The ram’s horn shofar is a uniquely biblical instrument. Although the enemies of Elohim’s truth have misappropriated, counterfeited or perverted much of what is found in the Bible, so far as this author knows, the shofar is one thing that Satan, the adversary of all that is good, and his followers have left alone. It’s like the proverbial “hot potato” that’s too hot to touch. Why is this? What is it about the shofar that causes Elohim’s enemies to leave well it alone? Let’s explore the mystical qualities of this biblical instrument of divine origination that has the ability to stir the human heart at its deepest level, to pierce the heavens, to bring man back to Elohim and vice versa, and to send spiritual shock waves through the devil’s camp.
The Word Shofar Defined
The Hebrew word shofar (pl. shafarot) occurs 72 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and is usually translated into English as trumpet and simply means “ram’s horn.” What could possibly be so special about a ram’s horn? The answer possibly lies in root word from which shofar derives — shapar meaning “to be pleasing.” Derivatives of this word include sheper, which is translated as beauty in Genesis 49:21, and shipra meaning “fairness or clearness (of sky)” (Job 26:13). The root shapar is found only once in the Scriptures in Psalm 16:6 where David, filled with praise to Elohim, describes the blessings from above that have fallen on him as most beautiful or pleasant.
As we explore the spiritual significance of the shofar as revealed in the Scriptures in this brief study, hopefully, the beauty and significance of the shofar will become apparent.
The Origination of the Shofar
Even though a shofar can be made from the horn of any kosher animal (except that of a cow, since, according to Jewish tradition, it reminds us of the golden calf incident), the ram’s horn shofar is the most desirable type of shofar since it reminds us of the akeidah and symbolizes the type of lives YHVH’s people are to live. The curve of the horn pictures the bent or humble spiritual demeanor of the heart one must have before YHVH, the Creator and the Holy One of Israel — a heart of contrition and repentance (Heb. teshuvah).
The first place a rams horn is mentioned in the Bible is at the akeidah. It was there that Abraham, in humble submission to YHVH, was willing to trust YHVH with the life of his only son and sacrifice to YHVH that which was most precious to him. We must be willing to do the same, even as YHVH sacrificed his Son for us.
At the akeidah or binding of Isaac where YHVH provided Abraham a substitutionary sacrifice for his son in the form of a ram caught by its horns in a thicket (Gen 22:13). This is a prophetic picture of Elohim who willingly gave Yeshua, his Son, the Lamb of Elohim slain from the foundation of the world as a substitutionary payment for men’s sins (John 3:16). In fact, the first mention of the word love (Heb. ahavah) is found in this same account (Gen 22:3) where YHVH instructs Abraham to offer up Isaac his only son who he loves. It is impossible to miss the prophetic allusion here to the well-known John 3:16 passage, which states that Elohim so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, Yeshua, to die for the sins of the world . Therefore, for the redeemed believer, the sound of the shofar represents Yeshua’s victory over sin and death and, in turn, our victory over the same through Yeshua our Lord and Savior who died in our place.
Not only this, but the ram’s horns being caught in the thicket (Gen 22:13) is prophetic of Yeshua the Lamb of Elohim wearing the crown of thorns while hanging on the cross. In fact, it is even possible to see in the two horns of the ram the two comings of Yeshua. A horn in the Scriptures is a Hebraic symbol of strength or power. At the same time, the stronger right hand represents power and judgment, while the weaker left hand represents mercy and grace. Therefore, it’s possible to see in the left horn of the ram the first coming of Yeshua who came to die as the sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world. Conversely, the right horn prophetically pictures Yeshua’s second coming as the King who will judge the earth and will establish his eternal kingdom in power. Perhaps this is one reason that the enemies of Yeshua have not stolen the idea of the shofar and appropriated it for their own perverse purposes. It reminds them of things they’d rather forget — especially their eternal fate at the hands of the King of kings and Righteous Judge of the universe!
The word shofar first occurs in Exodus 19:16 and refers to the heavenly shofar that sounded when YHVH gave the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai. This is the first time the Scriptures record the shofar being sounded, and the fact that this sound was of divine origination is evidenced by the fact that the shofar sound increased, not decreased, in volume the longer it sounded, which humanly is an impossibility (Exod 19:16–19).
When Was the Shofar Sounded in Biblical Times?
The shofar in biblical times was sounded for nearly every significant occasion in the life of the ancient Israelites. It was to them what the telephone, email, radio and text messaging is to us today. It was their main source of instant communications. The shofar was blown for the following reasons.
- It announced the Day of Shouting or Blowing (Heb. Yom Teruah), the full moon feasts (Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and Tabernacles) and the new moon (Ps 81:4).
