Psalm 89:15 states “How blessed are the people who know the sound of the blast!” Tucked into this rather lengthy psalm appears a quick encouragement for any of those who understand what it means to hear a trumpet blast. Yet, this is not the random, meaningless wailing of your neighbor’s child as he practices the trombone. From the vantage point of the psalmist, what could the “blast” mean?
The Hebrew word used here for “blast” is teruah, and is often translated “joyful shout” in English bibles. However, the meaning of the word brings to mind not the cacophony of human voices, but the sound made on a trumpet, specifically either a silver trumpet or a ram’s horn called a shofar.
Today happens to be the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, but in the Bible this holiday is designated as a Yom Teruah — a Day of Blasting. The holiday finds its origins in Leviticus 23:23-25, when the children of Israel are told to celebrate the first day of the seventh month as a day of blasting of trumpets. Traditionally, more than 100 blasts on the shofar are heard throughout this day in a Jewish synagogue. Why all the horn blowing?
Though God does not elaborate on the reason for this holiday, we could offer a guess by looking at the biblical calendar and if we knew a little ancient history. In the ancient Jewish world, a king’s presence was not publicly announced by the local media or the existence of a secret service detail, but by the blowing of trumpets. In this way, everyone knew that the king was approaching, and could make the necessary personal preparations. If King David were coming through your small village, you would put on fine clothes, organize your home, and head to streets in an attempt to catch a glimpse of him and his royal entourage. If the king were coming, you would get ready.
In the biblical calendar — God’s calendar — the Day of the Blasts begins a quick succession of holidays often called the High Holy Days, beginning tonight and running through Oct. 9. Some of the most solemn and most joyous holidays on the calendar are quickly approaching, including the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and Rejoicing in the Torah. These are appointments that God has set with his people, and appointments with God are important to keep! He wants to meet with us.
Quite possibly, all the horn blasting serves to rouse any person in a spiritual stupor to wake up and examine the sins and vanities he has allowed to creep in throughout the past year. If one has forgotten to prepare for these upcoming appointments with the King, the horns remind us all that: Ready or not, here he comes! How blessed are the people who know the sound of the blast!
Kyle A. Kettering graduated from Xenia Christian High School in 1998, Cedarville University in 2004, and Nyack’s Alliance Theological Seminary in 2017 with a degree in ancient Judaism and Christian origins. Kyle serves as a teaching elder at Church of the Messiah in Xenia.