The Roots of Anger: An Economic Perspective on Zephaniah’s Oracle Against the Philistines

in Vetus Testamentum
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The superscription of the book of Zephaniah places the composition in the 7th century BCE, during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. While some scholars support a monarchic date for composition on the grounds of geopolitical details, others have accepted the book as a post-monarchic composition, in which geopolitical details are merely functions of literary techniques. Critical in the discussions of date and historicity are the oracles found in the book’s second chapter. This essay examines the introductory poem found in Zeph 2:4 and argues that the oracle is representative of 7th century Judean sentiments toward the city of Ekron because of a specific pun, which should be read in light of the city’s impressive olive oil industry dating to the 7th century BCE.

The Roots of Anger: An Economic Perspective on Zephaniah’s Oracle Against the Philistines

in Vetus Testamentum



  • 6)

    A. F. Rainey“The Identification of Philistine Gath—A Problem in Source Analysis for Historical Geography”Eretz-Israel 12 (Nelson Glueck Memorial Volume) (1975) pp. 63-76. W. M. Schniedewind “The Geopolitical History of Philistine Gath” BASOR 309 (Feb 1998) pp. 69-77. A. M. Maeir and C. Ehrlich “Excavating Philistine Gath: Have We Found Goliath’s Hometown?” Biblical Archaeology Review 27 No. 6 (2001) pp. 22-31.

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  • 11)

    Bacher“Zu Zephanja 2, 4”ZAW 11 (1891) pp. 185-87.

  • 13)

    L. Zalcman“Ambiguity and Assonance at Zephaniah II 4”VT 36.3 (1986) pp. 365-371. See p. 367.

  • 14)

    R. Gordis“A Rising Tide of Misery: A Note on Zephaniah II 4”VT 37.4 (1987) pp. 487-490. See p. 489.

  • 16)

    SweeneyZephaniah p. 123.

  • 18)

    R. D. Haak“The Philistines in the Prophetic Texts” pp. 37-51; S. Gitin “The Philistines in the Prophetic Texts: An Archaeological Perspective” in J. Magness and S. Gitin (eds.) Hesed ve-Emet: Studies in Honor of Ernest S. Frerichs (Atlanta 1998) pp. 273-290.

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  • 19)

    Haak“The Philistines in the Prophetic Texts” p. 45.

  • 20)

    Gitin“An Archaeological Perspective” p. 284.

  • 21)

    See for example“New Philistine Finds at Tel Miqne-Ekron”The Biblical Archaeologist 59.1 (Mar. 1996) p. 70; “Tel Miqne-Ekron: A Type Site for the Inner Coastal Plain in the Iron II Period” in S. Gitin and W.G. Dever (eds.) Recent Excavations in Israel: Studies in Iron Age Archaeology (Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 49; Winona Lake 1989) p. 46.

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  • 22)

    D. L. Christensen“Zephaniah 2:4-15: A Theological Basis for Josiah’s Program of Political Expansion”CBQ 46 (1984): pp. 669-682; see especially p. 678. For an opposing position see Berlin Zephaniah pp. 117-19 who objects on the grounds that there is little evidence for Judean control of territories in the North. Berlin recognizes the plausibility of Christensen’s hypothesis but rightfully points out that oracles against the nations never advocate territorial expansion. She counters Christensen by suggesting that rather than representing a program for territorial expansion the oracle reflects sentiments of growing nationalism which need not necessitate territorial gain (p. 120).

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  • 23)

    Berlin p. 120 uses the term “nationalism.” Without invoking such an anachronistic term it may be safe to say that Judah’s elite recognized the political circumstances shifting in Judah’s favor engendering a new confidence in Jerusalem’s ability to restore the state to its former glory as experienced under Hezekiah.

  • 24)

    Ben ZviThe Book of Zephaniah pp. 349-58.

  • 25)

    Ben Zvi pp. 304-06 contends that the absence of Egypt and Babylon contributes to the authenticity of the prophecy in a post-monarchic context. After all how could a prophecy that foretold the destruction of Egypt be persuasive if the contemporary readers could still see the empires standing in their day? These omissions then were an intentional decision made by the author to create the most authentic looking pre-monarchic text possible.

  • 26)

    Ben Zvi pp. 306-07 links 2:4 to pre-compositional material by its poetic language which seems otherwise undeveloped throughout Zephaniah. 2:5-17 on the other hand is found to be pre-compositional because of its disparate view of the ideal future of the compositional passage 3:12-14.

  • 27)

    Ben ZviZephaniah p. 151.

  • 28)

    T. Dothan and S. Gitin 1993. “Miqne Tel (Ekron)” in E. Stern (ed.) The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (Vol. 3; New York 1993) pp. 1051-1059. S. Gitin T. Dothan and J. Naveh “A Royal Dedicatory Inscription from Ekron” Israel Exploration Journal 47 (1997) pp. 9-16.

  • 29)

    A. Faust and E. Weiss“Judah, Philistia, and the Mediterranean World: Reconstructing the Economic System of the Seventh Century B.C.E.”BASOR 338 (2005) pp. 71-92; “Between Assyria and the Mediterranean World: the Prosperity of Judah and Philistia in the Seventh Century BCE in Context” in T. Wilkinson S. Sherratt and J. Bennet (eds.) Interweaving Worlds: Systematic Interactions in Eurasia 7th to 1st Millennia BC. (Oakville CT 2011) pp. 189-204.

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  • 31)

    Dothan and Gitin“Miqne” pp. 1051-1059.

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