Shofar: Sound the TRUMPET

TRUMPET: shofar (7782). 

Root: שׁוֹפָר

Sounds like: sho-far

Tonight (29 Sep 2019), starting at sunset, the Jewish people celebrate Rosh Hashanah, (Rosh meaning head and Ha-Shanah meaning the year). Actually Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is not so much a Biblical holiday but rather a civil holiday which was formed out of the Biblical feast, Yom Teruah. 

Yom Teruah literally meant Day of blowing/blasting/shouting or more commonly, Feast of Trumpets. It came from the following passages:

Numbers 29:1-2a (see also Leviticus 23:23-25)

‘Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall also have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. It will be to you a day for blowing [teruah] (trumpets). You shall offer a burnt offering as a soothing aroma to YHWH…’

The seventh month refers to the Jewish seventh month, now known as Tishri. The name Tishri/Tishrei was adopted after the Babylonian exile. Before the exile, the seventh month was known to the Hebrew people as Ethanim (1 Kings 8:2). In a desire to have a New Year to celebrate, this feast was adapted to become the Jewish New Year, even though it was connected to the seventh month, not the first.

There is another word, khats’ots’rah (2689), which is sometimes translated as trumpet. Psalm 98 puts the trumpet, the horn, and shouting together, as a way to celebrate our Great King and to announce His salvation through the Messiah. As a poem, Psalm 98 is reflective of the meaning of Yom Teruah: 

Psalm 98:1-6

O sing to YHWH a new song, for He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.

YHWH has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to YHWH, all the earth; break forth and sing for joy and sing praises. Sing praises to YHWH with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets [ba-khatsohts’roht] and the sound of the horn [shofar] shout joyfully before the King, YHWH.

שנה טובה (shanah tovah) means to have a “good year”

Although Rosh Hashanah is more of a civil holiday, it has incorporated the shofar from the festivities of Yom Teruah. According to the Orthodox Jewish Hasidic website chabad.orgthe blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah reminds the Jewish people of many things, including:

  • The coming return of YHWH, as King, on the anniversary of creation. (Rosh Hashanah is regarded as the anniversary of creation to the Jewish people).
  • The giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai
  • The ram (a shofar is made of a ram’s horn) provided by God so that Abraham would not have to sacrifice his son Isaac
  • The sound of the shofar on the Day of Judgement when the Mashiach (Messiah) comes

From a Messianic standpoint, these points of remembrance are very interesting. The blowing of the trumpet/shofar was to announce YHWH’s return (as King) and it would also announce the Day of Judgement when the Mashiach would come and bring Salvation. The ram (God will provide) was inextricably linked to the salvation process. God provided a way out for Isaac’s death, and provided something else as a substitute. Abraham didn’t have to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22) because YHWH provided an alternate son in his place. The body of the ram provided a vessel of atonement and the horn of the ram (shofar) announced this great sacrifice and the One who gave Himself to be the sacrifice. Yom Teruah and the Messiah are intrinsically connected.

Shofar and the Coronation

If Rosh Hashanah was to be a reminder of the return of the King, then the coronation imagery in the Tanakh (Old Testament) helped support the symbolism. When David gave instruction on how to coronate his son, he included the shofar:

1 Kings 32:35

Then King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” And they came into the king’s presence. The king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have my son Solomon ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. Let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there as king over Israel, and blow the trumpet [ba-shofar] and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ Then you shall come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne and be king in my place; for I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and Judah.” 

We read the same thing when captain Jehu was crowned king during a military campaign:

2 Kings 9:4-6, 13

So the young man, the servant of the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. When he came, behold, the captains of the army were sitting, and he said, “I have a word for you, O captain.” And Jehu said, “For which one of us?” And he said, “For you, O captain.” He arose and went into the house, and he poured the oil on his head and said to him, “Thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, ‘I have anointed you king over the people of YHWH, even over Israel’… 

Then they hurried and each man took his garment and placed it under him on the bare steps, and blew the trumpet [ba-shofar], saying, “Jehu is king!”

