Posts Tagged ‘Shofar’

Most English Bibles have translated the Hebrew word for shofar as a trumpet. I believe that this was an intentional attempt by the English translators to remove the Jewishness from the scriptures.

The shofar is the ritual instrument of the ancient and modern Hebrews, and is the only Hebrew cultural instrument to have survived until now. The shofar was used to call the assembly when the Israelites were in the wilderness. However, scripture makes a distinction between using the shofar to call the assembly and to sound the alarm. The shofar alarm was not musical worship, but the Hebrew’s warrior’s cry that their God was superior. It was not used as a musical instrument to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

We learn from the Mishna and the Talmud that no improvements or modifications that might affect the tone were permitted. Also no gold-plating of its interior is permitted; no plugging of holes, and no alteration to its length. (The minimum permissible length of a ritually approved shofar was 3 handbreadths) The shofar tone was to be preserved unaltered.

I find it very interesting to see how the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church, compares the use of the shofar in warfare (Of which the Hebrew Christians were familiar with) to speaking in tongues. “And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air.”  (1 Corinthians 14:7-9)

In addition to “lifeless instruments” Paul also spoke of carnal weapons. If you look up weapon and instrument in your Strong’s Concordance you will find that both are the same Greek word. As he warned the Corinthians about speaking and singing their own messages and compared it to warfare, the Apostle clearly understood the regulation for the shofar listed in Numbers chapter 10.

Apart from its liturgical uses the shofar was also used to destroy the walls of Jericho, and in the Dead Sea scrolls we read that during the War between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness  priests are instructed  to sound  a powerful war cry with shofars to instill fear into the hearts of the enemy.

From the Dead Sea Scrolls: War Scroll (1QM)

Col. 7

The ministry of the priests and Levites

(9) When the battle lines are arrayed against the enemy, battle line against battle line, there shall go forth from the middle opening into the gap between the battle lines seven (10) priests of the sons of Aaron, dressed in fine lute linen garments: a linen tunic and linen breeches, and girded with a linen sash of twined fine linen, violet, (11) purple, and crimson, and a varicolored design, the work of a skillful workman, and decorated caps on their heads; the garments for battle, and they shall not take them into the sanctuary.

(12) The one priest shall walk before all the men of the battle line to encourage them for battle. In the hands of the remaining six shall be (13) the trumpets of assembly, the trumpets of memorial, the trumpets of the alarm, the trumpets of pursuit, and the trumpets of reassembly. (A total of seven trumpets) When the priests go out (14) into the gap between the battle lines, seven Levites shall go out with them. In their hands shall be seven trumpets of rams’ horns. Three officers from among the Levites shall walk before (15) the priests and the Levites. The priests shall blow the two trumpets of assembly … of battle upon fifty shields, (16) and fifty infantrymen shall go out from the one gate and […] Levites, officers. With (17) each battle line they shall go out according to all [this] order…. men of the] infantry from the gates (18) [and they shall take position between the two battle lines, and […] the battle]

Where trump or trumpet is a military allusion, familiar to Greek readers, there is a possible allusion to Numbers 10:2-9, “And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance forever throughout your generations. And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies.” (Numbers 10:8-9)

1Thessalonians 4:16 also gives a reference to this when speaking of the return of Messiah. It is interesting to note that the Book of John’s Revelation in the New Testament Writings also mentions seven trumpets. (Rev. 8:2 -11:18)

The first angel sounded its shofar, and there was hail and fire mingled with blood that burned up a third of the earth’s vegetation.

7) The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

The second angel sounded and destroys a third of sea life as well as a third of the ships.

8 ) And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; 9) And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

When the third angel sounded its shofar a great star fell and polluted a third of the earth’s water supply.

10) And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; 11) And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

The fourth angel sounded its shofar and a third of earth’s light was lost.

12)And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.

The fifth angel sounds its shofar and yet another star falls to the earth. There are too many theories of what this might be but the result will be great torment of people who refuse to have the ‘seal of God’ on them.

9:1) And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. 2) And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. 3) And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4) And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. 5) And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment [was] as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. 6) And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.

The sixth angel sounded its shofar and a third of mankind dies.

13) And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14) Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. 15) And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.

The seventh and final shofar is sounded which ushers in God’s final judgment on the wicked and eternal life for his servants.

11:15) 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.  16)And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, 17) 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. 18) 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.

