Why the shofar? Why the trumpet?

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on David’s Tent, a ministry of Israeli believers Avner and Rachel Boskey. The Boskey’s have ministered at Tabernacle of David, and we consider them trustworthy and Biblically sound.

The gnarled and curved ram’s horn – the shofar – is universally recognized as the musical instrument par excellence associated with the Jewish High Holidays. It may come as a surprise that YHVH’s commands regarding the events of Yom Hakippurim (Yom Kippur/ the Day of Atonements) to Moses in Leviticus 23:26-32 and Numbers 29:7-11 do not mention a shofar or a silver trumpet. Why the connection, then? What do the Scriptures tell us about the symbolism of the shofar and the trumpet, and how do these meanings connect to these two Holy Festivals?



YHVH is a man of war (Exodus 15:3)


The first use of the word ‘shofar’ or ram’s horn in the Bible is found in the Book of Job, the earliest scroll written down by the ancients. In the context of fierce combat, the war horse is described as charging forward when he hears the voice of the shofar, the smell of the battle, the thundering shouting of the military officers and the teru’ah (war cries/shofar sounds).


  • “Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane? Do you make him leap like locusts? His majestic snorting is frightening. He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength. He goes out to meet the battle. He laughs at fear and is not dismayed, and he does not turn back from the sword. The quiver rattles against him. The flashing spear and javelin. He races over the ground with a roar and fury, and he does not stand still when he hears the sound of the shofar. As often as the shofar sounds he says, ‘Aha!’ And he senses the battle from afar, and the thunder of the captains and the war cry” (Job 39:19-25)


In Psalm 47 the Sons of Korah, a Levitical guild of worshippers (see 2 Chronicles 20:19), worship the God of Jacob who triumphs over Israel’s enemies in battle, accompanied by the sound of the shofar:


  • For YHVH Most High is to be feared, a great King over all the earth. He subdues peoples under us and nations under our feet. He chooses our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob whom He loves. Selah! God has ascended with a shout – YHVH, with the sound of the shofar (Psalm 47:2-5).


The epitome of the shofar’s use in battle is of course Joshua at the Battle of Jericho:


  • “So the people shouted, and priests blew the shofarot. And when the people heard the sound of the shofar, the people shouted with a great shout (teru’ah gedolah) and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead. And they took the city” (Joshua 6:20)



The joyful sound of shofar worship


King David incorporated the victory sound of the shofar and the military sound of the silver trumpet into his worship orchestra which led the Ark of the Covenant in public parade to the House of YHVH:


  • And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the Ark of YHVH to its place which he had prepared for it . . . Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives as the singers, with musical instruments, harps, lyres, and cymbals, playing to raise sounds of joy . . . Thus all Israel brought up the Ark of the Covenant of YHVH with shouting, and with sound of the shofar, with [silver] trumpets, with loud-sounding cymbals, with harps and lyres” (1 Chronicles 15:3, 16, 28)


An anonymous psalm declares the centrality of the shofar blast in high praise: “Sing praise-songs to YHVH with the lyre – with the lyre and the sound of praise-songs. With [silver] trumpets and the voice of the shofar shout joyfully before the King, YHVH” (Psalm 98:5-6).


The zenith of the Book of Psalms concludes with the shofar used in high praise: “Praise Him with the sounding of the shofar” (Psalm 150:3)!


The great rejoicing that Israel entered into at the New Moon celebrations, at the Feast of Trumpets and on the first day of the Feast of Sukkot/Tabernacles, is described in all its glory by Asaph in Psalm 81: “Blow the shofar at the New Moon [see Leviticus 23:23-24], at the full moon [the 15th day of the Hebrew month – see Leviticus 23:33-35], on our feast day. For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob” (Psalm 81:3-4).


The sound of the shofar was associated with joy and as a reminder to the God of Jacob to remember His prophetic promises and protection over His people Israel: “Also on the day of your joy and at your appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow your [silver] trumpets . . . and they shall be as a reminder of you before your God. I am YHVH your God” (Numbers 10:10).


Every Jewish man and woman, boy and girl instantly knew that the prophetic blast of the shofar called them to high praises, to shouts of victory and to war.



