“A memorial of blowing of trumpets” is what God called the first of the fall festivals—or a “memorial of teruwah,” as the Hebrew reads (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1).
Two types of trumpets were blown on this day in ancient Israel. The first was the chatsoserah: thestraight, long silver trumpets blown only by priests. These were used for a variety of occasions, one of which was to announce the new month—the first day of the seventh month in this case. The second type of trumpet blown on this festival was the shofar, made from a ram’s horn.
The Israelites were to mark this particular day as a memorial of the significance of the trumpets to them physically and symbolically. What was that significance?
Both of these trumpets were used in war, and both had roles in celebratory events. That relates quite well to teruwah, which has a root meaning of shout, cry, blast. Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says it can mean joyful noise, rejoicing or a warlike cry for battle.
At first glance, these definitions seem contradictory. Of the 36 times teruwah is used, about a dozen times refer to alarm or war, though it is also translated as “joy” or “shout for joy” 16 times. So is it a memorial for blasting, crying out—as in war—or a joyful, jubilant sound? Some translations render it a “memorial of alarm,” some a “memorial of triumph.” Which is it?
When you understand what the Feast of Trumpets pictures, this apparent contradiction makes perfect sense. This day points us to the blast of the seventh trumpet angel. It is a dreadful blast of fierce warfare and a grueling fate for rebellious man. Yet, it is also a wonderful blast ushering in the gathering of God’s people—spiritually and physically.
Psalm 89:15 proclaims: “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.” The Hebrew word that translators chose to render as “joyful sound” is teruwah.
Let’s examine the use of both types of trumpets and understand how they represent a joyful sound for those who understand God’s plan. Let’s see how this day should spur us to greater joy and enthusiastic praises to our great God!
Silver Trumpets in Battle
Numbers 10 explains in detail what role the silver trumpets played in ancient Israel.
1. What were some of the functions of these straight trumpets? Numbers 10:2-10.
Not only were they a general gathering device and announcement of the new moon, they also had a function in Israel’s battles.
2. Which priestly descendant is specifically mentioned as using this trumpet in battle? Numbers 31:6.
These trumpets served a tremendous function for organizing troops in battle. The War Scroll of Qumran, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains a document called “The Rule of Battle,” which sheds more light on the use of these trumpets.
Alfred Sendrey comments on this “Rule of Battle” in his book Music in Ancient Israel: “This ‘Rule of Battle’ intimates that the priests and Levites have been assigned quite an important role in the battle, namely to direct the operations of the troops in the midst of the combatants. In giving appropriate signals with trumpet and shofar blasts, they marked the different phases of engagement. Priests and Levites as strategists—a peculiar role, though not entirely novel. Looking into the purely musical aspect of this detailed ‘order of battle,’ we realize that the priest-strategists had at their disposal seven different kinds of blasts for the assembly, the advance, the attack, the ambush, the pursuit, the reassembly and the recall. Such blasts must have had some conspicuous rhythmic or other characteristics, without which their specific purposes could not have been recognized by the fighting men.”
Though the above is not canonized truth, it certainly gels with Numbers 31:6’s statement that the priest would blow (Hebrew teruwah)with these trumpets.
3. This is especially interesting given the number of trumpet blasts that comprise the day of the Lord. How many are there? Revelation 8:1-2.
Shofar for Alarm—and Joy!
The shofar, though mostly connected with the sound of alarm, also had more functions than just striking fear into the nation. Of its 72 uses in the Old Testament, four times it is used as a general gathering device, four times as a precursor to major announcements (as attention-getters), three times when referring to the voice of God, and six times to refer to praise, joy or celebrations to God (see Leviticus 25:9; 1 Chronicles 15:28; 2 Chronicles 15:14; Psalms 98:6; 150:3).
1. What specific joyful instance coincides with a specific time on the calendar? Psalm 81:1-3.
There is only one new moon per year that is a “solemn feast day”: the Feast of Trumpets! And this blowing of the shofar is, for God’s people, a joyful noise!
2. What other associations do both kinds of trumpets have with joy? Psalm 98:6.
The Hebrew word for “trumpets” refers to the silver straight ones, and the word for “cornet” is the shofar. Here they are connected with praise of God as a King. Five references of shofar in the Old Testament refer to coronations—namely those on the throne of David (e.g., 1 Kings 1:34, 39).
3. What connection does the final trumpet of the day of the Lord have with God as King? Revelation 11:15.
4. What connection does this same trumpet also have with war? Verse 18; Matthew 24:30-31.
The word for “dead” in verse 18 originally was rendered “nations.” The nations will not be happy to see Christ, as it will be their time to be judged. Their rule will end.
Lesson 32 of the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course says: “These terrifying events make the Feast of Trumpets a solemn day. But to those who have begun to obey the government of God now, the Feast of Trumpets is also a time of rejoicing, because it pictures the time when today’s lawless societies will be abolished and the Kingdom of God will be established on Earth by Jesus Christ!”
5. What is the fate of those who vainly try to fight Christ? Psalm 2:9; Zechariah 14:9-15.
Christ’s return will provoke significant mourning by the wicked. But the righteous will have a very different response. There will be many reasons to rejoice at the sound of this trumpet!
A Joyful Day
The Bible prophesies about the survivors of this war.
1. What happens to them, and how is it connected to a trumpet blast? Isaiah 27:13.
Here, a “great shofar” is blown as a gathering device—referring, in this case, to those coming out of this end-time captivity. This exodus will be a time of great joy and singing (Jeremiah 31:7-8; Isaiah 35:10).This all occurs around the time of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.
2. For those righteous who died before this time, what will happen to them at this “last trump”? 1 Corinthians 15:52.
That sound will initiate this first resurrection.
3. John 5:28 says “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice.” To what is God’s voice likened? Exodus 19:16-19; Revelation 1:10; 4:1.
Yes, blessed are they who know this joyful sound! If we truly understand the events pictured by the Feast of Trumpets, we should sing aloud to God.
4. Which angelic beings are specifically mentioned as praising God at the seventh trumpet? Revelation 11:15-17.
We should strive to be as thankful as these beings are! We should be worshiping God wholeheartedly because we understand that Christ is about to rule this Earth.
5. Psalm 47 is traditionally read seven times by the Jews on the Feast of Trumpets. Verse 5 reads: “God is gone up with a shout [teruwah], the Lord with the sound of a trumpet [shofar].” What does the psalm say to do next? Psalm 47:6-8.
Verse 7 would be better translated, “sing praises every one that hath understanding.”We should not only understand the blast, or teruwah, of both kinds of trumpets, but the meaning of their sounds should instill hope in us! It is a joyful sound to those with understanding.
This knowledge and understanding of the Feast of Trumpets should spur us to greater praise and gratitude toward our great God and fill us with excitement for the coming of our King, Jesus Christ!