By Dr. Anne Davis
Excerpt from The Remnant Part IV: The End of Time Revealed in Israel’s Annual Festivals
There are three annual festivals in the fall that are nevertheless connected in their meaning and observance. There is general agreement that the prophetic symbolism of these fall festivals is still future, which intrigued me and beckoned me to a serious study.
New Year (Rosh Hashanah): Traditional Understanding
The most common Christian understanding about the prophetic nature of Rosh Hashanah is that all believers in Christ will be resurrected to eternal life with God on that day. On the other hand, some Christian theologians insist that only those believers who are “cleansed of the things of this world and focus our hearts and minds solely on Him” will be resurrected because “Jesus is returning for a pure, spotless bride.” No mention is made of those believers who do not meet this criteria. I disagree with these traditional understandings.
Rosh Hashanah in Scripture
There are two passages in the Torah that speak of this annual festival of Rosh Hashanah. I suggest you read them carefully before continuing (Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6).
The New American Standard Version, which I prefer, italicizes words that have been added by the editors for clarification. These additions are a form of interpretation, so I suggest you delete the italicized words as you read these verses.
Note that the word “trumpets” is an edited addition, so the Hebrew simply says “blowing”. What is important is that these passages do not tell us what kind of trumpet was used, the purpose of the blowing, or whether one or more trumpets are to be blown on this day.
Another interesting point to consider is that there is no explanation as to the purpose of this festival of Rosh Hashanah. Therefore, we will be aided in our search by contemplating relevant Jewish traditions that have nevertheless been derived from Scripture.
Jewish Traditions for Rosh Hashanah
The various names for this festival offer significant information. It might come as a surprise that the expression Rosh Hashanah does not appear in Scripture. Instead, the Torah offers two names. “In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing, a holy convocation” (Lev 23:24). Thus, this annual festival has come to be known as “The Day of Remembrance” (Yom HaZikkron) and “The Day of Blowing” meaning the day of blowing the trumpet (Yom HaTeruah). We will discuss the importance of blowing the trumpet shortly, but now we ask, “What is important for us to remember?” Scripture does not tell us, so we must turn to Jewish tradition to consider the answer to this question.
The Day of Remembrance (Yom HaZikkron)
The rabbis have determined that the remembrance is for God’s creation of the world.2 Jewish tradition reverses the letters of the first words of the Book of Genesis (Bereshit bara; “in the beginning [God] created”) to arrive at Aleph b’Tishrei, or “on the first of Tishrei”. Therefore, Rosh Hashanah has come to be known in Jewish tradition as the birthday of the world because Scripture tells us that the world was created “in the beginning” (Gen 1:1) and bereshit bara when reversed is “on the first of Tishrei”.
This Jewish practice of reversing letters may seem strange to you, but I suggest that this day of remembering God’s creation is an important concept for our study on Rosh Hashanah because “the end of time” will restore God’s creation to its beginning. A righteous remnant will initiate the eventual restoration that will eventually bring all of God’s people into His presence in righteousness as Jeremiah explains. “Obey My voice [the requirement for righteousness], and I will be your God, and you will be My people” (Jer 7:23).
Thus, Rosh Hashanah signifies something new when a remnant of God’s people will be able to enter His righteous presence. I suggest that Yom HaZikkuron explains what is new, which will be a progression toward the restoration of the original creation by a righteous remnant. This suggestion will become clearer as we continue.
The Day of Blowing (Yom HaTeruah)
Scripture does not tell us the purpose of the blowing on Rosh Hashanah. However, Jewish tradition [based on Scripture] suggests that a loud noise stimulates a spiritual awakening that results in resurrection from death to life. The loud noise is the blowing of the trumpet, which can also be signified by a loud shout. Isaiah describes resurrection (“awakening”) with a “shout for joy”.
Your dead will live.
Their corpses will rise.
You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
For your dew is as the dew of the dawn,
And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits. Isaiah 26:19
Isaiah also associates this day of awakening with the future Day of the Lord that Christians identify with the judgement that will precede the Millennial Kingdom.
Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it!
Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth.
Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it;
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob
And in Israel He shows forth His glory. Is 44:23
There were two types of trumpets in ancient Israel. One was the ram’s horn, which is identified in Hebrew with two words, shofar and yovel, and the other was a special instrument made of silver (chatsotsrah). These silver trumpets were special not only because of the metal from which they were made but also because there were only two of them. We will consider the two silver trumpets first. I suggest you read Numbers 10:1-10 which describes these silver trumpets.
You discovered that two occasions for blowing the silver trumpets were given at the beginning of this passage, a call to gather the leaders (one blast) and a call to gather the whole congregation (two blasts). The second occasion, besides calling the people to God’s dwelling place, was to sound an alarm that would alert an enemy threat.
There are two more observations about blowing the silver trumpets. The men to the east of the Tabernacle were coming from the direction where God resides and from which God approaches His people. For example, the garden is planted to the east of Eden, the light of the sun emerges from the east, and the entrance to the Temple Compound was through the eastern gate. Thus, the men who were camped to the east of the Tabernacle had a symbolically close relationship to God whereas those to the south apparently did not have as close a relationship.
I suggest that the call of the leaders with one blast is referring to the remnant, who are qualified to lead God’s people. The call to those camped on the east side of the Tabernacle, then, would be for the holy and righteous ones, which identifies the remnant.
The last verse in this passage gives us a third occasion when the silver trumpets were blown. “In the day of your gladness and in your appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings.” I think it is significant that Rosh Hashanah is an appointed feast and it also falls on the first day of the month of Tishrei.
