The Prophecy of Zephaniah
If the editors of the King James Version of the Bible sought to order the minor prophets chronologically, then Zephaniah is probably just a little out of place, as it seems that the book should have preceded Habakkuk in order. This is because Habakkuk had made no mention of Nineveh as a world power while in Zephaniah chapter 2 we read an oracle against Nineveh, where it says: “13 And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness.” This indicates that Assyria is about to be judged by Yahweh and therefore Zephaniah wrote his prophecy before 612 BC, which is the generally accepted year of Nineveh's destruction. Zephaniah himself tells us that he prophesied during the reign of the good king Josiah, who likely ruled Judah from about 640 BC down to about 609 BC.
We had argued while presenting the prophecy of Habakkuk that he had probably prophesied after the fall of Nineveh, since he never mentions the city or the Assyrians, and even then after the death of Josiah and before the coming of the Babylonians to Judah, which was between 608 and 601 BC. Therefore Zephaniah is probably the next-to-last of the prophets of the Kingdom of Judah whose writings have survived to us, while Habakkuk is probably the last of the Old Kingdom prophets whom we know.
Most of the Book of Zephaniah was also preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and we may examine readings from that source and from the Septuagint where they may improve our understanding of the words of the prophet.
Zephaniah 1:1 The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
Zephaniah's name may be interpreted to mean “Yahweh had treasured”. The names of Zephaniah's ancestors seem to tell us a story. Hizkiah may be interpreted as “Yahweh is my strength”, Amariah as “Yahweh speaks”, as he does through the prophet, Gedaliah as “Yahweh is great”, but Cushi means only “their blackness”. It seems that the names of Hezekiah and his ancestors tell us a story, that what Yahweh has treasured will emerge from out of the blackness, or metaphorically from out of the disgrace of His people, as they are about to be disgraced. This theme is inferred later in his prophecy.