It was not just human kings that got this royal treatment with the blast of a trumpet. God was described as King with coronation language, including teruah (shouting) and the shofar (trumpet):

Psalm 47:5-8 

God has ascended with a shout [bit’ruah], YHWH, with the sound of a trumpet [shofar]. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.

For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a skillful psalm. God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne.

YHWH ascended to the throne as King of all the earth with a shout (teruah) and with a trumpet (shofar)… emphasizing the entire point of Yom Teruah (and Rosh Hashanah), a day of joyful noise announcing the King’s presence on earth.

Trumpets in Celebration

In moments of great celebration (such as Yom Teruah) shouting and trumpets play an accompanying role: 

2 Samuel 6:14-21 (see also 1 Chronicles 15:25-29)

And David was dancing before YHWH with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of YHWH with shouting [bi’truahk] and the sound of the trumpet [shofar].

Then it happened as the ark of YHWH came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before YHWH; and she despised him in her heart.

So they brought in the ark of YHWH and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before YHWH. When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of YHWH of hosts. Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house.

But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” So David said to Michal, “It was before YHWH, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of YHWH, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before YHWH.

David celebrated with dancing, trumpets and cake (!) and he didn’t have to justify himself to his wife or to anyone. He celebrated before YHWH and no one else.

Just like David, we should be praising YHWH with music, dance, and the shofar:

Psalm 150

Praise YHWH! 

Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty expanse.

Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

Praise Him with trumpet [shofar] sound;  praise Him with harp and lyre.

Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.

Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise YHWH

Praise YHWH!

To get an idea of what the shofar sounds like, click here.

Shofar and the Call to War

Most commonly in the Old Testament (Tanakh) the trumpet was used to call people to war: 

Judges 6:34-35

So the Spirit of YHWH came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet [ba-shofar], and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him. He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.

Gideon used trumpets to do more than just call people to war; the trumpet became a peaceful weapon. Gideon had his downsized army use trumpets, torches and the act of smashing pots to create confusion:

Judges 7:16-23

He [Gideon] divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets [shofarot] and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers. He said to them, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet [shofar], then you also blow the trumpets [ba-shofarot] all around the camp and say, ‘For YHWH and for Gideon.’”

So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets [ba-shofarot] and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. When the three companies blew the trumpets [ba-shofarot] and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for YHWH and for Gideon!” Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled. When they blew 300 trumpets [ha-shofarot], YHWH set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian.

This “sword for YHWH and for Gideon!” was not a typical weapon. Music took their enemies down. God can use anything.

In the case of Sheba, he used a trumpet to give himself an air of authority to upstart his rebellion:

2 Samuel 20:1-2, 20 

Now a worthless fellow happened to be there whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite; and he blew the trumpet [ba-shofar] and said, “We have no portion in David, nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!”

So all the men of Israel withdrew from following David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri; but the men of Judah remained steadfast to their king, from the Jordan even to Jerusalem…

But Joab, of David’s army, pursued Sheba to end his revolt. When he came upon the town where Sheba was hiding, he prepared to destroy the city, but a wise woman in the city called out to Joab:

2 Samuel 20:19-22

I am of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You are seeking to destroy a city, even a mother in Israel. Why would you swallow up the inheritance of YHWH?

Joab replied, “Far be it, far be it from me that I should swallow up or destroy! Such is not the case. But a man from the hill country of Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against King David. Only hand him over, and I will depart from the city.” 

And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head will be thrown to you over the wall.” Then the woman wisely came to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it to Joab. So he blew the trumpet [ba-shofar], and they were dispersed from the city, each to his tent. Joab also returned to the king at Jerusalem.

Sheba blew the trumpet, calling on people to follow him instead of king David, but the people beheaded him, the trumpet was blown, and the revolt was ended. It took a woman who was peaceable and faithful to put an end to the devastation. In her faithfulness she was looking for her city to be whole and complete, and Sheba only brought chaos. The trumpet was usually used as a call for war, but in this instance it marked the end of Sheba’s disobedience and destruction.