This is not an attempt to explain or decode the Book of Revelation. The main point I want to make is the correlation between our Hebrew roots and our Christian faith. For without the great work of God that was done by the apostles, (Who were all Jewish by the way) we would not know that God, through His mercy and grace, made a way to atone for our sins through the sacrificial system that He gave to the children of Israel wherein He required a blood sacrifice. (Leviticus 17:11) Without the knowledge of our Hebrew roots we would not know that there is one God and one salvation through the Jewish Messiah.

Without Judaism, there would be no Christianity.  And without Christianity, there is no hope for salvation. Realizing the Jewish roots of Christianity, it’s difficult to understand how Christianity has been, and still could be, used for anti-Semitism. Don’t Christians know that without the Jews, there is no Jesus? That without Jesus there is no Messiah? And that without Messiah, there is no Christianity?

Remember, “If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. (Rom. 11:16-18)

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”  (Rom. 1:16)

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Yeshua (Jesus) as well as all of his disciples and the apostles observed the feasts listed in TORAH. The most amazing thing about the feasts is the fact that every one of them symbolizes the coming of Messiah. In the coming weeks I will attempt to point out the symbolic importance of the feasts.

Many Christians today mistakenly believe that the feasts mentioned in TORAH are strictly for Jews, but in Exodus 12:38 it states, “And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.” (KJV) The NLT reads: “A rabble of non-Israelites went with them, along with great flocks and herds of livestock.” And Exodus 12:48 states: “And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.”(KJV) So it seems to me that God requires all who follow Him to keep His feasts.

Yesterday at sundown we celebrated Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year. It is a solemn as well as joyful holiday. Solemn – because of the Awe of judgment. Joyful – because it represents the hope of the future redemption of Israel. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the High Holy Days. It falls on the first day of the seventh month, according to the Hebrew calendar (see Leviticus 23:23). It could occur anywhere from the first to the last week of September on the Western calendar and it ushers in the ten days of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Rosh Hashanah in the Bible

(Leviticus 23:23-25) Rosh Hashanah is to be celebrated by blowing a shofar or ram’s horn and resting from all work and by calling a holy assembly. We are also commanded to present an offering. The offering is described in Numbers 29:2-6. Because of the sacrifice Yeshua made we no longer need to bring sin offerings of bulls, lambs, goats, and grain. But we can offer God an offering in the form of Tzedakah (Gifts of charity) to individuals or a church. In Nehemiah 8:2-9 we find Ezra reading TORAH to the assembled people of Israel on this date. Psalms 93-100 are also believed to have been composed for Rosh Hashanah.

The name “Rosh Hashanah” literally means “Beginning of the Year” You may wonder how this can be, since it is called the first day of the seventh month! The reason is that the Jewish calendar is built on two cycles-the religious calendar beginning in the Spring and the civil calendar beginning in the Fall. In the TORAH, the months are never named but only numbered, beginning with the month of Nisan in the early Spring, which is the first month according to the Hebrew calendar.

Rosh Hashanah Customs

There are many traditions of Rosh Hashanah that have been handed down over generations. They are:

The use of a round loaf of Challah bread instead of the usual braided one. The round loaf of Challah is in the shape of a crown and symbolizes the crown that the Messiah, King Yeshua wears and also the crown that we will all receive in at his return. (Rev. 14:14; 1 Pet. 5:4)

The dipping of bread and apples into honey after Kiddush, or blessings, as a symbol of the hope that the new year will be sweet.

The first blessing: Before the lighting of the candles: “Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, who makes us holy with Your mitzvot and commands us to kindle the lights of Rosh HaShannah

Kiddush before the bread: “Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, and sustained us, and who has enabled us to reach this festive occasion. May it be Your will, Adonai our God, and the God of our ancestors, to favor us with a good and a sweet year.

Kiddush before the apples: “Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.”

Kiddush before the wine: “Blessed are You, Lord God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.”

We also perform a Tashlikh ceremony on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, in which “sins” are ceremoniously tossed into a river and washed away, as penitent prayers are said.

Blowing of the Shofar

The most obvious distinguishing feature of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn. The Biblical Hebrew name for this holiday is Zichron Teruah (Remembrance of the shofar blast), or Yom Teruah. (The day of the shofar blast) In some English Bibles it is called The Feast of Trumpets. Shofar preparations begin with the recitation of Psalm 47. Some congregations read this Psalm seven times. The Psalm ties the two main themes Rosh Hashanah, shofar and God’s greatness, together in a few short verses. “…For the LORD Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth. All nations should clap their hands and shout to God with a voice of joy because ‘Elyon is the highest, most mighty king over the land. ADONAI ascends with the voice of the shofar…” (CJB)

Cries that come from being debilitated by pain and struggling through difficulties are answered generously by God. Shofars have a shape that mirrors this. On one end the horn is narrow, like the cry to God that is limited by our circumstances and lack of understanding. At the other end the horn is wide, God responds to prayer with great generosity, giving us more than we could ask for.

