Updated: Jan 19, 2020
Hello friends, associates, New Zealanders, and everybody else. Today we’re going to learn a little something about Yom Teruah aka the Hebrew New Year aka Rosh Hoshana.
Before we get there though, let’s talk about a little thing called ‘Elul’, because, Elul seems to get a fair bit of air time pre Yom Teruah. Elul is pretty much the name of the month prior to the New Year. It’s a bit of tradish but Elul has long been considered the month of preparation before the ‘fall festivals’. Typically, it’s a period of repentance on both the personal and national levels where people spiritually cleanse themselves before ascending the heights of Yom Teruah and so forth, hence the month of ‘preparation’. Traditionally speaking, the sages refer to the fall festivals as the ‘holy of holies of time’ and in many regards the sages are right. There is something very special about the season we’re entering into. They say that we are to ‘seek God where he is to be found, call on Him when He is close’ and that the time starting for doing so, is now. Sure, that’s every time and every day is a wonderful day for repentance, but there is something in the festivals of God which allow for man to connect with him on a deeper level. Today, we’ll try and understand Yom Teruah a little bit better, and maybe we then we can understood why this time is so affectionately called the time of the ‘holy of holies’.
One of the first things that confuses people when it comes to Yom Teruah, and all of the festivals, are the various names by which the festivals are known by. For the feasts there’s the Hebrew names, in this case Yom Teruah, the English translation of the festival name (Feast of Trumpets) and the traditional Jewish name for the day (Rosh Hoshanah) which likewise is translated into English (The New Year Festival).
Yom Teruah is unique though as there are even other Hebrew names by which it is called by. If you want to keep things really basic then the day is simply Yom Teruah, however, these other names that the feast is referred to provide us with much more insight into the meaning of the day, something which we will explore in a little bit. These other names are;
Yom Hazikaron – The Day of Remembrance
Yom Hadin – The Day of Judgement
Yom HaKeseh – The Day of Concealment or even The Day of the Throne
HaYom Hashem – The Day of the Lord
Starting with the basics first, we find Yom Teruah mentioned twice in Scripture;
Leviticus 23:23–25 (The Scriptures)
23 And YHWH spoke to Mosheh, saying,
24 “Speak to the children of Yisra’ěl, saying, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you have a rest, a remembrance of blowing of trumpets, a set-apart gathering.
25 ‘You do no servile work, and you shall bring an offering made by fire to YHWH.’ ”
Numbers 29:1 (The Scriptures)
‘And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you have a set-apart gathering, you do no servile work, it is a day of blowing the trumpets for you.
Numbers 29 is where the title of Yom Teruah comes from, the ‘day of blowing the trumpets’.
For all the hype, these are the only direct references to Yom Teruah, with the only commandments pertaining to the day. So that’s it, take the day off, grab your shofar, make some noise, and you’re done (no stress about the sacrifices).
Having taken the day off, you can tick the obedience to God box, and wonder how some people actually try to tell us that the commandments are a burden…
That’s Yom Teruah in a nutshell.
Or is it!?
Even the uninitiated know that we’re missing something; that in the very least there’s symbolism we’re missing, or that perhaps there’s more in the Hebrew?
Before we get there though, know that when you’re out there blowing your shofar that yes, you are keeping a commandment of the Father and connecting with him. But rather than leave it there I want you to know of it’s deeper meaning so that the day is more than just a fun commandment that the Father wants us to keep.
How we’ll tackle this is by attempting to go through the various names for the day, and how it is that they came to be.
Many of you would have heard the designation of ‘Rosh Hoshanah’ for this holiday; in fact it’s more widely used as the title for the holiday then the Biblical Yom Teruah.
Rosh Hoshanah literally means ‘head of the new year’ which is why you’ll hear people say ‘happy new year!’ regarding Yom Teruah.
There is controversy regarding the title Rosh Hoshanah. This controversy appears to be isolated to Hebrew Roots Circles so it’s not so widespread, it is however something that you will come across.
The quick version as to what the issue is; is simply that the title ‘Rosh Hoshanah’ does not exist within the Bible like ‘Yom Teruah’. As such, many people cry ‘tradition’ and perform the usual ritual of explaining how much they hate man made traditions and how they only rely on the Word of God. These days I’m not inclined to argue as the overt hatred of tradition makes me weary, especially when people appear unable to engage in any kind of reasonable exchange with traditions (whilst ironically keeping their own traditions…).
