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Numbers 10:9 states

And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies.

How has this verse been understood by the author(s) and by the audience to which it was written to? How exactly are the Israelite's to be remembered by the Lord through blowing their trumpets when going out to war, and how are they supposed to serve as a reminder? Also do we find anything like this (the use of trumpets in order to arouse the mercy of their gods) in other ANE cultures?

I'm looking for any scholarly sources that may shed light on these verses and ancient Israelite custom/ritual.

P.s. I'm aware that the trumpets had other uses like signaling the elders to assemble or for the people to move from one place to another, however i'm only interested in understanding verse 9 where it states that the trumpets were used during war.

Note that according to the Bible (Numbers 31:6; Joshua chapter 6. However in Joshua only the Shofar is mentioned) the trumpets have indeed been used by the Israelite's in war, so this is not purely theoretical.

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Numbers 10:1-10 is not just about blowing any old trumpets, but "the two trumpets of silver" made for the purpose of rallying the assembly of Israel at the door of the Tabernacle:

  • The priests, alone, were to blow the trumpets (v. 8).

  • Blowing both trumpets was a call for all Israel to assemble (v. 3,7)

  • Blowing one trumpet was a call for the princes of Israel (heads of the thousands) to assemble (v. 4).

  • Blowing an alarm (a specific pattern of blasts) was a call for the eastern camps of Israel to journey forward (v. 5), with a second alarm calling the southern camps to move (v. 6).

  • A specific alarm was to be blown as a call to war (v. 9).

  • Other patterns of sounds on the trumpets were to be played on days of gladness, on solemn days, at the beginning of months, over burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of peace offerings, as a memorial before the LORD God (v. 10).

The use of the silver trumpets for all these purposes is what would cause the LORD to remember Israel. As a priest in Israel, it would surely be risky to expect the LORD to come to nation's rescue if the use of the trumpets was exclusive to times of enemy oppression, but all other commands in regard to their use neglected.

Additional Note:

It should be noted that the use of the trumpets is connected to the movement of the camp of Israel and the "mobile" nature of the Tabernacle at the time. As Israel became established in Canaan, their use would have drifted more to the ceremonial aspects mentioned in verse 10.

As a matter of interest, the design of the camp of Israel was defensive in nature, with the Tabernacle within the circle of wagons, as it were.

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Image courtesy of biblestudy.org

On the journey to Canaan there was an ever-present expectation of attack from hostile people groups, hence the need for rallying the assembly of the people and directing movement of the camp by means of the trumpet calls. Edom in Numbers 20, and Sihon's kingdom in Deuteronomy 2 are examples of being set upon, despite Israel's willingness to purchase supplies and assurances that it was simply passing through the land.

  • How did you answer my question? I'm aware that there are other uses for the "silver trumpets". I was asking specifically "what was their purpose in times of war"? It says that by blowing these trumpets they will be remembered by god. I took it literally--that the trumpet will somehow arouse god's mercy (the bible calls it remembrance: "and ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God") and he will save us, but how will it remind him? And where else do we find this? You haven't addressed any of the above! – Bach Aug 4 '17 at 15:57
  • Your question has separated one use of the trumpets from among many. I have provided the details in order to provide the context. God's aid (arousing God's mercy/being remembered by the LORD) when being "attacked" by an enemy could only be expected if the trumpets were employed as instructed. It should be noted that the use of the trumpets is connected to the movement of the camp of Israel and the "mobile" nature of the Tabernacle at the time. As Israel became established in Canaan, their use would have drifted to the ceremonial aspects mentioned in verse 10. – enegue Aug 4 '17 at 22:51
  • "I have provided the details in order to provide the context." Well this is a Q&A site, and i didn't ask you to provide the details or the context! – Bach Aug 7 '17 at 14:24
  • Yes, this is a Q&A site that is called "Biblical Hermeneutics", and I defy you to provide a definition of such that does not value the importance of context. – enegue Aug 7 '17 at 15:00

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