The coming of the terrible Day of YHVH


The God of Jacob is soon coming to judge the earth and to vanquish Israel’s enemies. The Hebrew prophets called that day ‘The Day of the Lord.’ That Day will be announced by the blowing of a shofar: “Blow a shofar in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the Day of YHVH is coming. Surely it is near” (Joel 2:1).


The prophets describe that, on that day of judgment YHVH Himself will blow His divine shofar of victory in battle as He uses the mighty army of Israel to accomplish His awesome task (see also Ezekiel 37:10; 25:14):


  • “For I will bend Judah as My bow! I will fill the bow with Ephraim, and I will stir up your sons, Zion, against your sons, Greece. And I will make you like a warrior’s sword. Then YHVH will appear over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning. And the Lord YHVH will blow the trumpet, and march in the storm winds of the south” (Zechariah 9:13-14).



Many great Last Days events will be heralded by a shofar


The prophetic End of the Jewish Exile will be accompanied by a shofar blast: “It will come about also in that day that a great shofar will be sounded. And those who were perishing in the Land of Ashur and who were scattered in the Land of Egypt will come and worship YHVH in the holy mountain at Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:13).


Messiah Yeshua will send out angels with a great shofar to gather together Israel’s scattered flock from across the face of the whole planet: “And He will send forth His angels with a great shofar and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:31).


The resurrection of the dead will be accompanied by the sound of the shofar: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52; the Greek equivalent word for shofar/trumpet used here is σάλπιγξsalpigx).


The return of Messiah Yeshua to Israel will be signaled by a shofar blast – “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” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).



The appearance of YHVH to the people of Israel


When the God of Jacob appeared to the Jewish people to reveal His Mosaic covenant, His fear-inspiring voice sounded like a shofar:


  • 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 shofar 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 YHVH 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 shofar grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. YHVH came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, and YHVH called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then YHVH spoke to Moses, ‘Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to YHVH to gaze, and many of them perish’” (Exodus 19:16-21)


The writer of the Book of Hebrews (Messianic Jews) draws a powerful lesson for us, drawn from Moses’ Messianic prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:


  • “For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words, which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them . . .  But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and gathering of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Yeshua, the Mediator of a New Covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns us from heaven” (Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-25)


  • YHVH your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; to him you shall listen. This is in accordance with everything that you asked of YHVH your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, “Do not let me hear the voice of YHVH my God again, and do not let me see this great fire anymore, or I will die!: And YHVH said to me, “They have spoken well. I will raise up for them a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them everything that I command him” (Deuteronomy 18:15-18)



The shofar of Jubilee


The Bible mentions blowing a shofar on Yom Kippur in only one verse – as part of a discussion about the Year of Jubilee (a joyous occasion) when once every fifty years each individual Israeli gets all his debts forgiven and wiped off the books:


  • “And you shall sound the blast of a shofar on the tenth of the month of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonements you shall sound a shofar throughout all 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” (Leviticus 25:9-10).


Every fifty years the Day of Atonement ended with a shofar blast, declaring the wiping away of a nation’s fiscal debt. This was an economic picture of something spiritual – how, only moments before this, YHVH had covered (made atonement for and ‘wiped away’) the sin of the Jewish people (see Zechariah 3:1-5). The national response was a sober heart filled with humble thanks to God. After the shofar blast, that heart would now blossom with overflowing joy. The gates of praise swung open as the entire Jewish nation began preparations for the pilgrim feast of Sukkot, the Harvest Feast better known as ‘the Feast of Tabernacles.’


As the High Holiday season draws near, it encourages our souls to remember all these shofar-related events. The shofar gives voice to our praise and our intercession. It accompanies our request for God to remember Israel in times of war (Numbers 10:9) and to visit our spiritual gatherings (Numbers 10:7). It is His clarion call to the Jewish people, emphasizing that YHVH never forgets a promise.



How should we then pray? 


  • Pray for God to bring revelation and alignment to believers everywhere concerning His times and seasons (Daniel 2:21; Genesis 1:14-18)
  • Pray for many Jewish people to reach out to our God during this season of heightened spiritual focus
  • Pray that YHVH would pour out a spirit of grace and supplications on Israel through a revelation of Messiah Yeshua our Atonement
  • Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s army speedily and in our day


Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.

In Messiah Yeshua,

Avner Boskey

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