Hebrew Roots/Holy Days/Trumpets/The History of the Feast
THE HISTORICAL OBSERVANCE OF THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS
The Feast of Trumpets in Old Testament times was understood as the inauguration of a judgment process that began on that day and culminated on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) with the final disposition of all the sins committed during the previous year for those who had truly repented and received mercy and forgiveness.
THE ORIGIN OF THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS
Tradition has it that Yom Teruah (feast of Trumpets), was the birth-day of the world and the day upon which Adam sinned and was forgiven and therefore the time when the coming of a Saviour/Redeemer was made known to them as the plan of salvation for their redemption. From that time, sacrificial offerings have been made for forgiveness of sins by those exercising faith in the Messiah to come. (Genesis 3:21-24)
On this understanding the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) would have been a yearly memorial of their judgement, repentance and forgiveness through the mercy of Yahweh. These are the basic themes of Yom Teruah.
The purpose of the day of blowing the shofar, is to alert and call one to repentance for past sins before Yom Kippur.
The setting for the incident between Cain and Abel was most likely such an occasion: "And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to Yahweh. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat" Genesis 4: 3-4. "And in the process of time" is literally, "at the end of days" (Interlinear translation) Qets - Strongs 7093 "an extremity" in the sense of being the end or border of something, the cutting off point. The Theological Wordbook says - 2060a "This noun is used in the context of judgment"
At some specified time, they both brought an offering. Obviously, the giving of sacrificial offerings was an established practice, and here at some specified 'end' of a period of time which is associated with judgment, both Cain and Abel come with offerings to Yahweh. It seems significant that the one period of time in the religious calendar which is associated with judgment, is that period which is between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur. It is at Yom Teruah that each person is to seek reconciliation through repentance for falling short of Yahweh's standard in the past year before the final day of reconciliation at Yom Kippur.
Did Cain fail to find a place of true repentance and acceptance with Yahweh God during this time of reckoning before the heavenly court of justice? This is what the scripture indicates, and the unfavorable judgment against him led to jealousy, hatred and murder - a downward spiral in the progression of sin in his life.
THE PATRIARCHAL PERIOD
The Book of Jubilees attributes the observance of the feast of Trumpets to at least as far back as Abraham's time and the offering of Isaac is said to have taken place on Yom Teruah.
Shem was still alive at the time of Abraham and various Jewish writings all give accounts of interaction between Abraham and his children and Shem who was mentor to him and his children in their pilgrim journey. Jacob spent some time with Shem and with Eber learning the traditions and ways of Yahweh.
Psalm 81 attributes the establishment of the feasts of the New Moon and Pesakh with their deliverance from Egypt when Yahweh went out against the land of Egypt in judgement at the blowing of the shofar. He established it as a testimony in the descendants of Joseph from that time forth.
"Blow the trumpet [shofar] for the new month, for the full moon, for our feast day [Pesakh]! For Israel has this statute, a decision of the God of Jacob, a decree He imposed upon Joseph, when he went to war against Egypt." Psalm 81: 3-6 Moses gave them the statutes for the keeping of the new Moon of the seventh month as a complete day of blowing the shofar to herald the coming of Yom Kippur and in preparation for it, but the ritual of new moon observance was established in Egypt. (Exodus 23:14-17; Leviticus 23:23-25; 29: 1-6)
In Leviticus 23:24 they are instructed to have it as a "sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets" - indicating it was a 'memorial' of a past event, a historic occasion, which according to tradition was the birth-date of redemption. As well as being the birth-date of man's redemption in Adam, it was further reinforced in the offering of Isaac on Mt. Moriah when Abraham foresaw in the provision of the ram, the provision of Yahweh's own son for the redemption of the race, and became the father of faith. The Akeidah is recorded as being on Yom Teruah.
So Yom Teruah became a memorial of Adam's repentance and Yahweh's merciful forgiveness of him and Abraham's perfect sacrifice in faith of the Redeemer to come, wherein His people have a holy convocation in expectation of the promised redemption through the Lamb of God whereby He shall redeem the whole creation back to Himself.
The psalms written during David's reign on the themes of Yom Teruah, record for us the emphasis of the festivals in the lives of the nation when they were in the land, as many were written to be sung in the temple services on the feast days. Sigmund Mowinckel (The Psalms in Israel’s Worship) finds that some forty Psalms were used in conjunction with the Feast of Trumpets to celebrate Messiah’s enthronement.
- In Psalm 47, for example, Yahweh is depicted as ascending up the temple mount to be enthroned as king of all the earth. The shofar is used to remind the people that He is sovereign, judging from His holy throne, the nations of the earth: " God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet [shofar]" (Psalm 47: 5). In Psalm 98: 6, the people are exhorted "to make a joyful noise before Yahweh, the King, . . . with trumpets and the sound of the horn [shofar]."
- In Psalm 87:15-16 the shofar is linked to justice and mercy "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before You. Blessed are the people who know the festal shout [literally, "the sound of the shofar]", who walk, O Yahweh, in the light of Your countenance, who exult in Your name all the day, and extol Your righteousness."
Unger's Bible Dictionary tells us that in ancient times: "This day was observed as a feast day, in the strict sense, by resting from all work, and as a memorial of blowing of horns, by a holy convocation. In later times, while the drink offering of the sacrifice was being poured out, the priests and Levites chanted Psalm 81, while at the evening sacrifice they sang Psalm 29. Throughout the day trumpets were blown at Jerusalem from morning to evening. In the temple it was done even on a Sabbath, but not outside its walls" (p.350).
The keeping of the feasts was somewhat neglected after the reign of Solomon and prior to the exile to Babylon
The northern kingdom abandoned the true feasts of Yahweh altogether and the southern kingdom of Judah was spasmodic in keeping them, determined largely by the influence of the reigning king.
