Lev 23:23-25, Num 29:1-6, Ps 81:1-5, Ezra 3:1-6, Neh 8:1-12

   1. The moon
   2. The Mishnah
   3. New moon festivities
   4. Festival of Trumpets
The Biblical celebration
   1. The trumpet
   2. The meaning
Future fulfilment
   1. The judgment of an army of locusts
   2. The judgment of an army of men
   3. The repentance of God’s people
   4. The restoration of God’s people and God’s land
   5. The judgment of the nations
   6. The significance for the Festival of Trumpets


Before we can begin to look at the significance of the Festival of Trumpets, we need to cover some background information which underpins the significance of the festival occurring, as it does, on the first day of the seventh month and, therefore, tied in with the pronouncement of the new moon.

1. The moon

At the very beginning of the Creation, the writer of Genesis records (Gen 1:14-19 - my italics) that

‘...God made the two great lights...[saying] “let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years”’

where part of His intention in so structuring the universe is expressly claimed as being so that mankind might have points of reference by which he would be able to measure his own experience and life. Although many different civilisations chose to do with the celestial bodies as they wished even against the reason for their creation, the calculation of time was by far the most significant and important.

The Jews’ calendar - like a great many other ancient civilisations - was lunar. Indeed, the religious Jews’ calendar still is even today. Each month began with the appearance of the new moon and it wasn’t until the new moon was spotted that the priests proclaimed that a new month had come. However, this led to a few problems - notably the length of the year, for twelve lunar months were roughly equal to 354 days (months having between 28 and 30 days). To combat this lack of 11 (or less) days per year, the Jews added a second twelfth month seven times every nineteen years (19 years = 235 lunar months).

This additional month seems fairly fixed by the equation outlined above which is a peculiarity when we try to tie down the exact length of calendar months. Many commentators see the month as being a fixed period of 28 days regardless but, as will be seen below, the implication of the Mishnaic instructions are that, in the time of Christ, the month could vary in length.

It’s not surprising, then, that the Hebrew word for ‘month’ was the same as the word for ‘new moon’ for each month was begun when the first crescent was spotted. Nearly everywhere in the Bible, the translation ‘month’ can just as easily be translated ‘new moon’ (Strongs Hebrew number 2320), a fact that helps us to easily determine what phase of the moon it was when certain events took place and whether night vision was a good possibility (for instance, Jesus, arrested on the 14th of Nisan, would have travelled over to Gethsemane during or near a full moon. If it had been a cloudless sky, then visibility would have been very good).

2. The Mishnah

Because of the significance of the new moon, the Jews laid a great deal of importance on its sighting. In the tractate ‘Rosh-ha-shanah’ (referring to the celebration of the civil new year - the first day of the seventh month - and corresponding to the Festival of Trumpets), we get some idea of their procedure for each sighting of the new moon.

As soon as a Jew saw the new moon, he was compelled to immediately go to the Temple and report it to the priests (1:6-9). So important was the sighting considered to be that even to transgress the restrictions of travel on the sabbath was allowed (1:4-5) - another indication that such an event could take place on this day - if it had been fixed to a four weekly occurrence, then it would have occurred on the same day every month. Especially important were the new moons of the months Nisan (1st) and Tishri (7th) for fixing the first day fixed the dates of the first four annual festivals and the last three.

This last information pulls against the assertion by some scholars that all Jewish months were of twenty-eight days’ duration. If the festivals are being fixed by the observation of the new moon, it shows that the first day of the month couldn’t possibly have been ‘pre-known’.

The witnesses who came forward were examined by the court, the Sanhedrin (2:1,5-6,8), and when they were satisfied that the new moon had been seen they proclaimed

‘It is hallowed’

and began a new month (2:7). If, however, they were unable to do so before night fell (when a new day began), they celebrated the following day as the first day and made the present month of thirty days duration (3:1). It would seem that the shophar (ram’s horn) and/or the trumpets were blown to announce the beginning of the month to all Israel, though specifically on the seventh new moon of the year (3:3 - Ps 81:3).