- It signalled the first day of the seventh month (Lev 23:24; Num 29:1) the Day of Blowing (Yom Teruah).
- It was a call to repentance (Isa 58:1; Joel 2:15).
- The shofar was blown when a king was anointed (1 Kgs 1:34, 39, 41; 2 Kgs 9:13).
- It’s a call to battle (Job 39:24–25; Ps 47:5). It signified the start of war (Josh 6:4; Judg 3:27; 7:16, 20; 1 Sam 8:3; Jer 4:5, 19; 6:1, 4), and was used during military campaigns (Judg 7:22).
- It sounded during celebratory religious processions (2 Sam 6:15; 1 Chron 15:28).
- It was used as a musical accompaniment in praising YHVH (Ps 98:6; comp. ib. 47:5; 150:3).
- Sounding the shofar declares the YHVH Elohim is the king of the universe (Ps 98:6)
- It was sounded on the Day of Atonement to announce the jubilee year (Lev 25:8–13).
- It signaled Israel’s glorious redemption Israel out of the lands of their captivity at the second exodus (Isa 27:13).
- It signals the approach of the day of the YHVH (Joel 2:1).
- A watchman on the wall of a city would sound a shofar to warn the inhabitants of impending danger such as an approaching enemy (Ezek 33:3–6; Neh 4:18–20; Jer 6:17; 42:14).
- In the last days, the elect will be gathered after the shofar is sounded (Matt 24:31). They will be resurrected from the graves and along with those who are alive will be caught up into the air to meet Yeshua (1 Thess 4:16; 1 Cor 15:51–57).
- Seven heavenly shofarot will signal YHVH’s judgments being poured out upon the earth just before the second coming of Yeshua (Rev 8:7–9:20; 11:15). The seventh shofar announces Yeshua’s victory over the kingdoms of this world that he is the King of kings who will rule forever and ever (Rev 11:15).
- It was sounded to gather YHVH’s people together to hear him (Exod 19:16–17).
- It warned the people of their sin of breaking YHVH’s covenants and Torah-commandments and impending judgment as a result (Hos 8:1–3).
- The shofar was blown to announce the coming of a Jewish bridegroom to fetch his betrothed — a picture of Yeshua returning for his bride, the saints. All the righteous living and the righteous dead will receive glorified, resurrected bodies and will meet him in the air at the sound of the shofar. (Compare Matt 24:31; 25:6; 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess 4:16; Rev 11:15–18).
What Should Be Our Focus When We Hear the Shofar Sound?
Blowing the shofar is more than just a religious ceremonial activity. It is full of deep meaning that should call to remembrance several significant spiritual truths in the mind and heart of the hearer.
The shofar is a powerful reminder of the mighty right arm of YHVH outstretched on behalf of his people.
The sound of the shofar sends tremors of fear throughout the camp of YHVH’s enemies, and his people and rallies the righteous to take courage and to rise up against evil knowing they will be victorious through faith in YHVH Elohim.
The shofar proclaims and announces that Elohim is the King of the universe, and that Yeshua the Messiah, his Son is returning to the earth and will be crowned King of kings after the destruction of all his enemies including his arch-Adversary, Satan the devil.
The shofar should awaken the hearts and minds of the redeemed righteous from a state of spiritual sleepiness, and to prepare for the coming of Yeshua the Messiah, our spiritual Bridegroom.
When we hear the shofar blowing, it should remind us of the shofar that our forefathers heard at Mount Sinai when they accepted YHVH’s Torah
Finally, the wailing sound of the ram’s horn shofar represents man’s appealing to YHVH with a simple, primal cry from the depth of the human soul.
What Should Be Our Response When We Hear the Shofar?
We should have the same response as the Israelites when they heard the heavenly shofar for the first time. They trembled and came out to meet Elohim and stood at attention waiting to hear from him (Exod 19:16–17). It’s a time to fear and return to Elohim. Similarly, when the jubilee shofar sounded on the fiftieth year, each person returned to his family clan and property (Lev 25:8–10). The sound of the shofar should bring us back to our physical and spiritual roots.
When the ancient Israelites heard the shofar, they gathered together (Judg 3:27; 6:34; 7:8). Again, the shofar was their means of instant communication to the nation as a whole before the invention of telephones, radio, email and text messaging. They would stop what they were doing and come to attention. The sound of the shofar was a call to action. The specific shofar call communicated what response was expected.
The Sounds of the Shofar and What They Signify
In Jewish thought, there are several sounds the shofar makes that carry deep significance. Some of these understanding are based on direct scriptural references, while others are based on inference and tradition (taken in part from aish.com).
