Sounds of the Shofar – Part One

The shofar is an ancient wind instrument made from the horn of an animal. Originally made from the horn of a Ram although many of today’s shofars are made from the African Kudu this is a member of the antelope family. The sounds of  the shofar are very characteristic and each set of notes is used for specific purposes that are described within Scripture. The shofars of today are made in the same time honored way as they were thousands of years ago and they look and sound the same as well.

 

To listen to the audio broadcast that corresponds to this article, use the player below. To download to your computer, use this link.

The word shofar  (Strong’s #H7782) is a Hebrew word often translated in English bibles as trumpet. That means: in the original sense of incising; a cornet (as giving a clear sound) or curved horn: – cornet, TRUMPET.  It comes from the Hebrew word shaw-far’ (Strongs # H8231) a primitive root; to glisten, that is, (figuratively) be (causatively make) fair: – X goodly.

Yoel (Joel) 2:15

Blow the shofar in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly

Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 33:6

But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the shofar, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take [any] person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.

Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 6:17

Also I set watchmen over you, [saying], Hearken to the sound of the shofar. But they said, we will not hearken.

Each shofar, horn, has its own individual sound, its “voice.” Generally speaking, the sound that emanates from a shofar is very distinctive. The shofar blower can change the sound when blowing calls so that it can be loud or soft, piercing or wailing, long or short.

The sounds of the shofar are distinctive and piercing and can be heard over long distances. This was especially true in ancient Yisrael because their society was quieter than the noisy cities of modern day Western culture. Today we are surrounded by all sorts of noise , supersonic jets, sirens, industrial noises, radio and television broadcasting, military equipment and target practice noise, etc.  This is very different than the much quieter sounds we would have found in the rural farming and animal herding of ancient Yisrael.

Imagine if you will the tranquil sounds of a sheep herder tending to his flocks. The sound of wind blowing through the trees, the sound of water slowly babbling in a brook as it winds its way past you. The soft sounds of the sheep moving about and their characteristic baaaa baaaas. Now imagine how you would feel as your body was jolted intensely to attention as you hear the piercing sound of a shofar warning (all who hear) of impending trouble. I am certain that hearts would pound, breathing would increase sharply, adrenalin would be released into the blood stream, every muscle would be ready to respond as the ancients would make hast to respond to the call of the shofar.

The sounds of the shofar, or calls,  mean different things and it is important to understand some of these meanings if one intends to blow a shofar. Some calls are for warning, others for war, still others for rejoicing, and then there is the sound of repentance.

Here is a quote by Greg Killian from his article, The Significance of the Shofar.

Shofar is a Hebrew word that comes from a root meaning beauty. The word shofar, however, through tradition came to mean almost solely “ram’s horn”. The shofar was used in biblical times for various occasions ranging from calling the armies together to signaling death. Which brings up the curious point that shofar is also literally translated as a “sense of incising”. Incising means to cut or burn into. Obviously the sound of the shofar was more than a mere horn blast to the ancient Hebrews, to earn a name that signified a cutting or burning into the heart and soul of the people.

What is it about the sound of the shofar that calls us to return to the Most High El? To find the answer we need to return to the Garden of Eden, the garden where everything on earth began.

A sound that walks 

After Adam commits the first sin we find a curious statement, in Bereshit (Genesis) 3:8  

And they heard the voice of Elohim walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Elohim amongst the trees of the garden.

This word for voice in Hebrew is kol kol (strongs #H6963 – sound, voice, noise, thundering.) The word of Yahweh tells us that the voice of Elohim was walking in the garden. Exactly how does a voice (kol kol), go “walking”?

This same Hebrew word for sound or voice (kol kol), resonates with another voice (kol kol), the sound (kol kol) of the shofar that is found in Shemot, Exodus 19:16

And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders (kol kol) and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice (kol kol) of the shofar exceeding loud; so that all the people that [was] in the camp trembled.

This voice (kol kol) that we hear at Sinai is the same voice (kol kol) that went walking in the Garden right after the first sin. It is a voice that thundered just like it would when YHWH spoke to the children of Yisrael at Mt. Sinai. The voice (kol kol) that walked had a question, Bereshit, Genesis 3:9

And Elohim called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where are you?

Of course Yahweh knew the answer to the question. He wasn’t asking about his physical location. How can one hide from The One who is everywhere? This question must be asking a more profound question: Where are you, where do you stand morally and spiritually, to what place are you directing your efforts?

