Impact

Shofar and Trumpet

Sacred musical instruments that are often used in military and ritual settings by the nation of Israel. (4)

Shofar

The Hebrew word Shofar means “a horn for blowing.” It was a horn that could be blown by the priests or the people of Israel. The word shofar in the Old Covenant is used in ten different ways. (6)

  1. It was blown when the Mosaic Law was given (Exodus 19:16,19; 20:18).
  2. It was blown at the fall of Jericho when the walls fell down (Joshua 6:4,8,9,13,16).
  3. It was the shofar that Gideon used to cause confusion in the camp of the Midianites (Judges 7:16;18-22).
  4. The shofar was a call to war or a warning of war and this is one of its more common usage (Judges 3:27; 6:34; 1 Samuel 13:3; 2 Samuel 20:1; Nehemiah 4:18, 20; Job 39:24; Isaiah 18:3; Jeremiah 4:5, 19, 21; 6:1, 17; 42:14; 51:27; Ezekiel 33:3–6; Hosea 5:8; 8:1; Joel 2:1; Amos 2:2;3:6; Zephaniah 1:16; Zechariah 9:14).
  5. It was used as a call for the cessation of war (2 Samuel 2:28;18:16;20:22).
  6. The shofar was used in the anointing and accession of a new king to the throne (2 Samuel 15:10; 1 Kings 1:34, 41; 2 Kings 9:13). What a time of feasting and pageantry for Israel! (2)
  7. This word was used in ritual settings: for the feast of the new moon (and perhaps as a name for this feast in particular) (Psalms 81:3); for the Feast of Horn (Shofar) Blasts (Leviticus 23:23–25); and for the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9).
  8. The shofar was used as a way of praise of God (Psalms 98:6).
  9. It was used as a call to repentance (Joel 2:15).
  10. It was used once as a declaration of Israel’s sins (Isaiah 58:1).

Three different Hebrew words are used throughout the Old Covenant synonymously to refer to the English word shofar.

1. שׁוֹפָר (shophar)

The most common Hebrew word for “horn” as a musical instrument is שׁוֹפָר (shophar) or shofar. The שׁוֹפָר (shophar) was primarily used in military settings. However, in both military and ritual settings, it was viewed as a sacred instrument.

2. קֶרֶן (qeren)

In the Old Covenant, קֶרֶן (qeren) is most often used symbolically as the strongest or topmost part of something, and is not often specific to a musical instrument. During the battle of Jericho, the word קֶרֶן (qeren) is used synonymously with שׁוֹפָר (shophar), making it indistinguishable from the sacred horn (Joshua 6:5; Braun, Music, 25–26). (4)

The only other occurrence in the Old Covenant is when its Aramaic equivalent is used to specify a wind instrument is in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:5,7,10,15). Pictographic evidence of Assyrian horns around the time Daniel was written indicate that the horn mentioned here was likely a man-made, wooden horn, rather than an actual animal horn (Kolyada, Compendium, 65–66)(7). Outside of the Bible, the קֶרֶן (qeren) appears to be one of the oldest types of horn instruments that was used exclusively in secular settings (Kolyada, Compendium, 66–67)(7). (4)

3. יוֹבֵל (yovel)

The word יוֹבֵל (yovel) is used less frequently than both קֶרֶן (qeren) and שׁוֹפָר (shophar) throughout the Bible. Most of the time, its use refers to the Year of Jubilee (1) (Numbers 36:4. Leviticus 25:8-55). (4)

When God meets Israel at Sinai before the Ten Commandments are given, יוֹבֵל (yovel)(Exodus 19:13) is used synonymously with שׁוֹפָר (shophar)(Exodus 19:16). A modified version of the same term is used again, with שׁוֹפָר (shophar), in Joshua 6:5. These two occurrences seem to indicate that the שׁוֹפָר (shophar) was the instrument used as “the horn of jubilee.” (Braun, Music, 25–26). (4)

Have seven priests carry seven rams’ [yovel] horns [shophar] in front of the ark. On the seventh day march around the city seven times, while the priests blow the horns [shophar]. When you hear the signal from the ram’s [yovel] horn [qeren], have the whole army give a loud battle cry. Then the city wall will collapse and the warriors should charge straight ahead.” (Joshua 6:4,5 NET)

