🔼The name Zephaniah: Summary
- Yah Stores Up, Yah Hides
- From (1) the verb צפן (sapan), to hide or store, and (2) יה (yah), the shortened name of the Lord.
🔼The name Zephaniah in the Bible
There are four men named Zephaniah in the Bible:
- A son of Cushi, and author of the Book of Zephaniah (written around 630 BC).
- A musician in the days of David (1 Chronicles 6:36).
- A priest who was a contemporary of his famous name-sake and an acquaintance of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 21:1).
- A contemporary of Zechariah, who lived in Jerusalem around 500 BC, and who was the father of Josiah and Hen, although these two may have been the same person (Zechariah 6:10). This Zephaniah was "second priest," and served with high priest Seraiah. Both men were killed by Nebuchadnezzar in Riblah on the eve of the deportation (2 Kings 25:18).
🔼Etymology of the name Zephaniah
The name Zephaniah consists of two parts. The final bit is יה, the abbreviated form of the Name of the Lord: יהוה, (YHWH).
The first part of the name comes from the verb צפן (sapan), meaning to hide:
Verb צפה (sapa) speaks of covering, whether a literal covering of an item with an overlay like gold or the figurative covering of watchman's surroundings by his watchful gaze. In cognate languages this verb also means to hope.
Noun צפיה (sippiya) means lookout post and noun מצפה (mispeh) means watchtower. Noun צפוי (sippuy) means plating, noun צפית (sapit) means rug or carpet, and noun צפת (sepet) refers to the plated capital of a pillar.
Verb צוף (sup) means to flow or float on top of something else. Noun צוף (sup) describes a honeycomb, or rather the structure of hexagonal cells upon which honey floats. Verb צפה (sapa) means outflow.
Verb צפן (sapan) means to hide or store up. Nouns צפין (sapin) and מצפון (maspon) describe a mass of predominantly static wealth. Noun צפון (sapon) means north, as for unexplained reasons the Bible considers the north a place of gathering. Noun or adjective צפוני (seponi) means northern or northern one.
Verb שפן (shapan) isn't used in the Bible but in cognate languages it means to hide. Noun שפן (shapan) describes a kind of cud-chewing, rock-dwelling animal with no divided hoofs, commonly (rather oddly) interpreted as rock-badger or Coney (rabbit).
The name Zephaniah means Stored By (For) Yah or Yah Stores Up, and reminds of the words of Jesus: "Do not treasure up for you treasures on the earth, where moth and rust cause to vanish, and where thieves dig through and steal. But treasure up for you treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust cause to vanish, and where thieves do not dig through and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also". (Matthew 6:19-21).
For a meaning of the name Zephaniah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Hidden Of Yahweh. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Hid Of The Lord.