Tradition in itself though is not some sort of great evil that we ought to combat. Tradition breeds reverence, it enshrines religious practices and creates a vehicle where we can teach our children God’s ways and pass to the next generation the message of Torah. Tradition has been used in horrible ways, simply look at Christmas and Easter, but it is not evil in and of itself.
When it comes to the traditions of the rabbis I need to encourage you to look deeper. It’s not that we need to keep the tradition itself, but you need to ask questions and have an open mind. Sometimes, traditions are based on the Bible; sometimes they can be helpful.
Regarding Rosh Hoshanah the criticism goes deeper.
It goes like this. In the ancient world the pagans celebrated a new years festival which just so happened to be on the 1st day of the seventh month. This festival they say was the Atiku festival celebrated throughout Mesopotamia in honor of a pagan deity. The Jews then, having lived in exile, simply borrowed the festival and adapted it for the Jewish people to continue celebrating, calling it ‘Rosh Hoshanah’.
The argument is simply a lie.
The Akitu festival does indeed exist and was a widespread celebration in the ancient world.
There are however no sources to suggest that this festival occurred on the 1st of Tishrei as many would argue. In fact, the research and archaeology suggests that the festival for Akitu occurred in Nisan, much earlier in the year.
From the Anchor Yale Dictionary;
1. In Babylon, unlike in other Mesopotamian cities, from early times the Akitu was celebrated only once a year, in the month of Nisan, and thus it gradually merged and became identified with the New Year festival ‘zagmukku’. In the 2nd millennium BCE, with the rise of Babylon supremacy, the Akitu new year of Nisan, which was dedicated to Marduk, became the most important festival in Mesopotamia, including the city of Assur. In 1st millennium Babylon, the New Year festival was celebrated with great pomp and rejoicing, during the first eleven days of Nisan. The climactic event of this festival was the divine procession to the Akitu temple and the celebration of the Akitu ritual there.
So it existed, but it didn’t have anything to do with Rosh Hoshanah or the first of Tishrei.
Some sources do suggest that Akitu might have been celebrated in certain parts of Mesopotamia in the seventh month, it was though a 5 day festival unlike Rosh Hoshanah, and the fact that this festival existed in Nisan is a ‘maybe’.
Use that as criticism for the Jewish festival? Proof that Rosh Hoshanah is a secret pagan plant?
But let’s get back to the argument that the Bible doesn’t refer to Yom Teruah as the start of the year.
Well this gets interesting because there’s truth to that argument. In fact, of Passover, which is 6 months earlier, the Father says;
Exodus 12:1–2 (The Scriptures)
And YHWH spoke to Mosheh and to Aharon in the land of Mitsrayim, saying,
2 “This month is the beginning of months for you, it is the first month of the year for you.
How then are we justifiably saying that Yom Teruah is the start of the year?
Well the verse, including Exodus 12, has to be taken in context with the rest of Bible, which makes this even more interesting.
For example, the Bible has a seven year and 50 year cycle called the Shemitah and Jubilee years. During these years all debts are forgiven, all land is returned to its original owners, and the people of Israel are to ‘proclaim freedom throughout the land’.
As you would expect the Shemitah and Jubilee cycle begins at the start of the year. The only difficulty is that the Shemitah and Jubilee is announced on Yom Kippur, the 10th day of the seventh month. As it is written the book of Leviticus;
Leviticus 25:8–9 (The Scriptures)
8 ‘And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years. And the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years.
9 ‘You shall then sound a ram’s horn to pass through on the tenth day of the seventh month, on the Day of Atonement cause a ram’s horn to pass through all your land.
Regarding the ‘second tithe’ written about in Deuteronomy 14, we’re commanded to bring it at the ‘end’ of the year, and that happens to be another period in the year again. So it’s another ‘new year’…
The resolution is simple. In the ancient world, as we do today, there are multiple calendars running concurrently. Where we have a financial year, a school year, a calendar year etc. the ancient world also had multiple ‘new years’. This is not an innovation that Israel stole from the pagans as above, but was common throughout the ancient near east. For them, the calendars coincided with sowing and reaping seasons (not for all) or some had, as Israel does, a religious/tribute calendar and a civil/agricultural calendar.
For us, the start of Passover is the start of the religious year per se. It’s the start of our tributes and annual gatherings with God as a nation.
