What is the meaning of trumpets in the Bible?
Trumpets and shofars were used all throughout the Bible for various reasons. It might immediately come to mind the blowing of the shofar to announce the coronation of a new king, the shouts and trumpet blowing of Joshua and Gideon before battle, or the trumpets that will sound when Jesus returns to earth. However, are these the only times when trumpets were mentioned in the Bible? Or are there so many more examples and reasons for sounding this instrument?
As we draw closer to Yom Teruah or the Feast of Trumpets, it is important to understand the meaning of trumpets in the Bible. Why were they important? And what were they used for?
Sometimes you might see the word horn used for a shofar, or a ram’s horn, and trumpets or silver trumpets that were made by an artisan in the Bible. I won’t get into the differences between shofars and trumpets and who used what because English translations generally translate trumpet for both. Shofars and trumpets were used pretty much in the same way in scripture, and I want to focus on them collectively as trumpets and how we see them mentioned in scripture.
Purpose of Trumpets
The Bible details the main purposes of trumpets, they are for:
- Calling the assembly
- Gathering the congregation together at the door of the tabernacle of witness
- Moving the camps
- Going to war
- Celebrations and sacrifices
Numbers 10: 1 – 10:
“1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Make to thyself two silver trumpets: thou shalt make them of beaten work, and they shall be to thee for the purpose of calling the assembly, and of removing the camps. 3 And thou shalt sound with them, and all the congregation shall be gathered to the door of the tabernacle of witness. 4 And if they shall sound with one, all the rulers even the princes of Israel shall come to thee.
5 And they shall sound an alarm, and the camps pitched eastward shall begin to move. 6 And ye shall sound a second alarm, and the camps pitched southward shall move, and ye shall sound a third alarm, and the camps pitched westward shall move forward; and ye shall sound a fourth alarm, and they that encamp toward the north shall move forward: they shall sound an alarm at their departure. 7 And whenever ye shall gather the assembly, ye shall sound, but not an alarm. 8 And the priests the sons of Aaron shall sound with the trumpets; and it shall be a perpetual ordinance for you throughout your generations.
9 And if ye shall go forth to war in your land against your enemies that are opposed to you, then shall ye sound with the trumpets; and ye shall be had in remembrance before the Lord, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. 10 And in the days of your gladness, and in your feasts, and in your new moons, ye shall sound with the trumpets at your whole-burnt-offerings, and at the sacrifices of your peace-offerings; and there shall be a memorial for you before you God: I the Lord your God. “
Calling the Assembly
The first purpose of the trumpets was to call the assembly of Israel together. The leader of the children of Israel would gather the assembly together – like how Moses did many times in the wilderness, for specific purposes.
Oftentimes the Bible refers to Moses calling for the gathering of the assembly for instruction, teaching, reprimand, etc. The way it is written you almost get the picture that Moses yelled really loud and everyone came running towards him, but this would have been done by a trumpet sounding.
Someone could also blow a trumpet to gather the Hebrews away from someone or for celebration.
Examples of this are:
– A wicked man, Sheba son of Bichri, blew the trumpet to gather the Hebrews against David following the war with Absalom (2 Samuel 20: 1 – 2).
– King Saul blew a trumpet to call all the Hebrews together following Jonathan’s attack and victory over the Philistines’ garrison in Geba (1 Samuel 13: 3 – 4).
– Gathering of the Hebrews back to the Lord by sounding the trumpet (Hosea 5).
The second purpose of trumpets was to move the camps of Israel. God led Moses and the children throughout the wilderness. There was a specific order in which the children of Israel were camped together and how they moved. Numbers 10: 5 – 8 detail the order in which this was done and Numbers 2: 1 – 34 detail the order of the encampment of the tribes in the wilderness.
Going to War
The next reason for trumpets was to announce to Israel that they were going to war. They were sounded to announce war and as a reminder that they were with God (Numbers 10:9).
The proclamation of war is one of the most frequently mentioned ways that trumpets were used in the Bible.
