Repentance and the Feast of Trumpets

Repentance and the Feast of Trumpets

Calvin Lashway

June 2008 Revised


Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD (Leviticus 23:23-25 All scriptures quoted from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted).

There isn’t much information in these verses about the meaning of this biblical festival, commonly called the Feast of Trumpets. By examining the various events and themes associated with trumpets in the Bible, we gain a deeper understanding into the meaning of this festival.1  This article will explore one of these themes; repentance and what it teaches us about the Feast of Trumpets.

What is Repentance?

According to the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, “The biblical notion of repentance refers to the radical turning away from anything which hinders one’s wholehearted devotion to God, and the corresponding turning to God in love and obedience.”2 The New Bible Dictionary elaborates upon this: “In the OT two words are regularly translated ‘repent’ or some near equivalent—am (‘be sorry, change one’s mind’) and šû (in the sense, ‘turn back, return’). . . . In the NT the words translated ‘repent’ are metanoeō and metamelomai. In Gk. they usually mean ‘to change one’s mind’, and so also ‘to regret, feel remorse’ (i.e. over the view previously held). This note of remorse is present in the parable of the tax collector (Lk. 18:13), probably in Mt. 21:29, 32; 27:3 and Lk. 17:4 (‘I am sorry’), and most explicitly in 2 Cor. 7:8–10. But the NT usage is much more influenced by the OT šû; that is, repentance not just as a feeling sorry, or changing one’s mind, but as a turning round, a complete alteration of the basic motivation and direction of one’s life.”3

Biblical repentance involves an acknowledgment that we have sinned, and are sorry for what we have done. But this remorse must include more then just a change in mind; that is expressing sorrow for what we did wrong. It must include a change in the direction of our lives. This type of repentance has action. The apostle Paul brings this out in his second letter to the Corinthians. In his first letter to them, he soundly corrects them for several problems. This correction worked. In his second letter he comments on their positive response to what he had to say:

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter (1 Corinthians 7:8-11 New International Version).

Paul shows that being sorry for what we have done wrong is not enough. He calls this worldly sorrow. What we need is godly sorrow, a sorrow that leads to repentance. A repentance that produces a change in our lives that seeks at every point to prove ourselves innocent.

Trumpets and Repentance

In the Old Testament the sound of a trumpet can be a call to repentance. The book of Isaiah likens the human voice to a trumpet. Chapter fifty-eight begins with God telling Isaiah to “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins.” Then God identifies some of Israel’s sins, and the changes they must make in their lives if they are to repent (verses 2-14). In Ezekiel Thirty-three, we again see the human voice used as a trumpet calling people to repent of their sins. God speaks of the importance of a watchman to a city during a time of war. The watchman is to warn the people of an advancing army by blowing a trumpet. If the people don’t head the warning, and they die, it’s their own fault, not the watchman’s. But, if the watchman doesn’t warning them by sounding the trumpet, God will hold the watchman accountable (verses 1-6). God goes on to say He has made Ezekiel a watchman to the house of Israel. Ezekiel is to use his voice like a trumpet calling Israel to repent, and warning them of the consequences of their sins. If Ezekiel fails to warn Israel, and they die in their iniquity, God will hold him accountable (verses 7-9).

In the book of Joel a trumpet is blown calling the nation to a fast of repentance:

Now, therefore, says the LORD, Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him--A grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, Spare Your people, O LORD, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, Where is their God? (Joel 2:12-17).

In the New Testament the sound of a trumpet is also a call to repentance. Another theme associated with the Feast of Trumpets are the events surrounding Jesus’ second coming. In the Book of Revelation we find there is a special scroll sealed with seven seals (Revelation 5:1-8). As the Lamb (Jesus), opens the first six seals certain events occur on earth (Revelation 6:1-17). The opening of the seventh seal brings forth seven angels, who blow on seven trumpets. With the blowing of each of these trumpets various catastrophic events happen (Revelation 8:7-9:21; 10:7; 11:15-19). With the blowing of the seventh trumpet resulting in the pouring out the seven “bowls of the wrath of God on the earth” (Revelation 16:2-21), which climax in Jesus’ return (Revelation 19:11-21).