In fact, there is evidence to suggest that when God said to Moses, ‘this month is the beginning of months for you…’ that He did so on the 1st day of the seventh month, hence reverting the seventh month back to the 1st in creating the religious calendar for Israel. In doing so Israel would be constantly reminded of God’s redemption of us from Egypt, the very count of the months serving this purpose.
It’s a fascinating connection to make and one that 1st century Judaism definitely believed. We know this from many sources including the Targum Jonathan to 1 Kings 8:2 which says;
‘in the month which the ancients called the first month, on the festival which is at present the seventh month…’
Perhaps this isn’t proof, but it does tell us that Israel believed this 2000 or so years ago. If that is true, and that therefore the 1st day of the year for ‘the ancients’, i.e. the likes of Abraham and Noah, was our 1st of Tishrei, Yom Teruah, then the connections we can make are intriguing.
Genesis 8:13 (The Scriptures)
13 And it came to be in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth. And Noaḥ removed the covering of the ark and looked, and saw the surface of the ground was dry.
Therefore, Noah’s first sight of land, when God demonstrated His power over chaos (water), was Yom Teruah. Maybe…
Now the concept of multiple calendars and the multiple beginnings of the year connects to far deeper illusions. They are studies and articles in and of themselves but some that I will point out are.
The Spring Festivals starting with Passover correspond to Israel, simply because they are about Israel and its redemption from Egypt
The Fall Festivals (as the northern hemisphere calls it) coincide with creation, aka ‘day dot’. If it is true that the seventh month was originally the first, which I believe it was, then this connection runs deep.
All festivals also have a clear connection to a historical event in the Bible; for Passover, the exodus, First Fruits, the red sea crossing, Shavuot, Mt Sinai and the giving of the Torah, Yom Kippur, Moses and Aaron making atonement for the Golden Calf, Succot, the dedication of the Temple; and for Yom Teruah? Creation.
The sages teach that not only is Yom Teruah connected to creation, but that it coincides specifically with the creation of Adam in the Garden of Eve; a connection that I hope will make further sense as you read on
The calendar also speaks to a duality within God’s nature; on the one hand He is our Redeemer, on the other, He is our Creator and Judge
But the criticism for Rosh Hoshanah continues and many people simply claim that the name itself is pagan in nature (i.e. the words).
Whilst there is no connection between the words ‘Rosh Hoshanah’ and anything specifically pagan, our forefathers are quite honest that certain things, including the names of the months are from the pagan calendar of Babylon. The Jerusalem Talmud admits;
‘[the months] came up from Babylon’
I understand that for some this is heresy, however I don’t see the issue per se.
This is a practice that was in place long before.
1 Kings 8:2 (The Scriptures)
2 And all the men of Yisra’ěl assembled to Sovereign Shelomoh at the festival in the month of Ěythanim, which is the seventh month.
1 Kings 6:1 (The Scriptures)
And it came to be, in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Yisra’ěl had come out of the land of Mitsrayim, in the fourth year of the reign of Shelomoh over Yisra’ěl, in the month of Ziw, which is the second month, that he began to build the House of YHWH.
Did you notice the month names? Eythanim and Ziv?
Where did these come from?
Well the consensus is clear. These month names, including many others in the Bible, belong to the Canaanite calendar that Israel borrowed from.
The issue of month names is then not just a problem with the sages, or those ‘darn Jews’, it’s been an issue for a long time. Perhaps the Father will restore us to the correct names? For now though, we have the month names that we have. The Babylonian ones, such as Tishrei, also make multiple appearances in the Bible with no real opposition from the men of God. Perhaps it’s a battle we can leave for the Father.
Until then, the idea of multiple calendars was not so strange, and whilst the name ‘Rosh Hoshanah’ might not appear directly in the Bible, there are reasons for this both historically and Biblically as the Father appears to have reverted the seventh month back to month 1.
Before we move on to the other names for the day, we really should briefly look at the word Teruah because the vast majority of the day’s symbolism is connected to the Teruah and the shofar blast. (For those that don’t know ‘Yom’ means ‘day’).
Teruah means ‘to cry out, shout, to sound the alarm, signal, war cry, rejoice, cheer’ and others.
It has a bit of depth to it and looking at the word ‘teruah’ alone doesn’t help us with the symbolism. Should we be preparing for war or getting ready to party?
The Day of Remembrance
Here the sages really help us understand the deeper meanings and symbolisms. Now I say that, not to revere Rabbis of old and their teachings, but to actually look at what the ancient world, including the time of Messiah, thought and believed with regard to Yom Teruah.
