratulating ourselves on the fact that we are a very good people. People in this way become thick, and sluggish, and dull. That is the tendency the world over with mere respectability. That is the crying sin and shame of our church life throughout the world today. As soon as a church settles down and takes it easy it becomes dull, sluggish, disgusting. They have to be kept at work or they will soon become thick and unsavory. As Brother Truett says, you have to keep them on the run all the time, or they won’t go at all. “The Lord will not do good,” they say, “neither will he do evil.” We have our prayer meeting and revival services and some good deacon will say, “It won’t do any harm.”

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He now goes on to speak of their punishment: “Their wealth shall become a spoil, and their houses a desolation; they shall build houses, but none shall inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards but none shall drink the wine thereof.” That is the sacrifice of Jehovah on that day when he comes in destruction and judgment.

The day of Jehovah is described in verses 14-18: “The great day of Jehovah is near, it is near . . . the voice of the day of Jehovah.” Its characteristic, its striking feature is this: “The mighty man,” the hero, the warrior, “crieth bitterly.” Then comes the full description of it: “A day of wrath, and trouble, and distress; a day of wasteness, desolation, and darkness, and gloominess; a day of clouds and thick darkness; a day of trumpet and alarm, against the fenced cities and against the high battlements.”

In verses 17-18 he describes the distress that shall come upon men, how their blood will be poured out as dust and their flesh as the dung; silver and gold will not deliver them; whose land shall be devoured and shall make a terrible end of all that dwell in the land.

Then follows the warning to the wicked and the admonition to the righteous in 2:1-3. The warning to the wicked is this: “Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation that hath no shame; before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of Jehovah come upon you, before the day of Jehovah’s anger come upon you.” Then he addresses the meek, the godly: “Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” And they were hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger, for when the Scythians overran all that part of Syria, they passed down the Philistine coast and left Judah and Jerusalem untouched, and the godly remnant was hid in the day of Jehovah, for that was one of the days of Jehovah, as there have been many since, and will be yet more before the last day comes.

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Philistia (2:4-7) is doomed and her land shall belong to Israel: “Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation; they shall drive out Ashdod at the noonday, and Ekron shall be rooted up. Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites.” We meet with this word “Cherithites” and also “Pelethites” in connection with the bodyguard of David and Solomon; they are constantly referred to during the period of the Divided Kingdom, also after the Exile. The people of this strip of territory who were called Cherethites, were evidently of Philistine blood, and by David and Solomon were made special bodyguards. We do not know for what reason, except that they must have been peculiarly fitted for tins duty. For centuries the Pope of Rome has had Swiss bodyguards; he will not trust Italians.

“The word of Jehovah is against you, O Canaan, the land of the Philistines; I will destroy thee; . . . the sea coast shall be pastures, with cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks. And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed their flocks there and shall dwell in the houses of Ashkelon for Jehovah their God shall visit them and bring back their captivity.” Zephaniah presupposes a certain captivity of Judah and when they return they shall inhabit not only all Judah, but the coast and the Philistine plain and dwell in the cities of the Philistines.

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Ammon was doomed (2:8-11) because they bad reproached God’s people and had magnified themselves against their border; they were doomed to be destroyed. This is the same complaint which Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel lodged against these people. “Moab shall be doomed to destruction because of her pride,” and verse 9 says, “Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon shall be as Gomorrah, the breeding place of nettles and salt pits, and a perpetual desolation.”

The doom of Ethiopia is given in one sentence (2:12) : “Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword.” The doom of Assyria is given in verses 13-15. This is the same subject which engrosses the attention of Nahum. Notice what Zephaniah says, verse 14, “And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the pelican and the porcupine shall lodge in the capitals thereof; their voice sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds for he hath laid bare the cedar work.” And he describes the doom of Nineveh in the same terms that are afterward used to describe the pride of Babylon, and later on by John, to describe the pride of Rome, the last and greatest Babylon. “This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! everyone that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.” This idolizing of self is a very common characteristic of large and wealthy cities. Every great city has a peculiar form of pride. This was the spirit of Nineveh. And what the result? “How is she become desolate, a place for beasts to lie down in!”

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Jerusalem is described as a city, incorrigible in its wickedness (3:1-8). In verses 1-2, he hurls his denunciation against her: “Woe to her that is rebellious and polluted! to the oppressing city!” Here is the charge: “She obeyed not the voice, she received not correction, she trusted not in Jehovah, she drew not near to her God.” Verse 3 gives the description of her rulers, princes, prophets, and priests: “The princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; the prophets are light and treacherous; the priests have profaned the sanctuary, and done violence to the law.” In spite of all that, “Jehovah in the midst of her is righteous; he will not do iniquity; every morning doth he bring his justice to light, he faileth not,” a beautiful passage, “but the. unjust knoweth no shame.” Then he describes the desolation that is to come in verses 6-7, but verse 7, particularly, brings to us the idea of how incorrigible they were: “I said, Only fear thou me; receive instruction; so her dwelling should not be cut off, however I punished her, but they rose up early, and corrupted all their doings.” They would not receive correction; they were beyond that, utterly incorrigible. This is in essence the same things Jeremiah said at this time also.

