Book of Zephaniah in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
I. The Author.
The name "Zephaniah" (tsephanyah; Sophonias), which is borne
by three other men mentioned in the Old Testament, means
"Yah hides," or "Yah has hidden" or "treasured." "It
suggests," says G. A. Smith, "the prophet's birth in the
killing time of Manasseh" (2 Ki 21:16).
The ancestry of the prophet is carried back four generations
(Zeph 1:1), which is unusual in the Old Testament (compare
Isa 1:1; Hos 1:1); hence, it is thought, not without reason
(Eiselen, Minor Prophets, 505), that the last-mentioned
ancestor, Hezekiah, must have been a prominent man--indeed,
no other than King Hezekiah of Judah, the contemporary of
Isaiah and Micah. If Zephaniah was of royal blood, his
condemnation of the royal princes (1:8) becomes of great
interest. In a similar manner did Isaiah, who in all
probability was of royal blood, condemn without hesitation
the shortcomings and vices of the rulers and the court. An
ancient tradition declares that Zephaniah was of the tribe
of Simeon, which would make it impossible for him to be of
royal blood; but the origin and value of this tradition are
Zephaniah lived in Judah; that he lived in Jerusalem is made
probable by the statement in 1:4, "I will cut off .... from
this place," as well as by his intimate knowledge of the
topography of the city (1:10,11).
For how long he continued his prophetic activity we do not
know, but it is not improbable that, as in the case of Amos,
his public activity was short, and that, after delivering
his message of judgment in connection with a great political
crisis, he retired to private life, though his interest in
reforms may have continued (2 Ki 23:2)...