They long understood it as ‘The Day of Remembrance’.
This comes forth from;
Leviticus 23:23–24 (The Scriptures)
23 And YHWH spoke to Mosheh, saying,
24 “Speak to the children of Yisra’ěl, saying, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you have a rest, a remembrance of blowing of trumpets, a set-apart gathering.
Specifically from ‘a remembrance of blowing of trumpets’ which in the Hebrew is ‘Zikron Terua’.
Zikron is a word which means ‘remembrance’ or ‘memorial’.
Looking at this word the sages connect it to other parts of the Scripture. This is not just a ‘sage’ thing, it’s a Hebrew thing embedded in the psyche of Hebraic thought. Specifically, it would be called a ‘remez’, which is a word meaning ‘hint’ where connecting phrases and words in the Bible was a common method of searching deeper.
In doing so Leviticus 23:24 is connected to Malachi 3:16;
Malachi 3:16 (The Scriptures)
16 Then shall those who fear YHWH speak to one another, and YHWH listen and hear, and a book of remembrance be written before Him, of those who fear YHWH, and those who think upon His Name.
The book of ‘remembrance’ is the same language as the ‘remembrance’ that is the day of Yom Teruah. In Jewish thought Yom Teruah then is the day where God calls to remembrance our acts and looks upon the ‘book of remembrance’; aka, the Book of Life.
A dumb tradition?
It might be, but it is very old, and it appears to have been a widespread belief in Israel back in the day. The idea that names were written down in a book for God to read is certainly not new. The authors of the Bible certainly shared this view;
Psalm 69:28 (The Scriptures)
28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living,
And not be written with the righteous.
Daniel even agreed with this;
Daniel 12:1 (The Scriptures)
“Now at that time Miḵa’ěl shall stand up, the great head who is standing over the sons of your people. And there shall be a time of distress, such as never was since there was a nation, until that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book…
And our New Testament writers believed it;
Revelation 3:5 (The Scriptures)
5 “He who overcomes shall be dressed in white robes, and I shall by no means blot out his name from the Book of Life, but I shall confess his name before My Father and before His messengers.
The writer of the New Testament were mostly Jewish. They wrote with a Hebraic mindset, they grew up in synagogues, believed the teachings of ‘proto Judaism’ (Judaism before the rise of Rabbinic Judaism as we know it today), and lived within the Bible’s ancient culture and setting. They were influenced by their upbringings and by their belief systems. Therefore, to the ancient reader, they would recognize the language of ‘remembrance’ and of the ‘day of remembrance’ as been references to Yom Teruah.
A couple of other New Testament examples with Yom Teruah in mind are;
Luke 10:19–20 (The Scriptures)
19 “See, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and none at all shall hurt you.
20 “But do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names have been written in the heavens.”
Philippians 4:3 (The Scriptures)
3 And I also ask you, true companion, help these women who laboured with me in the Good News, with Qlemes also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
This then connects nicely with the belief, as it was in the ancient world, that Yom Teruah is the anniversary of creation. The day then when God remembers all of Creation is the day when God judges His creation.
From the prayer service of Yom Teruah;
‘This day is the birth of the world…’
‘You remember all of creation, and all thing that were formed…for this day is the opening of your works, a remembrance (zikhron) of the very first day.’
May your name be found then in the Book of Life on this day.
The Day of Judgement
The idea of Yom Teruah also been the ‘day of judgement’ should be no surprise then having made the connection to the day of remembrance. Clearly, God sitting and reviewing the Book of Life is an act of judgment so the inference is clear.
That said, the actual connection for judgment is drawn from Daniel 7:9 – 10;
Daniel 7:9–10 (The Scriptures)
9 “I was looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days was seated. His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like clean wool, His throne was flames of fire, its wheels burning fire.
10 “A stream of fire was flowing and coming forth from His presence, and a thousand thousands served Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him, the Judge was seated, and the books were opened.
Remember how we called Elul the month of repentance? It’s because Yom Teruah is understood as ‘Judgment Day’.
Can you be judged at any time? Yes. Can you repent at any time? Of course.
The festivals though serve as a reminder for us to do these things and create a cycle whereby Israel is constantly in sync with God, going through this cycle of redemption and renewal. You can be saved on any day, but that reasoning does not do away with the need for the festivals to exist. And regardless, God instituted the calendar; you should follow His lead.