However, I must caution you that, as time progressed in the biblical narrative of Israel’s history, the shofar often came to be used in place of the silver trumpets. For example, we see a shofar blast when Joshua led the people against Jericho, and Gideon used a shofar with his 300 men against the Midianites. In the later books, the shofar was apparently blown to announce the new moon (Ps 81:3) and as an alarm for war (Jer 4:19; Zeph 1:6). Scholars are perplexed as to the reason for this apparent change that was contrary to the original commandment. Nevertheless, I will suggest that the silver trumpets will be used for the future event that is prophesied by Rosh Hashanah, a festival that Scripture simply calls “The Day of Remembrance” and “The Day of Blowing”. Furthermore, it is likely that only one blast of the silver trumpet will call the leaders at the time of the prophetic fulfillment of Rosh Hashanah.
Evidence for God’s Call of the Remnant on Rosh Hashanah
We have already seen some provocative information. The Bible tells us that Rosh Hashanah is a festival for remembering, and the rabbis suggest that whereas we remember God’s creating the people of Israel on Passover, with Rosh Hashanah we remember God’s creating the world. I have suggested that on Yom HaZikkuron (the Day of Remembrance, one of the names for Rosh Hashanah), we not only look back to honor God’s creation of the world but we also look forward to the restoration of God’s original creation that He is bringing about through a righteousness remnant.
Why will only a remnant be resurrected on Rosh Hashanah and not all believers in Christ, which is a common Christian interpretation? We saw the biblical commandment for the use of the silver trumpets, which were considered holy and set apart for God because only the priests could blow them. The blast of one trumpet was used when God called the leaders to come before Him, which I suggest signifies the remnant, whereas the blast of both silver trumpets called all the people. Furthermore, in times of danger, the blast of one trumpet called the warriors who were camped to the east of the tabernacle (the direction identified with God), and two blasts called the warriors camped to the south. Why would God make this distinction between one and two blasts of the silver trumpets if not to differentiate between a righteous remnant that is prepared for a leadership role on one hand, and all the rest of God’s children on the other?
The Day of Judgment (Yom HaDin) and the Call to Repent
Still another name for Rosh Hashanah in Jewish tradition is Yom HaDin, which means The Day of Judgment. According to Rabbi Aisch, “The Talmud…says that on Rosh Hashana God inscribes everyone’s name into one of three books. The righteous go into the Book of Life, the evil go into the Book of Death, and those in-between have judgment suspended until Yom Kippur. Thus, Rosh Hashanah has come to be known as the Day of Judgment (Yom HaDin).
Jewish custom claims that the Ten Days of Awe, which follow Rosh Hashanah, give those intermediate in-between folks more time to repent and change before the final judgment on Yom Kippur. The focus of Judaism, unlike Christianity, is not on resurrection and future events but on the nature of one’s life in the coming year, which will be determined by the extent of repentance during the Ten Days of Awe, a repentance that must lead to significant change and a growth in righteousness.
One provocative element in the Ten Days of Awe is the spiritual significance of the number 10. There are three perfect numbers, 1, 3, and 7. Ten is an expansion of the perfect number 1 that stands alone and cannot be divided by any other number, so 1 represents the glory and unity of God. Ten is the number 1 significantly enlarged.
Now we can consider the spiritual significance of the thousand-year reign of the Millennial Kingdom, which is 10 times 10 times 10 to equal 1,000. I dispute the Christian tradition that considers the Ten Days of Awe as prophetic of the seven years of the Great Tribulation. We cannot play around with biblical numbers and make the number 7 equal the number 10. Therefore, I suggest that the Ten Days of Awe symbolize the Millennial Kingdom, which will be a period for the remnant to shine a light into the world that will urge others to repent and grow closer to God in righteousness. I explore this suggestion in my 4th book in the Remnant series.
Rosh Hashanah in the New Testament
There are two passages in the New Testament that refer to Rosh Hashanah, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Unfortunately, there is neither time nor space in this article for me to share with you my in-depth study on these two passages. However, you will find the provocative results of this study in the 4th book in the Remnant series, The Remnant Part IV: The End of Time Revealed in Israel’s Annual Festivals.
I have come to agree with some of the interpretations about the prophetic nature of Rosh Hashanah but diverge in a significant way from all of them. Although I agree with Christian tradition that Rosh Hashanah prophecies a resurrection from the dead, I have concluded that this will be a righteous remnant that God will be selecting from both Jews and Gentiles, not all Christian believers. Furthermore, I agree with Jewish tradition that Rosh Hashanah will be a day of judgment when the names of the righteous will be written in the Book of Life. However, as I have already suggested, these “righteous ones” will be the ones whom God perceives as qualified for a leadership role in the remnant.
I further agree with Jewish tradition that there will be a period of time between Rosh Hashanah and the final judgment when those who fail to participate in the remnant can still become righteous in God’s eyes by sincerely repenting and turning to God. However, I do not see a final judgment on Yom Kippur, although I have found that there will indeed be a judgment on Yom Kippur when God’s people, those whom God finds worthy, will increase the number of the remnant. The final judgment, which will offer one last opportunity to turn to God, will have to wait until Sukkot.
Perhaps my most provocative proposal is that there is much more prophetic information about the times that will follow the Millennial Kingdom, which has not yet been adequately explored but can be perceived in Israel’s fall festivals. I pursue these enticing suggestions in my 4-part series on the Remnant that you will find on Amazon.
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Dr. Anne Davis is a professor of Biblical Studies who enjoys working with graduate students to enhance their exegetical skills for exploring the depth of Scripture.