Centuries later, Nehemiah announced that God would be the great Captain who would fight for the people :

Nehemiah 4:20

“At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet [ha-shofar], rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.

We, as a people, need to rally behind God as our Captain and be ready for the call of the trumpet. Perhaps we need to stop fighting our own petty battles on this planet… and learn to live as a united family under the banner of YHWH.

Shofar Announcing YHWH’s Presence

When Joshua led the people, under God’s command, to march around the walls of Jericho, God’s presence could be felt in the sounding of the trumpets and in the object of the Ark (which was likened to the footstool of God (Psalm 99:5, Psalm 132:7)). 

Joshua 6:6-11

So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of YHWH.” Then he said to the people, “Go forward, and march around the city, and let the armed men go on before the ark of YHWH.” And it was so, that when Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before YHWH went forward and blew the trumpets; and the ark of the covenant of YHWH followed them. The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while they continued to blow the trumpets. But Joshua commanded the people, saying, “You shall not shout nor let your voice be heard nor let a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I tell you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout!” So he had the ark of YHWH taken around the city, circling it once; then they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp…

They did this for six days:

Joshua 6:15-20

Then on the seventh day they rose early at the dawning of the day and marched around the city in the same manner seven times; only on that day they marched around the city seven times. At the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For YHWH has given you the city. The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to YHWH; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to YHWH; they shall go into the treasury of YHWH.” 

So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets [ba-shofarot]; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet [ha-shofar], the people shouted with a great shout [teruah] and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city.

The shouting of the people and the trumpet sounds didn’t take down the walls; it was YHWH’s mighty voice, through the works of His people, that defeated Jericho. Just as the earth was created in seven days with words from YHWH’s mouth, the earth could be torn down in seven days as well, with a single note of God’s voice.

In Exodus, God announced to Moses that He would come and meet the people. His arrival was accompanied by trumpets:

Exodus 19:10-11, 16-20

YHWH also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day YHWH will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people…

…So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet [shofar khazaq meod] sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because YHWH descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet [ha-sofar] grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. YHWH came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and YHWH called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

It’s interesting that the closer Moses got to YHWH the louder/stronger the trumpets sounded. It was as if God’s presence was continually surrounded by the sound of the shofar.

The emphasis of the third day is not lost to Messianic Jews and some Christians. Yeshua arrived as the resurrected Prince of Peace on the third day, and His return would be announced with trumpets on Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashanah, just like YHWH was announced with trumpets to the Hebrew people in the time of the exodus.

Trumpets for Warnings

The shofar was often used as an announcement (see 1 Samuel 13:3b-4). In the case of Rosh Hashanah it was the trumpet that would one day announce the defeat of the enemies and the return of YHWH, but a blast of a trumpet also acted as warning:

Ezekiel 33:1-6

And the word of YHWH came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet [ba-shofar] and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet [ha-shofar]  and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet [ha-shofar]  but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life.

‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow [on] the trumpet [ba-shofar]  and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’

“Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me.

Are you called to be a watchman for YHWH? Then you are responsible for giving the warnings and sounding the trumpet. People can take the warning, or not. After they receive the warning, they’re on their own. But if we do not metaphorically sound the trumpet, then ultimately we’re responsible for the destruction of the people. Ezekiel took on the responsibility as watchman and sounded the proverbial trumpet during the frightful time of the Babylonian invasion and subsequent exile.

Shofar and Prophecy

Prophetically the shofar can often be found in identified eschatological passages. The prophet Joel announced the Day of YHWH and used the trumpet like an alarm sound. This would be a time of social upheaval and a time where YHWH would grace the people with His Spirit:

Joel 2:1, 15-17, 28-32

Blow a trumpet [shofar] in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the Day of YHWH is coming; surely it is near….