3. New moon festivities

Numerous activities were associated with the new moon throughout Israel’s history. Because the observation of the new crescent was fundamental to the Jews’ determination of annual time, it was made into a special monthly occasion. There are four specific activities associated with the new moon in the Bible

Firstly, feasting and celebration. In I Sam 20:5,18,24,27, Saul held a feast at the new moon which appears to have gone on for more than just the one day and, in Hosea 2:11, God says that He’ll put an end to the mirth of them because of sin. It must have been, therefore, a time of celebration and rejoicing which became an integral part of Jewish culture.

Secondly, sabbath restrictions seem to have applied to the first day of the month at certain points in the nation’s history for Amos 8:5 records the words of the Jews as asking

‘When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain?’

Carrying on trade was forbidden on a new moon, though the legislation for this seems to be lacking in the Law. Perhaps this ordinance was a cultural restriction placed upon society and not part of God’s original intention, even though God specifically uses it here to prophetically speak to His people. Whatever, the first day of the month was regarded as being significantly important to allow an extra day of rest.

On this day, special offerings were also sacrificed to YHWH, this going back to the very beginning of the organisation of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Num 28:11-15) and carried over into Solomon’s Temple where special sacrifices were specified (II Chron 2:4, 8:13, 31:3)

When the exiles returned from captivity, the offerings at the new moon were also resumed as being important requirements of Temple service (Ezra 3:5) and, even in the futuristic Temple which Ezekiel saw in the Spirit (Ezek 46:1,3,6), special sacrifices were also to be offered.

That the ancient world worshipped the heavenly bodies is open to no doubt but that Israel were commanded not to do so is equally certain. Though God ordained that special offerings to Him should be made, there was never any implication that the moon should actually be worshipped when it appeared. Though the moon was pivotal for the calculation of time, the Jew was always to look beyond the moon to the One who created it.

Finally, the new moon is used as one of the three parts of the yearly cycle which signified the times of the year which were considered to be special. The complete phrase runs

‘Sabbaths, new moons and feast days’

Very often in Scripture, these three are used in the same phrase as a summation of all the holidays that the Jews celebrated. For instance, I Chron 23:31, II Chron 2:4, 8:13, 31:3, Neh 10:33, Is 1:13-14 (where God states that He hates the keeping of them if the hearts of the observers aren’t right before Him), Ezek 45:17, Hosea 2:11 and, under the new covenant, Col 2:16 (where keeping the new moon festival or the others specified in the Law is a point upon which followers aren’t to be judged, for all these things were but a shadow of what was and is to come in Christ).

4. Festival of Trumpets

The Festival of Trumpets (which I shall refer to just as ‘Trumpets’ from now on) occurred on the first day of the seventh new moon of the year.

It could be argued that this festival was only a ‘highlight’ of the normal year’s celebration of the sighting of the new moon (the seventh month being a special time because of the importance of the number seven representing wholeness and completeness) but it appears that it was, in effect, quite different as the following pages illustrate.

Consider, for example, Num 29:1-6. In v.6, after listing the offerings for Trumpets, it reads

‘...besides the burnt offering of the new moon’

inferring that it was something different and set apart from the celebration of the sighting of the new moon.

The Biblical celebration
Lev 23:23-25, Num 29:1-6, Ps 81:1-5, Ezra 3:1-6, Neh 8:1-12

We may never have heard of Trumpets - indeed, the celebration and ordinances concerned with the day are only directly mentioned more often than the Festival of First Fruits. More than this, though, the name ‘Trumpets’ is not given to the Festival in Leviticus chapter 23 or Numbers chapter 29 so that it would be easy to overlook the name and not know what’s being referred to.

Therefore, we need to fix in our own minds the Scriptural command to understand not only what the Israelite was commanded to do but what He was celebrating on that day each year (which, as we will see, is by no means easy to determine).

Before we look at both the significance of the trumpet and attempt to get some meaning out of the reason for the command of the festival to be celebrated, there are a few straightforward observations which can be made.

The festival was to be celebrated on the first day of the seventh month or ‘new moon’ (Lev 23:24, Num 29:1) and was to be of one day duration (Lev 23:24, Num 29:1). It was also to be a holy convocation, a day of solemn rest - that is, to be treated like a sabbath (Lev 23:24, Num 29:1) and was to be a memorial, a day of remembering something (Lev 23:24) though, as we’ll see, what exactly it was to remember is far from certain.

