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Psalm 81:3-6 (NIV)

3 Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival; 4 this is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. 5 When God went out against Egypt, he established it as a statute for Joseph... I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.

Assuming that the NIV is right in rendering the word בכסה as when the moon is full, the Psalmist here refers to a month in which the horn is blown in the beginning of it (new moon) and then again on the full moon in honor of the festival. The Psalmist however does not specifically name this month, leaving it up to us to speculate. It can either be referring to the first month Nissan or the seventh month Tishrei since in only these two months will there be a festival on the 15th day of the month (which almost always coincides with full moon).

The tradition mentioned by the Psalmist seems to agrees well with a similar tradition found in the book of Numbers 10:10,

Also at your times of rejoicing-your appointed festivals and New Moon feasts-you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God. I am the LORD your God.

Here too we find a tradition to blow the horn on the beginning of every month, and on the festivals as well; it is most likely this tradition that the psalmist here is referring to (although here it is a silver horn and in Psalms it is most likely a ram's horn as the NIV has it).

My question is, what significance does the psalmist attach to this tradition and how does it relate to the Exodus? Does the psalmist merely wish to relate that this tradition is so old that it dates back to the days the Israelites sojourned in the land of Egypt, or is there any deeper connection between the two?


In regards to the question, which month the Psalmist is referring to, i’m in agreement with K&D that it is about the month of Nissan, since in verse 5 and again in verse 10 images of the Exodus are evoked. If it is about the month of Tishrei it would be hard to understand why the Psalmist would allude to the Exodus in this Psalm. Furthermore, in verse 5 this festival is intimately connected with the Exodus. It is more likely that this psalm is about the month of Nissan in which the Israelites would signal the coming of Passover, which is celebrated on full moon, in the beginning of the month Nissan by blowing the horn. This is possible answer to my question, but i'm not completely satisfied with it, and I would like to hear other opinions on the matter.

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    Most likely not, since even the Septuagint acts as if the word in question, full(ness), were an attribute of the immediately following noun, day, rather than a standalone phrase, full moon. See also Numbers 10:10, which, apart from mentioning that horns and trumpets were blown at the beginning of every lunar month (i.e., on each new moon), also contains the expression in the day of your gladness and in your solemn days, which appears relevant here, since it would seem to mirror the one mentioned in the quoted passage, and on the full day of our festival. – Lucian Oct 5 '18 at 11:01
  • @Lucian I have completely missed Num. 10:10, and thanks for pointing it out. About your other point with the Septuagint, it is quite persuasive but not conclusive. See, for example, commentary of K&D that I linked, it seems to be more complicated than that, and there is strong evidence that it does mean simply "full moon". In any case, whether we interpret it like this or like that, it doesn't really affect the overall meaning of the verse, but you're welcome to post your answer. – Bach Oct 5 '18 at 14:26
  • @Lucian I edited my post to include Num. 10:10, and changed the scope of my question as well. – Bach Oct 5 '18 at 14:52
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Multiple sources that I have found state that in a Targum (Jonathan????), the month of Tishrei is added to the text of Psalm 81:3. I agree, in view of the fact that: (a) this psalm is one of the traditional Jewish readings on Rosh HaShanah (aka the Feast of Trumpets or Yom Teruah); (b) God is rebuking Israel for her unfaithfulness, which fits with the idea of God's judgment and man's need for repentance for sin--a prominent aspect of Tishrei from Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur; and (c) the only God-given statute for blowing on the new moon would be for the one that occurs in Tishrei, the seventh month of the religious calendar (Lev. 23:24).

Scholars differ on the meaning of the Hebrew word translated as "full moon"; but if it was on the full moon, it would fall during the Feast of Tabernacles, which also falls during Tishrei. As previously mentioned, Num. 10:10 commands that the (silver) trumpets be blown on feast days, so this would certainly have occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles.

As to the connection of Tabernacles to the Exodus, I can only offer Lev. 23:42-43 as an explanation: "You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I have the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

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