Day 16 Zephaniah 3 ... Rotten Ruling Class

Through the influence of prophets like Micah and Isaiah. King Hezekiah helped set the land of Judah back on course. But if a good king like Hezekiah was rare, having two good kings in a row was virtually unheard of. Hezekiahâs death vacated the throne for Manasseh, who proved to be one of Judahâs all-time worst kings. In his fifty-year reign - the longest of any king of Israel or Judah - Manasseh reversed all the good that Hezekiah had accomplished.

An unabashed tyrant, Manasseh filled the streets of Jerusalem with blood. (It was he who, according to tradition, had Isaiah sawn in two.) He made child sacrifice common practice, built astrology altars in Godâs temple, and encouraged male prostitution as part of religious ritual. By the time he died, very few reminders of the covenant with God remained in Judah. Public shrines abounded, and storefronts in Jerusalem were advertising household gods, mediums, and spiritists. Godâs chosen people had out-paganized the pagans.

The next king, Amon, started out in his fatherâs footsteps, but his time is own officials rose up in revolt and assassinated him after two years. The nation of Judah, cut loose from its moorings, was drifting toward total anarchy. And Josiah, the pint-size prince crowned by Amonâs supporters, hardly represented much reason for optimism.

In the early days of Josiahâs reign, the prophet Zephaniah spoke out against the decadence spreading throughout Judah. Other prophets had come from peasant stock; Zephaniah proudly traced his ancestry back to King Hezekiah. Yet, unlike others of high social standing, he didnât try to defend the upper classes. Rather, he accused them of chief responsibility for the decay in Judah. The officials, the priests, the rulers, the judges, even the prophets - these are the targets of Zephaniahâs rage.

The leaders of Judah were pointing the entire nation on a course of self-destruction. Unless they reversed directions, Jerusalem would face the same fate as many of its fallen neighbors.

Point to Ponder: Zephaniah begins with gloom but ends with joy. What gives him reason for hope?