Special sacrifices were also commanded to be offered on the festival day which were in addition to those normally offered at the new moon (Lev 23:25, Num 29:2-6). There are a couple of incidents also recorded for us in the later pages of Scripture which took place on the first day of the seventh month.

In Ezra 3:1-6 we read about what happened when the restoration of the sacrificial system/covenant came about upon the return of the Jews to the land of Israel. When the exiled Jews returned from captivity, the offerings and sacrifices were resumed on the first day of the seventh month (Ezra 3:6). Neh 8:1-12 additionally records that on this same occasion of the first day of the seventh month, there was a conviction of sin that fell upon the Israelites which led to repentance when the returned exiles gathered together to hear the reading of the Law (Neh 8:2). When the Israelites heard it read aloud they wept but were encouraged to ‘rejoice’ before the Lord as the day was ‘holy’ to Him (Neh 8:9).

1. The trumpet
Lev 23:24, Num 29:1

This festival was to be different from all the others in that trumpets were to be specifically blown - hence, the festival’s name. However, the phrase ‘blowing of trumpets’ is only one word in the original Hebrew, which is transliterated as ‘teruwah’ (Strongs Hebrew number 8643), which can have various meanings including ‘shout’ and ‘joy’. Though the actual meaning is difficult to be specific about, it appears that when it’s used of a trumpet blast, it means not the instrument used but the noise that comes from the trumpet.

That’s quite significant when we think about the implications of the festival.

As the sound is the requirement of the passage in Leviticus chapter 23, the type of trumpet used to convey that sound is unimportant. So, too, the Jews taught Israel that the nation’s obligation at the festival was not to blow the trumpet nor was it to see the trumpet, but to hear the sound of it (Rosh-ha-shanah 3:7). It didn’t matter that the Jew couldn’t be near enough to the player nor that he didn’t have the ability to play it for himself, but his sole obligation was to hear the sound of the ‘official’ (I presume) trumpet being blown.

The spiritual principle in this legislation is that God uses the instrument of His choosing but the disciple must recognise the voice as being God’s. It’s important to listen for the sound and not be obedient to the instrument alone. Human instruments and channels for the transmission of God’s voice are His way of communicating with His people (I Cor 14:7-8) but, if what comes out from us is confused and not understood, then we’re being used to little or no profit.

God’s message to the disciple of Jesus through the prophets still lives on. It’s been written down for their understanding, yet the instruments God used to convey that message have long since perished. The sound needs to be obeyed, but the instrument is only the means whereby the sound is produced (Ezek 33:2-5) and not the object that should be followed. Scripture, then, is the trumpet through which God blows so that followers may hear His voice, but the Bible is not to be worshipped. People are also the instruments God uses to speak through to others, but men are not to be blindly followed, neither are they to be put onto pedestals (from which they invariably fall!).

Take, for example, Balaam who wasn’t a righteous man (Num 31:16) yet he was God’s chosen instrument to prophesy over Israel for good (Num 23:24). And the ass was just a dumb animal and certainly not ‘born again’, but God used it to speak His word to the prophet Balaam (Num 22:28-30). Indeed, perhaps, in the circumstances, there’d be a good theological case for seeing the donkey being the more spiritual one of the two characters in the story!

Similarities of usage exist between the two main types of instruments translated ‘trumpet’ in the OT (‘shophar’ - Strongs Hebrew number 7782 and ‘chatsotserah’ - Strongs Hebrew number 2689) so that specific use of one rather than the other to denote differing concepts is unlikely. For example, both could be used as an instrument of war (Shophar (ram’s horn) - Judges 7:8,18-20,22, Josh 6:4,6,8-9,13,16,20, Jer 4:19-21, 6:1, Ezek 33:3-5, Joel 2:1-2, Job 39:25, Amos 2:2. Chatsotserah (silver trumpet) - Num 31:6, II Chron 13:12,14) during the anointing of a king (Shophar - II Sam 15:10, I Kings 1:34,39, II Kings 9:13. Chatsotserah - II Kings 11:14) and used in both praise and rejoicing (Shophar - II Kings 11:14, Ps 98:6, 150:3. Chatsotserah - II Chron 5:13, Neh 12:41, Ps 98:6 and various passages in I and II Chronicles).