All throughout the Bible, we see someone blowing the trumpet to call the Hebrews to war against each other or enemy nations. Watchmen would sit in high towers and watch for anything suspicious, it was his job to sound a trumpet to warn the Hebrews of impending danger. Then it was up to the king or the people to decide if they would heed the warning or not.
Examples of this are:
– Joshua and the children of Israel going to war against Jericho (Joshua 6: 1 – 9).
– Ehud, a judge in Israel, killed Eglon king of the Moabites. He sounded a trumpet to announce that Israel was going to war against the Moabites (Judges 3: 12 – 30).
– Gideon and his men sounded trumpets before they went to war against the Midianites (Judges 7: 14 – 22).
– The prophet Jeremiah mourns over the sound of the trumpets which signals that war is coming (Jeremiah 4: 19 – 21).
– The watchmen would signal war or danger to the congregation of Israel by using a trumpet (Jeremiah 6: 17; Ezekiel 33: 1 – 6).
– War or impending destruction was signaled by the sound of a trumpet (Joel 2:1; Amos 2: 1 – 3)
Celebrations and sacrifices
Trumpets played an important part in the celebrations and sacrifices of the Hebrews. Trumpets were blown on the feast days, during the sacrifices, on New Moon days, Sabbath days, and anytime there was a celebration.
We also see at Mount Sinai during Shavuot that the voice of Elohim was described as a loud trumpet.
And lastly, we see Jesus describing the prideful way of showing off our good deeds to others as sounding a trumpet.
Examples of this are:
– Trumpets were blown on Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement during the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25: 9).
– Trumpets are blown on the feast of Yom Teruah or The feast of trumpets (Leviticus 23: 24; Numbers 29: 1).
– During all the sacrifices, feast, and holy days trumpets were blown (Numbers 10: 10; Psalms 81: 1- 3; Psalms 98: 4 – 6).
– Trumpets were blown to announce the coronation of a new king (2 Samuel 15: 10; 2 Kings 9:13; 1 Kings 1: 33 – 40).
– The voice of the Lord when he spoke to the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai was like a loud trumpet (Exodus 19: 16; Hebrews 12: 18 – 21).
– Jesus warns us against sounding a trumpet by telling others of the good things that we do, but rather that we should do good things in secret and have the Lord reward us openly (Matthew 6: 2 – 4).
Processions, Music, and Worship
The last way we see trumpets used in the Bible is for processions, music, and worship. During the procession of bringing the Ark of Covenant into the city of David, we see that trumpets were used for music, and for joy and gladness. We praise God with our voices, and with trumpets. And lastly, we see that Jesus’ return and the destruction during the tribulation will be signaled by trumpets.
Examples of this are:
– David brought the Ark of the covenant into the city of David with gladness, shouting, and with the blowing of trumpets (2 Samuel 6: 15; 1 Chronicles 15: 28; 1 Chronicles 16: 1 – 6; 41 – 43).
– King Solomon dedicated the Temple to God with music, singing, gladness, and trumpets (2 Chronicles 5: 2 – 14).
– Make a joyful noise before the Lord with trumpets (Psalms 47: 5; 98: 6; 150: 3).
– Jesus’ return and his gathering of his elect by the angels will be signaled by the great sound of a trumpet (Matthew 24: 30 – 31).
– Jesus’ return and the dead in Christ rising will be signaled by a trumpet sound (1 Corinthians 15: 52).
– The seven angels of God were given seven trumpets to sound preceding each disaster during the tribulation (Revelations 8 – 10).
Trumpets were used for many reasons throughout the Bible. They were used for calling the assembly together for instruction, teaching, or correction. They were used to move the camps of Israel and to announce war. Celebrations, sacrifices, processions, and times of music and worship all included the sounding of trumpets.
Trumpets were used to signal joy and feasting, but also war and destruction. They were multi-faceted and integral to the lives of the people of God. Trumpets were constantly used by the ancient Hebrews and will continue to be used during the end times and beyond.
I hope you learned a little about the meaning of trumpets in the Bible and their importance. As we blow the shofar this Yom Teruah, I hope we all look at it as more than just an ancient instrument but as an important tool of God. Shalom.