Author: Unlike many of the other prophets, we know a good deal about the prophet Zephaniah, or at least his lineage. Zephaniah is of high social standing and his ancestry shows him to be a fourth generation descendant of King Hezekiah. Not only is Zephaniah descended from royalty but he has his lineage from a notable king of Judah.
Because of Zephaniah’s social standing, he was more familiar with court and political issues. This is reflected in some of his prophecies.
Recipients: Zephaniah speaks to the southern kingdom that remained after the northern kingdom was wiped out by the Assyrians. He is the first prophet to speak to the southern kingdom following the fall of the northern kingdom.
Date: Zephaniah identifies his ministry as taking place during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC.) Josiah enacted reforms later in his reign that undid the damage of his grandfather and father Manasseh and Amon. Zephaniah likely prophesied before these reforms took place. It is also likely that Zephaniah prophesied before the death of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in 627 BC. Assyria’s power began to wane after this and it was ultimately destroyed in 612 BC. (See Nahum for prophecies against Assyria.)
Purpose: The main focus of the book of Zephaniah is the Day of the Lord. This would mean judgment not only for the southern kingdom of Judah but for the rest of the nations as well. God would judge all wickedness righteously. Despite the coming judgment of Israel, Zephaniah offers hope like many of the other prophets do. Even though Israel would be judged, the nation will eventually be restored.