Two Silver Trumpets
Now the Lord said to Moses, “Make two trumpets of hammered silver for calling the community to assemble and for signaling the breaking of camp. ~Numbers 10:1 (NLT)
The last preparation before Israel’s march into the Wilderness begins. And that final preparation involves the use of trumpets. The idea is basic: the Silver Trumpets are used to signal to the people that an instruction from God has come, and it then signals how the people are to respond in a general sense. The trumpets are like air raid sirens or a weather alert radio.
Make the trumpets of hammered silver. The Bible doesn’t give us much information about how they look. BUT…Josephus does, and we have ancient coins from Israel that picture the Trumpets. There is even an engraving of the Silver Trumpets on the Arch of Titus (the Roman who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and looted the Temple of its gold and silver objects), located in Rome.
So we know what the Trumpets looked like; they were a straight tube, flared at the end and were less that 18″ in length.
Make two trumpets of hammered silver for calling the community to assemble and for signaling the breaking of camp. ~Numbers 10:2
And verse 2 tells us exactly what they were to be used for: to summon the community of Israel and to set the divisions in motion. In other words, trumpets blew when it was necessary for Moses to tell the people something; or they were used to inform the four divisions of Israel to get up and move.
Recall that Israel’s 12 tribes, grouped into groups of 3 tribes each and each 3-tribe division were assigned a particular place of encampment around the Wilderness Tabernacle.
When both trumpets are blown, everyone must gather before you at the entrance of the Tabernacle. ~Numbers 10:3 (NLT)
Beginning in verse 3 the actual calls of the Trumpets (the different ways played) are defined so everyone will know what they mean.
Apparently, this system of directing the actions and movements of people using sounding a horn or beating a drum was neither new nor invented by Israel. This system had been in use for centuries before them in almost all known cultures; and then as here for Israel, the primary purpose was for directing an army.
Let’s talk about these trumpets for a couple of minutes. First, know that these Silver Trumpets are not the same thing as shofars. We can know that by their description and their specific names.
In Hebrew, these Silver Trumpets are called hatsotserah, while shofar is the Hebrew word for an animal horn or antler. A shofar is NOT an earlier more ancient and primitive version of a hatsotserah, a metal trumpet, as some have supposed. And their uses are different not so much in what they are for, but rather WHO uses them.
But when you call the people to an assembly, blow the trumpets with a different signal. Only the priests, Aaron’s descendants, are allowed to blow the trumpets. This is a permanent law for you, to be observed from generation to generation. ~Numbers 10:7-8
In the Bible, the ordinary people use a shofar, but priests can ONLY blow the Silver Trumpets. As some examples, we find that shofars primary purpose is,
- To frighten an enemy (Judges 7),
- To warn that an enemy is coming (Hosea 5),
- To call the army to battle (Judges 6),
- To call for the army to stop fighting (2 Samuel),
- To call people to rebel against injustice (2 Samuel).
A shofar was even blown to declare the coronation of a King (Kings 9) and to bring down the walls of Jericho. In the same story of the walls of Jericho, we’ll find that Silver Trumpets are also blown.
We see in Hosea 5 and 2 Kings 9 the use of Trumpets for mainly the same reasons as blowing the shofar. In fact, for similar purposes, we often find that BOTH shofars and Silver Trumpets were blown at the same. That has led to many Bible versions completely mixing up shofars and trumpets and using the terms interchangeably (and error to be sure).
It’s also important to know that priests were always an integral part of an army. Today we have chaplains. In ancient cultures there were “war priests” and that was almost universal among all civilizations and societies. It was no different for Israel; whenever Israel went to war some priests were involved, and one of their duties was to sound the Trumpets.
I’m not going to delve deeply into all the different horn blasts and signals, but recognize that the various alarms could be played EITHER on a shofar or a trumpet; what could NOT change, however, was that only PRIESTS could blow Trumpets.
In general, the longer blasts were for calling either the leaders of Israel together or for assembling all the people of Israel. The shorter more staccato sounds were for directing troops in battle.
But if only one trumpet is blown, then only the leaders—the heads of the clans of Israel—must present themselves to you. ~Numbers 10:4 (NLT)
In Hebrew, the longer blast was called taka or Takia, and the shorter blasts called teruah. It is a certainty that the way it worked in battle was that the military commander would tell the priests what signal to blow and the priests would blow those signals to the army from the most strategic point that was available, using those Silver Trumpets. Then the field commanders and leaders of divisions and units would repeat those calls on shofars, the horn of the non-priests, throughout the battlefield.
