Feast of Trumpets
Strange name for a feast, unless you’re a jazz fan, then maybe you’d relate better to Feast of Saxophones. However, the feast is really not about the instrument, but the experience of God’s voice—His instrument. Before I continue, I will add that the feast is to be celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishri. (Lev 23:23), which happens to be September 10 in 2018.
Let’s start our story some two months after the Israelites have left the bondage of Egypt. They find themselves at the base of Mt Sinai. It was on this same mountain that Moses first encountered God. It was from a burning bush on this mountain that God began His conversations with Moses. These conversations would continue for forty years, but arguably the conversation God would have now at Sinai, not only with Moses, but with all Israel, is the most significant communication recorded in the bible.
The sages say that this conversation occurred on the first day of the seventh Hebrew month, Tishri, after the exodus from Egypt. This makes sense when you consider the time frame and that there is no other recorded historical event involving a trumpet other than the Sinai experience around this time. Also, God declared the observance of the feast shortly thereafter and before any other trumpet events, for example, Jericho.
So, given that this Sinai conversation is why the Lord commands the day to be observed, let’s consider it in more detail. The Israelites have been milling around the base of this mountain for the last three months. They’re still getting use to the freedom thing, collecting their mana every day except Sabbath and probably getting pretty bored. The context for the experience of the preeminent God conversation takes place over days of preparation as described in scripture.
Since they got here, their leader Moses has most likely made a few trips up the mountain looking for that burning bush and wondering, “now what?” It’s been a pretty awesome, almost incomprehensible unfolding drama since he was last here. He left being the shepherd of a herd of sheep, now he’s got responsibility for twelve tribes of his kinsmen adding up to maybe a million or so people. Looking down he sees them, they are spread out all around the base of this mountain and growing restless.
On one of these trips up the mountain God speaks to Moses giving him His vision and plan for the newly liberated people. Moses shares the plan and contingencies with the elders and gets a confirmation of agreement and reports back to God.
The stage is now set for God to reveal Himself to the people. This revealing is to affirm Moses as leader, but most importantly God will personally present His expectations of the people. These expectations will be an outline, not only for this people, but for all of His created humankind for the rest of eternity. Are you getting the magnitude of the conversation? How can the significance of this event be best communicated?
Speaking of a stage, can you imagine a better stage than this mountain rising up out of the desert floor? From this stage God delivered, by His voice that epochal communication, the Ten Commandments. This voice was modulated from an intense, terrifying trumpet-like sound down to an intelligible voice, which I’m sure still had plenty of volume to be easily heard and understood.
God choose not to stand on the stage in person, but, for divine drama, He draped it in cloud and darkness with some lightening flashes and fire for effect. God introduced Himself by the sound like a trumpet or more likely like a shofar (a ram’s horn, the original trumpet). Whether it emanated from Him personally or other heavenly personage I don’t know. But the same Hebrew word translated as trumpet “blast” is later translated in Exodus 19:19 as God’s “voice.” So, it does not seem too much of a stretch to me to believe the sound was from God.
I will not go into the consequences of the people’s experience and response to God’s manifestation on the mountain. I do believe the metaphor of the trumpet or shofar is very apt and perfectly appropriate for designating the feast’s identity. However, the paramount significance of the feast is the opportunity for me to reaffirm my agreement with and the embracing of God’s Law. It is a day for rejoicing in His goodness, His mercy and His loving kindness. Blowing my shofar might just help me underline my agreement with this event.