Concluding, it was the sound of the trumpet that was important during the festival and neither the means whereby the sound was produced (that is, the person), nor the instrument itself.

2. The meaning

The Jews, seeing that Scripture didn’t appear to adequately detail the meaning of the festival, invented a vast array of interpretations to be included in the days’ festivities. Whether these were ever part of the original meaning of the festival is impossible to determine and it’s best that we totally ignore these traditions and stick to what we can find evidence for in Scripture - otherwise we’ll find ourselves being misled by man-made inventions that have little or nothing to do with God’s original plan.

Even by staying with Scripture alone, ideas about what the ‘remembrance’ was directed towards and by whom (Lev 23:24) remain speculative even though there are a number of hints in other Scripture passages.

Ps 81:3-5, one of Asaph’s psalms, tells us that God ordained that trumpets should be blown at the new moon and ‘on our feast day’ (not ‘days’, which would refer to more than one, but ‘day’) when He

‘...went out against the land of Egypt’

If this is a direct reference to the Festival of Trumpets - which is a strong possibility as far as I can determine - then its meaning would be something like a remembrance that God is the Warrior who fights on His people’s behalf (see also below for additional details).

But we should also consider the specific commands of God as to when to use a trumpet before the ordinance was laid down, as this may give us pointers as to the precise meaning. Five times, then, trumpets were commanded to be blown:

a. The trumpet was to be blown on every forty-ninth Day of Atonement to announce to Israel that the fiftieth year of ‘Jubilee’ had arrived (Lev 25:9).
In NT times, the Jews came to proclaim the year of Jubilee on the first day of the seventh month instead (Rosh-ha-shanah 1:1, 3:5) but, as has been seen in the notes on Yom Kippur under ‘The Year of Jubilee’, there’s a great deal of significance as to why the tenth day of the seventh month was chosen by YHWH which is lost if the Law’s commands are ignored.

b. It was a call to assemble together (Num 10:3-4).
When one trumpet was blown, just the elders were summoned to gather themselves together to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting. When both were blown (perhaps both trumpets were designed to produce sound at a different pitch from the other?), the entire congregation were to come together at the Tabernacle entrance. The gathering together to Moses was probably to hear what God had to say through His servant.

c. It was a call to begin to march (Num 10:5-6).
The Israelites were to break camp and move onwards on their wilderness journey to the promised land. But how did the Israelites differentiate between the blasts outlined here and in section ii above? Jewish tradition holds that the ‘teruwah’ were short staccato notes (used here and elsewhere for ‘alarm’) but the call to assemble together was a longer sustained note.

d. It was blown as an alarm for war/a war cry (Num 10:9).
When Israel went to war, they were to sound an alarm with the trumpets (Num 31:6) and God would remember His people and save them from their enemies. It was as if they were calling upon God to arouse Himself and to come and fight for them. This point would fit very well with the implied meaning of Ps 81:3-5 (see above).

e. It was blown at the festivals (Num 10:10).
Israel were to blow the trumpets over their burnt and peace offerings on the days of gladness, appointed festivals and new moons. The blasts served Israel
‘for remembrance before your God’
That is, God would hear the blasts and (like the alarm for war) remember His covenant with Israel. This points us back to the idea of ‘remembrance’ as contained in Lev 23:24 at the Festival of Trumpets.

Each usage may or may not have relevance with regard to the festival. Looking back into the passages of Scripture causes us to conclude that we find it almost impossible to make a dogmatic statement as to the meaning of the original command to remember the day as a festival.

But, by looking forward to the fulfilment of this festival rather than back, we’ll discover its true meaning.

Future fulfilment
The prophecy of Joel

And so we arrive at the controversial bit!

Differing commentators have arrived at widely diverse interpretations concerning this Festival. Primarily this has been because the Intermediate Festival has largely been ignored and has gone uninterpreted - this leads on to an interpretation of the festival normally in terms of the proclamation of the Gospel (the trumpet is taken to imply this) even though the OT commandment cannot be used to infer such a teaching.

Others, who see the entire seven festivals as having already been fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus Christ will interpret it, again, in similar vein but, when they come to the Day of Atonement (the next festival to be considered) they then have to revert to a time previous to their interpretation of Trumpets and then seem to interpret the Feast of Tabernacles extremely weirdly!

