These are the Days of Awe. That’s what Jewish believers call the 10 days between Yom Teruah/The Feast of Trumpets (which fell on Thursday, September 25th this year) and Yom Kippur/The Day of Atonement (Saturday October 4th).
Having recently started attending with a Messianic Jewish group, I wanted to focus my pre-Trumpets study this year on the Hebraic roots of this Holy Day. With the Feast of Trumpets just a few days past, I’d like to share some of that study with you today as we look forward to the Day of Atonement.
A Question of Trumpets
I found five different Hebrew words translated “trumpets” in the Old Testament. Let’s just take a quick look at each one:
- chatsotserah (H2689). A metal trumpet (Num. 10:2, 8).
- yobel (H3104). The signal of a trumpet or blast of a horn. A common noun referring to trumpets, horns , and the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:10).
- shophar/shofar (H7782). A ram’s horn. The word most often used in the Bible.
- taqoa (H8619). A trumpet with a looped tube and flared bell that makes a shrill sound (Ezk. 7:14).
- teruah (H8643). A shout of joy or alarm. The noise from a trumpet.
This last word is the one used in Leviticus 23 and in Numbers 29 in reference to the Feast of Trumpets. My Hebrew dictionary says it means “a shout of joy; a shout of alarm, a battle cry. It refers to a loud, sharp shout or cry in general, but it often indicates a shout of joy or victory. … It can refer to the noise or signal put out by an instrument” (Baker and Carpenter, 2003). A more literal translation of Yom Teruah, the phrase we translate as “Feast of Trumpets,” would be “Day of Shouting.”
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’” (Lev. 23:23-25)
Now, I’m certainly not saying this day doesn’t involve blowing trumpets. Silver trumpets would have been blown for the new moon and because this was a high Holy Day (Num. 10:1-2, 10). Shofars (the ram’s horn trumpets) were blown as well. In fact, they were blown on every Sabbath and Festival.
Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob. (Ps. 81:3-4)
Based on this scripture alone, I’d say shofars belong as part of every Christian service. And there are other passages too, like Joel 2:15, which indicates shofars are a key part of calling solemn assemblies and sanctifying fasts, and Psalm 150:3, which instructs us to praise God “with the sound of the trumpet.” But I digress …
So, lots of trumpets blasts on Yom Teruah. There’s even a traditional pattern for how to blow them, and shofars are sounded at least 100 times in a typical Yom Teruah service. (Here’s a link for more about Jewish tradition associated with Yom Teruah, and a recording of the shofar sounds). But even though trumpets are a huge part of this day, looking into the Hebrew had me wondering if I’d been keeping the “Feast of Trumpets” my whole life when I should have been keeping “the Day of Shouting for joy and battle cries.” I also wondered if it really made any difference. Does a better understanding of the Hebrew add layers of spiritual meaning?
The Day of Shouting
The word “Teruah” is used 36 times in the Old Testament. It is translated “blow an alarm” as for war (Num. 10:6, 31:6) and to shout like when the walls of Jericho fell (Josh. 6:5, 20). The people shouted for joy when seeing the ark of the covenant and when the temple was rebuilt (2 Sam. 6:15; 1 Chron. 15:28; Ezr. 3:11-13). Teruah is also translated “joy,” “rejoicing,” and “joyful sound” (Job 8:21, 33:26; Ps. 27:6, 89:15). It is used of praising God (Ps. 47:5), and of fighting with Him on our side (2 Chron. 13:12).
The meaning of Yom Teruah/the Day of Shouting can be interpreted several ways. A website for Karaite Judaism says it may be “intended as a day of public prayer. The verb form of Teruah often refers to the noise made by a gathering of the faithful calling out to the Almighty in unison.” The examples they give are Psalms 47:2, 66:1, 81:2, and 100:1. A Messianic website says the shofar and trumpet blasts are “a wake-up blast — a reminder that the time is near for the Day of Atonement.” There are strong themes of repentance, rebirth, and resurrection associated with this day.
Another element of Yom Teruah was brought out in the teaching given by the Rabbi at my local Messianic congregation. He said that the shofar is blow every day in the month leading up to Yom Teruah as a proclamation that the King is returning. We are to prepare ourselves to hear the voice of the Lord (traditionally, the shofar is seen as symbolizing God’s voice). In Hebrew, the word “prepare” is connected with the human face — we’re making ourselves ready to be face-to-face with God. In that sense, Yom Teruah is a yearly reminder of something we should be doing all the time. It’s also just the beginning of such reminders to repent and be at one with God, since it’s starts out the 10-day count to Atonement (which will definitely be the subject of next week’s blog post).
This preparation to meet God reminds me of the giving of the Ten Commandments. Before delivering His laws, God commanded boundaries to be set up so the people couldn’t get dangerously close to His presence on the mountain, but He did want them to be present as He delivered the words of the covenant. The people were commanded to consecrate themselves and wash in preparation for meeting with God, and then God commanded, “When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain” (Ex. 19:10-13). Here, the trumpet acted as a call to assemble in God’s presence.
The King is Coming!
In the New Testament, trumpet blasts and shouts are strongly associated with Jesus Christ’s return. Traditionally, Christians who keep Yom Teruah have said that the Feast of Trumpets pictures Christ’s second coming and the first resurrection from the dead.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thes 4:16-17)
For my readers who aren’t familiar with this particular interpretation of future prophecy and “what happens after death” belief, here’s a quick summary of what I believe: Those who have died are “asleep,” waiting for a resurrection. The believers who have died “in Christ” will be raised to eternal life at His second coming, and the non-believers will be raised 1,000 years later to be given as second (or in many cases a first) chance to understand God’s truth (Rev. 20:4-5, 11-15)
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52)
Right now, we’re in waiting for our Bridegroom, Jesus the Christ, to return for us (John 14:1-3). If we’re dead when that happens, we’ll be brought back to life. If we’re still alive, we’ll be changed into spirit beings.
At first, shouting for joy and shouting a battle cry seem only distantly related. But if we turn to Revelation and read more about Christ’s return, the connection in Yom Teruah becomes more clear.
And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 19:6-7)
Here is where the shouts of joy, praise, and exhalation come in. We’ve been preparing to meet our Bridegroom, and here He is! Then, just a few verses down, we see how the shouts of joy turn into a battle cry.
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. (Rev. 19:11-14)
The armies which follow Christ at His return are clothed in “white linen” garments just like His bride, so this is often read as a sign that we’ll be riding into battle alongside Him to set up the promised kingdom of peace.
Yom Teruah is already passed for this year, but our preparations to meet the King and become a suitable bride for Him are ongoing. In Matt. 22:2, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son.” This marriage is an integral part of Their great plan, and we as the church are the focus of it. I pray we all hear and head the trumpet blast that calls out to us and says, “The King is coming! make ready to meet Him.”