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December 3, 2016

Holy Prophet Zephaniah

Holy Prophet Zephaniah (Feast Day - December 2)


You previously cried out for Zion to rejoice exceedingly,
Now Zephaniah rejoices standing next to God.
On the third Zephaniah passed from this life radiantly.

Zephaniah was the son of Cushi, a native of Mount Sarabatha, from the tribe of Simeon. He lived and prophesied in the seventh century before Christ, at the time of Josiah the pious king of Judah (641-610 B.C.). Zephaniah was also a contemporary of the Prophets Jeremiah and Habakkuk. Having great humility and a pure mind raised to God, he was found worthy of the grace of God to discern the future.

Under the two preceding kings of Judah, Amon and Manasseh, the cult of other deities (especially Baal and Astarte) had developed in the Holy City of Jerusalem, bringing with it elements of alien culture and morals. Josiah, a dedicated reformer, wished to put an end to perceived misuse of the holy places. One of the most zealous champions and advisers of this reform was Zephaniah, and his writing, which consists of only three chapters, remains one of the most important documents for the understanding of the era of Josiah.

The prophet spoke boldly against the religious and moral corruption, when, in view of the idolatry which had penetrated even into the sanctuary, he warned that God would "destroy out of this place the remnant of Baal, and the names of the ... priests" (Zeph. 1:4), and pleaded for a return to the simplicity of their fathers instead of the luxurious foreign clothing which was worn especially in aristocratic circles (1:8). He saw Jerusalem as a filthy and polluted and oppressing city. Her princes within her were roaring lions; her judges were evening wolves; her prophets were treacherous persons, her priests polluted the sanctuary, doing violence to the Law (Zeph. 3:1-4). Zephaniah prophesied the day of the wrath of God and the punishment of Gaza, Ashkalon, Ashdod, Ekron, Nineveh, Jerusalem and Egypt.

Foreseeing the advent of the Messiah, he enthusiastically exclaimed: "Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem" (Zeph. 3:14). Further he proclaimed that the gentiles will become the people of God when the Messiah comes, and that the Messiah will be the judge of all rational creatures, giving to all according to their works.

This seer of mysteries entered into rest at his birthplace to await the General Resurrection and his reward from God. His name is commonly transliterated Sophonias in Bibles translated from the Latin Vulgate or Septuagint. The name might mean "Yahweh has concealed", "[he whom] Yahweh has hidden", or "Yahweh lies in wait." He is numbered among the so-called Minor Prophets.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Thou didst comprehend from of old the things that would come to pass, thou didst clearly foretell our eternal redemption, and proclaim Christ as the King of Zion. O Prophet Zephaniah, having been delivered from the curse by Him we cry out to thee: Glory to Him Who has glorified thee; glory to Him Who has crowned thee;/ glory to Him Who through thee grants forgiveness to all.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Vessel of prophetic wisdom, from of old thou didst proclaim God's self-emptying and didst cry: Be glad, O Zion blessed city, as thou didst greet Christ as a King upon a colt. Beseech Him, O Zephaniah, for those who with faith call thee blessed.