When you sound the signal to move on, the tribes camped on the east side of the Tabernacle must break camp and move forward. ~Numbers 10:5 (NLT)
Verse 5 tells us when the Silver Trumpets are used to signal for the divisions of Israel to move. That the FIRST time the Trumpets are sounded using Teruah, or short blasts, it is the group that camps to the superior EAST side of the Tabernacle that is to spring into action: the division led by Judah.
When you sound the signal a second time, the tribes camped on the south will follow. You must sound short blasts as the signal for moving on. ~Numbers 10:6 (NLT)
The 2nd round of Teruah says that those camped on the South (the 2nd most prestigious camping position), led by Reuben, are to move.
When you arrive in your own land and go to war against your enemies who attack you, sound the alarm with the trumpets. Then the Lord your God will remember you and rescue you from your enemies. ~Numbers 10:9
One of the key purposes of the horn blast says verse 9, is when the trumpets blew during the battle then the Lord will remember you and rescue you from your enemies.
In essence, the Silver Trumpet blasts are like a prayer; a prayer to remind God that even the blowing of the Trumpets is itself His Command to Israel, and so His Law is being obeyed.
Interestingly the Essenes in the Dead Sea Scrolls had much to say about the use of Trumpets as a device of worship and war. They speak of, “trumpets of remembrance” and of the use of trumpets for, “the vengeful memory at the appointed time of God.”
At the right moment (and I don’t know when that is, yet) I’ll speak to you in depth about phrases we’ll find Jesus using that are uniquely Essene word structures; phrases that we’ll find almost word-for-word in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Phrases that don’t necessarily identify Messiah with the Essenes (Yeshua was NOT as Essene) but phrases and terms He uses that often REFER to the Essenes.
In fact, the Essenes were great on “end times” doctrines and teachings and more and more we’re discovering their influence on the people of Judah at the time of Jesus and before, as well as on the writings of the New Testament.
Point being that the Essenes’ teaching on the holy use of trumpets (remember they were to be used only by priests) echoed in the New Testament comments of Jesus and others as they describe end-times happenings.
I gave you one prominent phrase found in the Dead Sea Scrolls about Trumpets blown for “the vengeful remembrance at the appointed time of God.” And, what better term could we find to describe the wrath that Yehoveh will pour out on the world as the coming of Christ nears than “vengeful remembrance of an appointed time of God.”
Let me list for you just a few places in the NT where we’ll find the blowing of Trumpets signaling this “vengeful remembrance”:
And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven. ~Matthew 24:31 (NLT)
It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. ~1 Corinthians 15:52 (NLT)
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. ~1 Thessalonians 4:16 (NLT)
Then I looked, and I heard a single eagle crying loudly as it flew through the air, “Terror, terror, terror to all who belong to this world because of what will happen when the last three angels blow their trumpets.” ~Revelation 8:13 (NLT)
Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice speaking from the four horns of the gold altar that stands in the presence of God. And the voice said to the sixth angel who held the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great Euphrates River.” ~Revelation 9:13 (NLT)
The thing is that trumpets are used to call the congregation together for a message, for worship, a warning, action, and war. Further, they are to be used by priests; or put in another way, used only by those anointed to particular high-holy status.
Therefore that is why we’ll see trumpets being blown in Heaven by angels because they are certainly beings of a particular high-holy status. But even more, the use of trumpets in the NT is but a precise extension of the God pattern laid down in the Torah (always a good thing to recognize).
Blow the trumpets in times of gladness, too, sounding them at your annual festivals and at the beginning of each month. And blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and peace offerings. The trumpets will remind your God of his covenant with you. I am the Lord your God. ~Numbers 10:10 (NLT)
Then in verse 10 we see something else about the Silver Trumpets: the trumpets blown on joyous occasions, those occasions being the 7 Biblical Feasts AND New Moons (meaning the start of each new month).
And during those festivals and new moons (and there seems to be some interpretive room for sounding them during other joyous occasions in honor of Yehoveh) they shall also be blown during the sacrifice of the burnt offering and the offering of well-being (in Hebrew, the ‘Olah, and the Shelamim).
BTW: let me point out that this is NOT about playing music, songs, on a Trumpet. It is about sounding the detailed blasts as defined in the earlier verses. It is NOT a musical instrument. The Levites had dedicated musical instruments, and they played them, usually while accompanying the singing of Psalms. Silver Trumpets were Torah ordained communication devices.