…Blow a trumpet [shofar] in Zion, consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly. Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room and the bride out of her bridal chamber. Let the priests, YHWH’s ministers, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, “Spare Your people, O YHWH, and do not make Your inheritance a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they among the peoples say, ‘Where is their God?’”…

…“It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of YHWH comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of YHWH will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as YHWH has said, even among the survivors whom YHWH calls.

In the book of Zechariah, it was YHWH Himself who blew the trumpet and He announced that for those who had hope they would receive what they had lost with double the portion:

Zechariah 9:12-16

YHWH: Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; this very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you. For I will bend Judah as My bow, I will fill the bow with Ephraim. And I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece; and I will make you like a warrior’s sword.

Then YHWH will appear over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning; and the Lord YHWH will blow the trumpet [ba-shofar], and will march in the storm winds of the south.

YHWH of hosts will defend them. And they will devour and trample on the sling stones; and they will drink and be boisterous as with wine; and they will be filled like a sacrificial basin, drenched like the corners of the altar. And YHWH their God will save them in that day as the flock of His people; for they are as the stones of a crown, sparkling in His land.

Like a sparkling gem, we are precious to God and worthy to be saved. He will gather us up, one by one:

Isaiah 27:12-13

In that day YHWH will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet [b-shofar gadol] will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship YHWH in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

Yeshua (Jesus) also spoke of (what is often called the) End Times, with reference to the trumpet and the gathering of the people:

Matthew 24:29-31

Jesus: “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give up its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”

Yeshua didn’t just spout this from the top of His head. He was quoting scripture: Isaiah 13:10 (sun and moon darkened), Daniel 7:13 (Son of Man coming on the clouds), Isaiah 27:13 (great trumpet- see above), and Deuteronomy 30:4 (gathering His people from the ends of the earth).

Paul also used the language of Yom Teruah (trumpets and shouting) to speak of end times. 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Paul was announcing that Jesus would return with a shout and a trumpet! It should not be surprising then, that many believe that Yeshua will return with the great trumpet sounds that occur during the festival of Yom Teruah.

Shofar in Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)

Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) is the first festival to beginning series of the Fall Feasts. The next festival on the calendar is the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32) which occurs on the tenth day of the seventh month. Today, the Day of Atonement ends ceremoniously with a dramatic blowing of the shofar, but originally the shofar was only associated with this feast day when it was a jubilee year (the 50th year):

Leviticus 25:8-12

‘You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. You shall then sound a ram’s horn [shofar] abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its after growth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.’

Trumpets and the Return of the King

The trumpet was used at key moments in Scripture. It proceeded great announcements and dire warnings; it was a call to war and a call to celebration. It sounded out at the coronation of a king and at the jubilee of Atonement.

The shofar shouts out the wonderful announcement that YHWH is King and Captain, and He is the substitute for our transgressions. That is worth celebrating!

Many Jewish people believe that the promised Messiah will come for the first time on Yom Teruah/Rosh Hashanah, for the Day of Judgement. Many Messianic Jews, and some Christians, believe that Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) will return on Rosh Hashanah/Yom Teruah when the great shofarot/trumpets blast. If they are right, the return of the Messiah would come sometime in September or early October (the available dates on which Yom Teruah will fall in the years to come).

Of course we are called not to worry about such things (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6), and that is good teaching. The focus of our faith should be on living our lives out loud for YHWH, and putting into practise God’s love and generosity to our fellow humans… not on obsessing over what is to come. But 1 Thessalonians also tells us to be alert and sober, and of course we should always seek understanding. With that in mind, if you happen to hear the sound of a loud rams horn blasting in the sky today don’t say I didn’t warn you! 

Isaiah 18:3

All you inhabitants of the world and dwellers on earth, as soon as a standard is raised on the mountains, you will see it, and as soon as the trumpet [shofar] is blown, you will hear it.

Next week: Atonement

6 thoughts on “Shofar: Sound the TRUMPET”

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