The only thing we are told about Israel’s Feast of Trumpets is that it was to be a “memorial of blowing” (of trumpets). Later tradition assigned the ram’s horn (“shofar” in Hebrew) as the “trumpet of choice” for celebrating the festival. Since the Book of Revelation has so many references to trumpets, it would seem to be natural to associate them with a festival about trumpet-blowing.
The imagery of seven trumpets bringing woe and destruction in the book of Revelation has deep roots in the history of Israel. The book of Joshua begins its story of the conquest of Canaan by Israel with a story that could well be the root of all later prophecies in the Bible that feature the theme of what I’ll call “the downfall of the evil city.”
The story of the fall of the Canaanite city of Jericho is one of the best known Old Testament stories. It actually begins at the end of the fifth chapter of the book of Joshua, with the appearance of a mysterious sword-wielding stranger in the camp of Israel. Joshua confronts the stranger, who introduces himself as the “Commander of the Armies of the Lord.” This man tells Joshua to take his shoes off, because he is now standing on holy ground. These were the same words God used with Moses at the burning bush to identify Himself as God.
In chapter six, God gives Joshua the battle plan. They are to march once around the city each day for six days. On each of those marches, priests would blow shofar trumpets during the march, while the people remain silent. On the seventh day, they were to march in the same way, but go around the city seven times instead of one.
At the conclusion of the seventh circuit, the priests would once again blow the trumpets and the people would shout as loud as they could. God would then bring down the walls of the city, enabling the soldiers to enter and wipe out the inhabitants.
Interestingly enough, the people were not to take any of the usual spoils of the city for themselves, because it would all belong to God. God put the city under a ban, requiring that it be utterly destroyed and never rebuilt forever. Not that either the ban on spoils or on rebuilding were actually obeyed. Curses were laid out for any who would violate these bans, and they were supernaturally applied to the disobedient, but that is another story for another time.
Several features of this story are interesting when compared to the book of Revelation. The most obvious one has to do with trumpets blaring. Yes, there certainly are trumpets blaring on all seven days in the Jericho story. The number seven is introduced as the number of trumpet-blasts in Revelation, as well.
What most readers are not aware of is that Jericho stood astride the main eastern entry road into the Promised Land. Leaving that city standing in enemy hands would have been asking for attacks from the rear while facing other foes from the front. An intact Jericho would have prevented consolidation of Israel’s conquest of Canaan. This is also an important feature of John’s description of Babylon the Great. It is the Evil Empire (Rome, for John’s literary purposes) that opposes the Kingdom of God.
Notice that the intensity of the trumpet-blasts increases seven-fold on the seventh day. That pattern of seven times within the seventh time is also a notable feature of the entire prophetic unfolding of the events in Revelation.
Then there is the great shout that brings down the walls of Jericho. The inhabitants very likely experienced it as a great earthquake that brought down the walls. In Revelation 11:15-19 the seventh trumpet blows, and there is a great angelic shout of acclamation of God and of Jesus Christ as Lord over all the earth.
At that moment, the walls separating heaven and earth fall away, and Jesus prepares to invade the earth with His heavenly armies. The inhabitants of the earthly city/empire, Babylon the Great, experience that falling away of the “wall” as an earthquake mixed with lightning, thunder and a great hailstorm.
Revelation 18 describes the destruction of Babylon the Great in different terms, but with what seems to be a ban on trade and rebuilding of that great commercial city that stood between the people and the Kingdom of God. The other nations sorely miss the riches of trade with her, but are so afraid of meeting her fate that they “stand afar off” to witness her complete destruction.
Even God’s people are warned to “come out of her” so that they do not partake of her plagues. This reminds the reader of the story of Lot in Sodom, but seems also to carry hints of a ban on taking even spoils of that unclean city. All vestiges of Babylon the Great must be completely wiped out in order for the peace and order of the Kingdom of God to eventually envelop the earth.
If the spring feasts in the Bible seem to have had prophetic fulfilment relating to Jesus’ first coming, we should not be surprised if the fall festivals suggest further prophetic fulfilment related to Jesus’ return. The theme of the blowing of trumpets in sevens is certainly something that unites the stories of the fall of Jericho and the fall of Babylon the Great. May the wall between heaven and earth fall soon!
There may be another parallel between the story of the conquest of Canaan by Israel and the post-Millennial rebellion of Revelation 20 that relates to the Day of Atonement, which we will cover in our service on that festival day, October 8, 2011.