The Battle of Jericho

One of the clearest demonstrations of the use of trumpets in warfare is the story of Joshua at the battle of Jericho. Moses had died, and the leadership passed to Joshua, who became responsible for leading the people into the Promised Land. (3)

Joshua encountered one who identified himself as the commander of the army of the Lord (Joshua 5:13-15). This commander of God’s army gave Joshua a strange battle plan. It is one that Joshua would have never thought of himself. And if he had, he certainly would not have told anyone. They would have thought he was crazy. But God doesn’t do things the way man does. (3)

The angel told Joshua to march his army around the city of Jericho once each day for six days. Seven priests were to follow the army, each blowing a shofar. They were followed by another group of priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant. They were then followed by a rear guard. All were to march in absolute silence. No one was to say a word. The only noise was the sound of the shofars blown by the priests. (3)

On the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times for a weekly total of thirteen times. Everyone was to be quiet. Then at a certain point, Joshua was to give a command for the priests to blow one long, loud blast on the shofar. Then everyone was to shout! At that very moment, according to the commander of God’s army, the walls of Jericho would fall down, enabling the Hebrews to take the city. (Joshua 6.) (3)

Joshua carried out the battle plan given to him by the commander of God’s army. It all happened just as God said, and the Jews soundly defeated their enemy. (3)

Contemporary scientific experiments with שּׁוֹפָר (shophar) have demonstrated that by combining several short, synchronous blasts, a small army could indeed destroy stone buildings as reported in the battle of Jericho (Kolyada, Compendium, 70–71)(7). (4)

Horn of Salvation

As God spoke to the people and used trumpets to fight their battles for them, the Jews began to call God the “horn of their salvation.” By this, they meant that God was their deliverer who would fight their battles for them and save them from their enemies. King David was a great warrior who clearly understood and appreciated the might of God in warfare. He spoke of God as the horn of his salvation. (2)

I love You, LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies. (Psalm 18:1–3 HCSB)(cf. 2 Samuel 22:2-4) 

But the shofar did not always strike a fearful note. Recall, that the shofar was also blown at the start of the Jubilee year (1) (Leviticus 25:9), the great sabbatical release provided by God. Eagerly the slaves and hopelessly indebted listened for the joyful sound that signaled freedom! The land itself welcomed the trumpet blast that allowed it to rest. (2)

The shofar’s call is a reminder to the Jewish people that God is sovereign: (2)

With trumpets and the blaring of the ram’s horn, shout out praises before the king, the LORD! (Psalm 98:6 NET)

The Scriptures also predict the role of the shofar in the future restoration of Israel. Isaiah envisioned the shofar blast as announcing the gathering of dispersed Israel: (2)

At that time a large trumpet will be blown, and the ones lost in the land of Assyria will come, as well as the refugees in the land of Egypt. They will worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 27:13 NET)

Similarly, Zechariah writes that the Lord Himself will blow the shofar on the day when He delivers His people from attacking heathen armies:

Then the Lord will appear above them, and his arrow will shoot forth like lightning; the Lord God will blow the trumpet and will sally forth on the southern storm winds. (Zechariah 9:14 NET)
Priest Blowing Shofar (5)

Historical Meaning of the Shofar

Traditionally, the sounding of the shofar has been a memorial for the Jewish people of God’s faithfulness to Abraham. The ram’s horn reminds us of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac and God’s provision of a ram as a substitute. (2) Again, the shofar was blown in remembrance of the ram that was sacrificed (1) in place of Isaac (Genesis 22:13).