Within Judaism there is a concept of ‘the king in the field’, which is a reference to Elul. The sages say, and this is pure tradition, that Elul is like when a King visits a city. Rather than enter the city though, with all its pomp and ceremony, the King stops short and camps outside the city in the field. During this time in the field the King suspends all ceremony and allows all people, be they poor or rich, to approach him and plead for their forgiveness and to reaffirm their loyalty to him. The sages say Elul is like this, the time before the great judgment where we can approach and reason with our God, who like a King is standing in the field waiting and willing to speak to all people.
The tradition continues stating that upon entering the city and taking up the throne, that the ceremony and process is reinstated and the Kingly aspect of judgment returns. Those that meet the King then, in His throne room, face the true judgment and penalty.
Whilst this is tradition, its core teaching is true.
We have a time now to repent and to be forgiven, to make amends and to reconcile. Yom Teruah teaches us that there is a time where this will end. There is a time where judgment is executed, and as the Master says of the Judge, ‘you will surely pay every last penny’ (Matthew 5:26).
The traditional teachings continue.
The sages teach that the King sits in judgment on Yom Teruah, and that the ‘final judgment’ is executed 10 days later on Yom Kippur; i.e. your last chance.
The days then between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur (where the High Priest atones for the nation), are known as the Days of Awe, the days were God has entered His throne room in all His glory, where the books are opened, and where God begins His judgment. The court is in session during this time.
Psalm 24:7 – 10 has long been understood as a reference to this time during the festivals by the sages, where the King sits upon His throne.
Psalm 24:7–10 (The Scriptures)
7 Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And let the Sovereign of esteem come in.
8 Who is this Sovereign of esteem?
YHWH strong and mighty,
YHWH mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Even lift up, you everlasting doors!
And let the Sovereign of esteem come in.
10 Who is this Sovereign of esteem?
YHWH of hosts,
He is the Sovereign of esteem! Selah.
The Day of Enthronement / The Day of Concealment
We have really left the most obvious and most important title for Yom Teruah to last. This is the title of ‘day of enthronement’ whereby the sages have long understood that Yom Teruah, amongst everything else that we have spoken of, is the day where our God is installed upon His throne. Make sense given everything we’ve just considered.
Besides the obvious though, the sages connect the enthronement of God to the Teruah itself.
Teruah (i.e. the shofar blast) is frequently connected to the idea of royalty and enthronement within the Scriptures.
A fine example is Psalm 47 which says;
Psalm 47:1–9 (The Scriptures)
Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to Elohim with a voice of singing!
2 For YHWH Most High is awesome;
A great Sovereign over all the earth.
3 He subdues peoples under us,
And nations under our feet.
4 He chooses our inheritance for us,
The excellence of Ya‘aqoḇ whom He loves. Selah.
5 Elohim shall go up with a shout,
YHWH with the sound of a ram’s horn.
6 Sing praises to Elohim, sing praises!
Sing praises to our Sovereign, sing praises!
7 For Elohim is Sovereign of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.
8 Elohim shall reign over the nations;
Elohim shall sit on His set-apart throne.
9 Nobles of peoples shall be gathered together,
The people of the Elohim of Aḇraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to Elohim;
He shall be greatly exalted.
Did you notice verse 5? The Lord has gone up with a ‘teruah’ and how the Psalm focuses on God’s sovereignty and how He ‘shall sit on His set apart throne’.
Psalm 47 has long been understood as having been written for Yom Teruah, and it has been recited on Yom Teruah for the last few thousand years in the prayer service on this day.
The first verse is also interesting. It says;
Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to Elohim with a voice of singing!
It’s interesting because clapping is a big part of enthronement rituals for ancient kings. This is confirmed in 2 Kings 11:12 which describe an enthronement ceremony as follows;
2 Kings 11:12 (NKJV)
12 And he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the Testimony; they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!”
Another example of royalty and the Teruah is;
1 Kings 1:39 (The Scriptures)
39 And Tsaḏoq the priest took a horn of oil from the Tent and anointed Shelomoh. And they blew the horn, and all the people said, “Let Sovereign Shelomoh live!”
Herein lies the ultimate focus and meaning of the Teruah and today’s significance.
It is the day were we establish God as our King. Prophetically this speaks to a time where God willing, this will happen. But it speaks to the here and now and our ability to each recommit ourselves to God, and to crown Him King over our lives.
