The Feast of Trumpets

23 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.” Leviticus 23:23-25 ESV







At the end of the spring harvest season, God required that the field not be thoroughly gleaned of all produce. In order to provide for the poor and needy, He required all farmers to leave the corners and edges of their fields unharvested.

“…when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 23:22 ESV

This was to serve as a kind of social lifeline for the less fortunate citizens of the community. Since the Israelites had no official welfare system, God provided them with a very practical way of meeting the needs of those who might otherwise starve without assistance. This also served as a powerful lesson to all Israelites that the harvest belonged to God. They were simply the stewards of the resources He provided, and there was no reason for them to hoard what God had given to the entire community. By allowing their poorer neighbors to glean grain from the edges of their fields, the Israelites were mirroring God’s care and concern for the needy among His people.

The Lord makes some poor and others rich;
    he brings some down and lifts others up.
He lifts the poor from the dust
    and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
    placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s,
    and he has set the world in order. – 1 Samuel 2:7-8 NLT

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lordand he will repay you! – Proverbs 19:17 NLT

Even before the Israelites arrived in the land of Canaan, God would remind them about their need to care for the poor among them.

“There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.” – Deuteronomy 15:11 NLT

With the final feast of the spring harvest, there were no more festivals until the seventh month. The month Tishri marked the beginning of a new year in the civil calendar and it culminated with the Feast of Trumpets. This first day of the seventh month began a ten-day period of consecration and repentance before God. The Israelites were to assemble in a holy convocation, a sacred gathering in which they offered sacrifices to God. The book of Numbers provides more details concerning the events of that day.

“Celebrate the Festival of Trumpets each year on the first day of the appointed month in early autumn. You must call an official day for holy assembly, and you may do no ordinary work. On that day you must present a burnt offering as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. It will consist of one young bull, one ram, and seven one-year-old male lambs, all with no defects. These must be accompanied by grain offerings of choice flour moistened with olive oil—six quarts with the bull, four quarts with the ram, and two quarts with each of the seven lambs. In addition, you must sacrifice a male goat as a sin offering to purify yourselves and make yourselves right with the Lord. These special sacrifices are in addition to your regular monthly and daily burnt offerings, and they must be given with their prescribed grain offerings and liquid offerings. These offerings are given as a special gift to the Lord, a pleasing aroma to him. – Numbers 29:1-6 NLT

As the name implies, the Feast of Trumpets was marked by the “blast of trumpets” (Leviticus 23:24 ESV). There is no mention of the kind or number of trumpets used in this ceremony or who the musicians were. Some have speculated that the Israelites would have used a shofar or ram’s horn. But in the book of Numbers, Moses records instructions given to him by God for the creation of two silver trumpets that were to be used as a kind of mass communication device.

“Make two trumpets of hammered silver for calling the community to assemble and for signaling the breaking of camp. When both trumpets are blown, everyone must gather before you at the entrance of the Tabernacle. But if only one trumpet is blown, then only the leaders—the heads of the clans of Israel—must present themselves to you. – Numbers 10:2-4 NLT

The trumpets mentioned in Leviticus 23 were to be blown from morning until evening, serving to call the people to assemble but also as a “memorial” ( זִכָּרוֹןzikārôn) or remembrance. Since many of these feasts were designed to be celebrated once the people of Israel were safely ensconced in the land of Canaan, the blast of trumpets might be intended as a reminder of the victory God gave the Israelites in their first battle in the land. At the city of Jericho, God allowed the Israelites to defeat their enemy by providing them with a rather bizarre plan of attack that involved the blowing of horns.

“I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.” – Joshua 6:2-5 NLT

Joshua led the people to obey the Lord and they were given a great victory that day. As the Israelites heard the blast of the trumpets on the first day of the seventh month, they were reminded of God’s grace and goodness. He had been with them from the very beginning, leading them out of Egypt and into the promised land. He had provided for all their needs, from food and clothing to victories over their enemies. And the Feast of Trumpets was to serve as the first day of a ten-day period of celebration that ended with a nationwide emphasis on atonement.

“Calling this occasion a memorial may have had the immediate significance of keeping in mind all that this festival signified. The trumpets awakened the people to the season of repentance and pardon and restoration.” – Allen P. Ross, Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus

The trumpets were a call to spiritual renewal. They launched a season of restoration and much-needed revival among God’s people. As the harvest season so clearly illustrated, God had provided for all their physical needs and they had given Him thanks and offered Him sacrifices for His gracious provision. But with the Feast of Trumpets, the people were being reminded of their need for spiritual nourishment that would begin with atonement for their sins.

God was calling His people to assemble before Him so that He could offer them pardon for their sins – both corporately and individually. God would later warn His people about the danger of getting fat and happy once they arrived in the land. Prosperity could easily lead to apostasy.

“For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful…” – Deuteronomy 8:12-18 NLT

Full grain bins and full stomachs were of little use if their lives were marred by sin. If their affluence caused them to become self-sufficient, they were in danger. If they thought the blessings of God were a sign of their spiritual superiority, they were mistaken. The Feast of Trumpets served as a wake-up call, summoning the people of God to return to their sole source of spiritual renewal. Without God’s help, they would remain in their sins, unforgiven, and separated from Him, and no amount of physical resources could restore their spiritual health. That is why, on the tenth day of the seventh month, God called the people to enter a time of fasting. The focus would shift from bountiful harvests to sinful hearts. It was a time for soul-searching and sin-confessing. To remain in the land the people would need to remain in right standing with God. To continue to enjoy His blessings, they would have to receive atonement for their sins. And in a way, the blast of the trumpets foreshadowed a far greater victory than the one that took place at Jericho. God was about to defeat the one enemy the Israelites could never defeat on their own: Sin.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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