This is the kol kol that walks. This voice comes seeking the state of the soul of His beloved. This powerful voice (kol kol) from the shofar “walks” to us, His beloved, and asks: “Where are you?”

The bible’s first mention of the word shofar is in Exodus 19:16. Where we find that the Hebrew people were gathered together in their camp near the foot of the mountain at the appointed time. They heard the “voice (kol kol) of a shofar exceedingly loud.”

We see in this verse that the shofar sounded to indicate the presence of Yahweh. The shofar sound caused the people to tremble, which was an emotional response. But in this context the voice of the shofar was like the voice of Yahweh, saying “the time is now, come unto me.” Next we see the Hebrew people responding with actions – they drew near to Him.

The previous section is an adaptation from portions of The Significance of the Shofar see footnotes.

Why Is the Shofar Sounding So Powerful?

One of the ways that we use to interpret and understand scripture is the Law of Frequency or how many times something is mentioned within Yahweh’s word. When something is mentioned over and over again or is mentioned two times together (as in our reference to kol kol) it is significant and we need to take the time to study out what Abba Father is saying on the matter and then take appropriate action/s. There are over a hundred scripture references to shofar in the bible and of those forty of them are considered significant.  There are even more scriptures that relate to shofars using words such as blowing, shouting, voice. The sounding of the shofar is so important to YHWH that He dedicated one of His special appointed times exclusively to it – Yom Teruah, A Day of Blowing (Lev. 23: 24 and Num. 29:1) but why?

The reason… the shofar is the voice of Elohim the Almighty One. Hearing the sound of the shofar is having an encounter with the Lord Himself. Yahweh is speaking to us and instructing us or urging us to come or return to Him. It is the sound of urgency! In scripture the shofar is not sounded idly. It always has a purpose and attitude and always precedes, accompanies or announces and important event that Yahweh is involved with either directly or indirectly.[2]

The first mention of a shofar in Exodus is not something that man created; this instrument was created by Yahweh Elohim. I’d like to share a quote from Rabbi Mark of Beth El Gibor,

“Did you hear it? Millions heard this. Who’s blowing? Who is the only one that could GOD! God is communicating and preparing hearts. It is a call to Fear of God, to be humbled, and to be obedient. It is a supernatural wonder to be talked about till the end of time, He didn’t just blow it, it shook the mountains, it grew louder and louder. I believe that those that could not yet hear the voice or heart of God heard the blasts! Be ready, prepare for the Return of God, his judgment and mercy.”

Rabbi Mark continues,

“God speaks to us in many ways, in a small still voice through the Ruach, through visions and dreams, through his word, and through His instrument, as he did on Mt. Sinai. Do not be deceived by who does the blowing. In Zechariah 9:14, Zechariah tells us it is Yahweh Elohim. Yahweh speaks not only to his people through the Horn but to the enemies of his people. In Joshua chapter 5-6 God leads them to the city of Yericho (Jericho). Outside the gates he meets the commander of Yahweh’s army. Y’hoshua (Joshua), falls to the ground and worships him (Yeshua, in the Flesh). And then they march on the city. (READ Joshua 6:6-10).

This went on for seven days, not a word was spoken, but wasn’t it? God was speaking through His Shofars. How could it be and what was he speaking? He was speaking to Israel, once they started marching no instructions were given, not a word of encouragement from anybody. Yet the din of the Shofars grew louder, and louder. The people were being ministered to and empowered through the presence of God, by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant and the pounding voice of the Shofars. The earth beneath them must have been shaking!

For seven days the cohanim (priests) blew, and the army marched, the power of God was being served upon the city of Jericho and its people. Can you imagine the terror, for those inside the walls of that city? On the seventh time around, the city walls fell at the sound of the Shofar and the shout of the people. I suspect that at that moment, it was not only the Israelites that believed the God of Israel lives, everybody in that city did!”

Rabbi Mark continues,

“So the Lord spoke through the Horn, His voice, his will, commanding nature and breaking physical laws. Do not be led astray, the power in the Shofar, is the voice of God, it is what brings down powers and principalities.”