Today is the day we should all cry, ‘long live the king’, it is the day that’s all about His enthronement.
It gets better.
As we know the festivals are not only religious observances but prophetic foreshadows. We know this because the Spring Festivals correspond to the first coming of Messiah. Our Passover Lamb, our Firstfruits, and His giving of the Holy Spirit which occurred on Shavuot.
So it is with the Fall Festivals, the only thing is, these are yet to be fulfilled.
The allusion then to God’s enthronement does speak to an event that will happen in the future and one that will be fulfilled by our coming Messiah.
The prophetic implications can be further seen through the Teruah.
The day has long been associated with the resurrection of the dead and the return of the exiles; believed to be an event which will occur on Yom Teruah. How do the sages derive this?
Isaiah 27:13 (The Scriptures)
13 And in that day it shall be that a great horn is blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Ashshur and the outcasts in the land of Mitsrayim shall come, and shall worship YHWH on the set-apart mountain, in Yerushalayim.
Imagery which Paul himself believed and referred to;
1 Thessalonians 4:16 (The Scriptures)
16 Because the Master Himself shall come down from heaven with a shout (TERUAH), with the voice of a chief messenger, and with the trumpet of Elohim, and the dead in Messiah shall rise first.
For anyone familiar with the prayer service of Yom Teruah and the liturgy, you would know that Yom Teruah surprisingly has a large focus on Isaac and the event known as the ‘akedah’ (the binding of Isaac) where Abraham went atop a mount having been commanded to sacrifice his only begotten son.
Well, at the risk of confusing this topic all the more one would be robbed of the true significance of the day if you’re was not aware of the amazing connection between Yom Teruah and Isaac.
How is it that we find ourselves talking of Isaac?
The Teruah again, for not only is the shofar blast a prime theme for Yom Teruah, but it makes a grand appearance in the giving of the Torah when God descended upon Mt Sinai;
Exodus 19:16 (The Scriptures)
16 And it came to be, on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain. And the sound of the ram’s horn was very loud, and all the people who were in the camp trembled.
Exodus 19:19–20 (The Scriptures)
19 And when the blast of the ram’s horn sounded long and became louder and louder, Mosheh spoke, and Elohim answered him by voice.
20 And YHWH came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And YHWH called Mosheh to the top of the mountain, and Mosheh went up.
The sages also notice that verse 15 and 16 of Exodus 19 mention the third day. Using our ‘remez’ method before the sages notice that Genesis 22 also mentions the third day;
Genesis 22:4 (The Scriptures)
4 And on the third day Aḇraham lifted his eyes and saw the place from a distance.
And so a tradition within Judaism developed. You don’t need to believe the tradition, in the very least you need to understand that it was taught and believed by the Jews of Messiah’s time.
The tradition is that the shofar used atop of Mt Sinai came from the horn of the ram that was sacrificed in Isaac’s place. The sages also teach that the second horn, which was also taken from the ram that was sacrificed in Isaac’s place will be the shofar blast of Messiah when He comes to establish His kingdom on earth, and when He comes to resurrect the dead.
The shofar then is associated and directly connected in Jewish thought to the coming of the Messiah.
A silly tradition?
Matthew 24:30–31 (The Scriptures)
30 “And then the sign of the Son of Aḏam shall appear in the heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Aḏam coming on the clouds of the heaven with power and much esteem.
31 “And He shall send His messengers with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
1 Corinthians 15:52 (The Scriptures)
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
This all Yom Teruah language; and Paul uses the term ‘last trumpet’ because the first one already occurred on Mt Sinai.
In the tradition of the Jews the shofar is called the ‘horn of salvation’ and is recalled every day in Jewish prayer. The sages actually derive this title from the akedah due to some discrepancies in the Hebrew language.
For example, the instrument that makes a Teruah sound is a shofar or a trumpet as you already know. Rams have ‘shofarot’ horns used to create the instrument. Other animals that are horned, like bulls, have ‘karnav’, and it’s often translated the same in English, but is really referring to a different kind of horn that cannot be used to create a shofar.
The ram used in Isaac’s place during the akedah had ‘karnav’, which is actually, one could argue, a mistake. However the sages reconcile this saying that it is an illusion to the horns of the altar within the temple. These are the horns which are smeared with the blood of atonement. Thus, the horn of salvation is connected to both the sacrifice of Isaac and the atoning blood smeared on the altar in the Temple.
