The ram’s horn, otherwise known as a shofar, has become an article of fascination among many believers, especially by those who earnestly desire to worship the LORD in spirit and truth. However, what is commonly being practiced is very different from the biblical precedent set forth in scripture. In this post we’re going to discuss the history of the ram’s horn, why it’s such a sacred covenant object, and how to exercise its use in the proper biblical manner or context. If you own a ram’s horn, or endeavor to obtain one, this post will definitely be of interest and benefit to you.
The ram’s horn has long been a holy relic among the Jews. But for those who are unfamiliar with its biblical significance, this hollowed horn may seem strange and even appear archaic. Yet to hear the blowing of a ram’s horn by one who is well-practiced is unmistakable and distinguished. It’s effect can be spell-binding — even chilling at times. Its haunting blast is sure to turn the heads and hearts of all within its resonance.
The ram’s horn is known as a shofar among the Jewish people and is often scripturally referenced as a “trumpet”. It has an incredible history that speaks to the covenant God has initiated with Abraham and kept with the Jewish people to this very day. It is not only one of their holiest objects, but is one that has varied purposes, all of which are sacred, being specific to Israel. The shofar follows a thread of stories throughout the Old and New biblical covenants, all to which we would do very well to pay heed if we’re going to have one of our own and use it in our times of worship.
The History of the Ram’s Horn
When God promised Abraham a son, it was for all nations of the earth for perpetual generations. God made Abraham a covenant promise, ensuring him a fatherhood (posterity) that would extend to the ends of the earth, being more numerable than the stars of the sky or sands of the sea if he were to count them. That covenant came through the birth of his son, Isaac, who was born to him in his old age. For Abraham, this promise was fulfilled after 25 years of patient waiting, painful tribulation, and a harsh nomadic life that tested Abraham’s faith and threatened his livelihood.
God was faithful. Isaac was born.
Never did Abraham anticipate what God would demand next:
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of,” (Genesis 22:1-2, KJV).
What happens here leaves every parent wrung with deep anguish. Suddenly, we realize the faith Abraham had toward God was infallible and uncontested: he trusted God unequivocally with His own promise despite his deep love for his son and the act that would be sure to break his heart — as well as the covenant if God did not provide. Abraham obediently prepared Isaac as the sacrifice God demanded and bound him upon an altar he made with his own hands. What is more, we see that Isaac is obedient, however not without question, and submitted willfully to his father’s command.
In both of these patriarchs, upon whom the promise rested, we see incredible, even supernatural faith that can only come by the Spirit of God.
And here was God’s response to Abraham’s and Isaac’s obedience:
And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.
And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice,” (Genesis 22:11-18, KJV).
Hence, we have the ram’s horn, which now represents God’s miraculous provision and deliverance for Israel as a nation, which became the symbol of Israel’s covenant with God — the very swearing of the LORD.
For this reason, the shofar is one of the most beloved covenant symbols of God’s provision and protection among the Jewish people to this very day.
The Blowing of the Shofar
To blow the shofar is one of the most sacred acts one could perform before God and man. And it requires practice to blow one properly, as it’s not the easiest of tasks.
Traditionally, the shofar was blown by the one of the following: (1) prophets, (2) kings, and (3) and priests. There were specific occasions upon which it was blown, being reserved for the following:
1.) It gathers a solemn assembly unto the LORD
2.) It sounds an alarm for battle
3.) It announces the coronation of a king
4.) It marks the beginning and ending of a sabbath or holy day
In the Old Covenant we see all of these instances clearly portrayed. What is often spoke of in scripture as being a “trumpet” was nothing less than the sacred covenant object — the sounding of the shofar.
It was by the blowing of the shofar that Jericho’s walls ultimately fell (see Joshua 6:20). This was an alarm for battle.
When God called the prophet Samuel to anoint David as King of Israel, He gave Samuel the command: “fill thine horn with oil” (see 1 Samuel 16). Although Saul was anointed in the same fashion (see 1 Samuel 10), God’s coronation of David did not come publicly with a shout of the congregation or a blasting of the trumpet, but quietly and privately. The horn being filled with oil was an especially holy thing. What was the horn? The ram’s horn; a shofar. This was a most unique coronation of God’s chosen king. Samuel’s horn being filled with oil was representative of God’s covenant with His people Israel, His voice and speaking over David’s life (however quiet and unheard), His sovereign choosing, and His holy anointing. And to this very day, King David is considered the greatest king who ever lived save for Jesus Christ.
Likewise, when God called the prophet Ezekiel to sound the alarm for His people, He speaks of a trumpet:
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:
If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;
Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.
He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.
But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take anyperson from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand,” (Ezekiel 33:1-6, KJV).
No doubt, this trumpet is the shofar. Ezekiel was a prophet, and the trumpet of God was His voice to His people, giving clear warning of impending danger or doom — again signifying a manner of war (either spiritual or physical).
As said before, many in the Church today have taken a fascination to the shofar as an object of worship. Absolutely, the shofar is a sacred of object of worship. However, not in the musical context, as it is not created to be a musical instrument. On the contrary, the shofar is intended to be an official sounding of the LORD’s voice, which has been biblically referenced as a “trumpet”, such as with Moses on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19:5-25, 20:18-21, and Hebrews 12:18-29).
God’s voice is biblically referenced as a “trumpet”.
In the shofar God’s voice resounds to His people.
We are to take solemn heed.