Verse 8 brings before their minds the thought that the day of Jehovah is coming, “Therefore wait ye for me, saith Jehovah, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.”

The particulars of the salvation of the remnant are set forth in verses 9-13. Verses 9-10 tell of the people that shall come up to Judah and Jerusalem: “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.” That is what I am going to bring about in the future, and more than that: “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my supplicants, even the daughter of my dispersed shall bring mine offering.” There is going to be a gathering from the far nations and my people shall come back. Then in verse II he describes how the proud are to be cut off: “For then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride; and thou shalt no more be haughty because of mine holy mountain.” Verse 12 describes the remnant that shall be left: “I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of Jehovah.” A remnant shall be saved, even in the day of Jehovah, in the midst of this universal destruction. In verse 13 the remnant is described: “They shall do no iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” These are practically the same words that were used by the other prophets, Micah and Amos, particularly Micah.

Radical critics with scarcely an exception, say that Zephaniah did not write section 3:14-20; that it was written during the exile or immediately after, by some writer who wanted to supplement Zephaniah’s prophecy and offset the picture which he had drawn. That is their theory, and as we have stated repeatedly, the thing that inspires that view is that they do not believe in real inspiration, an inspiration which enabled a man to see the future. A real revelation they virtually deny, and that is the reason they deny certain parts of these prophecies to these ancient writers.

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The joys of the restoration are described in verses 14-20. This is a beautiful picture of the restoration, the blessed messianic age, very much like the pictures found in Isaiah 40-66. He says, “In that day,” which shows that the prophet is looking forward to a time which he sees in the future and describes it. Verse 14 begins: “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all thy heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. Jehovah hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy; the king of Israel, even Jehovah, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not fear evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, “Fear thou not, O Zion, let not thine hands be slack. Jehovah, thy God, is in the midst of thee; a mighty one who will save.”

There are some good gospel texts here. “He will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.” Why? Because his love will now be reciprocated; his love will now be satisfied; it has its response; it has won its object, and he will rest and be at peace in his love; no more turmoil, no more anxiety; God has found his people and his people have found him; he will rejoice over them with singing.

Then he goes on with his description as to how they are to be gathered: “I will gather them that sorrow for the solemn assembly, who were of thee; to whom the burden upon her was a reproach. Behold, at that time I will deal with all them that afflict thee; and I will save that which is lame, and gather that which was driven away; and I will make them a praise and a name, whose shame hath been in all the earth.” And the last verses give another statement as to how this restoration shall take place: “At that time will I bring you in, and at that time will I gather you; for I will make you a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I bring back your captivity before your eyes, saith Jehovah.”

This vision of Zephaniah compares favorably with the visions of other prophets. He had a broad vision, almost as broad as Isaiah’s, or Micah’s, in which they picture the mountain of the Lord’s house as exalted above all the hills, and all the nations flowing into it to receive the law. He says here that they shall have a name and a place among all the peoples of the earth, the restoration period, when Jehovah dwells within them in all his holiness and righteousness and truth. Such is Zephaniah’s picture of the day of judgment and such is his picture of the age to come. In prophetic vision he sees through an appalling cloud of darkness and destruction of that day, into the future when God shall save his people and his tabernacle shall be with them and he shall be their God and they shall be his people. While Zephaniah’s picture is not quite equal to that of Isaiah’s or Micah’s, and in many respects far beyond Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s and vastly inferior to the magnificent visions of John that he saw on Patmos, in essence they are all the same.

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1. Who the author of Zephaniah, what his lineal descent? and what the bearing of this fact on his fitness for his work?

2. What the date of this book and what the reason for assigning this date to it?

3. With what great prophet was Zephaniah contemporary?

4. What the occasion and purpose of his prophecy?

5. What can you say of the style and contents of the book?

6. Give an outline of the book.

7. What Zephaniah’s vision of judgment, generally and particularly

8. Describe the sacrifice of Jehovah and explain the terms contained therein (7-13), and show the application to modern conditions.

9. Describe the “day of Jehovah” as given by Zephaniah.

10. What the warning to the wicked and the admonition to the righteous in 2:1-3?

11. Describe the doom of Philistia (2:4-7).

12. Describe the doom of Moab and Ammon (2:8-11).

13. Describe the doom of Ethiopia and Assyria (2:12-15).

14. Describe the incorrigible city (3:1-8).

15. What the exhortation of 3:8 and what determination therein expressed?

16. What the particulars of the salvation of the remnant (3:9-13)?

17. What say the radical critics of the paragraph, 3:14-20, and what the basis of their theory?

18. Describe the joys of the restoration (14-20).

19. How does this vision of Zephaniah compare with the visions of other prophets?

an interpretation of the english bible carroll

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