Of course, you may think that this interpretation that I offer here is just as weird. However, one thing you’ll see if you read the entire set of articles on the Festivals is that their interpretation presented here is done so in chronological order - my premise has been that the first four (Passover through Pentecost) were fulfilled to the exact day or in the correct age, that we’re currently experiencing the Intermediate Festival and that the fulfilment of the final three is still to be fully fulfilled at the Lord’s Second Coming.

This overall interpretation takes the festivals as a whole, as one unit and, in my opinion, is the only way of accurately coming to an understanding of what God still intends to do both with His people according to the flesh (the Jews) and for His Church (believing Jews and Gentiles).

To understand the significance of the Festival of Trumpets, then, I believe that we need to come to terms with the Book of Joel, and it’s therefore necessary for us to understand that book as a whole and what it is that the prophet’s teaching.

Even if the reader is unsure as to the accuracy of the interpretation offered here, one should still think about what significance the Trumpet has (in the context of Scripture) as the return of Jesus Christ approaches. But, even more significantly, that the single day festival should be interpreted in terms of a single event as the other one day festivals have been.

The book of Joel, then, has five main themes that we will go on to look at in a little detail (though I shall attempt to be as vague as possible in my interpretation and speak in broad outlines rather than specifics as, it seems to me, there’s much about the final days before the Return that will only be shaded in nearer the time). These five divisions are:

1. The judgment of an army of locusts.
2. The judgment of an army of men.
3. The repentance of God’s people.
4. The restoration of God’s people and God’s land.
5. The judgment of the nations.

After considering all these, I’ll go on to very briefly discuss the significance as applied to the current festival.

1. The judgment of an army of locusts
Joel 1:2-2:11

The land of Israel, in the time of the prophet Joel, possibly underwent a serious invasion of locusts that had threatened the survival of the land. I write ‘possibly’ here as it may be that Joel is simply using what the nation knew about locust invasions as a backdrop to what God was wanting to say to His people.

In Joel 1:4, the four names given to the different types of locusts have often been taken to represent the stages of development of the locust from larvae to adult (see, for instance, JFB). The phrases used here are as they appear in the RSV’s translation would take the ‘cutting locust’ as referring to the locust having just emerged from the egg in spring and without wings and ‘swarming locust’ as the locust at the end of spring when still in its first skin and when they put forth little ones without legs or wings. The ‘hopping locust’ would refer to the locust after their third casting of their old skin when they get small wings which enable them to leap better but not to fly. Being unable to go away until their wings are matured, they devour all before them. And, finally, the ‘destroying locust’ would refer to the matured winged locust.

The full cycle would therefore be represented in one verse, depicting the cycle taking place on Israel’s soil, this being the immensity and severity of the plague. However, this view has been seriously called into question through etymology and by appeal to the cycle of the development of the locust, so that the four ‘names’ more likely refer to four successive waves of locust attack that swept into the land of Israel and laid waste the nation.

The parallels to a natural swarm of locusts are well related in Ungers and the following passage is a quote taken from that source (which is itself a quote from the Biblical Archaeologist - an unknown edition) with passages from Joel included to show the similarity between the two:

‘Vast bodies of migrating locusts, called by the orientals “The armies of God” (2:4-5,11,25) lay waste the country. They observe as regular an order when they march as an army (2:4-5,7-8). At evening they descend from their flight and form, as it were, their camps. In the morning, when the sun has risen considerably, they ascend again if they do not find food and fly in the direction of the wind. They go in immense numbers (1:6, 2:2) [Zondervan - “Numbers can be astronomical: a desert locust swarm that crossed the Red sea in 1889 was estimated to cover 2,000 square miles”], and occupy a space of ten or twelve miles in length, and four or five in breadth, and are so deep that the sun cannot penetrate through them; so that they convert the day into night and bring a temporary darkness on the land (2:2,10). The sound of their wings is terrible (2:5). When they descend upon the earth, they cover a vast track a foot and a half high...Nothing stops them (2:8-9). They fill the ditches that are dug to stop them with their bodies, and extinguish by their numbers the fires which are kindled. They pass over walls and enter the doors and windows of houses (2:7,9). They devour everything which is green, strip off the barks of trees, and even break them to pieces by their weight (1:4,7,10-12,16,18-20, 2:3)’

It would appear best, then, to take the description by the prophet as a use of figurative language to denote a human army intent on invading the nation of Israel and commanded by YHWH Himself.

