The Shofar Warns of the Day of the Lord
This study explores the importance of the shofar, a trumpet made from a ram’s horn, as it applies to future prophetic events in Scripture. In the ancient world, the shofar was a means of communication between God and His chosen people, the Israelites. In Scripture, we find the shofar used mostly in the context of war where it becomes an ancient weapon of warfare. The power of the shofar is demonstrated by watchmen on the wall as they warn of a coming battle. This study finds that an important message of the shofar in our lives today is a call to prepare for a future great and terrible event. By activating the Spirit of those who hear it, the shofar releases a powerful awakening of one’s soul to biblical prophecy and coming events.
The trumpet of the Old Testament imparted the voice of God and became a means of communicating with the Israelite people. The word “shofar” is first seen in Exodus 19 when God descended upon Mount Sinai to meet the people. The sound coming from the trumpet became exceedingly long and loud. When they heard thunder and saw lightning and experienced the noise of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, they stood far off and told Moses, “You speak to us and we will hear you, but don’t let God speak to us or we will die” (Ex 20:19). That is, the people were not yet prepared to respond to the shofar and to meet with God.
The shofar has a voice and speaks words, and this voice is the voice of the Lord. Moses was brave enough to draw near to God by going up into the mountain. A personal relationship with the God of the universe was something the others did not have. Instead, they chose Moses to intercede for them. He became the one who truly knew the heart of God because he drew near to hear His voice.
The sound of the shofar was not only a means of communication with God but was also a weapon used by the Israelites when approaching the Promised Land. Two battles are described as they enter. The first battle witnesses the Israelites taking the walled city of Jericho with seven priests blowing seven horns around the city. These priests continually blew the seven shofars as the Ark of the Covenant followed behind. When the people shouted, the walls fell down, allowing them to go up and take the city.
The next battle with the shofar is seen when Gideon and his 300 men come against the open camp of the Midianites. At midnight, while the Midianites were changing the guard, the Israelites entered the camp carrying pitchers and shofars. They broke the pitchers, raised their torches, and blew the trumpets. When they shouted, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” the Midianites were so disoriented that they destroyed each other with their own swords. In both battles we see the importance of the shofar and shouting that work together to defeat the enemy. The words shouted in the first battle is unknown. However, in the second battle those words, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” confused the enemy and caused their destruction. In these two battles, the shout and the shofar work together to invoke supernatural events. Unified, they become powerful weapons of spiritual warfare used to defeat the enemy of God‘s people.
Symbolism is evident in both of these battles in a way that confirms God’s covenant with the people and His promise to Abraham concerning the land. Trumpets of ram’s horns in the first battle are identified with two words, shofar yovel, meaning “trumpets of jubilee.” In the 50th year for the Israelites, the year of jubilee was a year of rest for the land, and also a time when the land was returned to the original owner. The shofar yovel is symbolic of the Israelites, as the original owner of the Promised Land, who will return to claim the land from the enemy, thus bringing rest to the people and the land. Only in the first battle at Jericho do we find the prophetic use of shofar yovel. This was a time when Joshua led the people to entered the Promised Land in order to possess it from their enemy.
The second battle with the Midianites symbolizes God‘s covenant with Israel in another way. Torch, or lappiyd in Hebrew, first appears in Scripture when the Lord God made a covenant with Abram. As the sun went down, a smoking firepot and a flaming torch passed between the two halves of sacrificed animals that had been laid out by Abram. The smoking firepot and flaming torch signify the Lord God making covenant with Abram. The torches in the second battle are symbolic of God’s covenant with the Israelites as they take back the land promised to their father, Abraham.
We are ready now to take our understanding of the shofar and apply it to our lives today as we prepare for a future event. In the first battle, the horns used at Jericho warned the enemy that they were under siege. However, in Jeremiah 6 God sets watchmen over His people with horns for a warning. In Ezekiel 33 these watchmen are on walls sounding an alarm and warning the people of a coming battle. This alarm comes with a simultaneous warning from God to the watchmen.
If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand (Ez 33:6).
The shofars these watchmen blow warn of the future day of the Lord. “Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near” (Joel 2:1). That day will be great and terrible. It is a day when the trumpet will sound an alarm, and it is a day of wrath. Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them. In Zechariah the Lord God blows the trumpet while marching with the whirlwinds of the south to defend the people (Zec 9:14). (Notice that the whirlwind forms the shape of a shofar in this passage).
God’s voice shook the earth when He descended upon Mount Sinai to meet the Israelites. There is coming a day when He will shake not only the earth but heaven also. Citing Exodus 19:18, the author of Hebrews reminded God’s people of His words of warning.“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” The author of Hebrews continues with his own words of warning. “This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created tings, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb 12:26-67). The shofar calls to God’s people, “The battle is coming! Get yourself ready!” Can you hear it?