A ‘shofar’ is a ram’s horn trumpet, one of the earliest wind instruments known to man. Its symbolic use by the people of Israel is described in this article.
In November 1998 I visited London for a few days. I went there simply to learn how to play the ‘shofar.’ A Christian living in London had telephoned me about a ‘shofar seminar’ being held in a west London synagogue on Sunday 1st November. Since I already play a modern trumpet and possess a small collection of ram’s horns, I was excited at the prospect of learning to play the ‘shofar’ correctly. At the seminar, to my surprise, I was classified as an experienced player and invited to join another group of experienced players to take part in a ‘shofar fanfare’ which was to open the 9th International Jewish Music Festival commmemorating Israel‘s Jubilee. I considered this a great privilege to say the least. When, on the following Monday the ‘shofar fanfare’ echoed round the concert hall I thought of Joshua, Gideon, the dedication of Solomon’s Temple and the Trumpets of Revelation. As in ages past, the shofar’s spiritual, awe-inspiring tones stirred the hearts of the high-tech generation of Jews in that London concert hall. The concert was a resounding success and I understand that the ‘shofar fanfare’ moved some in the audience to tears of joy. The visit from start to finish was an experience I could never have imagined. Even now when I recall it, its meaning remains a mystery to me. What could it all signify?
Far more symbolic than the ‘shofar fanfare’ in the concert hall was my visit to another London synagogue two days earlier on late Friday evening at the start of the Sabbath, where I was invited to open the ‘ark.’ The ‘ark’ is the most sacred part of a synagogue where the Torah (the Law of the LORD God of Israel) and other sacred books of the Holy Scriptures are held. When we drew the ‘ark’ door open, I feared to look inside, thinking all the while about the experience recorded in:
|1 Samuel 6: 19:||And he (the LORD) smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.|
I still wonder at the meaning of it all. Just what has the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in mind for David B Loughran? It is a question I trust will be answered in the near future. But whatever it means, to me it was one of the greatest moments of my life; a sacred privilege I shall never forget. To be allowed to actually join with the Almighty’s chosen people Israel, to worship Him with them and then to take part in a ‘shofar fanfare’ at the International Jewish Music Festival comemmorating Israel’s Jubilee, amazes me beyond measure to this day.
But back to the subject of the SHOFAR. The ram’s horn trumpet, is one of the first instruments played by the ancient Israelites. Bible references concerning the ‘shofar’ (a Hebrew word which according to Strong’s Dictionary, #07782, is translated ‘trumpet’ in 68 of the 72 times it appears in the Old Testament) tell us many meaningful things about this ancient wind instrument. But before we consider the Bible references, here are a few facts concerning the ‘shofar’ which I have taken from the Jewish Encyclopaedia.
- “It was the voice of the shofar ‘exceeding loud’ issuing from the thick cloud on Sinai that made all in the camp tremble (Ex xix. 16, xx.18): and for this reason while other musical instruments were in each age constructed according to the most advanced contemporary practice, the trumpet family being represented by the long straight silver ‘hazozerah,’ …the shofar has never varied in structure from its prehistoric simplicity and crudity.
- …The curved shofar is symbolic of the contrite heart repenting on the most solemn days of Rosh ha Shanah and Yom Kippur.
- The shofar represents the windpipe, the spiritual part of the body alongside the gullet, through which the food or the earthly part passes. The sound of the shofar awakens the Higher Mercy = ‘Rahamim’… The object of the second and third series of ‘teki-ot’ is to bewilder and stagger Satan, who, at first imagining that the Jews are merely complying with the Law, is surprised by the second blowing, thinking perhaps that the Messiah is coming, and finally is dumbfounded, expecting the Resurrection, with which his power will finally cease.”
Now let us take a look at some Bible texts. I will simply list them before ending with a short summary. Each time you see the word trumpet in the Old Testament verses below, remember that the original Hebrew word was ‘shofar.’ You may even want to study the full Bible story from which these brief quotations are taken. Believe me, that is a study in itself. Also, when reading, note when the ‘shofars’ were blown, who blew them, what events did they herald, what were the people of Israel supposed to do when they heard the ‘shofar’ and how did the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob respond. Note also how the LORD Himself is going to blow the Great Shofar!