Tekiah (one long, straight blast ––––––––– ): This blast announces the coming of our Elohim who is the King of the universe. The long, straight shofar blast is the sound of King Yeshua’s coronation. On this day, Yeshua the Messiah is crowned as our King. On Yom Teruah, we appreciate who he is as our King — the King of kings. This knowledge is wonderful, yet it won’t benefit us unless we internalize this understanding, so that it becomes a living, practical part of our everyday reality. Yeshua as Elohim is all-powerful. He is also the Creator and the Sustainer. In short, Elohim is King of the Universe. Is Yeshua the Lord and Master of our lives? The pure, long and unbroken sound of the tekiah calls man to search his heart, forsake his wrong ways, and seek the King’s forgiveness through repentance.
Shevarim (a broken, staccato sound _–_–_–_–_ ): The Hebrew word shevar (rca; [Strong’s H7665] means “to break (in pieces).” The shevarim shofar call is a broken, staccato, trembling sound. It typifies the sorrow that comes to man when he realizes his misconduct and desires to change his ways. This shofar blast consists of three medium wailing sounds varying from low to a high note not unlike some of our modern sirens. It symbolizes the sobbing cry heart of the broken and penitent person yearning to connect, to grow, to achieve. Every person has the ability to change and be great. This can be accomplished much faster than you ever dreamed of. The key is to pray from the bottom of your heart and ask YHVH for the ability to become great. Don’t let yourself be constrained by the past. You know you have enormous potential. At the moment the shofar is blown, we cry out to YHVH from the depths of our soul. This is the moment—when our souls stand before the Almighty without any barriers—that we can truly let go.
Teruah (nine quick blasts in short succession – – – – – – – – – ): This word is found in Numbers 10:5 (Strong’s H8643) and means “alarm, signal, sound of tempest, shout or blast of war, battle cry, and alarm of joy.” This shofar call was used to call Israel to arms against an enemy attacker. In Leviticus 25:9, we see that the shofar would make the teruah sound to signal the arrival of the jubilee year. This signal was not to be used when the congregation was gathered together to worship YHVH (Num. 10:7). This blast of the shofar is our spiritual warning and wake up call. It is time to be hones and objective about our lives, who we are, where we’ve been and to make certain that we’re headed in the right direction. The teruah’s nine quick blasts resemble an alarm clock arousing us from our spiritual slumber. The shofar brings clarity, alertness, and focus. It is time to open our spiritual eyes and to fix what is broken. A wave-like sound of alarm calling upon us to take solid spiritual stand next to the banner of YHVH.
Tekiah Gedolah (also called the Great Tekia; one long tekiah blast –––––––––––––––––): The prolonged, unbroken tekia sound typifying a final appeal to sincere repentance and atonement. This sound is based on Exodus 19:13, “When the shofar sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.” This last shofar blast blown on Yom Teruah is very likely that which Paul refers to as the “last trumpet (shofar)” in 1 Corinthians 15:52 signaling the resurrection of the righteous dead to meet Yeshua in the air at his second coming (see also 1 Thess 4:16). If this understanding is correct, then this same shofar blast would correspond to the “great sound of the shofar” in Matthew 24:31 when Yeshua will send his angels to “gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” This would also correspond to the seventh and final trumpet of the seven trumpets (or shofarot) of Revelation 8–11, the last of which announces the return of Yeshua and the resurrection of the righteous dead to meet Yeshua in the air (Rev 11:15–18).
Reasons to Blow the Shofar
- Sound the shofar on the anniversary of the creation and for the King of the universe who created it (Ps 98:6). The Torah states in two places that the Feast of Tabernacles is “the end of the year” (Exod 23:16; 34:22). This could be taken to mean that this is the end of the harvest season (end of the fiscal or civil year), or as Jewish tradition believes, it’s also the anniversary of the creation of the world.
- The shofar blowing reminds us of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. As Moses with a light radiating face descended from Mount Sinai with the second set of ten commandments and the Israelites were faithful to YHVH until they came into the Promised Land, even so, Yeshua, the Living Torah, in a glorified state, will return from heaven on this Yom Teruah and his people will be faithful to him and his Torah in the Promised Land of the Millennium.
- Just as Ezekiel compared the words of the watchmen and prophets, calling the people to repent of sin, to a shofar, so we must know that those who hear the shofar (i.e., the words of Elohim) and do not take warning and change their lives will be responsible for their own destruction (Ezek 33:2–9).
