The Feast of Trumpets and its symbolism

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This article belongs to a series on the Old Covenant’s Sabbaths or holy days. This present part takes a closer look at the Feast or Day of Trumpets. In the Bible it is called, in translation, something like “a rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a sacred assembly”, Leviticus 23:23, and “a day of sounding of trumpets” or “a day of blowing of horns”, Numbers 29:1.

Colossians 2:17 records that the apostle Paul noted that those days were a “shadow of things to come” – that is, they were types and symbols of future things. It is true that literally, many of them pointed to things that happened to the ancient Israelites, but it is clear that they also pictured things and events that were to come. Because of that prophetic symbolism, those days and the rituals that were connected to them, are an interesting object of study.

A note: Trumpets or horns were sounded on several of the Old Covenant’s high days. Also, the Bible mentions even angels’ trumpets, and a trump of God. The article nta050.htm contains a study on the different kinds of prophetic trumpets which are mentioned in the Bible.

The Feast of Trumpets was a new-moon day in the autumn.

Here are two Old Testament passages which record certain instructions that were given to the Israelites, in the days of Moses:

Leviticus 23:23 Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month, you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. (NASB77)

Numbers 29:1 And in the seventh month, on the first of the month you shall have a holy gathering; you shall do no work of service. It shall be a day of blowing the trumpets to you. (LIT)

As you can see, that day was on the first day of the Israelites’ seventh month. This was in the autumn, around what we call September and October. (Their “religious year” began in the spring, two weeks before Passover, see Exodus 12:2 with its context.) But today, the Jews view the Day of Trumpets as their “new year day” – they call it by the Hebrew name Rosh Hashana which means something like “head of the year” or “first of the year”.

In ancient Israel, a month’s first day was when the new moon was sighted, or on the following day. In the Old Covenant’s ritual, horns or trumpets were sounded on many kinds of occasions. The new-moon days were one example of this. We read:

Numbers 10:10 And in the day of your gladness, and in your appointed times, and in your new moons, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings And they shall be to you for a memorial before your God. I am Jehovah your God. (LIT)

Again, horns or trumpets were sounded on several different high days and also on the new moons. But, the Day of Trumpets was a bit special in that regard. Jewish tradition has it that on that day, horns were sounded throughout the day, several times, from sunrise to sunset.

It appears that the below-quoted verse refers specifically to the Feast of Trumpets which was a new moon day.

Psalms 81:3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day. (AKJV)

A note: The date for the Feast of Trumpets was “appointed” in the meaning that it was to be kept on the first day of the seventh month. But, the beginning of that month was determined through the sighting of the new moon. [a] – Of course, the Israelites knew that the new moon would come 29 or 30 days after the preceding one, and so, they were prepared to keep the Feast of Trumpets. But, it was the sighting of the new moon that determined which of those days was to be the high day. (If the moon could not be sighted, because of weather, the 30th day was chosen.)

a In biblical times, the Israelites did not have any on beforehand calculated and fixed table of months and days. The Old Covenant’s high days were “appointed” in the meaning that the Israelites were to keep them on certain days of certain months, but their exact timing depended on visual sightings of the new moon, month for month. (Pentecost was an exception, because it was to be kept fifty days after a certain day in the Passover season.) The present-day Jewish system with an in advance calculated calendar, with fixed dates for “new moons”, was invented in post-biblical times. The article nxa081.htm has more on this.

A note: Some bible-translators have put into Psalms 81:3 such wordings as “at the new moon, at the full moon”, but it is well known through old Jewish writings, that the ancient Israelites’ “new moon” was the first thin crescent of light which could be seen on a previously dark moon.

What did the Day of Trumpets symbolise and point to?

Apparently, some have thought that it pointed to the time when the seven angels of the book of Revelation will sound their trumpets, in the “end time”. Also, some have thought that it pointed to the future event when Jesus returns. Could those concepts be correct?

There is a certain connection between that future time, and the trumpets of the seven angels. But, one must keep in mind that that time – including the events connected to those angels’ trumpets – is a rather long period which precedes the event when Jesus comes down to the surface of this planet. One must also keep in mind that when the seventh angel sounds his trump (Revelation 11:15), that is not quite yet the “end”. It is commonly understood that the sounding of that trump will mark the beginning of the period when the seven bowls (vials) of God’s wrath are poured out. That will probably take a number of weeks, or even more (see Revelation 16:2–17). And: It appears that the future event when Jesus comes down to the surface of this planet as the Lord of lords, will only take place when the things connected to those bowls are over. If so, then the seventh angel’s trumpet does not signal Jesus’ descent. Also: Let us not forget that the Scriptures talk about a trump of God, as well as well as trumps of angels. They are not the same.

Now, if we look for prophetic symbolisms in trumpets connected to the Old Covenant’s different high days, then we should consider even the Day of Atonement which, on certain years, was a special day of sounding of trumpets, see Leviticus 25:8–10. Those who have studied the rituals that were performed on the Day of Atonement, may have noticed that some of them obviously pointed to the future time when Satan will be captured and put to nothing. So, it could actually be that it was the sounding of trumpets on the Day of Atonement, on the jubilee year, that pointed to the future event when Jesus descends to the surface of this planet. The Day of Trumpets in its turn may have symbolised things that precede that event.

The article nxa040.htm has more on the Day of Atonement.

So again, what did the blowing of horns on the Feast of Trumpets really symbolise?

The short answer to that question is that the Bible does not tell us that. We can only speculate.

Some have connected the Feast of Trumpets to the trumpets of the seven angels who are mentioned in the book of Revelation. But again, that appears to be a misconception. This matter was discussed above.

