Kosher laws (Lev. 11), rules for intermarriage (Neh. 13:23–27), weekly Sabbath observance (Ex. 20:8–11), and more were all rituals that were part of the warp and woof of old covenant life, serving to remind Israel of the nation’s special status as the people of God. The Lord, however, knowing that His people were weak, added several feasts to the regular rituals prescribed in the Mosaic law so that the Israelites would have extra occasions on which to recall their salvation and thank God for His goodness. The call to remember and praise the Lord for His beneficence was one of the reasons for the Feast of Trumpets outlined in Leviticus 23:23–25 and Numbers 29:1–6.
Since the Feast of Trumpets marked the beginning of the civil calendar in ancient Israel, the Jews eventually came to refer to the holiday as Rosh Hashanah, which in the Hebrew literally means “head of the year” or New Year’s Day. This day began the seventh month of the religious calendar (Tishri), a month in which the solemn Day of Atonement and the festive Feast of Booths were also celebrated (Lev. 23:23–44). In addition to a day of rest and special food offerings (Num. 29:1–6), all that Scripture prescribes for the Feast of Trumpets is a “blast of trumpets” (Lev. 23:23–25). While trumpets were blown on other occasions, it seems that at the Feast of Trumpets the instruments were sounded continuously from morning until evening.
What was the purpose of the trumpet soundings? One answer is that the trumpet blast was a call for the people to assemble to hear the voice of God just as it was at the foot of Mt. Sinai. (Ex. 19:13). Given that the feast was celebrated even during the times God was not actively providing new revelation, it would seem that at every Feast of Trumpets there was an anticipation that the Lord might reveal Himself in power once more, especially to consummate the salvation of His people (Isa. 27). Seven is the number of completeness in Scripture, and the fact that the Feast of Trumpets was held in the seventh month of the year confirms this idea.
Silver trumpets and the shofar (ram’s horn) were blown at the Feast of Trumpets, and ancient Jews also read Genesis 22 on this day. Each of these acts helped the Israelites to see God’s mercy in substituting a ram for Isaac and to anticipate the end of days when a greater lamb would be slain on their behalf.