Here are the texts:
1. AT MOUNT SINAI.
|Ex:19:16:||And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.|
|Ex:19:19:||And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.|
|Ex:20:18:||And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.|
2. ON THE ALMIGHTY’S SABBATHS
|Psalm 81:3:||Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.|
|Lev:23:24:||Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.|
|Lev:25:9:||Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.|
3. AT THE DESTRUCTION OF JERICHO
|Joshua 6:4:||And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. 5: And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him…|
|Josh:6:20:||So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.|
4. VICTORY IN WARFARE
|Judges 7:16:||And he (Gideon) divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers…|
|Judg:7:20:||And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.|
|2 Chron.13:12:||And, behold, God himself is with us for our captain, and his priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against the LORD God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper. 13: But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them: so they were before Judah, and the ambushment was behind them. 14: And when Judah looked back, behold, the battle was before and behind: and they cried unto the LORD, and the priests sounded with the trumpets. 15: Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.|
5. THE RETURN OF THE ARK
|2Sam:6:15:||So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.|
6. THE ANOINTING OF KING SOLOMON.
|1 Kgs:1:34:||And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save king Solomon.|
7. THE DEDICATION OF THE TEMPLE.
|2Chron:5:13:||It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD.|
8. REBUILDING OF JERUSALEM
|Neh:4:18:||For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.|
|Neh:4:20:||In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.|
9. A WATCHMEN’S RESPONSIBILITIES
|Ezek:33:3:||If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people.; 4: Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5: He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. :6: But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.|
10. WARNINGS CONCERNING SIN
|Isa:58:1:||Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.|
|Joel 2:1:||Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand.|
11. THE LORD SHALL BLOW THE SHOFAR!
|Zech:9:14:||And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the LORD GOD shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south.|
|Isa:18:3:||All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when HE bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.|
|Isa:27:13:||And it shall come to pass in that day, that the GREAT trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.|
12. ALAS! MANY WILL NOT LISTEN
It is an absolute tragedy that, like Israel of old, millions of people pay little or no attention to the Almighty’s Word and the warnings it contains. Blindly they stagger on, refusing to acknowledge the Creator’s presence, His Word, His Law and His offer of salvation through His only begotten Son Yeshua the Messiah. This is the greatest mistake the human race has ever made and – alas! – is still making.
|Jer:6:17:||Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet.
But they said, We will not hearken.
The ‘shofar,’ the ram’s horn trumpet, represents the spokesmen of Yahweh the Almighty God of Israel; through whom His Spirit declares the Truth.
It is a musical instrument of antiquity – of God’s own making!
- A ‘divine shofar’ sounded at Sinai when the Creator of the mighty universe gave Israel His holy law – for all mankind! Blowing its earthly counterpart (the ram’s horn ) today, is declaring one’s acceptance of God’s eternal commandments and authority over us.
- The ‘shofar’ was, and still is, sounded on Yahweh’s High and Holy Days: i.e. the weekly Sabbath, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and in the day of the New Moon. Blowing it today is a reminder of the Everlasting Covenant between the Almighty God and His chosen people Israel.
- The ‘shofar’ was instrumental in triggering the Almighty’s power when He demolished the walls of Jericho in the days of Joshua. Blowing it today is an act of living faith in the Almighty’s ability to demolish the systems of this world, however high and mighty their ramparts may be.
- The ‘shofar’ will always herald victory in warfare, provided the people of the LORD are obedient to His law. Blowing it today is a call for divine assistance.
- The ‘shofar’ was sounded when king David brought the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. Blowing it today is a sign of our re-commitment to the Holy One of Israel.
- The ‘shofar’ was sounded when Solomon was anointed king of Israel. Blowing it today is a declaration of our loyalty to the King of Kings, Yeshua the Messiah, One who is wiser and greater than Solomon.
- The ‘shofar’ was sounded when the Temple was dedicated. Blowing it today is a call to worship.
- The ‘shofar’ was sounded when Israel’s exiles returned from captivity to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the second Temple. Blowing it today is a symbol of the restoration of God’s Truth.
- The ‘shofar’ was blown by the watchmen on Zion’s walls to warn the inhabitants of the sword of the enemy. Blowing it today is a signal to awake to the danger of Satanic attack.
- The ‘shofar’ was sounded by the watchmen and prophets of Israel to warn of sin. In like manner we must warn God’s people else we will have blood on our hands! Blowing it today is a call to faith, repentance and obedience.
- Before the end of this age, all humanity will hear the LORD Himself sound the Great Shofar, the heavenly trumpet which will raise the dead. Blowing the ram’s horn shofar today is a reminder that we are fast approaching that time.
- Alas! most people will not heed these warnings, even when they are backed by the Word of God. To them the ‘shofar’ is an embarrassment and divine warnings only stir up contempt and anger. Do not let this happen to you, because that would be a disaster! For the fact is, the ‘call of the shofar’ signifies all that is dear to the Israel of God: truth, repentance, obedience, dedication, restoration, sanctification, warning, expectation, victory and resurrection from the dead! So in future when you hear the ‘call of the shofar’ remember these things, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and bless His holy Name. It may be that He will spare you in the fast-approaching Day of Judgement!
I end here with the prayer that YAHWEH the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, Creator of the mighty universe and Father of our Lord and Saviour Yeshua the Messiah will bless all those who seek to trust and obey Him. Hallelujah!
Elder: David B Loughran
Stewarton Bible School, Stewarton, Scotland
25th December 1998