Some Jewish writers have suggested that the Day of Trumpets might have referred to Isaac’s deliverance (Genesis 22:9–13), when a ram (with horns) was offered in the place of Isaac. But, that is quite forced.

Some writers have suggested that the Day of Trumpets symbolised “the coming raising of the dead” and “the great judgment”. But, the Bible does not say that.

Some have thought that the trumpets sounded on the Day of Trumpets, might have been a memorial of Israel’s victory over the Amalekites (Exodus 17). But, we do not find any such statement in the Scriptures.

It might be that the instruction which Moses was given, regarding the Day of Trumpets and the sounding of horns on that day, pointed forward to the event when the Israelites entered the Promised Land and took the stronghold Jericho. Read on:

When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they came from Arabia in the east, by crossing the river Jordan, close to the Canaanite stronghold Jericho. Chapter six in the book of Joshua tells us that the Israelites marched around Jericho, first once a day for six days, and then seven times on the seventh day. Each time, the priests sounded their trumpets.

Joshua 6: […] 15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. […] 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. (ESV01)

It appears that the walls of Jericho fell “at the last trump”. The taking of the stronghold Jericho meant that the Israelites could begin to take their inheritance (the Promised Land) in possession and begin to settle there.

A note: That event by Jericho took place in the Passover season in the spring, but later it was portrayed in the temple ritual during the seven days of the Feast of Booths in the autumn. (In several ways, the seven different high day periods in the Israelites’ “religious year” overlapped in their meaning and symbolism, so that more than one of them could portray the same matter or event.)

Consider even this: There are similarities between what happened by Jericho when the ancient Israelites entered the earthly Promised Land, and the event when the saints entered their heavenly Promised Land. [b] In that connection, consider the “last” trump or blast which the apostle Paul wrote about in his letter to the saints in Corinth. For, it marked the time when the saints entered their Promised Land, in Heaven.

A note: Many churches and writers have caused people to think that the trump of God of 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 has not been sounded yet. Some have even claimed that all of the saints died and still remain dead. Is that true? The article nga040.htm considers what happened to the saints when they suddenly vanished out of sight, some time after the middle of the first century. The article nta050.htm studies the matter of different “end time trumpets”, and notes that when the apostle Paul wrote about a “last” trump or blast, it may be that the meaning was that on the day when the saints were taken up to Jesus, there were several trumpet blasts, and that the last of them (perhaps the longest one) marked the time when the angels came for them.

b The articles nba040.htm and nxa100.htm have some notes on the matter of Heaven.

In biblical times, was the Day of Trumpets a ‘new year’s day’, the way the Jews have it today?

Not in the biblical account. The Day of Trumpets was in the autumn, but Exodus 12:2 shows that the first month of the Israelites’ “religious year” was in the spring.

Exodus 12:1 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, 2 This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. (AKJV)

The first month which that passage refers to, began two weeks before the Passover in the spring. The Feast of Trumpets in its turn was the first day of the seventh month in the autumn (around September-October in our reckoning).

Now, the Scriptures contain certain indications that there were at least two kinds of years. The in Exodus 12:1 mentioned year began in the spring, but it appears that for instance the Jubilee year began in the autumn, with trumpet sounding – however, not on the Day of Trumpets but on the Day of Atonement. We read:

Leviticus 25:8 You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh monthon the day of atonementyou shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. 10 And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. (NRSV, highlighting added)

A note: In verses 9 and 10 which are quoted above, the Hebrew text contains three trumpet-related words, yobel, shofar and teruah. This was in connection with the Day of Atonement. The article nxa040.htm has more on that day.

Some have claimed that the Day of Trumpets was ‘the day from which the high days for the whole year were counted’. Is that correct?

Some have claimed that the dates for the Old Covenant’s high days, for the whole year, were “counted from the Day of Trumpets” (which was on the first day of the seventh month). But again, in biblical times there was no pre-calculated or fixed table of days. The beginning of their “religious year” was in the spring (Exodus 12:1–2), and it could only be determined towards the close of the preceding year. The reason for this was that the Passover season was tied to the first-fruit harvest of winter barley which was sown in the autumn and harvested in the spring. New barley was needed for a certain ritual in the sanctuary, in the Passover season. Because of this, the month of Abib which began a new year, was not announced unless it could be seen that the barley would be ripe enough for harvesting by the middle of that month. If the barley needed more time for ripening, then an extra, thirteenth month was added to the ending year. And again, the beginning of each month depended on when the new moon was sighted.

The article nxa081.htm has more on certain “technical” details in connection with that matter.

See also the “recommended reading” section, below.

Please send or mention the address to this site to others. You can also link to these pages. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/articles.htm

Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters

An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm

On the different kinds of prophetic trumpets which are mentioned in the Bible – trumps of God, and those of the seven angels. Also: What did the apostle Paul mean and refer to when he wrote about a “last” trump or blast? → nta050.htm

How the ancient Israelites reckoned the dates for their annual high days. → nxa081.htm

On the Day of Atonement and its symbolism. → nxa040.htm

What happened to the saints? Why is there no record of their doings, after the middle of the first century? → nga040.htm

What does the Bible say about Heaven? Were the saints to go there? What about others? What does it look like, in Heaven? → nba040.htm

Hebrews 4:9, the sabbatismos or rest which the saints were to enter – a clarification of its actual nature. → nxa100.htm

Should the Old Covenant’s Sabbaths, the annual ones and the weekly one, be kept today? → nxa090.htm


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