The tradition gets better though as the sages ponder the scenario. Some ask how the shofar was taken off the ram and used later. Some say the ram resurrected and that from this ram the shofar was taken. (If you look at the Levitical laws the horns are taken and not burnt up, but it’s an interesting comment…)
But the conversation deepens and the rabbi’s developed a tradition of relevance for us. They say;
As the sword touched Isaac's throat, his spirit fled away; as he heard the Voice from between the two cherubim saying, 'Do not send forth your hand against the young man,' the soul returned to his body and he lived, and he stood on his feet. Then Isaac understood that the resurrection of the dead would take place, in the same way as he had been resurrected... and he said, 'Blessed are You, O L-RD, Who resurrects the dead.' "
- Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer 31
The rabbis teach that Isaac actually died and resurrected.
Paul references this very tradition in Hebrew 11:17-19;
Hebrews 11:17–19 (The Scriptures)
17 By belief, Aḇraham, when he was tried, offered up Yitsḥaq, and he who had received the promises offered up his only brought-forth son,
18 of whom it was said, “In Yitsḥaq your seed shall be called,”
19 reckoning that Elohim was able to raise, even from the dead, from which he received him back, as a type.
Verse 19 says that Abraham believed Isaac would be raised up from the dead because of the promise YHWH made to Abraham. It references the resurrection 'in a figurative sense' or 'as a type'.
However, that is not what it says, and the word for 'type' or 'figurative' is parablos in the greek. It’s our word for parable and can be translated as a ‘type’ as it is here. It can also be rendered though as ‘midrash’…
Thus, the verse is better rendered as 'concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him, as per the midrash'.
The sages say, that when they face judgment day, that it is by the merit of the binding of Isaac that Israel’s sins are forgiven. The sages say that his ashes are eternally before God, causing Him to be moved with mercy when judging His people.
The Talmud asks why this is so?
Why does one sound a blast with a shofar made from a ram’s horn on Rosh HaShana? The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: Sound a blast before Me with a shofar made from a ram’s horn, so that I will remember for you the binding of Isaac, son of Abraham, in whose stead a ram was sacrificed, and I will ascribe it to you as if you had bound yourselves before Me.
Talmus Bavli, Rosh Hoshanah 16a
Of Isaac the tradition also says;
" ‘And Abraham took the wood for the offering and placed it on Isaac his son’ (Genesis 22:6) - likened unto one who carries his own cross on his shoulder."
- Genesis Rabbah 56:3
Of the third day when the sages comment;
'there are many three days mentioned in the Scripture, of which one is the resurrection of the Messiah.'
- Midrash Rabbah
The text itself says that during this amazing scenario that Abraham turned back to see the ram which would replace Isaac;
Genesis 22:13 (The Scriptures)
13 And Aḇraham lifted his eyes and looked and saw behind him a ram caught in a bush by its horns, and Aḇraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
However, behind him, is the word achar.
Achar does not mean behind in a directional/physical sense. Achar means 'that which comes afterwards, or follows'. It’s used commonly in the phrase acharit hayamim which means the latter days the end of days. The word achar refers to time.
So the verse is better rendered
"... Behold! a ram, afterwards [later on] [at the end of days], held in a thicket by its horns."
So when Yeshua said;
John 8:56 (The Scriptures)
56 “Your father Aḇraham was glad that he should see My day, and he saw it and did rejoice.”
He meant it literally; for Abraham here saw into the ‘achar’ and beheld the lamb that would take our place.
Isaac, as opposed to popular renditions of the incident, was a grown man in his 30s. In the Hebrew he is described as a ‘na’ar’. Joshua was a na’ar, a young man, when he conquered Canaan. He therefore went willingly to the sacrifice as a grown man; like our Messiah who went willingly to the cross.
Before this whole incident begins God says to Abraham;
Genesis 22:2 (The Scriptures)
2 And He said, “Take your son, now, your only son Yitsḥaq, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriyah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I command you.”
Only the word for ‘only’, as in ‘only son’, is the word ‘yachid’.
It means 1. It differs however from ‘echad’ which also means 1, but which refers to a unity of things becoming one, like a man and his wife.
Yachid is solitary; it is 1 in and of itself, not requiring a unity with something else.
Later, in Genesis 22, it says Abraham went ‘unified’ with Isaac. Unified here is also the word ‘yachid’ and here indicates that they went as one man to the sacrifice. They were in complete unity with what was about to happen.