Blessing before sounding the Shofar: “Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and who has commanded us to hear the voice of the shofar.”

Significance

According to Talmudic tradition, the Ten Days of Awe which begin at Rosh Hashanah are the time in which God determines the fate of each human being. On Rosh Hashanah, the righteous are supposedly inscribed in the Book of Life, while the wicked are inscribed in the Book of Death. The fate of all others hangs in the balance until Yom Kippur. Consequently, it is a time for introspection, for taking stock of one’s behavior over the past year and making amends for any wrongdoing. I believe this influenced the tradition of making resolutions for the American New Year.

The Book of Life in the Bible

There are a number of references in the Tanakh (Old Testament Scriptures) which mention God blotting out or not blotting out someone from the Book. In Psalm 51:3-2, David asks to have his sins blotted out. Psalm 69:28-29 uses the exact phrase “Book of Life” See also 2 Kings 14:27, Psalm 9:5-6.

Modern Observance and Tradition

In modern observance of Rosh Hashanah, the principal themes are:

1. Creation

2. Repentance (Teshuvah in Hebrew-literally “turning back” to God).

3. Redemption-restoration of a severed relationship with God.

4. The coming of Messiah.

5. Judgment.

The Coming Messiah

The following quotes underscore the theme of the coming Messiah in Rosh Hashanah tradition: “The sounding of the shofar is related to the Messianic theme, and is to be the time of the ultimate redemption. Rosh Hashanah in many ways allude to God’s enthronement, for the kingship of heaven and the advent of Messiah, who presides over the last judgment. The Brit Hadashah (New Testament Writings) also associates the sound of the shofar with the coming of Messiah. (1 Thess.4:16) Some Christians use this scripture as a basis for the coming event known as the “Rapture,” from the Latin word for “caught up. However, 1 Cor. 15: 51-53 states plainly: “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For (at this time) this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (Italics mine) Rev. 8:6 plainly states that there are seven angels with seven trumpets who prepared themselves to sound. It isn’t until Rev. 11:15 that the last trump is sounded. It’s at the last trump when we will be changed and given immortality. NOT at the first.

The description of “Things to Come” given in the Brit Hadashah fits well with all the modern themes of Rosh Hashanah. In order to be written in the Book of Life, one must 1) Repent: Turn away from sin and toward God. Then you will 2) be personally redeemed. 3) We are redeemed immediately, and we will all be changed when Messiah comes again and 4) we will be like him! (1 Corinthians 15:51, I John 3:2) And 5) Afterward the world will be created anew (Revelation 21).

The Book of Life in the Brit Hadashah

The Concept of the Book of Life is found in the New Testament Writings as well. In Philippians 4:3, Paul mentions his faithful as being written in the book of Life. The book of Revelation, dedicated to the themes of judgment and the coming Messiah, contains several references to the “Book of Life.”

Tashlikh

One very interesting ceremony of Rosh Hashanah is the custom of Tashlikh. In a Tashlikh service, worshippers go to a body of water such as a stream or an ocean, and toss the contents of their pockets (usually pieces of bread to symbolize leaven, or sin) into the water while reciting passages such as Micah 7:19, “You will hurl all their sins into the depths of the sea.” We do this as a symbol of sin being swallowed up in forgiveness.

A New Covenant

This is not the only place in the Tanakh where God speaks of such total forgiveness for his people. Jeremiah 31:34 says: “For I will forgive their iniquities and remember their sins no more.” Only one verse before, God declares Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD. “

Concerning Messiah Scripture declares:  “And the LORD visited upon him the guilt of us all.”-Isaiah 53:6

“My righteous servant makes the many righteous, It is their punishment that he bears” — Isaiah 53:11

“For he was cut off from the land of the living through the sin of my people, who deserved the punishment” — Isaiah 53:8

“He bore the guilt of the many and made intercession for sinners.” — Isaiah 53:12

I believe that Yeshua is that Righteous Servant, and that his Atonement is the basis of the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah. The New Testament Writings confirms that God has not abandoned or rejected Israel. I believe that Messiah has come in the person of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach to rescue his people from their sins as a prerequisite to the final restoration of the people of Israel and to the Land, when Messiah will rule over them as King.

Amen! Even so, come quickly, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach!