The prophet Zephaniah wrote of a need for repentance in Judah and helped bring about revival under the good king, Josiah. Judgement was a central theme in his prophecy and this was partially fulfilled upon the death of Josiah when the King of Babylon conquered Judah and carried God’s people away into captivity.
Zephaniah records God’s anger regarding the failure of those in Jerusalem to obey His voice, to trust in Him, or to draw near to Him, the righteous God. This resulted in judgement, first on Judah, and then on the nations that came against Judah. Zephaniah then predicted an ultimate future blessing for His people and for the gentiles.
In Chapter 3 verse 8 Zephaniah describes the results of God’s jealousy:
"Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy."
What does Zephaniah mean when he mentions God’s indignation? In Hebrew, this word is Zaam and literally means 'foam' or 'froth at the mouth' and describes fury or rage. Here, Zephaniah is describing God’s displeasure with sin or His wrath which will result in punishment.
In the ancient Hebrew, each letter is a pictogram which contains a picture that preserves the exact meaning of each word over long periods of time. As we examine the pictures in Zaam, we can expect to uncover lasting truth and deeper understanding. Zaam is spelled Zayin Ayin Mem.
Zayin is the picture of a sharp tool and means to cut off, to prune, to harvest, or to pierce.
Ayin is the picture of the eye and means to see, to know, or to experience.
Mem is the picture of waters that can be chaotic like a tsunami or gentle like a rain that makes the desert bloom. It can refer to the Word of God that brings life or living waters.
The meaning of the pictures in this word should put fear in the heart of anyone choosing to oppose God and incur His indignation or wrath. They will know or experience a piercing or a pruning at His hand that will be chaotic and destructive like a tsunami. This will be a harvest of destruction.
God’s wrath and the destruction that follows it is not directed towards those that have remained faithful to Him, as we see in the words of the Prophet Isaiah in Chapter 26 verse 20:
"Come my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee, hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast."
God’s punishment will be reserved for only those who have forsaken Him.
But in addition to this partial fulfillment there is a future Zaam, or indignation, to which the prophet Daniel points us. In Daniel Chapter 11 verse 36 he states:
"And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that that is determined shall be done."
The word indignation used here by Daniel is again Zaam and portrays a time of a coming pruning and a harvest of destruction. But who is the king mentioned here that magnifies himself above the one true God?
This king will be known as the antichrist who the Rabbi Paul describes for us in his second letter to the Church at Thessalonica Chapter 2 verse 4:
"Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."
Daniel further describes the time of the rule of this self-proclaimed god in Chapter 12 verse 1:
"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great price which standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book."
Each of the Hebrew letters is also a number and each number has a meaning that is determined by how that number is used throughout the scriptures. These numbers can tell us even more about this future Zaam or indignation.
Zayin is the number 7 and means spiritual perfection and completeness.
Ayin is the number 70 and indicates perfect spiritual order carried out with all spiritual power and significance.
Mem is the number 40 and tells of a probationary period that results in renewal.
This reminds us that the wrath or indignation of God for His people will not last forever. This probation or trial will result in renewal. It is part of His perfect spiritual plan. Just as the tribulation in Zephaniah’s day had a sure end, so too, the indignation of which Daniel wrote will end with renewal for his people, Israel.
But what about the gentiles? Zephaniah predicted in Chapter 3 a future blessing for them as well. The Rabbi Paul writes about this blessing in 1stThessalonians Chapter 5 verse 9. Here we can see that the Zaam, or indignation or wrath of God, is not intended for the believers in Jesus Christ:
"For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."
All those who put their trust and faith in Jesus Christ as their savior will not suffer God’s Zaam or wrath but rather the gift of life eternal.