The Feast of Trumpets is a day of awe-inspiring meaning. However, in the Hebrew scriptures, there is no passage that clearly gives its name, even though its function and its relationship to trumpets can be clearly understood. Despite the importance of this day, the passages which deal with this day often add to the enigma of its meaning, and so therefore as we understand the anonymous nature of this festival, we might better understand why this day is known best by a false name. Understanding the nature of the Feast of Trumpets and why its name has proven to be such an interesting and complicated matter is a subject of considerable worthiness. Let us therefore examine a few passages briefly and ponder the mysteries of the name and significance of the Feast of Trumpets as it is clearly described in the Hebrew scriptures.
The first mention of the Feast of Trumpets is in Leviticus 23:23-25, which reads: “Then the eternal spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer and offering made by fire to the Eternal.'”” Here we see that the Feast of Trumpets has always been associated with trumpets, but that there is no firm name attached to this day, even though it is a memorial of trumpets (a memorial that this passage does not explain clearly). Nonetheless, let us note that the timing of the festival in the Bible is at the start of the seventh month, rather than being a New Year as the Jews celebrate it at present. Given the fact that the Bible is very clear that the year is to start at Abib shortly before the Passover, it is rather intriguing to ponder how the Jews thought that they had the mandate to shift the calendar six months to start on Yom Teruah (The Feast of Trumpets). It is richly ironic that a day that nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures is named is known most commonly by an inaccurate name. Life is full of ironies, though.
The next mention of the Feast of Trumpets is in Numbers 29:1-6, which reads: “And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing of trumpets. You shall offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the Eternal: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish. Their grain offering shall be fine flour mixed with oil: three tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the ram, and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, to make atonement for you; besides the burnt offering with its grain offering for the New Moon, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings, according to their ordinance, as a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Eternal.” Here again we see no name listed for the Feast of Trumpets, except that it is made abundantly clear among the minutiae of the sacrifices that the holy day on the first day of the seventh month (again, not the new year) is a holy convocation celebrated with the blowing of trumpets.
Psalm 81:3-4 contains a possible reference to the Feast of Trumpets as well as the Feast of Tabernacles, even if this psalm of Asaph is ambiguous in its language: “Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob.” Here we see the blowing of the trumpet at the time of the new moon connected with holy days as well as a holy day at the full moon, and the only time the New Moon is connected to a feast of God is at the Feast of Trumpets. The fact that this particular feast is connected with the teaching and admonishment of Israel is notable because it was at this time of year that the law was supposed to be read every seven years so that Israel would hear and understand God’s expectations for their behavior and commit themselves to renewing themselves in obedience to Him (see, for example, Deuteronomy 31:9-13 ).
It is therefore striking that the final references to the Feast of Trumpets in the Hebrew scriptures concerns this very law, as well as the joy with which believers are commanded to celebrate this day with, which is first mentioned in Ezra 3:1-7 during the time of Zerubbabel: “And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. Then Jeshua the son of Jezadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Eternal, both the morning and evening offerings. They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day. Afterwards the offered the regular burnt offerings, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the Eternal that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the Eternal. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Eternal, although the foundation of the temple of the Eternal had not been laid. They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.”
Here we see that before the temple had even been started, the people of Judah who had returned from the Babylonian captivity celebrated the sacrifices starting from the first day of the seventh month in the altar that had been established where the second temple would later be built. The account of Ezra, not coincidentally, refers to Numbers 28 and 29 and to the required offerings according to the ordinance of the Law of Moses. Despite the fear of the people of Judah upon their return from captivity, they still sought to obey God as He had commanded, and the Feast of Trumpets was the debut of their worship at the altar upon their return, which is an important achievement for a day that still was not named.
Some time later, during the time of Ezra, we see another notable Feast of Trumpets that led to weeping and a command to enjoy the day and feast from Nehemiah, because of the sadness caused by the reading of the law in Nehemiah 7:73b:-8:12: “When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities. Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Eternal had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattihiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Eternal, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Eternal with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Masseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Eternal your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions for those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Eternal is your strength.” So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.”
This particular passage is the most extensive passage that is directly stated in scripture to occur exactly on the Feast of Trumpets, and a number of elements of this passage are striking and worthy of mention. For one, it is often complained that two famous biblical personages such as Ezra and Nehemiah should have worked together more given their common godliness and common time in Jerusalem, and this particular Holy Day is a time when both worked together with exactly the same purpose–to praise and honor God and teach the people of Judah about His laws and ways, and to encourage them to enjoy the feast. For another, the people of Judah were said when they heard the Law because of their recognition about disobedience. However, the Feast of Trumpets is not a day for gloomy reflection, but rather a day for joy and feasting and fellowship. Likewise, a lot of priests and Levites were immortalized in scripture in helping to translate and interpret the Law for the people of Judah, who were attentive to hearing it, a sign of their tender hearts and their obedient spirit, not something that could often be said of the people of Israel or Judah. It should also be noted that this attentive and godly audience included men, women, and children who were all able to understand and were attentive to God’s words, a praise for commonfolk as well as women and children that ought to be remembered as an example of the way that believers are attentive to God’s word no matter their age or gender.
Even though the Feast of Trumpets is nowhere named in the Hebrew scriptures, and even though it is known by a different (and incorrect) name by many nowadays, let us examine what the scriptures say and make sure that we understand what the Bible wishes us to remember the most about this festival from its direct references in scripture–that this day is a holy day commanded by God to observe, that it is a day for the memorial of blowing of trumpets, and that it is a day of joy and fellowship and feasting, a day for men and women and children to all enjoy hearing about God’s ways explained clearly to them and enjoying food and fellowship with brethren of like mind. Let us therefore celebrate this memorial of the blowing of trumpets in such a fashion as praises God and pleases Him in gratitude for what He has given us.