But the use of yachid in verse 2 intrigues me the most. Again, it refers to something that is singular, something that is on its own.
In fact, the concept of ‘aloneness’ which is conveyed in yachid’s ‘singleness’ refers to man’s inner being. In fact, in Psalm 22:20, the word yachid is translated as ‘soul’. It says ‘deliver my soul from the sword…’
It conveys something very profound then; a sense of identity that stands alone.
As such it can be defined as one’s own ‘very self’. Or can be translated as ‘only, solitary orlonely’.
My Vine’s Concordance renders yachid as ‘very self’.
Translated this way then, the verse can be alternatively understood as;
Genesis 22:2 (The Scriptures)
2 … “Take your son, now, your very self, Yitsḥaq, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriyah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I command you.”
The Master himself says;
John 10:18 (The Scriptures)
18 “No one takes (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to receive it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
And Genesis 2:22 is referenced here;
John 3:16 (NKJV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
I tell you all this because today is the memorial for creation, where God sits in judgment and calls to remembrance all the names of His children written in the book of Life. I tell you this because God offered His son, His very self, so that we could all be saved.
The sages say the shofar is Israel’s cry for mercy and groan from all around the world calling on God to save us. Most importantly, it is Messiah’s shofar, calling to remembrance the One who laid down His life so that we could be saved.
It’s a big deal.
The Day of Concealment
You might have noticed that I failed to tell you as to how Yom Teruah is also called The Day of Concealment.
It is derived from the word ‘keseh’, which means concealed; it’s also derived from the word ‘kisah’, which means ‘full moon’.
This takes us to Psalm 81 which says;
Psalm 81:1–4 (The Scriptures)
Shout for joy to Elohim our strength;
Raise a shout to the Elohim of Ya‘aqoḇ.
2 Lift up a song and beat the tambourine,
The pleasant lyre and with the harp.
3 Blow the ram’s horn at the time of the New Moon,
At the full moon, on our festival day.
4 For this is a law for Yisra’ěl,
And a right-ruling of the Elohim of Ya‘aqoḇ.
You should by now pick up on the Yom Teruah language (i.e. raise a shout ‘teruah’ etc.)
However the focus of our attention is on verse 3 which references a new moon and a full moon in one day. I’m not sure you noticed, but you can’t have a new moon and a full moon in one day, that’s impossible.
What gets us interested is that the new moon would also happen to be the day of Yom Teruah, which is the first day of the month (a new moon). For those that don’t know, months in the Biblical calendar are dictated by the moon, and the new moon indicates that a new month has started. This is why ‘new moon’ in the Bible is often translated in modern terms as ‘new month’.
It’s also interesting because the new moon in Psalm 81 requires a shofar to be blown, and the Psalm even says that it’s a festival. So this is clearly Yom Teruah if not for the discrepancy regarding the reference to it also been a ‘full moon’.
The word full moon though is ‘kisah’, as I said before, but it can also be pronounced as keseh (the Hebrew can be pronounced both ways which changes the meaning) which means ‘concealed’. It’s awesome, because the word can also be understood as ‘throne’, which can also be said as ‘keseh’. Hence the double meaning between a throne and concealment.
This understanding of the word completely changes how the verse can be translated, and it would also solve the problem of having a full moon and new moon in one day.
Thankfully the ancients believed that the verse referred to the word concealment. As we see in the Targum Yonatan it is translated as;
‘blow the trumpet at the new moon, the festival of our concealment’.
So why is this interesting?
Besides the multiple meaning of the words it syncs in perfectly with the fact that the verse is referring to a new moon.
Unlike today, with our technology, the people of Israel had to physically look up at the sky and wait to see a new moon before a new month could be proclaimed.
There was a system in the time of the Temple where witnesses to the first sliver of the moon, the new moon, would have to present themselves and inform the Sanhedrin what they had seen. Pending multiple witnesses confirming the new moon, the Sanhedrin would then proclaim a new month.
Because of this process, one was never entirely sure when the month would start. The moon cycle is not a perfect 30 days so there was some variance.
For this reason, the start of the month was ‘concealed’. Because Yom Teruah is dependent on the start of the month, i.e. the appearance of the new moon, its exact date, in the ancient world, was unknown. Hence, Yom Teruah been called the festival of concealment.
So when will the world end? When will God sit in Judgment and when will the books be opened?
Matthew 24:36 (NKJV)
36 “… of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
Why does no one know?