Scripture details many other battles where the shofar was sounded. “The shofar is clearly a spiritual weapon of choice by Yahweh Elohim and He speaks through the clarion of the shofar.”[3]

The Biblical Sounds of the Shofar: the Calls

Tekiah  –  a blast

Unlike a trumpet or other wind instrument, the shofar can usually make two tones (a primary low tone and a higher tone. The varying of those tones, whether long or short and the sequence of them in musical terminology is a “call.”  Some shofars are of a higher quality and will be able to sound more than one or two notes. An experienced shofar player will be able to get 3 or more notes from the same instrument that others could only be able to play 1 or 2 notes.

The first biblical call and the easiest to make is the Tekiah, which, is a single tone usually of a short duration. It is typically blown as a bass note.[4] This is a pure unbroken sound. Traditional Judaism teaches this call as a clear blast with a medium length in duration. The tekiah may additionally end with a short higher burst above the primary tone. Care must be taken when doing this so that it is not misinterpreted as another call.

Tekiah Gedolah  –  Great Blast

The tekiah gedolah which means Great Blast is a single tone but is held for a long time. Often it is held for as long as the shofar player can hold it with one breath. This call is referred to as a long, sustained blast on the shofar. This was the call that signaled to Moses and the people of Israel to come to the base of Mt. Sinai to meet with Yahweh on the very first Shavuot (Exodus 19:13.) It was also the call sounded by the priests at the battle of Yericho (Joshua 6:5).

Shevarim  –   Sound of Repentance

This call consists of rapid staccato (short) blasts of the primary tone. The Hebrew word, teruah, infers the mimicking of the verbal shout of war. (Leviticus25:9) Is typically played as a treble note and is a trill between two tekiah notes and consists of a series of eight or more rapid and short blasts, ending with an accented final tone – making a total of 9 notes.

It is important to know that throughout the Jewish community there is mixed beliefs as to what a teruah actually sounds like. General thought is that it could sound like described above or more like a shevarim or a combination of the two.

Teruah  –  Sound of Alarm

The next traditional shofar call is the shevarim (meaning broken). The shevarim consists of six low-to-high blasts sounded as triplets (three primary notes). Three blasts each low-to-high pitch sounded like triplets, think of Shevarim as being three short Tekiahs without the short burst on the ends.

Yobel

This is the final shofar call and is the one used to announce the beginning of the Year of Yovel or Year of Jubilee. This call is not clearly defined and unfortunately Jewish historians don’t agree on its sound.

Keeping it Appropriate

Please keep in mind when playing a shofar or practicing on one that it is a Kodosh (holy) instrument, one that Yahweh Elohim himself has created. It is symbolic of His voice and should not be something that is blown in a silly, foolish and disrespectful manner. When you are learning to play or practicing on the shofar, please do so in the privacy of your dwelling (home or if camping as at a Sukkot gathering your tent or RV.)

You Are A Representative of Yahweh When You Play A Shofar

When picking up a shofar to blow you are now have the responsibility as a representative of Yahweh. In military organizations it is common to announce events with the playing of a bugle.

The bugle sounds in the morning to wake up the troops. It sounds to signal meal times and it ends the day with a familiar call to rest.

The bugler usually is not a person of high ranking but they are conveying the orders of the commander in charge, so to with a shofar. Remember that it is used to convey the instructions of the Mighty YHWH, the commander and king of the universe.

Surprising Misunderstanding

Many Jews and messianic or torah observant people know and understand the meaning of the calls and believe that an appropriate response is vital. Our friend Frank Ellis shared a story with us about this very topic. He was new to shofars and was at a messianic Sukkot gathering. He was sitting outside at the campground practicing on his shofar to make the various calls or sounds. Suddenly, a man ran up to him and solemnly asked what was wrong. Frank just looked at him not understanding. The man again asked him intently what was wrong. Frank asked why he was asking that question. The man replied that Frank had been blowing the sound of warning and alarm.

The playing of the shofar is a wonderful blessing and it can be used to convey many messages. It can also be used to glorify, to praise and to worship El Elyon. When played incorrectly or at inappropriate times it can send a wrong message, can create confusion, or worse.

Please remember that the calls were His design and are to be blown at appropriate times and with respect to Him.