Jewish tradition teaches that God blew one of the ram’s horns at Mount Sinai at the first Pentecost (1),

On the third day in the morning there was thunder and lightning and a dense cloud on the mountain, and the sound of a very loud horn [shofar]; all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their place at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 19:16,17 NET)
For you have not come to something that can be touched, to a burning fire and darkness and gloom and a whirlwind and the blast of a trumpet [shofar] and a voice uttering words such that those who heard begged to hear no more. (Hebrews 12:18–19 NET)

God will blow the other ram’s horn at the coming of the Messiah. (3)

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet [shofar] of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 NET)

Perhaps the shofar blast was intended to remind the Hebrews of the awesome event of the giving of the law and their promised obedience (Exodus 19:8). Thus, the shofar was an exclamation mark reminding Israel of God’s faithfulness to Abraham and of the faithfulness God required of them. (2)

The shofar has always held a prominent role in the history of God’s ancient people. Rabbis have delighted in quoting its long history of biblical usage: (2)

“The shofar was created for the welfare of Israel. The Torah was given to Israel with the sound of the shofar [Exodus 19:19]. Israel conquered in the battle of Jericho with the blast of the shofar [Joshua 6:20]. Israel will be advised of the advent of the Messiah with the sound of the shofar [Zechariah 9:14]. And the Holy One, blessed be He, will sound the shofar at the time of the ingathering of the exiles of Israel to their place [Isaiah 27:13]” (Eliyahu Zuta 2). (2)

Priests Blowing Silver Trumpets

Trumpet

חֲצֹצְרָה (chatsotserah)

The term חֲצֹצְרָה (chatsotserah) is typically translated as “trumpet” rather than “horn,” though it falls within the same category of wind instrument. Unlike the שׁוֹפָר (shophar), which was made from an actual curved ram’s horn, the חֲצֹצְרָה (chatsotserah) was a straight, metallic trumpet (Kolyada, Compendium, 81)(7), which the Bible describes as being made of silver (1) (Numbers 10:2; 2 Kgs 12:13).

The חֲצֹצְרָה (chatsotserah) were initially made to be blown exclusively by the priests during worship (Numbers 10:2,8,9,10. Numbers 31:6; Ezra 3:10; Nehemiah 12:35,41; 1 Chronicles 15:24;16:6; 2 Chronicles 13:12,14; 2 Chronicles 29:26,27,28). Again, the Shofar could be blown by the priests or the people of Israel.

However, over time the Levites (1 Chronicles 16:42; 2 Chronicles 5:12,13), and court officials and citizens seemingly play these trumpets (2 Kings 11:14; 1 Chronicles 13:8; 1 Chronicles 15:28; 2 Chronicles 15:14; 2 Chronicles 20:28;23:13). (4)

In Hebrew poetry, writers often used two different words in parallelism to bring attention to the item being described. Occasionally, the words הֲצֹצְרָה (hatsotserah) and שׁוֹפָר (shophar) are used together in this manner (Hosea 5:8; Psalms 98:6). (4)

With trumpets and the blaring of the ram’s horn, shout out praises before the king, the LORD! (Psalm 98:6 NET)

God used trumpets in the Hebrew Bible as a means of communicating with His covenant people. God could not speak directly to the people without terrifying them.

Then, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness while the mountain was ablaze, all your tribal leaders and elders approached me. You said, “The Lord our God has shown us his great glory and we have heard him speak from the middle of the fire. It is now clear to us that God can speak to human beings and they can keep on living. But now, why should we die, because this intense fire will consume us! If we keep hearing the voice of the Lord our God we will die! Who is there from the entire human race who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the middle of the fire as we have, and has lived? You go near so that you can hear everything the Lord our God is saying and then you can tell us whatever he says to you; then we will pay attention and do it.” (Deuteronomy 5:23–27 NET) 

So He spoke to them indirectly through the use of trumpets. To the Hebrews, the sound of the trumpet represented both the voice of God and the might of God in warfare.

The LORD spoke to Moses: “Make two trumpets of silver; you are to make them from a single hammered piece (Numbers 10:1–2 a NET)

Two silver trumpets were hammered from the same source of silver. The silver horns were blown by the Priests twice daily during the morning and evening sacrifices, several times for the Sabbath (1), when burnt and peace offerings were offered, and during the three Pilgrimage Festivals (i.e., Feast of Unleavened Bread (1), Feast of First Fruits (1), and Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)(1) (Leviticus 23:4-38)).

