Why Is Rosh Hashanah Called the Feast of Trumpets in the Bible?

Feast of Trumpets
Rabbi Aaron Raskin plays the shofar as Jews mark Rosh Hashanah at Brooklyn Bridge. Mario Tama / Getty Images

In the Bible, Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, is also called the Feast of Trumpets. The feast begins the Jewish High Holy Days and Ten Days of Repentance (or Days of Awe) with the blowing of the ram's horn, the shofar, calling God's people to repent from their sins. During Rosh Hashanah's synagogue services, the trumpet traditionally sounds 100 notes.

Rosh Hashanah (pronounced rosh´ huh-shah´nuh) is also the start of the civil year in Israel. It is a solemn day of soul-searching, forgiveness, repentance, and remembering God's judgment, as well as a joyful day of celebration, looking forward to God's goodness and mercy in the New Year.

Rosh Hashanah Customs

  • Rosh Hashanah is a more solemn occasion than most typical New Year's celebrations.
  • Jews are commanded to hear the sounding of the ram's horn on Rosh Hashanah unless it falls on the Sabbath, and then the shofar is not blown.
  • Orthodox Jews take part in a ceremony known as Tashlich on the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. During this "casting off" service they will walk to flowing water and say a prayer from Micah 7:18-20, symbolically casting their sins into the water.
  • A traditional holiday meal of round challah bread and apple slices dipped in honey is served on Rosh Hashanah, symbolizing God's provision and hope for the sweetness of the coming New Year.
  • L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu, meaning "may you be inscribed [in the Book of Life] for a good year," is a typical Jewish New Year's message found in greeting cards, or spoken in a shortened form as Shanah Tovah, meaning "good year."

When is Rosh Hashanah Observed?

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishri (September or October). This Bible Feasts Calendar provides the actual dates of Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah in the Bible

The Feast of Trumpets is recorded in the book of Leviticus 23:23-25 and also in Numbers 29:1-6. The term Rosh Hashanah, meaning "the beginning of the year," appears only in Ezekiel. 40:1, where it refers to the general time of year, and not specifically to the Feast of Trumpets.

The High Holy Days

The Feast of Trumpets begins with Rosh Hashanah. The celebrations continue for ten days of repentance, culminating on Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. On this final day, Jewish tradition holds that God opens the Book of Life and studies the words, actions, and thoughts of every person whose name is written there. If a person's good deeds outweigh or outnumber their sinful acts, his name will remain inscribed in the book for another year.

Rosh Hashanah provides God's people with a time to reflect on their lives, turn away from sin, and do good deeds. These practices are meant to give them a more favorable chance of having their names sealed in the Book of Life for another year.

Sounding the shofar
Sounding the shofar, c1910. The shofar, a trumpet made from a ram's horn, is traditionally sounded on Rosh ha-Shanah, the Day of Judgment, also known as the Feast of the Trumpets. This is the first day of the Jewish New Year. Heritage Images / Getty Images

Jesus and Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Day of Judgment. At the final judgment in Revelation 20:15, "Anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire." The Bible says the Book of Life belongs to the Lamb, Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:27). The apostle Paul maintained that the names of his fellow missionary companions were "in the Book of Life." (Philippians 4:3)

Jesus said in John 5:26-29 that the Father had given him authority to judge everyone: "Those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."

Second Timothy 4:1 states that Jesus will judge the living and the dead. Jesus told his followers in John 5:24:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life."

In the future, when Christ returns, the trumpet will sound:

...In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)

In Luke 10:20, Jesus alluded to the Book of Life when he told the 70 disciples to rejoice because "your names are written in heaven." Whenever a believer accepts Christ's sacrificial atonement for sin, Jesus fulfills the Feast of Trumpets.