Therefore, the shofar is not to be blown upon the whim of our own pleasure or desire. It is to be blown at specific times of holy convocation and for its reserved purposes therein. When a blast is prompted by the Holy Spirit, the shofar speaks to our hearts as well as to the spiritual realm, having clear effects upon principalities and powers, even as it did in biblical history. Mountains trembled, the earth quaked, wars were won, and cities fell. Its purpose, therefore, is to be respected and revered as the sacred covenant object it is, and in the covenant to which it speaks. To misuse or abuse the shofar for one’s own entertainment or pleasure is a dishonor and trespass before the Lord, which many well-meaning yet ignorant believers have practiced.
When the shofar is blown it heralds the everlasting covenant God established with His people, Israel.
There are several distinct blasts which are used when blowing the shofar, and each have a corresponding purpose:
1.) Tekiah – a long and loud unwavering blast (heralds the new year, a time of holy convocation).
2.) Shevarim – three short, broken blasts (during the high holy days when repentance is in order, usually during Yom Kippur).
3.) Teruah – an eight to nine-part staccato blast which is reminiscent of weeping (can convey deep travail or excitement, depending on the context and how these are blown).
4.) Tekiah Gedolah – the longest and loudest of the blasts, being unwavering, piercing in tone, and enduring for the entirety of the trumpeter’s breath. This is the most awe-inspiring and fearsome of all the blasts (coronation of a king, judgment, war, or giving warning to the people).
Each of these blasts are reserved for their specific purpose to which they speak. When God tells us to blow the shofar — make no mistake — it is for a specific purpose, and it will follow the precedent set within His Word. The effects will resonate within the hearts of His people accordingly, even when they may not understand the purpose for which the shofar is being blown. We will find there is a just response.
Unless you’ve heard the blowing of a shofar (properly done), it’s very hard to describe the sound and its effect upon the hearer. What is important to remember is that God speaks through the shofar to His people for specific purposes (which are described above), and we are to pay heed to Him accordingly. This is why the shofar is not to be blown out of biblical order. Again, it is a holy and sacred covenant object of worship reserved for His purposes within the Body.
The task of blowing the shofar is to be performed by the priests, ministers, prophets, and leaders (kings) within the Body. If one has a shofar in his home, the head of the home should rightly blow it. With that said, the blowing of the shofar is reserved for those in a position of authority in their home, church, or congregation.
According to covenant, all believers are kings and priests in God’s household. Therefore, any believer can be led by the LORD to sound His shofar in their own domain as the Spirit of God leads.
The High Holy Days
The shofar is blown throughout the High Holy Days (1) to announce the Sabbath, (2) to usher in the new year, and (3) to gather the people in holy convocation, either for rejoicing or weeping and repentance. For example, on Rosh Hashanah, which is the new year, you should hear a Tekiah Gedolah, which is the loudest and longest of the blasts (announcing a holy convocation and the coronation of Christ as King). The sound of the Tekiah Gedolah can solicit joy and excitement as much as it can fear. On Yom Kippur you will hear a Tekiah (call to convocation) followed by a Teruah (weeping and repentance). Yom Kippur is the highest and holiest day of the entire year. Throughout the High Holy Days it is common to hear a combination of blasts for the specific times appointed, all which speak to the purpose God has determined.
Of all the High Holy Days there is only one which celebrates the trumpet of God — the Memorial of Blasting, which is Rosh Hashanah (see Psalm 81:1-3). Rosh Hashanah is known as “The Feast of Trumpets” when Israel’s civic new year officially begins, in which seven trumpets officially sound. This feast speaks prophetically to us of Christ’s return, at which time we are told the seventh trumpet will finally sound (see 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 and Matthew 24:29-31). No doubt, that day we will hear the angel of the Lord blow a profound Tekiah Gedolah blast. This is beyond my imagination. The LORD proclaims that Day is one to be feared, when He will finally return for His people with all His holy angels:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,” (Matthew 24:29-31, KJV).
There is no doubt, therefore, that the blast we will hear upon the Lord’s return is the seventh trumpet to which Paul speaks (see 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18), and which is recorded in the book of Revelation:
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail,” (Revelation 11:15-19, KJV).
What a magnificent Tekiah Gedolah that will be when the angel sounds this final trumpet! Every ear will hear! Every eye will see! None will escape the LORD’s coming! Not only will this be the prophetic fulfillment of Rosh Hashanah as a Fall Feast, which will begin Christ’s millennial reign when the current age will end and a new one begin, but it will also be the sound of war by which God declares His judgment upon the earth. This Tekiah Gedolah will be marked by sheer excitement for those who are eagerly ready and waiting for the Messiah’s return. But for unbelievers it will spark unprecedented fear, anxiety, horror, and dread — the kind none will be able to escape.
To sound the shofar is to honor the Lord and to fear Him. To respond to the shofar is to honor the Lord and to fear Him.
To hear the shofar is to have your heart struck with the fear of the Lord.
In the shofar the times appointed by God are made known, and if we pay attention, we’ll see those mysteries clearly revealed in His Word.
Through the shofar, God speaks to His covenant people of His provision and deliverance — both in times past and in the age the come. That has not changed since the day Abraham bound Isaac, only to be set at liberty by God’s gracious sacrifice. May we all respect the shofar, even as we fear the LORD. For Christ is our sacrifice, the fulfillment of every covenant promise given, and by whom the trumpet of God officially sounds.
Cheers & Shalom,
Image Credit: geralt | Pixabay