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Zephaniah 2

10This they will have in return for their arrogance, because they have taunted and boasted against the people of the LORD of armies. 11The LORD will be terrifying to them, for He will starve all the gods of the earth; and all the coastlands of the nations will bow down to Him, everyone from his own place.

What is the meaning of starving the gods? Do they eat in some ways? How do they get their energy?

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Berean Study Bible Zephaniah 2:11

The LORD will be terrifying to them when He starves all the gods of the earth. Then the nations of every shore will bow in worship to Him, each in its own place.

He starves
רָזָ֔ה (rā·zāh)
Verb - Qal - Perfect - third person masculine singular
Strong's 7329: To emaciate, make thin

This word appears only one other time in Isaiah 17:4

"In that day the glory of Jacob will fade; the fat of his body will waste away.

Brenton Septuagint Translation Zephaniah 2:11

The Lord shall appear against them, and shall utterly destroy all the gods of the nations of the earth; and they shall worship him every one from his place, even all the islands of the nations.

Pulpit points to the LXX translation:

Septuagint, Ἐπιφανήσεται Κύριος ἐπ αὐτούς, "The Lord will appear against them." For he will famish all the gods of the earth. The verb means literally, "to make lean," and then "to destroy;" hence the LXX., ἐξολοθρεύσει. The word may be chosen in order to express the idea that worshippers will no more be found to offer sacrifices and drink offerings to the gods

Metaphorically, the gods consume the meat and drink offerings. By 'starving' them, they will no longer be worshipped by peoples.

Nations will recognize the true God as in Malachi 1:11

My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty.

How do the gods get their energy?

The following is highly speculative. In one of the Star Trek episode, Who Mourns for Adonais?, the ancient Greek god Apollo appearss. Apparently, he receives his power from the faith of the people who worships him. He is unable to exist without love and worship from people.

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  • An exceptionally effective use of Star Trek to make your point =); and a good summary in general. Upvoted +1 Apr 27 at 2:29
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In ancient pagan cultures, their various gods were associated with specific regions. We see this in several places:

1 Kings 20:28 - The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, "This is what the LORD says: 'Because the Arameans think the LORD is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the LORD.'"

We also see this where every ancient pagan battle was seen as a contest between the respective gods of the combatants - armies regularly held banners depicting their gods. When one army gained victory over another it was seen as a victory of one god over the opposing god. We see hints of this in the story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 as well.

Thus, the idiom of "starving" the gods of a country is to gain victory over the people and their god so that the god is "starved" and is less significant.

The Cambridge commentary reaches the same conclusion:

he will famish all the gods lit., as marg., make lean (Isaiah 17:4). Hitzig, followed by Keil, thinks the meaning to be, that by destroying all the nations the Lord will make lean or enfeeble all their gods, for the vigour of the god is proportionate to the robustness and power of the nation. This kind of reflection is not likely to have passed through the mind of the prophet. His idea appears to be that by terrible deeds Jehovah will make Himself known to the nations, who will fear Him alone, perceiving the impotency of their former gods; comp. Isaiah 2:20; Isaiah 30:22, and Ezekiel 25 ff. The use of the term make lean in regard to gods is certainly strange.

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