God’s Word for You
Numbers 29:1-6 Festival of the Ram’s Horn
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 7, 2022
The Festival of the Ram’s Horn
29 In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any of your regular work. For you it is to be a day of loud blasts on the ram’s horn.
Often called the “Feast of Trumpets,” this celebration was heralded by the shofar or ram’s horn. Long metal horns (trumpets) were known in Biblical times. God specified that they were to be made of hammered silver (Numbers 10:2) and capable of various calls, similar to our bugle. Indeed, they were the same length and tone as a bugle, but they were left straight and not bent into a loop. The ram’s horn was the main instrument used to announce this festival. Verse 1 does not say “on the ram’s horn” in Hebrew, but simply “It is a day of loud blasts for you.” I suspect that the EHV’s translation is a correction of the King James, Revised Standard Version, and NIV, all of which mention “trumpets” here, since most languages including English need a reference of some kind to understand what the “blasts” were. Otherwise, some readers might think that “blasts” might refer to loud parties instead of tones from a horn.
2 You are to prepare a whole burnt offering as a pleasing aroma to the LORD: one young bull, one ram, and seven one-year-old male lambs—all without defect— 3 along with their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil: six quarts for the bull, four quarts for the ram, 4 and two quarts for each of the seven lambs; 5 also prepare one male goat for a sin offering to make atonement for yourselves. 6 This is in addition to the monthly burnt offering and its grain offering, the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings, just as specified, for a pleasing aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.
Most Christians don’t have a connection with this festival since it is not highlighted in any regular Bible stories and doesn’t even appear in most modern Jewish calendars. Most likely it is assumed that those who want to know when it falls will simply understand, but that’s not very informative. The Feast of the Ram’s Horn (Trumpets) happened ten days before the great Day of Atonement. These days served as a time of repentance, when the sacred assembly (verse 1) would give the people an opportunity to hear the Word of God preached, consider the sin in their lives, and then to better understand and appreciate the scapegoat ceremony and the blood of the atonement that was coming in ten days.
Consider what the people would have witnessed on this day. There would have been a regular morning sacrifice, a Sabbath offering, a new moon offering, and then the festival offerings which in this case were a bull, a ram, seven lambs, and a goat for a sin offering, along with their grain and drink offerings.
It was a day to witness the shedding of blood, the rising of smoke, and the singing of Psalms, hymns, and other songs. There was joy, a happy feast, because of the Lord’s love and mercy. “I will sacrifice with shouts of joy” (Psalm 27:6). Some worshipers would come with an extra sacrifice, a freewill offering (Psalm 54:6), others could not afford one, but their prayers were welcome to the Lord: “The prayer of the upright pleases him” (Proverbs 15:8).
Even now, just a week and a half before the Day of Atonement, there was a ram offered for sin. Sin never departs from mankind in this lifetime. We are conceived as sinners, and our sin is bathed away by the washing of regeneration, “the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:26). Yet even though we are “born again of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5), “we daily sin much and deserve nothing but punishment” (Luther, Small Catechism ). We ask for forgiveness, our hearts are turned in repentance from fear to faith, from terror to trust, and we remain children of God. But sin persists, and what we said No to yesterday we embrace or fall into tomorrow, to our shame. So the Lord our gracious God offers his forgiveness again and again. Just as the ram was slaughtered as a regular sin offering in Israel, so also the Lord’s Supper is offered to us in the Lord’s holy Church today. We remember our baptism, we fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), we remember his suffering on the cross together with our baptism, and we are comforted that we are forgiven. We have a place with God forever in Paradise.
Pastor Timothy Smith