- The shofar was blown as an alarm of impending war, even so, it speaks of YHVH’s upcoming judgments upon this earth before the second coming of our Lord. It will sound on the great day of YHVH’s judgment (Zeph 1:14–16)
- The sound of the shofar should make us tremble and fear our Creator (Amos 3:6).
- The sound of the shofar calls to remembrance the regathering of YHVH’s dispersed people at the end of the last days (Isa 27:12–13; Matt 24:31).
- The shofar sound reminds us of the upcoming resurrection of the dead at the last trump (1 Cor 15:51–53; 1 Thess 4:16 cp. Ezek 37:1–14).
- As the shofar sounded and broke down the barriers (the walls of Jericho) keeping the Israelites out of the Promised Land, the heavenly shofarot will sound and bring judgments against the kingdoms of this world keeping YHVH’s people from obtaining their promised spiritual inheritance in the Promised Land.
What’s So Special About the Sound of the Shofar?
The shofar produces some very mystical sounds, which have some very unusual properties. It’s an instrument the enemies of YHVH seem reluctant to use for their own purposes. Perhaps, most importantly, it has the ability to stir the human heart to repentance. What is so special about the sound emanating from the horn of a ram?
Perhaps the answer lies in the Scripture’s likening the sound of the shofar to the voice of Elohim or to the glorified Yeshua the Messiah who is the Word of Elohim in flesh-form (John 1:1, 14). For example,
Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings [Heb. kol or voice] and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound [Heb. kol or voice] of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.… And when the blast [Heb. kol or voice] of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and Elohim answered him by voice [Heb. kol or voice]. (Exod 19:16, 19)
For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a shofar and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (Heb 12:18–19)
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last…” (Rev 1:10–11).
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. (Rev 4:1–2)
Now let’s couple the idea of the shofar’s voice being able to stir the human heart to convict the human heart of sin with voice of the shofar being likened to the voice of Elohim, or Yeshua, who is the Living Word of Elohim.
When man committed the first sin against Elohim back in the Garden of Eden, we read,
And they heard the sound [Heb. kol] of YHVH Elohim walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of YHVH Elohim among the trees of the garden. (Gen 3:8)
Notice that the sound or voice of YHVH is “walking in the garden.” Exactly how does this happen? This same voice or kol that walked had a question for the first human sinners. What was it?
Then YHVH Elohim called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9)
Obviously YHVH knew their physical location. He sees and knows everything. What he was really asking was this, “Now that you’ve sinned by going against my words, or the voice of my commandments, where you spiritually?” This leads us to, perhaps, the most supernatural quality of the sound of the shofar. Not only does the sound that emanates from the shofar symbolize that which comes from the depths of the human soul, even from the womb or beginning of our being, but that same sound it reconnects us to our primal spiritual roots, which leads us back to YHVH, our Creator and to his voice in the garden. It is his voice, his presence drawing us back into a spiritual relationship with him that convicts us of sin and demands that we repent. That voice asks us, “Where are you spiritually? Are you walking with me, or have you strayed from my paths of righteousness and broken relationship with me by sinning? This is why it’s important that the shofar be curved in shape. This is a picture of the need for the human soul to bend their proud heart in contrition before the Creator, so that they can once again walk in perfect peace and harmony with their Creator who made them in his image to have a loving, spiritual and eternal relationship with them. (Thanks to Greg Killian for these insights at www.betemunah.org/shofar.html.)
Here are some more scriptures to prayerfully ponder in regards to obedience to the voice of YHVH Elohim.
And [YHVH] said, “If you diligently heed the voice of YHVH your Elohim and do what is right in his sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am YHVH who heals you.” (Exod 15:26)
When you are in tribulation, and all these things are come upon you, even in the latter days, if you turn to YHVH thy Elohim, and shall be obedient unto his voice. (Deut 4:30)
As the nations which YHVH destroys before your face, so shall you perish; because you would not be obedient unto the voice of YHVH your Elohim. (Deut 8:30)
You shall walk after YHVH your Elohim, and fear him, and keep His commandments, and obey his voice, and you shall serve him, and cleave unto him. (Deut 13:4)
Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of YHVH your Elohim, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that YHVH your Elohim will set you high above all nations of the earth. (Deut 28:1)
Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of YHVH your Elohim, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. (Deut 28:45)
The voice of YHVH is over the waters; the Elohim of glory thunders; YHVH is over many waters. The voice of YHVH is powerful; The voice of YHVH is full of majesty. The voice of YHVH breaks the cedars, yes, YHVH splinters the cedars of Lebanon.(Ps 29:3–4)
For He is our Elohim, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness.” (Ps 95:7–8)