2. The judgment of an army of men
Joel 1:2-2:11, 3:9-15

That the passages in Joel are not just referring to a natural locust plague is hinted at in 2:20 when God says

‘I will remove the northerner far from you...’

The locust swarms that sweep over Israel are carried by south-east winds that blow the locusts from their breeding grounds in Arabia. To expect a swarm from the north would be unlikely and, as most of you will be aware, the ‘north’ is a word that’s often used to denote the enemies of Israel who swept down from this direction (such as Assyria or Babylon) even though their home land was somewhere east of north (a large barren wilderness to the east prevented a successful march for an army to arrive capable of besieging cities and towns).

Further to this, in Joel 3:9-15, it’s revealed that God is stirring up the men of the nations of the earth to gather them for battle against His people Israel. The locust plague that Joel vividly describes is seen as a type of the army of the Lord that’s going to march upon the nation - though specifically Jerusalem (2:1,15, 3:1,6,16,20).

3. The repentance of God’s people
Joel 1:14, 2:1,12-17

The trumpet is blown (Joel 2:1,15) to call the nation to repentance, to petition the Lord God to avert the judgment that’s about to fall upon His people and to plead with God to remember the covenant He made with them.

The Festival of Trumpets today announces to the nation of Israel the ten days of penitence (from the first day to the tenth day - which is the Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur). The third to the ninth (seven days) are considered of primary importance as days of preparation (repentance) before Yom Kippur, days in which Jews are called to seek forgiveness.

It is in this, I believe, that we’ll see the fulfilment of the Festival of Trumpets - not that the tradition just outlined is taken to be an indication that what I propose here will happen but that, in the context of the Book of Joel, the added tradition makes perfect sense.

The Lord does not wish (II Peter 3:9)

‘that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’

The judgment of a foreign invading army is not sent by God to destroy Israel out of existence but to bring them to a place of genuine repentance where He’ll be able to forgive and revoke the judgment that’s fast approaching.

In the natural swarm, the prophet (Joel 1:19), the nation (1:14) and the beasts of the land (1:20) all cry to God to provide for them in the famine that’s suddenly occurred. In the coming approach of a foreign invading army, all the people of the nation will seek God’s face for forgiveness.

Note also that the judgment of God’s people always comes first so that, in the following judgment of the wicked, they are blameless before God (I Peter 4:17).

4. The restoration of God’s people and God’s land
Joel 2:18-29, 3:16-21

It’s not just a natural restoration from a plague of locusts that’s being related but a spiritual restoration of God’s people into blessing (Joel 2:18-29). As has already been shown, Joel 2:20 indicates that a locust plague is not meant here. Also in 2:28-29, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh (which in the christian life also follows repentance and does not precede it) is a restoration of the nation of Israel into covenant blessing and relationship. Joel 3:18 tells us that

‘...a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the valley of Shittim’

which is a specific reference to a spiritual restoration. In passages like Ezek 47:1,8, Zech 14:8 and Rev 22:1, water issues from the centre of God’s throne and flows out to the east where the death and barrenness of the Dead Sea area is converted into life and newness. Here, although the direction is the same, the meaning is considerably different.

The valley of Shittim lies east of the Jordan river, above the Jordan valley, and is today connected with Abel-Shittim (which means, by translation, ‘the stream of the acacia trees’). It’s quite impossible, naturally speaking, for water to flow east up the hills to fill the stream bed of Shittim. And, from its name, it’s evident that vegetation already exists so that water must, of necessity, already be sufficient there.

But the passage refers us back to Numbers chapter 25 when Israel, encamped in the plains of Shittim, yoked himself to Ba’al of Peor. Judgment followed through a plague which was averted by the nation’s repentance and destruction of the sin from their midst. In the same way, God is saying here that the life-giving fountain that will come from Him (that is, the Holy Spirit) will cleanse the sin of the nation as in Numbers chapter 25 and restore them into a covenant relationship with Him once again.