Scriptural Uses of the Shofar or Trumpet[2]

Blown to:

  • Signal the presence of YHWH – Ex 19:16, Ex 20:18-20, Ps 47:5
  • Signal the giving of YHWH’s instructions (torah) – Ex 19:16-19
  • Assemble the people (congregation) – Num 10:3
  • Assemble the leaders – Num 10:4
  • Signal the advancement of the camp – Numb 10:5&6
  • Signal when entering into war – Num 10:9, Jer 4:19 & 21, Jer 6:1, Jer 51:27
  • Signal the Appointed times and Biblical Feast Days – Num 10:10
  • Herald the Yom Kipporim (Day of Atonement) – Lev 25:9
  • Announce Yom Yovel (Year of Jubilee) – Lev 25:9-10
  • Rally  or summon the troops – Num 31:6, Judges 3:27, Judges 6:34,  Neh 4:18 & 20, 1 Sam 13:3, 2 Sam 2:28, 2 Sam 18:16, 2 Sam 20:22
  • Confuse the enemy while assembled for battle – Judges 6:34, 7:8, 16-20
  • Usher in the ark of the Lord (His Presence) – 2 Sam 6:12-15 & 1 Chron 15:28
  • Praise and Worship the Lord – Ps 47:5, Ps 96:6, Ps 150:2, Is 27:13
  • Announce the presence of the Lord – Ex 19:16-19, Zech 9:14
  • Call people to repentance – Is 58:1, Hosea 8:1, Joel 2:1, 15
  • Call an assembly together for a time of repentance and fasting – Joel 2:1, 15
  • Sound the warning of imminent or impending danger – Amos 2:2, Amos 3:6, Zeph 1:16, Hosea 5:8
  • Sound the alarm of war – Jer 4:19 & 21, Jer 6:1, 17, Jer 51:27
  • Release angels – Matt 24:31
  • Announce the coming Yahshua’s return and to signal it is time to rise up for those who are in Him and who have already died – 1 Cor 15:52, 1 Thess 4:16
  • The shofar was :
  • Compared to a prophet’s voice – Ez 33:2-9
  • Used to hold the oil at the anointing of King David and King Solomon – 1 Kings 1:34 & 39 & 41, 2 Kings 9:13, 2 Kings 11:14

Psalm 89:15

Blessed [is] the people that know the joyful TERUAH: they shall walk, O YHWH, in the light of thy countenance.

Traditional Blessing for Sounding the Shofar

Baruch ata YHWH Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kidishanu bemitzvotav vetzvivanu leshemoa kol shofar.

Blessed are You, YHWH, our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with your commandments and has instructed us to hear the shofar.

Blow in Hebrew means to sound an alarm and proclaim a declaration for the supernatural provision and intervention of Yahweh!

This concludes the notes for sounds of the shofar, part one.

Resources

Quality Shofars, Shofar Repair, etc:

Steve Berkson, Now Is The Time (shofar sales, repair, teaching, etc.)

www.now-is-the-time.org

Email: steve@now-is-the-time.org
Phone: 718-413-7961

 

Frank Ellis (shofar repair, teaching, etc.)

Email: frankandlinda1957@earthlink.net

Phone:  336 – 978-4772

Audio Shofar Soundings:

All of the shofar calls in this article are wonderful and we are so grateful to our friends Perry and Ben for allowing us to use them here.

Opening shofar sounding and the rams horn mournful wail:

Perry Ennis, author of the book, Prepare for the Coming of Messiah

Ending shofar sounding with example of Tekiah Gedolah:

Ben Davis of resTorah Ministries (Torah teacher and writer of a Torah commentary, also teaches about Banner & Pageantry, Praise & Worship, and Leadership Training, also provides Conference Direction/Event Planning. Please see website for more detailed information.)

Check out the Torah commentary that Ben is writing  – very insightful comments.

http://www.restorah.com/

Care & Cleaning of a Shofar

For information about caring for and cleaning a shofar see the following article

How to Care for and Clean a Shofar

 

This teaching concludes Part One of a two part series.


[1] The Significance of the Shofar by Greg Killian  http://www.betemunah.org/shofar.html

[2] Blasts From the Past, Present and Future – Many Horns One Voice, by Rabbi Mark of Beth El Gibor, http://www.bethelgibor.org/RabbiMarkBlastsFromPastRoshHashanah2003.html 

[3] Blasts From the Past, Present and Future – Many Horns One Voice, by Rabbi Mark of Beth El Gibor, http://www.bethelgibor.org/RabbiMarkBlastsFromPastRoshHashanah2003.html 

[5] Shofar by Mildred Bean, http://www.battleaxe,org/Shofar.html

Every Blessing,

Avi & Posey


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