During the religious reformation of King Asa it is recorded that the Israelites "entered into a covenant to seek Yahweh, the God of their fathers, with all their hearts and all their souls" (2 Chronicles 15:12) and they sealed their oath "with trumpets, and with horns [shoferot]" (2 Chronicles 15:14). Isaiah explicitly associated the sound of the shofar with an admonition against sin, saying, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet [shofar]; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1).
Josiah also summoned the people to "keep the passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this book of the covenant" and instigating a revival in the nation (2 Kings 23:21). The reason given for the command is "For no such passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel, or of the kings of Judah". The re-institution of the rest of the feasts followed the Passover celebration. (2 Kings 23:22)
The literal and figurative usages of the shofar by the prophets to warn people of their sins and call them to repentance, was most likely derived from the Feast of the Trumpets.
The prophet Joel also called for blasts of the shofar in Zion to impress the people with the needed repentance: "Blow the trumpet [shofar] in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly" (Joel 2:15). Joel may be speaking literally of the Feast of Trumpets, seeing he mentions its three major characteristics, the shofar, fasting, and a solemn assembly.
One of the clearest depiction of the sounding of trumpets to announce the inauguration of the heavenly judgment is found in 4 Ezra, a Jewish apocryphal book written in the first century A. D. "Behold the days come and it shall be, when I am about to draw night to visit the dwellers upon the earth, and when I require from the doers of iniquity (the penalty of ) their iniquity: And when the humiliation of Zion shall be complete, and when the Age which is about to pass away shall be sealed, then will I show these signs: the books shall be opened before the face of the firmament, and all shall see together. . . . And the trumpet shall sound at which all men, when they hear it, shall be struck with sudden fear" ( 4 Ezra 4:18-2-, 23).
POST EXILIC OBSERVANCE
After the people returned from their exile in Babylon the observance of the feasts needed to be restored. Zerubbabel restored the sacrificial rites on the first of Tishri (Yom Teruah) when he came back to Israel, probably in the summer of 536 B. C. (Ezra 3: 6). The Temple had not yet been rebuilt, and the offerings were brought to an altar especially built for that purpose. Since there is no mention of the blowing of the shofar, it would seem that the practice had been forgotten during the exile.
When later Ezra came to Jerusalem (about 457 B. C.) he discovered a community weakened by intermarriage with heathen wives and lax in the observance of the law. He assembled the people on the first day of Tishri (again on Yom Teruah) and led them in the public reading and translation of the law. The people hungered to know God’s Word and when they realized how far they had strayed from God’s holy precepts, they mourned and wept. Ezra comforted them, saying: "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep" (Nehemiah 8: 9).
Ezra told them to go home "eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared" (Nehemiah 8:10). On the following day the people were instructed to prepare for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. It would seem that though the first of Tishri was recognized as a holy day, the rituals associated with the day had largely been forgotten.
The Feast of Trumpets, though largely neglected in the pre-exilic period, became the second most important solemn day of the Jewish year in the post-exilic period. An important factor which contributed to its increasing importance, was the establishment of the synagogue, where the blowing of the shofar on Yom Teruah became a significant ritual. Since the Jews now were widely scattered as only a few had returned to the land, they were not required to travel to Jerusalem for the Feast of Trumpets and the blowing of the shofar took added significance in the synagogues of the Dispersions. Most of the information about the Jewish observance of the Feast of Trumpets comes to us from the rabbinic literature where the theme of Yom Teruah being a day of judgment is clearly taught.
There are two references from the book of Jubilees (late second century B. C.) to the first day of the seventh month, since they seem to reflect the prevailing understanding of the Feast of Trumpets.
In Jubilees chapter 5 there is a description of the inclusive nature of "the great judgment day" and the need for purification to stand before the righteous Judge of the earth (Jubilees 5:13-14, 17-18). The forgiveness granted "once every year," is associated with the purification that Jacob carried out in his family after the affair at Shechem (Gen 35:2-4), "on the new moon of the seventh month" (Jubilees 31:1-3). On that day Jacob spoke to his family, telling them to put away the foreign gods from among them and purify themselves before Yahweh God.
OBSERVANCE IN THE CHURCH ERA
The Feast of Trumpets was kept by the early Church as well as the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). These feasts however, together with the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) were the first to be dropped in the western branch of the Roman Empire in the period after relationships were severed with the mother Church at Jerusalem. Having been divorced from their Hebraic roots, the believers lost the understanding of the significance of these feasts and the importance of keeping them, waned.
However, in the east, the original traditions of the Church were kept intact for many centuries even after the invasion of the area by Islam, when the believers went underground.
Even in the west, there were strong centres of groups which kept the faith intact particularly in Lyons in France and Milan in Italy and there were continuous revivals breaking out down through the centuries in these and other areas.
In Valencia in 1519 at the time of the Inquisitions there were three groups which were recorded, Jews, Muslims and Christians who had so-called "Judaising" tendencies. They were persecuted because they rejected the heretic Catholic doctrines, they did not use the Sign of the Cross, they observed the Sabbath, kept the food laws, and practiced adult baptism. It is recorded that they celebrated the feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover with bitter herbs and they fasted on Atonement (Roth, pp. 77-79).
They met in house churches and read Bibles in the common language, instead of Latin.
Those called the "Sabbati", among other groups, existed over a period of many centuries, kept the Sabbaths and Holy Days, including Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Atonement, Tabernacles and the Last Great Day and, most importantly, the New Moons. Trumpets is not listed separately in their hymnal but appears to have been celebrated with the hymns of the New Moon. They were severely persecuted from the time of the Inquisition onwards and were massacred in large numbers.
The last wave of persecution from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries caused many in Europe to flee to England and to America for freedom of worship where the Jews also found religious freedom.