In light of our present information it is probably best to see Assyria as the enemy and assign a date of ca. Canaanite Baal worship flourished, with its abominable practices of sacred prostitution and child sacrifice, and those prophets who objected were persecuted or killed. Assyrian domination of the kingdom during the reigns of Josiah's predecessors Manasseh (698-642 B. C.) had brought with it foreign customs and pagan deities.
If he was of royal descent, he probably lived in Jerusalem; and evidence of this is seen in his prophecies, where he describes various parts of the city.
The ideas most emphasized are the providential control of the nations of the world, the necessity of purity and justice as opposed to the prevalent corruption and injustice of the day, and the refining value of judgment and suffering.
One of the twelve Minor Prophets who describes himself as "the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, King of Judah" (Zeph. New social conditions shall arise, and justice and righteousness shall prevail, so that the redeemed shall rejoice in the Lord. Its language is vigorous and picturesque, and betrays an acquaintance with the Earlier Prophets.
He seems, therefore, to have been a descendant of Hezekiah, King of Judah, since otherwise only the name of his father would have been given (comp. After the storm of judgment Israel shall be humble, and shall trust in alone.
An ancient tradition declares that Zephaniah was of the tribe of Simeon, which would make it impossible for him to be of royal blood; but the origin and value of this tradition are uncertain.