“Also in the time when you rejoice, such as on your appointed festivals or at the beginnings of your months, you must blow with your trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings, so that they may become a memorial for you before your God: I am the Lord your God.” (Numbers 10:10 NET)

They were also blown to assemble the people to worship, to break camp, and as an alarm in preparation for battle. A good summary of how the trumpets were used for directing the movement of the camps of Israel is provided in the tenth chapter of the Book of Numbers. (3)

Numbers 10:1–9 (NET)
1 The LORD spoke to Moses:  
2 “Make two trumpets of silver; you are to make them from a single hammered piece. You will use them for assembling the community and for directing the traveling of the camps. 
3 When they blow them both, all the community must come to you to the entrance of the tent of meeting. 
4 “But if they blow with one trumpet, then the leaders, the heads of the thousands of Israel, must come to you.
5 When you blow an alarm, then the camps that are located on the east side must begin to travel.
6 And when you blow an alarm the second time, then the camps that are located on the south side must begin to travel. An   alarm must be sounded for their journeys. 
7 But when you assemble the community, you must blow, but you must not sound an alarm.
8 The sons of Aaron, the priests, must blow the trumpets; and they will be to you for an eternal ordinance throughout your generations. 
9 If you go to war in your land against an adversary who opposes you, then you must sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the LORD your God, and you will be saved from your enemies.

The direction, either for marching or for resting, was given by the Cloud inhabited by the Divine Presence. For the actual signal to move, two silver trumpets were to be used by the sons of Aaron. A prolonged alarm indicated the commencement of the march. At the first alarm, the eastern, at the second, the southern part of the camp was to move forward, then came the Tabernacle and its custodians, the western, and finally the northern part of the camp, Naphtali closing the rear. (8)

On the other hand, when an assembly of the people was summoned, the signal was only one blast of the trumpets in short, sharp tones. In general, and for all times, the blast of these silver trumpets, whether in war, on festive, or on joyous occasions, had this spiritual meaning: “you shall be remembered before Yahweh your God” (Numbers 10:9) In other words, Israel was a host, and as such summoned by blast of trumpet. But Israel was a host of which Yahweh was Leader and King, and the trumpets that summoned this host were silver trumpets of the sanctuary, blown by the priests of Yahweh. Hence their blasts brought Israel as the Lord’s host in remembrance before their God and King. (8)

In Solomon’s day, the number of silver trumpets grew to 120! (10)

All the Levites who were musicians, including Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and relatives, wore linen. They played cymbals and stringed instruments as they stood east of the altar. They were accompanied by 120 priests who blew trumpets. (2 Chronicles 5:12 NET)

Horn Sounds

The Old Covenant mentions three types of Horn Blasts:

teqi’ah (tekiah) – several rather short blasts produced by vibrations of the tongue together with continuous blowing (Trumpet reference: Numbers 10:7,8) (7)

teru’ah (truah) – an alarm signal probably consisting of a series of short abrupt blasts (Trumpet reference: Numbers 10:5-7;10:9)

meshek – one long continuous blast (Shofar references: Exodus 19:13. Joshua 6:5)

Shofar and Trumpets in the New Covenant

The trumpet is used in four different ways in the New Covenant: (6)

  1. It was used to make an announcement (Matthew 6:2).
  2. It was used as a call to war (1 Corinthians 14:8).
  3. It was used as a reminder of the sound of the trumpet at the time of the giving of the Law (Hebrews 12:19).
  4. It was used as a symbol of the voice of God (Revelations 1:10; 4:1).

The ceremony of the blowing of the shofar during the time of the Messiah was magnificent to see and experience. The priest chosen to blow the shofar was trained for his calling since youth; he was an artist, a virtuoso of sacred song. On Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets), he would raise the twisted horn and press his lips to the golden mouthpiece, draw an enormous breath of air, and begin to blow. The haunting sound of the horn would pierce through the Temple mount, stirring the hearts of the faithful in dire need of repentance. Three times the shofar would sound, followed by the blast of silver trumpets blown by two attending priests. The sound of those trumpets was a mere echo of the mournful call of the ram’s horn. The shofar typically called Israel to attention, to fear and trembling, to rejoicing; but at the feast of Trumpets, the sound of the shofar beckoned the people with a message unlike any other: a message of a Sabbath rest, a holy convocation, a time to present special burnt offerings to the Lord. (2)