The result of blowing the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-21) is the death of “a third of mankind” by “fire and the smoke and the brimstone” (verse 18). God’s purpose for these plagues is to bring mankind to repentance: “But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (verses 20-21). The rest of mankind ignores God’s correction by refusing to repent.

As we have seen, the seventh trumpet of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 10:7; 11:15-19), consists of the seven “bowls of the wrath of God” (Revelation 16:1-21). God’s purpose for the fourth and fifth bowls of wrath is to motivate mankind to repent. But they fail to respond to this correction:

Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds (Revelation 16:8-11).

One reason God uses the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls of wrath is to help the world to repent of its sins.


As trumpets are a call to repentance. We should approach the Feast of Trumpets not only as a call for mankind to repent of its sins, but as a call for our own repentance. Self-examination is an important part of the Christian life. The apostle Paul writes: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? --unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5). We should use this festival as a time to examine at our lives in light of God’s truth and make needed changes.


We have seen that one of the themes of the Feast of Trumpets is repentance. In both the Old and New Testaments the sound of a trumpet is a call to repent of sin. We should approach the Feast of Trumpets as a call for universal and personal repentance.


Trumpets in the Bible:

*Accompanied God’s coming down upon Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:13, 16, 19; 20:18; Hebrews 12:18-22).

*Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1; Psalm 81:3).

*Jubilee Trumpet (Leviticus 25:9).

*The use of trumpets during Israel’s forty years in the wilderness: Used to send messages to the congregation and their leaders (Numbers 10:2, 4, 8); The priests, the sons of Aaron had the responsibility to blow the two silver trumpets (Numbers 10:2, 8); Used to sound the alarm of war (Numbers 10:9; A custom Israel uses throughout their history - Nehemiah 4:18, 20; Jeremiah 4:5, 19, 21; 6:1, 17: 42:14; 51:27; Ezekiel 7:14; 33:3; Hosea 5:8; 8:1; Amos 3:6); Blown on religious festivals (Numbers 10:10); Blown on the New Moon (Numbers 10:10).

*Calling people to war (Judges 3:27; 6:34; 1 Samuel 13:3; 2 Samuel 20:1).

*Used to give signals during war (Numbers 31:6; Joshua 6:4, 5, 6,8, 9, 13, 16, 20; Judges 7:8, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22; 2 Chronicles 13:12, 14; Amos 2:2; 1 Corinthians 14:8).

*Calling people to peace (2 Samuel 2:28; 18:16; 20:22; Job 39:24-25).

*Used in worship (2 Samuel 6:15; 2 Kings 12:13; 1 Chronicles 13:8; 15:24, 28; 16:6, 42; 2 Chronicles 5:12-13; 7:6; 15:14; 20:28; 29:26-28; Ezra 3:10; Nehemiah 12:35, 41: Psalm 98:6; 150:3).

*A call to repentance (Isaiah 58:1; Ezekiel 33:1-9; Joel 2:15).

*Proclaiming a new king (2 Samuel 15:10; 1 Kings 1:34, 39, 41; 2 Kings 9:13, 11:14; 2 Chronicles 23:13).

*Events surrounding Jesus’ return (Psalm 47:5; Isaiah 18:3; 27:13; Joel 2:1; Zechariah 1:16; 9:14; Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 8:2, 6-8, 10, 12-13; 9:1, 13-14; 10:7; 11:15; 18:22).

*Voice of God compared to (Revelation 1:10).

*Voice of an angel compared to (Revelation 4:1).

2  Jonathan M Lunde, “Repentance,” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Electronic ed. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVaristy Press 2001).

3 J. D. G. Dunn, “Repentance,” New Bible Dictionary. Electronic ed. of 3rd ed. Edited by D. R. W. Wood, and I. Howard Marshall. (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1996, c1982, c1962). 

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