The parallels in the two passages are significant and need to be carefully noted:

a. Num 25:9 - A great plague arose against Israel.
Pp Joel 1:4

b. Num 25:6 - Israel humbled itself before the Lord in repentance.
Pp Joel 2:12-17
These first two events then lead on to the cleansing fountain of the Lord being opened up to Israel.

c. Num 25:8 - The plague was revoked.
Pp Joel 2:18
In Jesus Christ, sicknesses find their end and healing is provided for in the cross (Mtw 8:17, I Peter 2:24 - see on the subject ‘Healing’).

d. Num 25:11 - Their sin was forgiven.
Pp Joel 2:32
In Jesus Christ, sins have been borne in His body which hung on the cross (I Peter 2:24). Through the shed blood, all can now receive the forgiveness of their sins (I John 1:7).

e. Num 25:11 - The nation was restored.
Pp Joel 2:19-29
In Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit has been given to all believers for their full restoration (Acts 3:19, John 7:37-39).

Israel’s repentance of its immorality and idolatry in that day will be accepted by the Lord who will restore Israel back into a covenant relationship with Himself. As can be seen from points c-e above, this relationship is none other than the conversion of the people of Israel to their Messiah, which is the new covenant.

I know that, in the churches where I grew up as a christian (as opposed to the churches that I never attended when I was growing up), there’s always been an expectation that the Jews, at some future time in earth’s history, will turn back to Jesus after having rejected Him in the first century AD.

That the Scriptures speak of this is equally certain and I need only quote two passages to show to the reader (if you’re in any doubt) that it’s one of the important occurrences that must take place (incidentally, by ‘turning back’ I don’t mean ‘forced conversion’ but that which comes from an individual’s freewill).

Paul, writing in Romans 11:25-32 (really, the entire passage that runs from chapter 9 to the end of 11 should be read to see this in context) says

‘Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins”. As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all’

And the prophet Zechariah (Zech 12:10-13:1) in the passage which runs from chapter 12 through to the end of chapter 14 (and which concludes with details concerning the established visible Kingdom of YHWH and the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles - see also the notes on that festival) writes:

‘And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves. On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. And on that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more; and also I will remove from the land the prophets and the unclean spirit’

What appears to be still a future event is spoken of not just in the OT passages but in the New as well. And it’s this turning back to YHWH which seems to be foreshadowed by the nation’s call to repentance at the approach of a foreign invading army.

5. The judgment of the nations
Joel 3:1-8,11-12

In Num 25:17-18, 31:1-2, Israel avenged himself upon the Midianites after the matter of Ba’al of Peor. When Israel is restored, the Lord’s army, which was His instrument of judgment for a time, will be judged (see also the notes on Yom Kippur which deals with the need for a future fulfilment of the festival).

Just as the plague of locusts were miraculously removed from Israel’s land in the days of Joel, so too the nations’ armies will be rendered impotent as God, through Jesus, sits to judge the nations who sought to destroy God’s people (Joel 3:1-3,11-12).

God may use the unsaved to discipline His children, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll escape judgment themselves. Believers are protected by a God who cares for and protects them with a great jealousy. God restores their fortunes and renews the covenant when they turn to Him in their situation for forgiveness and healing.

6. The significance for the Festival of Trumpets

Joel 1:1-3 indicates that the prophecy’s fulfilment was for many days to come at the time that Joel received and proclaimed it. It wasn’t a history book, a poetic account of what once happened in Israel’s past, for we find no such parallel in the history books of the Bible, but it caused the people of that generation to look forward (probably not with a great deal of excitement!) to a time when these things were to take place. Joel 2:1,15 records that the Israelites were to

‘Blow the trumpet [shophar] in Zion...’

to announce to the nation that the time had come for repentance.

The Festival of Trumpets will therefore be fulfilled in the call to Israel to humble itself before its God through repentance and its subsequent forgiveness, healing and restoration. In addition to this, it will be a time when Israel will call upon the Lord to act as a Warrior on behalf of His people (corresponding to the remembrance aspect of the festival). As the festival was given to the Jews to observe, so too the fulfilment needs to be seen primarily in the context of that people - to move it out of the context in which it was given and to apply it to the Church represents a misunderstanding which many commentators have overlooked.

Therefore, as Paul wrote to the Roman christians concerning the Jewish people (Rom 11:25- 27) and which has been previously quoted above

‘...I want you to understand this mystery, brethren, a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved’