on Zephaniah 1 :5
The host of heaven - Sun, moon, planets, and stars. This worship was one of the most ancient and the most common of all species of idolatry; and it had a greater semblance of reason to recommend it. See 2 Kings 23:6, 2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29.
That swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham - Associating the name of an idol with that of the Most High. For Malcham, see on Hosea 4:15 (note), and Amos 5:26 (note).
on Zephaniah 1 :5
And them that worship the best of heaven upon the - (flat) housetops This was fulfilled by Josiah who destroyed "the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz" 2 Kings 23:12. Jeremiah speaks as if this worship was almost universal, as though well-near every roof had been profaned by this idolatry. "The houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink-offerings unto other gods" Jeremiah 19:13. "The Chaldaeans that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink-offerings to other gods, to provoke Me to anger" Jeremiah 32:29. They worshiped on the house-tops, probably to have a clearer view of that magnificent expanse of sky, "the moon and stars which" God had "ordained" Psalm 8:3; the "queen of heaven," which they worshiped instead of Himself. There is something so mysterious in that calm face of the moon, as it "walketh in beauty" Job 31:26; God seems to have invested it with such delegated influence over the seasons and the produce of the earth, that they stopped short in it, and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator. Much as men now talk of "Nature," admire "Nature," speak of its "laws," not as laws imposed upon it, but inherent in it, laws affecting us and our well-being; only not in their ever-varying vicissitudes, "doing whatsoever God commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth, whether for correction, or for His land or for mercy!" Job 37:12-13. The idolaters "worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, Who is blessed forever" Romans 1:25; moderns equally make this world their object, only they idolize themselves and their discoveries, and worship their own intellect.
This worship on the house-tops individualized the public idolatry; it was a rebellion against God, family by family; a sort of family-prayer of idolatry. "Did we," say the mingled multitude to Jeremiah, "make our cakes to worship her, and pour out our drink-offerings unto her, without our men?" Jeremiah 44:19. Its family character is described in Jeremiah. "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods" Jeremiah 7:18. The idolatry spread to other cities. "We will certainly do," they say, "as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem" Jeremiah 44:17. The incense went up continually "as a memorial to God" from the altar of incense in the temple: the "roofs of the houses" were so many altars, from which, street by street and house by house the incense went up to her, for whom they dethroned God, "the queen of heaven." It was an idolatry, with which Judah was especially besotted, believing that they received all goods of this world from them and not from God. When punished for their sin, they repented of their partial repentance and maintained to Jeremiah that they were punished for "leaving off to burn incense to the queen of heaven" Jeremiah 44:2, Jeremiah 44:15, Jeremiah 44:18.
And them that worship ... the Lord - but with a divided heart and service; "that swear by (rather to) the Lord," swear fealty and loyal allegiance to Him, while they do acts which deny it, in that "they swear by Malcham," better (it is no appellative although allied to one) "their king" , most probably, I think, "Moloch."
This idolatry had been their enduring idolatry in the wilderness, after the calves had been annihilated; it is "the" worship, against which Israel is warned by name in the law Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-4; then, throughout the history of the Judges, we hear of the kindred idolatry of Baal , "the" Lord (who was called also "eternal king" and from whom individuals named themselves "son of (the) king," "servant of (the) king" ), or the manifold Baals and Ashtaroth or Astarte. But after these had been removed on the preaching of Samuel 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 12:10, this idolatry does not reappear in Judah until the intermarriage of Jehoram with the house of Ahab 2 Kings 8:16-18, 2 Kings 8:26-27; 2 Chronicles 21:6, 2 Chronicles 21:12-13; 2 Chronicles 22:2-4.
The kindred and equally horrible worship of "Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon" 1 Kings 11:7, was brought in by Solomon in his decay, and endured until his high place was defiled by Josiah 2 Kings 23:13-14. It is probable then that this was "their king" , of whom Zephaniah speaks, whom Amos and after him Jeremiah, called "their king;" but speaking of Ammon. Him, the king of Ammon, Judah adopted as "their king." They owned God as their king in words; Molech they owned by their deeds; "they worshiped and sware fealty to the Lord" and they "sware by their king;" his name was familiarly in their mouths; to him they appealed as the Judge and witness of the truth of their words, his displeasure they invoked on themselves, if they swore falsely. Cyril: "Those in error were wont to swear by heaven, and, as matter of reverence to call out, 'By the king and lord Sun.' Those who do so must of set purpose and willfully depart from the love of God, since the law expressly says, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and serve Him alone, and swear by His Name" Deuteronomy 6:13.
The former class who "worshipped on the roofs" were mere idolaters. These "worshiped," as they thought, "the Lord," bound themselves solemnly by oath to Him, but with a reserve, joining a hateful idol to Him, in that they, by a religious act, owned it too as god. The act which they did was in direct words, or by implication, forbidden by God. The command to "swear by the Lord" implied that they were to swear by none else. It was followed by the prohibition to go after other gods. (Deuteronomy 6:13-14; Deuteronomy 10:30, compare Isaiah 65:16; Jeremiah 4:2). Contrariwise, to swear by other gods was forbidden as a part of their service. "Be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the Law of Moses, neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, but cleave unto the Lord your God" (Joshua 23:6-8; compare Amos 8:14). "How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy children have forsaken Me, and have sworn by those who are no gods" Jeremiah 5:7. "They taught My people to swear by Baal" Jeremiah 12:16. They thought perhaps that in that they professed to serve God, did the greater homage to Him, professed and bound themselves to be His, (such is the meaning of "swear to the Lord") they might, without renouncing His service, do certain things, "swear by their king," although in effect they thereby owned hint also as god. To such Elijah said, "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him" 1 Kings 18:21; and God by Jeremiah rejects with abhorrence such divided service. "Ye trust in lying words, which will not profit. Will ye steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods, and come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, saying, We are delivered to do all these abominations" Jeremiah 7:8-10. And Hosea, "Neither go ye to Beth-aven, and swear there, The Lord liveth" Hosea 4:15.
Such are Christians, Jerome: "who think that they can serve together the world and the Lord, and please two masters, God and Mammom; who, "being soldiers of Jesus Christ" and having sworn fealty to Him, "entangle themselves with the affairs of this life and offer the same image to God and to Caesar" 2 Timothy 2:3-4. To such, God, whom with their lips they own, is not their God; their idol is, as the very name says, "their king," whom alone they please, displeasing and dishonoring God. We must not only fear, love, honor God, but love, fear, honor all beside for Him Alone.
on Zephaniah 1 :5
1:5 House - tops - On the flat roofs of their houses. And that swear - That mixt idol - worship, and the worship of the true God; that devote themselves to God, and Baal, or Malchim, that is, Moloch.