More on Zephaniah Being Non-Literal, Different Images of the Remnant

I’m still reading Ehud Ben Zvi’s A Historical-Critical Study of the Book of Zephaniah.  I have two items for today:

1.  A topic that Ben Zvi continually discusses in this book is whether or not the prophecies of Zephaniah were intended to be interpreted literally, which coincides with the issue of the apparent non-fulfillment of Zephaniah’s prophecies.  While Ben Zvi affirms on page 236 that Judahite society wanted its leaders and prophets to be trustworthy, and that the legitimacy of a prophetic book depended upon “the socially-accepted conception that it contains truthful speech”, Ben Zvi does not think that this means that accepted prophetic books were deemed to be literally true, for there was hyperbole.  Ben Zvi states, “Certainly, they did not consider false all the prophecies against Samaria or Babylon because they were not literally destroyed by the Assyrians and Cyrus respectively.”  As I talked about in my post yesterday, Ben Zvi addresses the question of how Jews accepted Zephaniah, when it contained prophecies that did not appear to have come to pass.  Yesterday, I referred to answers that Ben Zvi proposed—that the prophecies were considered to be about the distant future, and that the prophecies were believed to be fulfilled partially.  Today, I came across another proposal by Ben Zvi: the the prophecies were not literal, but hyperbolic.

Ben Zvi also repeats another argument that I discussed yesterday: that Zephaniah is sometimes being literary rather than literal and historical.  In discussing the Ammonites and the Moabites attacking Judah in Zephaniah, Ben Zvi states on page 166: “The only other case in which Ammon and Moab are mentioned together as attacking monarchic Judah is 2 Chr 20.  The account in 2 Chr 20 has no parallel in the Book of Kings.”  Ben Zvi casts doubt on whether Ammon and Moab together attacked monarchic Judah.  Ben Zvi thinks that, in Zephaniah 2:8, concepts from other writings are being combined—such as the condemnation of Ammon for taking Israel’s territory in Jeremiah 49:1-6 and Amos 1:13, and the criticism of Moab’s pride in Isaiah 16:6; 25:11; and Jeremiah 48:26—which may presume that Zephaniah 2:8 reflects literary activity rather than reporting (or perhaps prediction) of a literal event.  (At least that is my understanding of what Ben Zvi is saying.)  At the same time, Ben Zvi does refer to II Kings 24:2, in which Ammonites and Moabites raid Judah during the reign of Jehoiakim, alongside Babylonians and Arameans.

I’d like to think that authors refer to something, even when they’re being figurative or metaphorical.

2.  Ben Zvi states on page 234 that “Zeph 3:13 and Zeph 2:7 present different images of the future and different images of the remnant.”

Zephaniah 3:13 states (in the KVJ): “The remnant of Israel shall not do 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.”  Vv 11-12 affirm that God will remove from Jerusalem the proud, while leaving in her the humble ones who trust in the name of the LORD.

Zephaniah 2:7 states: “And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.”  Here, the remnant of Judah inherits the land of the Philistines and is pastoral, not urban.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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