On a fast day, the Mishna records that the mouthpiece of the shofar was overlaid with silver, and the priest blowing the shofar stood on the outside with two trumpeters. The trumpets blew the long blast and the shofar the shorter (Rosh Hashanah 3:4). This comparison once again reveals the central role of the shofar on New Year’s Day. (2)

The silver horns were also blown by the Priests twice daily during the morning and evening sacrifices, several times for the Sabbath (1), again when sacrifices were offered, and during the three Pilgrimage Festivals (i.e., Feast of Unleavened Bread (1), Feast of First Fruits (1), and Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)(1) (Leviticus 23:4-38)).

“Also in the time when you rejoice, such as on your appointed festivals or at the beginnings of your months, you must blow with your trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings, so that they may become a memorial for you before your God: I am the Lord your God.” (Numbers 10:10 NET)

See the “Trumpets” column in “Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant Table” below.

Sacrifices and Offerings of the Old Covenant

After Jesus the Messiah’s death, burial (1), and resurrection (1), He ascended to Heaven (1) to be seated on His throne as King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and as our Great High Priest (1) amidst the blowing of the Shofar and Trumpets!

God has ascended his throne amid loud shouts; the Lord has ascended his throne amid the blaring of ram’s horns. (Psalm 47:5 NET)

Despite the distinct differences, after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the distinction between the שׁוֹפָר (shophar) and חֲצֹצְרָה (chatsotserah) was partially lost, and Talmud texts often equate the two. (4) Originally, where two silver trumpets were blown, they were later replaced by the shofar.

Arch of Titus, Rome, Italy (5)
Arch of Titus Temple Treasures – Silver Trumpets (forming an “X” shape) (5)

The silver trumpets are shown in the Arch of Titus, located in Rome, Italy, as part of the Temple treasures that were looted after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., as predicted by Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 24:1,2).

Temple Treasures Recolored (9)

Typological Meaning of the Silver Trumpets

The number two in the Bible represents “witnesses.”

A single witness may not testify against another person for any trespass or sin that he commits. A matter may be legally established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15 NET)

Silver (1) represents the price paid for redemption by the blood of Jesus (1).

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7 NET)

Being made from a single hammered piece of silver represents the Jews and the Gentile becoming one.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NET)

Blowing the two silver trumpets provided witnesses to the world that the blood of Jesus would pay the price for the redemption of all that believe, thus allowing the Jew and Gentile to become one in Christ.

Biblical Typologies, Metaphors, & Similes Series:


Shalom
(Protection, Wholeness, Success)
Peace

Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. 
(3 John 1:2 NET)


(1) Select the link to open another article in a new tab with additional information.

(2) Glaser, M., & Glaser, Z. (1987). The fall feasts of israel. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

(3) Booker, R. (2016). Celebrating jesus in the biblical feasts expanded edition: discovering their significance to you as a christian. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image.

(4) Shofar. (2016). In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

(5) Pictures from Bolen, T. Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, Volumes 1-20 Purchased from https://www.bibleplaces.com and used with permission.

(6) Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Vol. 118, p. 15). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

(7) Kolyada, Yelena (2014) A Compendium of Musical Instruments and Instrumental Terminology in the Bible (2014) ISBN-13: 978-1845534097, ISBN-10: 1845534093

(8) Edersheim, A. (1975). Bible History: Old Testament (Vol. 2, pp. 151–152). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

(9) https://www.beishamikdashtopics.com/2018/08/recoloring-arch-of-titus.html

(10) Howard, K., & Rosenthal, M. (1997)The Feasts of the Lord. Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Hal has been teaching the Bible for over three decades. Presently, He desires to honor Jesus Christ through this Internet teaching ministry, thereby glorifying the Heavenly Father in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He believes, second to cultivating his relationship with God that raising his family unto the Lord is the most significant task for him while on Earth. Furthermore, Hal believes that being a successful leader in the church or workplace is no substitute for failing to be a successful leader at home.

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